The Cincinnati Bearcats fell to the San Diego State Aztecs, 42-7, on Christmas Eve, in a disappointing showing by the Bearcats. A huge factor in the loss could very well be the absence of Gunner Kiel, as the offense for Cincinnati failed to get off the ground with backup Hayden Moore. Although Moore made some nice throws and ended up with over 200 yards passing, drives were constantly held back by sacks, penalties, and turnovers, as Moore was responsible for all three of the Bearcats' turnovers, throwing three interceptions, the final one being returned for a touchdown.
Even if Kiel had played, the Bearcats likely would have lost. They had a difficult matchup against an Aztec team that has been a very good running team all year long. Lead running back Donnel Pumphrey finished with 99 yards rushing and a late touchdown, while backup Chase Price performed well, rushing for 68 yards. Both running backs were very effective in breaking tackles and fighting for extra yardage, and were pivotal to controlling the clock and keeping the Bearcats offense off the field. San Diego State ruled the time of possession with over 35 minutes with the ball.
A surprising player for the Aztecs was Dakota Gordon, who caught a TD and rushed for a TD, and had one of the best plays of the game as he caught a pass during the fourth quarter and used incredible footwork to stay inbounds all the way to the two-yard line. Gordon was one of the players of the game, as he showed superior effort throughout the Bowl game.
The Aztecs were without their starting quarterback as well, but perhaps one of the keys to their win was that they didn't rely on him to win the game. Quarterback Christian Chapman only completed eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, while Gordon accounted for two touchdowns, and star running back Pumphrey rushed for a touchdown and threw a touchdown of his own.
It was a long day for the Bearcats, as it seemed that nothing seemed to go right for the team. When they started to get a drive going, it usually ended up being stalled or not resulting in any points at all. In the second quarter, their kicker made a 56-yard field goal, only for it to be called back due to a delay of game penalty. They tried a fake field goal later in the game, only for it to be stopped cold by the Aztecs.
The Bearcats still had moments of good play, however. Their defense made some stops early in the game that could have kept Cincinnati in the game had the offense cashed in on more opportunities. Unfortunately, the positive moments the team had were unsustainable, and the Aztecs did an excellent job stopping the run and limiting top receiver Shaq Washington to just 11 receiving yards. Making these stops made things much more difficult for Moore, as he was forced to put the offense on his shoulders, and his inexperience and inconsistent play just wasn't enough.
The Bearcats definitely missed Kiel, but the hard-running Aztec offense would have been a tough task to defend even with Kiel under center.