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Fixing UC's Turnover Problem

The root of the problem and the solution both lie in the same spot: under center.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Mistakes are part of life and everybody makes them. (Raises hand guiltily). Last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats made more than few on the field. In fact, there was only one team in the American Athletic Conference that turned the ball over as many times as UC. That team is UCF. Yes, the same UCF team that finished without a single win. Suffice to say, being in the same company as that squad is not where you want to find yourself. That is doubly true if you are a program with heightened expectations and sights set on winning a league crown.

In total, UC coughed up the ball 33 times last season, with 22 interceptions and 11 fumbles lost. On the other side, the Bearcats only forced 14. That isn't a pretty number either, but let's focus on UC's problems with holding onto the ball rather than wresting it from the opponent.

An injury to Gunner Kiel hurt in more ways than one. It forced Hayden Moore, a freshmen, into the fray. To his credit, Moore performed admirably, throwing for 1,885 yards and completing nearly 60 percent of his pass attempts. However, he also was responsible for 11 interceptions, matching the same number Kiel threw during the campaign despite nearly 100 fewer throws on his ledger. On top of that, Moore fumbled the ball eight times and lost four of those, leading the team in both categories. Being young does not entirely excuse Moore's issues. He is a full member of the team and should be treated as such, with the same performance expectations. On the flip side, being forced into action without first team reps can limit even the most talented backups. While the starting quarterback job is apparently up for grabs, having another year under his belt should help Moore be a bit more ready for whatever is thrown at him.

As for Kiel, his status as starter is uncertain, even if the rest of the country has him penciled in to start week one. The frequency with which Kiel (316 pass attempts including two 50-throw efforts) and UC as a whole (AAC-leading 547 pass attempts) threw last season obviously created more chances for opposing teams to be in the right place at the right time. Kiel also threw six of his 11 picks against two of the conference's best team, with a four-pick game against Temple along with two against Houston. Coincidentally (or not), those were the two games in which he threw the ball 50 times. Moore was picked off twice in his only game with at least 50 pass attempts as well. But before you think that just throwing less will alleviate the problem, consider this: Tulsa ranked second in the AAC in pass attempts (492) and managed to limit itself to only eight interceptions. So it is possible to throw the ball all over the yard and keep it safe.

UC's turnover woes were not limited to interceptions, however. The Bearcats had those 11 lost fumbles as well, tying with Temple for ninth in the conference. Obviously, quarterbacks are always going to have more turnovers than other players because the rest of the roster can't accumulate interceptions. However, both Moore and Kiel were loose with the ball even when they weren't throwing it. As noted previously, Moore led the team in fumbles and Kiel lost three fumbles. The rest of the team combined for four all together, with Tion Green the only other player to have more than one.

So, it would seem that UC's turnover problem stems from under center and it is only there that a solution can be found. Knowing that, it makes Tommy Tuberville's decision about who gets the starting job that much more critical.