When halftime hit on Saturday during the Cincinnati Bearcats’ battle with the South Florida Bulls, it appeared that UC was going to be able to hang with one of the better offensive teams in the American Athletic Conference. Entering the break, the Bearcats were within one score (24-20) and had scored touchdowns on half of its offensive drives.
Then the second half started and everything came to a grizzly and ugly stop. Punt, interception, fumble, interception, missed field goal, punt, punt and another punt. Those were the end results of each of UC’s last eight possessions.
All of the Bearcats’ inability to move or even hold onto the ball allowed USF to break on through for a 45-20 drubbing that may not have been as bad as last year’s 65-27 loss, but wasn’t exactly a positive outcome. Let’s break it down by position.
The good: Ross Trail started for the second-straight week and at times looked OK, especially in the first half when he completed 14-of-22 pass attempts for 140 yards and a touchdown (as well as an interception, but we’re highlighting the positive for now). He ended up completing 20-of-30 pass attempts and only suffered a pair of sacks.
The bad: Even if you are able to pull some good out of the production at QB, most of it belongs in this section. Trail relied heavily on dumping off to his running back, especially early, with his first four completions going to either Mike Boone or Tion Green. Also, in the second half, Trail was pretty horrific, as he was picked off twice before stepping aside for Gunner Kiel, who finally got on the field. Kiel did not eradicate concerns that UC doesn’t have a reliable option at quarterback, however, as he completed just 3-of-11 pass attempts as the Bearcats stumbled to the finish line.
Trail’s start and Kiel’s inclusion is additionally troubling when you consider Hayden Moore’s status. Moore was held out the previous week after suffering an ankle injury and now he’s missed two games. Perhaps the injury is a bit more serious than we know.
Final grade: F
The good: Once again, the offense relied on the running game, especially in the early going, preferring to pound the ground rather than let Trail lead the attack. Obviously, once the game got out of hand, the Bearcats were forced to attempt to throw their way out of trouble, but in the first half, the running game was the primary means of movement. Tion Green was clearly the best option, rushing for 98 yards and a touchdown on only 12 carries.
The bad: Mike Boone’s elevation to star status continues to be delayed, as he struggled to compile 31 yards on 13 carries. On a positive note, Boone did finished with a game-high 195 yards of all-purpose yardage, showing that his dynamic ability to contribute in the passing game and on special teams makes him a valuable asset even as he struggles to find his footing as a rusher.
Final grade: B-
The good: Nate Cole and Kahlil Lewis were the most productive of the wideouts. Cole returned to his role of target monster, bringing in a team-high seven catches for 73 yards. Lewis’ effort (five receptions, 77 yards, TD) is hopefully the continuation of a trend, as he has 165 yards and 11 receptions over the last two weeks after managing only 77 yards on seven catches in the first three.
The bad: The rest of the receiving corps didn’t get much work, with Devin Gray and Avery Johnson producing a combined 41 yards on three receptions. Also, even if Cole was a frequent pass recipient, he was called for a personal foul that cost UC 15 yards and lost a fumble during the disastrous third quarter.
Final grade: D+
The good: Although Trail didn’t play the game of his life, the line did manage to keep him upright most of the night, allowing only two sacks. It also helped opened up running lanes for Green and did not commit an infraction.
The bad: Its tough to call out any major negatives, but that doesn’t mean it was a perfect night at the office either, especially when the team suffered a 25-point loss.
Final grade: C+
Turnovers really killed UC in this one, particularly the three-straight miscues on its own side of the field in the third quarter, which gave USF great field position and helped the Bulls score 14 points off of turnovers. When they didn’t get in their own way, the Bearcats did OK, converting on 6-of-16 third down chances and punching the ball into the end zone on all three drives that made it to the red zone. However, 393 yards of total offense and four costly turnovers washed away any and all positives that could be taken from this game.
Final grade: D+