For roughly 35 glorious minutes of game time last night, the Cincinnati Bearcats appeared to be serving up a post-Thanksgiving miracle. They were scoring on offense, using creative ways to get it done and somehow staying one step (and sometimes more than that) ahead of a high-powered Tulsa offense.
However, the other shoe dropped hard on UC’s upset attempt, as the Golden Hurricane scored 10 unanswered points in the last 3:12 of regulation to force overtime and then ran to victory on the back of a four-yard touchdown run from James Flanders.
In the extra period, UC won the toss and chose to play offense first. It was an odd choice since most teams elect to play defense in order to know what they have to do once they have the ball.
After taking the ball, Hayden Moore escaped for a nine-yard run on second down to set-up the Bearcats for a third-and-one, but he threw an incomplete pass to Devin Gray on the next play. Tommy Tuberville elected to go for the field goal from there and put the pressure on his defense.
At first, it appeared that that strategy might work, as Flanders was stuffed for no gain on Tulsa’s first two plays of overtime. However, on third down, Dane Evans completed a 21-yard pass to Joshua Atkinson and on the next play Flanders scored the walkoff touchdown.
It is not entirely the fault of Tuberville that overtime did not go UC’s way, but deciding to play defense first and then playing conservatively, especially with a team that has nothing to lose, still seemed like the wrong move. But that’s just one man’s opinion.
The loss was certainly a different flavor of disappointment for UC, which finished the season at 4-8 overall, its worst mark since 2010, while losing each of its last five games. However, in their previous four losses, the Bearcats scored a total of 26 points.
Moore threw like a UC quarterback of old on Friday, completing 20-of-37 pass attempts for 371 yards and three touchdowns. With Moore slinging it so well, the UC offense finally racked up some big plays, something it had struggled to do all season. Each of Moore’s touchdown passes went for more than 30 yards including a 38-yarder to Thomas Geddis, an 82-yard strike to Gray and a 70-yard hookup with Jerron Rollins. Moore also caught a touchdown pass from tight end Tyler Cogswell as the stale UC offense finally showed a wrinkle of creativity in taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Gray finished with five catches for 143 yards and Geddis had 104 and the score on only three receptions after recording only four total catches the rest of the year. Senior running back Tion Green bruised his way to 67 yards on 14 carries, but it was his homage to Isaiah Pead that stood out. Green wore a No. 23 Pead jersey in honor of the former UC running back, who lost part of his leg in a car crash earlier this month.
On the defensive side, Eric Wilson (13) was one of three players to record double digit tackles, while Mike Tyson snagged two interceptions. It will be difficult to say goodbye to Wilson, Green, Nate Cole, Zach Edwards and the rest of the seniors on this team, especially since they leave on such a sour note. But at the very least, the Bearcats went down swinging. That’s something.
We’ll have more on the season in the weeks to come and will of course be monitoring UC’s decision about Tuberville’s future as it develops.