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What We Learned From Cincinnati’s Road Loss to USF

With more than half of the season finished, there are still things we are discovering.

Cincinnati v South Florida Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

Here we are on another Sunday, picking up the pieces of a Cincinnati Bearcats loss. This time, they were easily dispatched by the No. 18 USF Bulls, taking their fourth-straight loss in the process. We have now passed the halfway point of the season, and while that is a large enough sample size to know what this team is, each game still provides new lessons. Here are a few from yesterday.

USF is tough to beat

Well, duh. You don’t go 6-0 and earn the No. 18 ranking in the country by being easy to beat. But it’s more than that. The Bulls have won 11-straight games dating back to last season. That’s a lot. It’s actually more than any team in the country since Clemson just got upset by Syracuse. While their resume still doesn’t scream College Football Playoff, the Bulls are 6-0 and have the chance to run the table. The rest of the schedule isn’t simple, especially with a regular season finale against UCF, but the Bulls should win out. At the very least they will be favored to do so.

Verticals doesn’t work when the defense expects it

In Madden (or the now defunct NCAA Football) video game franchises, four verticals is a play that you go to when you need big yardage. The Bearcats went with a similar play on the last snap of the first half and it, uh, did not go well. The problem is, in reality, having every receiver just run straight down field is not usually a recipe for success.

Third down is still an issue

UC continues to be a disappointment on third down. The offense isn’t high-flying to begin with, but it constantly lets itself down by failing to convert on third downs of any distance. Against USF, the Bearcats converted just 4-of-16 third down tries into first downs. They are ahead of only UConn and Tulane in the AAC in third down conversion rate (36.45 percent) and that is especially upsetting because they find themselves in third down situations frequently, as they are tied for third in the conference in such tries (107).

Kevin Mouhon likes playing USF

While Mouhon hasn’t had the breakout season I expected, the defensive end certainly seems to put his best foot forward against the Bulls. Last year he recorded three tackles for loss against them and this year he was one of the most active defenders. He tallied nine tackles (eight solo) and a stop for loss. Maybe the Bearcats don’t play their best overall games when USF lines up across the field, but Mouhon does.

We might see more Ross Trail

With a 2-5 record, the Bearcats aren’t exactly in a position to play for this season. That’s why it was good to see Trail get some snaps against the Bulls. Hayden Moore underwhelmed again as the starter, completing 16-of-28 pass attempts for only 147 yards, plus that pretty awful interception. Trail didn’t come in and solve all of UC’s offensive problems, but he completed 5-of-9 pass attempts for 31 yards and showed off a little bit of mobility. I expect Moore to start once again next week, but Trail may start getting more time on the field.