The season is over. Sure, the Cincinnati Bearcats play once more before the season is officially over, but after a 34-7 stomping courtesy of the Memphis Tigers at Nippert Stadium last night, UC is no longer harboring any postseason hopes. Those hopes were hanging by a thin thread Friday night. A thread you’d need an electron microscope to make out. The Tigers brought one, located that thread and used scissors, masquerading as 34 points, to snip it in half.
UC (3-7, 1-6 American Athletic Conference) is now guaranteed its first losing season since 2010, which was Butch Jones’ first on campus and a year removed from Brian Kelly’s departure.
The game started as ominously as possible, with Hayden Moore throwing interceptions on both of UC’s first two drives. Each of those miscues led to points for Memphis which scored 17 off of turnovers. In fact, although the 34-7 final score should invoke images of an offensive runaway by the Tigers, they were efficient but not bombastic, finishing with only 331 yards of total offense.
Aside from the turnovers, UC was stalled by the same things that have plagued it most of the season: a lack of sustained offensive success and poor play on third down. Memphis converted 8-of-16 third down chances while the Bearcats did so on 5-of-14. Then there was the discrepancy in time of possession, with the Bearcats holding the ball for just under 27 minutes. They also only got into the red zone twice, although, to their credit, Moore’s 10-yard scoring pass to Devin Gray haulted a 13-quarter touchdown drought, so bully for them. On the other side, the Tigers had six red zone chances and scored on five of those.
As far as individual performances, Moore finished with only 144 yards on 22-of-34 passing. To be fair, he was hounded throughout the game, suffering four sacks. Deionte Buckley was the leading rusher, picking up 49 yards on seven carries. Tion Green ground out 41 yards on 12 carries, as the Bearcats averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt. Nate Cole was the leading receiver with six receptions for a meager 34 yards.
At least Eric Wilson and Zach Edwards played well on defense. Wilson had 12 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and also forced and recovered a fumble. Edwards had 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and also broke up two passes.
With hope of even a mid-December bowl now out the window, UC will prepare to face off with Tulsa in its regular season finale next Friday. What the program will do from there to ensure better results in 2017 remains to be seen.