While the Cincinnati Bearcats surprised by actually competing with the SMU Mustangs, they still ended up losing yesterday. The game was an up-and-down affair emotionally, with UC trading leads back and forth, staging a furious comeback and then falling flat in overtime.
We now know a few things for certain. The Bearcats are 2-6 overall, 0-4 in league play, have lost five games in a row and deep breaths can help after a big loss. At least they did for me. Here’s what else we learned this week.
The run game has some gas left in the tank
The Bearcats have one of the worst rushing attacks in the American Athletic Conference. They are averaging only 119.6 yards per game on the ground, which is better than only two other teams. However, that average got a boost yesterday when they were able to find running lanes. In total, UC rushed for 249 yards on 42 carries, good enough for a nearly six-yards-per-attempt average. No matter who got the ball, there were yards to be gained. Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren stood out especially. It was a good sign since the passing game wasn’t exactly on point.
There was improvement on third down...
One of the thorns in UC’s side has been weak play on third down. Too many drives have stalled out because the Bearcats couldn’t pick up the necessary yards to turn a three into a one. With a 38.2 percent success rate on third down, they just haven’t cut it often. Yesterday provided some improvement, with UC converting on 8-of-16 tries. That included an eight-yard pass from Hayden Moore to Tyler Cogswell on a third-and-six during the scoring drive that forced overtime.
... but there wasn’t so much in the red zone
While all four of Cincinnati’s scores came within the red zone, there were three times where getting to that part of the field didn’t yield any points. Late in the second quarter, trailing 21-20, the Bearcats sprinted down the field to get to the SMU 14. But Moore was then sacked on back-to-back plays, which forced the Bearcats to attempt a 47-yard field goal, which was missed by Ryan Jones. Moore then lost a fumble on first and 10 from the SMU 18 in the beginning of the third quarter before firing off the game-sealing interception in overtime. A score on one or two of those drives would have yielded a different result than we got.
Devin Gray was clutch
Gray may have only caught three passes for 41 yards, but he came up big in crunch time. With 2:27 to play, the Bearcats faced a fourth-and-three from the SMU 21-yard line. They didn’t just get the first down on that play, they got a touchdown hookup from Moore to Gray. The same duo connected for the two-point conversion, which tied the game at 28-28.
SMU has some really good wide receivers
Speaking of wide receivers coming up big, the Mustangs got two great performances from two of their own. The Bearcats had no answer for Trey Quinn all afternoon, as he accumulated 17 receptions for 186 yards. Courtland Sutton didn’t have as many receptions (six) or yards (81), but he abused the UC secondary for two touchdowns. Sutton and Quinn accounted for 23 of the team’s 26 receptions.