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Grading the Defense: Week Eight

SMU is one of the best offenses in the country and Cincinnati still managed to do some good things.

SMU v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

There was a major challenge on the menu for the Cincinnati Bearcats in their last game. Opposing them was SMU, a team that has flourished offensively under Chad Morris and is ranked among the top 20 teams in the country in offensive S&P+. After facing the Bearcats, the Mustangs now rank 11th. For UC, which has a ranking of No. 93 in defensive S&P+, there were plenty of difficulties associated with trying to stop the opponent, with the Mustangs picking up 435 total yards and averaging 5.4 yards per play. However, that total was a bit lower than usual, as SMU has averaged 496.4 yards per game and 6.36 per play.

While it came in a losing effort, the Bearcats’ work on defense wasn’t entirely horrible, like some of its showings (cough Navy cough). Let’s look at each positional group’s contributions.

Defensive Line

The Good: Kevin Mouhon didn’t have any tackles for loss but he was active, racking up 10 tackles and breaking up a pass. Mouhon was one of three players with at least 10 stops and he now has a total of 19 combined in the last two weeks. Marquise Copeland and Lyndon Johnson also helped with the pass rush, with each player recording a sack, while Marcus Brown had a tackle for loss. The guys up front also did a decent job of swallowing up the run game, with SMU averaging only 3.2 yards per carry, and avoiding penalties, with nary a flag to be found against them.

The Bad: A lot of that difficulty running the ball had to do with SMU quarterback Ben Hicks losing 32 yards, partially on sacks. Meanwhile, Xavier Jones had a healthy day of 80 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Final Grade: B


The Good: Perry Young led the team with 13 tackles and even helped on one for loss. Jaylyin Minor was perhaps more flashy, with eight stops including a sack. It was Minor’s first sack of the season and puts him up to 3.5 tackles for loss on the campaign. Tyrell Gilbert had six tackles and let’s not forget that the linebackers helped with the production against the run game.

The Bad: Minor was flagged for a pass interference penalty in the first quarter, but it was largely a clean game overall. The linebackers deserve a little bit of the blame for struggling against SMU’s top receivers, but we’ll have more on that in just a second.

Final Grade: B-


The Good: Linden Stephens made up for a pass interference penalty with an interception in the second quarter. It was Stephens’ first pick of the campaign and puts him on pace to at least match his total from last season (two). Stephens also had a season-high of eight tackles. Carter Jacobs also got a bunch of stops, with 11, ranking behind only Young on the team. Malik Clements helped out with six tackles, although five were of the assisted variety.

The Bad: While its great that Stephens and the rest of the secondary tackled well, the fact that they had so many chances to do so was a problem. Hicks didn’t throw for an unreal amount of yards, but he was able to get the ball to Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton, his two favorite receivers, at will. Quinn finished with 17 receptions for 186 yards and Sutton had six receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns.

Final Grade: C-


The showing UC had against SMU was pretty much par for the course. The Bearcats are allowing 419.8 yards per game and the 435 they allowed against SMU falls within that realm. What was something positiv (and not neutral) to be taken from this was how the pass rush worked, with three sacks recorded. The team had all of six sacks entering the weekend, so getting that many all at once was a luxury. Third down proved to be a tough spot, with SMU converting 10-of-17, but it would have been extremely surprising if UC completely shut down one of the best offenses in the country. Once again, losing the game sours anything positive, but this wasn’t all that bad a showing.

Final Grade: C