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Grading the Defense: Week Nine

The Bearcats needed to stop the run against Temple. They didn’t.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Temple Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major keys to a win for Cincinnati this past weekend was stopping Temple’s running game. Led by a powerful two-headed backfield of Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead, along with a mobile quarterback in PJ Walker, the Owls had just bowled over USF, continuing a tradition of pounding the rock. The Bearcats knew what type of running game they were facing and that to win, they would need to stop it or at least slow it down.

They failed on both counts.

That failure allowed Temple to pull away in the second half, while UC’s offense was stuck in quicksand, and steamroll its way to a 34-13 victory. No single player is to blame for the loss, but we’ll still be breaking the game down by position.

Defensive line

The good: The defensive line accounted for both of UC’s sacks in the game, with defensive tackle Cortez Broughton recording his first full quarterback takedown of the season and second tackle for loss in as many weeks. Caleb Ashworth, a redshirt freshman defensive end and former three-star recruit, got the other sack in just his second game of the season. Marquise Copeland had a tackle for a loss and ranked third on the team in tackles with eight.

The bad: All those statistics mean absolutely nothing because the line was ripped into shreds by Temple’s offensive line as well as by Thomas and Armstead. The Owls ran the ball 60 times and accumulated 275 yards. Thomas was particularly effective, rushing for 151 yards on only 17 carries. (8.9 YPC). The defensive line is the first line (excuse the pun) of defense against the running game and it did very little in terms of putting up a resistant front.

Final grade: D-

Linebackers

The good: Antonio Kinard had two tackles for loss. What was nice to see was the play of Perry Young. A freshman nickleback from Alabama, Young started at weakside linebacker for UC and finished with a team-high 12 tackles, including one for loss.

The bad: Other than that the linebackers were not particularly effective. Even standout Eric Wilson only had seven tackles, although he did have a pass breakup as well. Its true that the volume with which Temple ran accounted for some of the immense production it got on the ground, but the fact that the Owls were able to pick up 16 first downs rushing means not only were they getting past the line, but they were also slicing through the next level.

Final grade: D+

Secondary

The good: Although Temple only threw for 199 yards its not as if the UC secondary dominated. Zach Edwards had a pass breakup and finished second on the team with nine tackles.

The bad: Walker completed 12-of-19 pass attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t make up those yards with one big play and a bunch of dumpoffs either. Of those 12 completions, seven went for at least 10 yards and five went for at least 20, including a 40-yard scoring strike to Adonis Jennings. Ventell Bryant also had a big game, turning only three receptions into 66 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Grant Coleman was called for a 10-yard holding penalty and Edwards was flagged for pass interference.

Final grade: D

Overall

It may have taken a little while for Temple to find its groove, as it only managed to take a 17-13 lead into halftime. But the Owls offense was able to do what it wanted pretty much from start to finish. They gained 25 first downs and finished with 474 yards of total offense. They also converted on 7-of-14 third down chances and dominated the time of possession, with a little more than 40 minutes with the ball. If there was any weak point it was in the red zone, as only two of the Owls’ five trips inside the UC 20-yard line resulted in touchdowns.

This was a thorough beating all the way around. Despite some nice signs from younger guys like Young and Ashworth, the defense didn’t do much to help the offense by allowing Temple to dictate the tempo and run the ball seemingly at will.

Final grade: D-