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The Hayden Moore/Ross Trail Question Isn’t Going Away

Until somebody proves he can be effective consistently, the Bearcats will be stuck with a quagmire at quarterback.

Marshall v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

According to a report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, Luke Fickell is going to continue to start Hayden Moore at quarterback, even though Ross Trail is finally back to playing health.

The Enquirer reported that during Fickell’s weekly press conference he mentioned that he considered putting Trail into the Marshall game but thought the situation would have been an unfair way to test Trail.

While Fickell’s loyalty to his season opening start is to be expected (I said as much before the season started), there’s still a real debate to be had bout whether or not it’s the right move.

Trail has missed more than a few weeks with an abdominal strain, but it appears that he is nearing his return, if he’s not already 100 percent ready for it. With a 2-3 record with Moore under center, the Bearcats are not exactly in a position to say no to a change of pace, especially with a brutal stretch of games against UCF, USF and SMU on the horizon.

But is changing captains mid voyage really going to make a difference? It’s tough to say. Moore, for the most part, has been pretty bad this season. It’s not all his fault, of course, as the offensive line play has been shoddy far too often (just ask the running backs), but Moore can’t be excused entirely. He completed just one pass in the first quarter against Marshall and has connected on merely 52.5 percent of his throws overall this season. His 108.84 QB rating is dead last among the 12 qualified quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference, even considering he has a fairly decent touchdown to interception ratio (nine to four).

This year’s struggles are nothing new. Moore was a bit better last season, completing 57.3 percent of his passes, but his 123.4 QB rating still would have fallen into the bottom half of qualified AAC signal callers, assuming he played the full season. Also, in five games this year he is averaging fewer yards per attempt (5.4) than he did a year ago (6.8).

But then there’s the Navy game. Sure, UC lost, but Moore was excellent in that one, setting a season-high in completion percentage (60.9 percent) and yards (381), while matching his season-best mark of three touchdown passes. It is games like that that make it nearly impossible to give up on him entirely.

Also plaguing the Moore-needs-to-be-benched brigade is the fact that Trail isn’t exactly a sure thing either. Trail may have completed 65.7 percent of his pass attempts last season, while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt, but he was also intercepted six times in 70 pass attempts, while managing just one touchdown throw. If you project that out over a full season, which we’ll say includes 350 pass attempts, Trail would end up with five touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. Gross. Now, there’s no way Trail would be that bad or at least allowed to be for 12 games, but the point stands: Trail isn’t a slam dunk savior for the offense, at least not right now.

So that leaves Fickell and the Bearcats in an ocean of quicksand. Moore can be good but usually isn’t, and there’s no real immediate solution available. For now, Fickell is going to stick with Moore and hope things smooth out, but this uncertainty at QB is going to continue to be the bane of the Bearcats until Moore, Trail or somebody else starts playing consistently well.