Imagine the most tired you’ve ever been. That time you pulled an all-nighter to stand in line for the PlayStation 3. When you ran that half marathon on six hours sleep. When you climbed Mt. Everest. (If you’ve done the latter, then I have no idea how you’ve found yourself here).
Have you got that memory of fatigue firmly planted in your head? Good.
That will give you some idea of how exhausted the Cincinnati Bearcats defense must have been after the final whistle blew on Saturday, ending UC’s 20-3 loss against BYU. With the offense struggling to sustain drives, the Bearcats were forced to play on defense for 37 minutes and 57 seconds.
And even though they were asked to put in a shift and a half without any overtime pay, the boys on defense still put in a decent effort. It wasn’t enough to win, but when the offense scores a grand total of three points, anyone besides the 1985 Chicago Bears would come up short. Let’s dive in for the position-by-position analysis.
The good: There were no sacks by UC, but that doesn’t mean the defensive line didn’t make the BYU backfield work. In fact, the Bearcats did a great job of putting pressure on Taysom Hill while keeping talented running back Jamaal Williams from ever breaking off big runs. Williams may have finished with 92 yards rushing, but his longest run was 14 yards and he averaged only 3.7 yards carry. The Bearcats’ ability to control the defensive line and plug running holes was directly responsible, although Williams did appear to be suffering from a lingering ankle issue,
In addition, freshman defensive end Bryan Wright played well in his first career start, tying for a team-high with nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Kevin Mouhon and Cortez Broughton also did their best Gary Clark impressions, each swatting a pass from Hill at the line of scrimmage.
The bad: Remember that whole no sacks thing? Well that wasn’t great especially because although he was pressured frequently, Hill was able to escape and rack up 75 yards and a critical touchdown on the ground. In all, the Cougars got 207 rushing yards.
Final grade: C+
The good: Antonio Kinard returned to the starting lineup, which was nice to see. However he only had four tackles, all assisted. Eric Wilson had another pedestrian week following his lackluster effort against Temple, recording a season-low six tackles. Wait. This was supposed to be the “good” section. Jaylyin Minor had a tackle for a loss, so that was, uh, good.
The bad: There wasn’t a whole lot to complain about from the linebackers, but there wasn’t all that much to rave about either.
Final grade: C-/D+
The good: With the defensive line making it tough on Hill, the BYU quarterback failed to have much success through the air. He completed just 15-of-25 pass attempts for 130 yards and was also intercepted once by Zach Edwards, who also recorded eight tackles and half a stop for loss. The interception was the 15th of the season for UC, which is tied for second-most in the country. Sophomore safety Malik Clements and freshman defensive back Perry Young each made plenty of plays, finishing tied for the team-lead with nine tackles.
The bad: Safety Tyrell Gilbert, who has three picks for UC this season, left the game in the first quarter with an apparent injury to his leg. Almost immediately after Gilbert left, Davin Pierce came in at safety and was flagged for pass interference. It was one of two 15-yard infractions called against the secondary, as Alex Thomas was tagged for a personal foul on BYU’s first drive.
Final grade: C-
Giving up only 337 yards of total offense is usually a strong effort, especially against a team with talented offensive playmakers like Williams and Hill. However, the UC defense was walking too thin a line for that to be enough. Making matters worse was its struggles on third down, as it consistently let the Cougars get away with bad plays on first and second down. BYU converted 10-of-16 third down chances into first downs, making the Cougars’ incredible time of possession not just the fault of a stagnant offense.
Final grade: C-