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Grading the Defense: Week Seven

A knockoff version of the bend-don’t-break defense.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at South Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Based on the three metrics that make up the S&P+ ranking, the Cincinnati Bearcats are best at defense. However, that has more to do with lacking production from the offense and special teams than it does strong play from the defense since the unit is ranked No. 88 in the nation in defensive S&P+. When the Bearcats visited the USF Bulls this past weekend, there was really no reason to believe UC’s hosts would be forgiving.

And they weren’t... exactly.

The Bulls finished with 402 yards of total offense and averaged 4.8 yards per play. Those are solid, but not exceptional numbers. However, because they were so punishing on the ground (53 attempts for 212 yards), the Bulls dominated the game, winning 33-3. Let’s evaluate each positional group and how they contributed to the losing effort.

Defensive Line

The Good: I guess you could consider the 4.0 yards per carry the Bearcats allowed progress. In the previous two meetings with the Bulls, UC allowed 4.7 and 6.8 yards per attempt, respectively. Kevin Mouhon was one of the more active defenders from the edge, recording nine tackles, including one of only three for loss. Bryan Wright also recorded a TFL and a pass breakup.

The Bad: Once again, the Bearcats failed to get much pressure on the opposing quarterback. They did not have a single sack or quarterback hit. Getting to Quinton Flowers will always be difficult since he can move so deftly in the pocket, but not even making life a little difficult for him was a failure. Marquise Copeland also had a pretty bad game. His one tackle of the game, which would have been for a one-yard loss, was negated by a 15-yard face mask penalty.

Final Grade: D+

Linebackers

The Good: It was a bounce back game for Jaylyin Minor, who took his rightful spot at the top of the tackle list. Minor had a team-high 13 in the contest. He remains the American Athletic Conference leader in tackles, with 72. Perry Young also had some good plays, finishing with seven tackles, including the only one for loss by someone outside of the defensive line. Young (5.0) is behind only Mouhon (5.5) for the most TFLs on the team. Oh, and don’t forget Tyrell Gilbert, who had eight tackles.

The Bad: Many of USF’s runs were stopped before they turned into 20-yard gains, although Flowers escaped for a few healthy chunks. Still, its tough to complain too much about the LBs since they generally protected the middle part of the field.

Final Grade: C

Secondary

The Good: Since the Bulls ran the ball nearly twice as many times as they passed, the Bearcats didn’t have to defend the air as much. Flowers only completed 16-of-29 pass attempts and USF did not have a receiver produce more than 50 yards or a touchdown.

The Bad: Even though Flowers didn’t throw a ton and completed a pedestrian number of passes, he still averaged 11.5 yards per completion and finished with more passing yards (184) than Hayden Moore and Ross Trail had on 21 completions (178).

Final Grade: D

Overall

Against the No. 33 offense in the country based on S&P+, the Bearcats put together a knockoff version of the bend-but-don’t-break defense. Despite letting USF convert on 9-of-20 third down tries, UC tightened up in the red zone. USF made it there six times, but only got into the end zone twice offensively. In a way, the defense made a game in which the Bearcats lost by 30 points look closer than it actually was. Still, the same problems persist. Very little pressure and poor pass coverage continue to plague a team that so desperately wants to improve its defense

Final Grade: D+