If I told you that the Cincinnati Bearcats were going to play an overtime game against the SMU Mustangs last week, you would think one of two things. The first is that the Bearcats overachieved on defense. The second is that they overachieved on offense. The first one isn’t exactly true, but the second portion is pretty much correct.
With 438 yards of total offense, the Bearcats came a yard shy of matching their season-high, which they pulled off against Navy. The running game led the way and even if it didn’t end up producing a win, the offense’s production was a positive sign. Whether it can carry over into the rest of the season remains to be seen, but we’ll deal with that later. For now its time to discuss how things went on Saturday.
The Good: Any suspicion that Hayden Moore was about to lose his job to Ross Trail has flown away, or at least run around the block to hide. Moore played every snap at quarterback a week after being pulled before the fourth quarter. Moore did some good things, completing 22-of-35 passes, throwing two touchdown scores and using his legs to score another. His work on the ground has certainly boosted his resume, as he rushed for 52 yards.
The Bad: The problem is that Moore just isn’t consistently piling up yards through the air. With only 189 yards on 22 completions, Moore averaged only 8.6 yards every time he connected on a pass. He’s also been spreading the ball around less. That’s not a big surprise since the receiving options haven’t been great around him, but eventually teams figure out that Kahlil Lewis is the only player Moore wants to throw to. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Moore threw the game-sealing interception in overtime and lost a fumble in the red zone.
Final Grade: C-
The Good: This. This is what the Bearcats under Luke Fickell want to do. Run the ball using multiple backs and looks out of the backfield. We already discussed how Moore contributed to the running game, but the backs flanking him did a ton of work as well. Gerrik Doaks needed only nine carries to accumulate 91 yards. Michael Warren turned five attempts into 51 yards. Mike Boone didn’t have a great rushing average (3.2 YPC), but he racked up 55 yards anyway. In total, the Bearcats finished with 249 yards on 42 carries. Doaks and Boone also produced 34 yards through the air.
The Bad: If you want to gripe about Boone’s less than ideal yards per carry average, fine, but this was the best showing by a group of UC running backs in a long time.
Final Grade: A
The Good: This continues to be the home of Kahlil Lewis. Week in and week out, we grade the offense and Lewis winds up in the good section. Lewis had 10 more receptions against SMU and finished with 72 yards. It wasn’t the best yardage total, but Lewis’ consistent and reliable hands have been the only thing keeping Moore from completing passes in more of a batting average range than a completion percentage one. Lewis is now tired for fourth in the American Athletic Conference in receptions (47) even his yardage total (432) wouldn’t be classified as elite.
Lewis didn’t do everything through the air though. After all, Devin Gray caught the touchdown and two-point conversion that made overtime necessary.
The Bad: Outside of Lewis and Gray, UC wide receivers accounted for only 34 yards. If you throw in Gray’s total, that number only rises to 75. You can blame Moore or his receivers, but something just isn’t clicking in the passing game.
Final Grade: D+
The Good: There was finally room for the running backs to, you know, run. With the guys in the trenches pushing forward, the Bearcats averaged 5.9 yards per carry. That is roughly two yards more per attempt than what they have normally done this season. Plus, there were only two penalties called against the line.
The Bad: There were two sacks allowed and nine tackles for loss, so the line wasn’t exactly impenetrable.
Final Grade: B-
This was one of the better offensive games of the season for the Bearcats, but there were still some missteps. Improvement on third down (8-of-16) was foiled by a few misplays in the red zone, as they only scored on 4-of-7 drives that winded up there. The passing game also continued to show troubling results, with Moore averaging only 5.4 yards per attempt. In all, you can chalk this up as step in the right direction, especially for the running game, but we’re far from perfection.
Final Grade: C+