It was another grueling loss for the Cincinnati Bearcats, who fell 20-3 to the BYU Cougars in a non-conference affair at Nippert Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Once again, UC’s offense started off well (114 yards in the first quarter) but then sputtered through the final three frames, putting a ton of pressure on a defense that played well but couldn’t do it all.
A week after managing only 186 yards against Temple, the Bearcats had 295 yards of total offense in this one. Devin Gray had seven receptions for 105 yards, but playmakers like Nate Cole and Kahlil Lewis were largely invisible. Cole and Lewis were each limited to a single catch apiece, with neither of those coming until the third quarter, although UC did try to get Lewis involved with a few reverses.
Of course, it was difficult for any receiver to make an impact because Gunner Kiel did not look good at all. A number of overthrows, including one on a potential touchdown strike to Lewis, mixed with lots of pressure from BYU kept him from getting into any sort of rhythm. Kiel finished with a miserable stat line (19-of-32, 199 yards and an interception), making only slight improvement from his effort against Temple (15-of-27, 119 yards).
At least the running game showed signs of life, although there were far too many handoffs from the shotgun right up the middle that led to very little in terms of yardage, but a whole lot in frustration. Tion Green did what he could, rushing for 82 yards on 16 carries, while adding 22 yards on five receptions through the air. Mike Boone showed a lot of fight on his runs but he left the game with a lower body injury, one of two injuries that UC suffered, as safety Tyrell Gilbert hobbled off the field late in the first quarter. He would not return.
BYU only had 337 total yards of offense, but the Cougars converted on 10-of-16 third down chances and had an incredible 37:57 in terms of time of possession. The Bearcats were nowhere near as effective on third down, going 4-13 in such situations.
Cincinnati did score on its first drive of the game, settling for a field goal from Josh Pasley (who would miss another attempt later in the game) at the end of a seven-play, 59-yard drive on the opening possession. But the Bearcats failed to get much going after that.
On the other side, BYU seemed content to match UC’s offensive struggles, as the Cougars managed only a field goal on their first five offensive drives. However, just before halftime, they ran off a 13-play, 92-yard drive that ended with a Taysom Hill rushing touchdown. Then, after receiving the opening kickoff of the second half, BYU rolled down the field yet again and punched it in on a one-yard touchdown plunge from Squally Canada.
Those two scores were more than enough to put the game away, but BYU put the final nail in UC’s coffin with a 19-yard field goal with 1:39 to play.
The Bearcats (4-5) will be action again next week when they return to American Athletic Conference play with a road game against UCF. Its tough to feel confident that they’ll turn things around by then. They have lost four of their last five games and with continued sluggish returns on offense, are in danger of not only missing out on a bowl, but lulling fans to sleep while fanning the already roaring flames under Tommy Tuberville’s seat.