In case you were fortunate enough to miss Saturday’s debacle against UConn Huskies, let’s just say things did not go well for the Cincinnati Bearcats. A 20-9 loss on the road was not what a UC team on the brink needed and sends it into its bye week with anger emanating from the fans and question marks littering the locker room.
That’s what will happen when a fan base used to, at the very least, offensive success has to watch as its once high-powered attack struggles its way to 317 total yards and zero touchdowns across a 60-minute act of futility. With that said, let’s break it down by position.
The good: Hayden Moore returned to the starting job and, in the first quarter, he looked pretty good. He completed 5-of-6 passes on the Bearcats’ first drive and got Nate Cole and Devin Gray involved early on. He also threw for a season-high 315 yards.
The bad: I’m surprised I was able to squeeze out that many positive words. Moore may have finished with 315 yards but that was on 56 passing attempts. He also threw a demoralizing interception toward the end of the first half which set up a UConn touchdown. Also, after that 5-for-6 start, he completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts (24-of-50).
Final grade: D
The good: UC gave up on the run once it realized there was nothing happening...
The bad: ...but not before wasting numerous play calls trying to establish a presence when it was clear nothing was opening up. On the day, the Bearcats had a grand total of two rushing yards. Of course, sacks to Hayden Moore hurt the team’s net rushing total, but Tion Green (15 yards) and Mike Boone (seven yards) were absolutely smothered on their 12 combined attempts. Boone made up for it slightly by catching three passes for 23 yards, but that is a pittance.
Final grade: F
The good: Cole maintained his position as the No. 1 receiver role in a major way, hauling in a five passes for 76 yards, including a stunning one-handed catch near the end of the first quarter. He also made a great play in the end zone that was initially ruled a touchdown but was unfortunately called back.
While Cole made the highlight reel plays, Gray was the steady force for the passing game. He caught a season-high nine passes for 98 yards, proving that he and Moore have a real connection. In the four games Moore has started, Gray is averaging 90.5 yards and 5.5 receptions per game. Those numbers drop to 40 and 3.5, respectively, in games when Ross Trail started. Kahlil Lewis had an OK game as well, catching six passes for 57 yards. He now has at least six receptions and 50 yards in each of the last three games.
The bad: There were a few drops from a number of players, even Cole. In addition, Avery Johnson committed a bad pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter when UC was driving and trying to cut into a 17-9 deficit. The 15-yard penalty forced the Bearcats into a first and 25 situation it could not overcome, which led to a punt. UConn then drained 6:49 off the clock and extended its lead to 20-9, effectively sealing the victory.
Final grade: D+
The good: The line did not commit a single penalty.
The bad: Remember that whole two yards of rushing yards for the whole game? That doesn’t fall squarely on the running backs. Also, Moore was pressured a bit more than you’d like and was sack three times. UConn’s Cole Ormsby also had three quarterback hits and the Huskies had five total tackles for loss. In general, the line just look over-matched and it clearly had an affect on UC’s ability to create openings and get in rhythm offensively.
Final grade: F
While Tommy Tuberville is the man who will get the bulk of the ire for this loss (and the continued regression of the program), new offensive coordinator Zac Taylor deserves some of the blame as well. The play calling on Saturday was uninspired and downright frustrating at times. Too many times actually. With the run game clearly failing and the passing game at least moving the ball, the Bearcats too frequently tried to force the issue on the ground, leading to second and third down and long situations that became increasingly difficult to overcome.
Perhaps the most exasperating drive of the game occurred near the beginning of the second quarter when UC got great field position off of an Alex Thomas interception. With the ball at the UConn 16-yard line, the Bearcats looked ready to get into the end zone and put the momentum firmly on their side. However, instead of learning from previous drives (when UC had managed a grand total of 20 yards on the ground) and avoiding the run, the first play was a hand off to Green that resulted in a two-yard loss. A lost fumble and an incomplete pass later forced UC to settle for a 43-yard field goal at the end of what turned out to be a four-play, minus-10 yard drive.
UC is now averaging 398.3 yards per game and screaming recency bias or small sample size is no longer a viable reaction. The Bearcats have played six games and the offense has looked ineffective and stagnant. Against UConn, there was no sign that things were going to get better. On the contrary, it appears things are going to get a whole lot worse.
Final grade: F