It started with the first play of the entire game, in which the Aztecs returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown. To be quite honest, it happened long before the game even started given the way the Bearcats played on Christmas Eve. Those Bearcats might have been on the naughty list, but maybe the more realistic assessment is that they were exactly what they have been for the majority of the season; unprepared. They were simply outclassed, outplayed, and man-handled in a way that few teams have the distinct displeasure in feeling, a feeling the Bearcats should never have to experience given their talent on both sides of the football. They felt that feeling this year already when they were down 51-3 at the half to a USF football team that lost to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers by double digits.
Inconsistency plagued this team all season with numerous injuries and an overall lack of discipline. The Bearcats proved they're young and incapable of standing in the face of momentum and finding a drive for resilience. They may have been without their starting quarterback, but Cincinnati is a team that shouldn't lose to anyone outside of a power conference by 35 points and go down to the wire being shut out. The San Diego State Aztecs now hold the second longest winning streak in the country and deserve to be in the top 25 to end the season. Those Aztecs deserve respect for what they did but as far as the Bearcats go, I can only explain it in the same way my father would have; I am not mad, I am just disappointed.
Mistake after Mistake
The opening kickoff brought on some of the most disheartening football ever seen in a Bearcat uniform. An overall comfort with losing sunk in with the team and the resulting onslaught of turnovers, sloppy offensive play, and Aztec touchdowns were the result of it. Three interceptions by backup quarterback Hayden Moore greatly outweighed any other offensive success he had, including one that was returned for a touchdown with his team already down by 35 points midway through the fourth quarter.
It is hard to be so tough on a backup quarterback, but from a realistic standpoint he wasn't much of a backup at all. This is the same guy who led the charge against Memphis while passing for 557 yards and four touchdowns in a game that was decided with 53 seconds left. Regardless of his less than memorable performance, it isn't entirely his fault either. The defense was as defenseless against the run as they usually are and the secondary was so overloaded with stopping the run that the ball usually went right over their head by the time the Aztecs actually passed. It was mistake after mistake for the Bearcats, but it is irritating for fans because it is nothing new.
Tuberville's shortening Leash
Before the season started, the Cincinnati Athletic Department would have given the man just about anything he wanted. He had been relatively successful with the Bearcats in previous seasons and made some pretty steep goals heading into this season. These were goals he did not achieve, nor come close to achieving. He had promised contention for an AAC title and instead lead a just above .500 subpar season capped with a humiliating loss in a less than admirable Bowl Game against a team in a conference regarded as lower tier than their own. To say patience is running low is accurate, but to say he is on his way out is a tad bit too dramatic.
While he may feel his seat warming up I don't think it is hot, let alone burning. Tuberville has a chance to turn things around next year, but if all goes sour again, I see things getting a bit dicey, and being 0-3 in the bowl games at Cincinnati also isn't looking too nice. Though questions about next year are swirling around, it is hard to imagine that the Bearcats won't be able to turn things around. A young roster like theirs has a lot of potential and the ability to improve heading into 2016.