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Grading the Defense: Week Five

Improvements oagainst the run didn’t make up for shoddy play against the pass for the Bearcats.

NCAA Football: Marshall at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Are we seeing the cracks in the armor or a complete crumbling of the defense? It’s tough to say. The Cincinnati Bearcats have an excellent coaching staff when it comes to that side of the ball, and with players like Jaylyin Minor, Perry Young and Cortez Broughton, there are certainly the pieces in place to build a better mouse trap. However, giving up 80 points combined in two weeks is never a good look no matter how much finger pointing you do at the offense.

As long as we’re on the subject of pointing fingers, please realize that no one defender is the culprit of the last few weeks on the struggle bus, but we’re still going to break down the minutia on an individual level.

Defensive Line

The Good: There was some good play against the run, even if Keion Davis sliced his way to 93 yards and a touchdown. However, Marshall only averaged 3.0 yards per carry, which was a distinct improvement from the previous week against Navy. Kimoni Fitz played his best game of the season and racked up 2.0 tackles for loss, while Kevin Mouhon, Bryan Wright and Marquse Copeland each helped produce negative yardage for the Thundering Herd.

The Bad: Not. One. Sack. We can levy blame at the linebackers as well, but that’s not who we are talking about right now. Copeland may have had seven tackles, but not one was on Chase Litton behind the line of scrimmage. Cortez Broughton had two QB hits, but the lack of quarterback pressure continues to be a sore spot for this program and a major reason the Herd lit it up through the air. (More on that later.)

Final Grade: C

Linebackers

The Good: Perry Young is turning into a star before our eyes. He made a major impact against Navy, even if it was just during one half, and he followed that up with a strong game against Marshall. Luke Fickell has preached efficient tackling technique and Young has been an excellent student. The safety turned linebacker had a team-high 13 tackles against the Herd, including one of the team’s nine for loss. He also recovered a fumble and generally caused havoc when UC wasn’t doing much of that. Tyrell Gilbert also had a tackle for a loss and freshman Jarell White got a real taste of playing time, finishing with seven stops, including one for loss.

The Bad: It’s tough to call an eight-tackle effort “bad”, but it was a season-low for Minor, who also didn’t create any negative yardage. Gilbert had only five tackles and the linebackers as a whole, much like the defensive line, did not create much pass pressure. In addition, the fact that Marshall tight end Ryan Yurachek was open enough for three touchdown receptions has to fall on the backers at least partially.

Final Grade: C

Secondary

The Good: Carter Jacobs tackled some folks, recording nine stops, while also breaking up two passes. Linden Stephens broke up a pass as well, and had five tackles. The group also did a decent job of slowing down Tyre Brady, who had only four receptions for 34 yards.

The Bad: Aside from those few pithy positives, it was a dreadful night for pass defense. The secondary was called for three pass interference penalties and a holding infraction, with David Pierce guilty of two of those fouls. Litton picked the secondary apart as well, tallying four touchdown passes while completing 21-of-34 pass attempts for 233 yards. While the yardage total isn’t otherwordly, that is mostly because the Herd shifted to the run in the second half when the game was out of hand.

Final Grade: F

Overall

By giving up only 366 yards, UC’s final stat line in terms of total defense doesn’t look all that bad. But, like I just mentioned, a lot of that has to do with a shift in tone from the Marshall offense, which burned down the field in the first half before settling into run-out-the-clock mode in the final 30 minutes. The turnovers from the offense, which led to 21 points, certainly helped no one, but consistent failures to stop the Herd on third and fourth down as well as in the red zone ballooned the score past salvation.

Final Grade: D