When Tommy Tuberville made the call to start freshman Ross Trail on Saturday in Cincinnati’s matchup with Miami-Ohio, it signaled that the quarterback competition that started last winter will continue to spill into this fall. He further added fuel to the flames last week when he indicated that Gunner Kiel could still make an impact as well.
With a 3-1 record, part of which includes a run-out-of-gas effort against the nationally ranked Houston Cougars, the Bearcats are not exactly in horrible position as American Athletic Conference play begins in earnest this weekend against USF. From here on out, there is just one non-league game (at BYU on Nov. 5). As a team whose highest ceiling is winning the AAC, the next few weeks are of much more importance. With an 0-1 mark in conference play already on its head, UC has to start putting together wins if it really hopes to be a title contender. It showed for three quarters against Houston that it can be that type of team, but not because of stellar quarterback play. That’s concerning since having lingering questions about who is running the offense from under center is not going to fly once conference rivals start knocking on the door.
Hayden Moore was named the starter at the end of camp and the team went 2-1 in his first three starts. In that time he threw for 785 yards and seven touchdowns, compared to three interceptions. However, the offense never really looked all that effective in those first three games, especially during the opener when it took nearly two quarters before the team finally put points on the board.
Was the underwhelming effort from UC’s offense the reason for Moore’s demotion? Its possible, although Moore did hurt his ankle against Houston, so health may have played a larger role.
Whatever the case may be, Tuberville said the decision to start Trail over Moore was made early last week.
But here’s another question. Is Moore out as the starter after Trail’s performance against Miami? That is unlikely. As a passer, Trail had some ups and downs in his first collegiate start, as might be expected. He did complete a solid number of his passes (25-of-38) and finished with 276 yards, which was more than any single-game effort from Moore this season. However, two interceptions put a damper on some of the bright spots.
With that said, Trail did bring a new element to the UC offense that has not been seen since Munchie Legaux was taking snaps. Trail only finished with 19 net rushing yards, but that was due to the three sacks he took. He gained a total of 40 yards on the ground if you take out the negative sack yardage, including a pair of runs of more than 10 yards. One of those scampers ended in an 11-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put UC ahead 10-7.
As UC starts another week of preparation, this time for a rematch with USF (you know, that team that hung up 65 points on the Bearcats last season), questions are going to remain about the quarterback position. Tuberville showed that he was not just blowing smoke when he said there was a real competition for the starting job this spring and summer. Its just not the greatest look to have that competition continue now that the games really matter.