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Mike Boone: An Appreciation

In his first two seasons, Mike Boone was the most exciting player in a Bearcat uniform. In his last two years, he lost that mantle, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the best running back on the roster during his time with Cincinnati.

Miami Ohio v Cincinnati

The Career Numbers

  • 2,250 rushing yards
  • 420 rushing attempts
  • 5.4 yards per carry
  • 2,846 yards from scrimmage
  • 25 total touchdowns
  • 797 kick return yarads

*30 for 30 announcer voice* What if I told you the best Cincinnati running back of the last four years was a wide receiver in high school?

Well then you’d be aware that Mike Boone came to Cincinnati as a two-star wide receiver. However, possibly because of Boone’s 5’9” stature, the decision was made to turn him into a running back. It was one of the few good decisions made during the Tommy Tuberville era.

As a freshman in 2014, Boone didn’t even record a rushing attempt until Oct. 11 against Miami (Florida). He ran for 14 yards on three carries in that first game and then had 18 yards against SMU the week after.

Then it happened. He broke out, rushing for 212 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against USF. That kicked off a stellar freshman season, which ended with Boone the leading rusher on the roster, as he piled up 650 yards and nine scores, surpassing the work of Rod Moore, who played in 13 games compared to Boone’s nine.

When 2015 came around, the question was no longer can Boone be a running back but can he be a great one? The answer was a resounding yes. With the use of some of the most elusive running tactics going, Boone shredded opposing defenses out of the backfield, averaging an incredible 7.2 yards per carry, while tallying a career-high 749 yards and nine touchdowns. Boone was one of the better parts of a relatively pedestrian 7-6 squad that year and there was real exuberance about the fact that he still had two years left.

But then something changed, both with the program and Boone himself. The 2016 season was the crater-in-the-earth low point of the Tuberville era, and it coincided with Boone’s worst campaign. He did set a then personal best with 105 carries, but he only managed 388 yards and two touchdowns, a tragically lower level of production from his first two seasons. He also played in only nine games due to an injury.

Entering 2017, Boone was in as perfect a situation to bounce back as you could imagine, at least in terms of opportunity. In his first three seasons Boone had to share the backfield with Moore, Hosey Williams and Tion Green. In 2017, Boone had the No. 1 running back spot all to himself. Unfortunately, the rise of Gerrid Doaks, along with Boone’s own lackluster production meant he was demoted as the year went on, even if he did end up leading the team with 110 rushing attempts. He also set a career-high with 24 receptions, helping him contribute to his 2,846 career yards from scrimmage, which is paired with 25 total touchdowns.

Of those 2,846 yards from scrimmage, 2,250 were on the ground, which places Boone eighth in all-time rushing yards at UC, ahead of Al McKinney, Reggie Harrison and his frequent collaborator, Green. Boone is also tied with Reggie Taylor for the fifth-most career rushing touchdowns (24) and ranked seventh in career rushing average (5.4 yards).

Austin Peay v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Best of the Best

Oct. 11, 2014 vs. USF

As mentioned up top, Boone rushed for 212 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in the third game of his career.

Oct. 13, 2014 at Tulane

A week after he ripped USF apart, Boone tacked on 113 yards and a score on 15 carries against the Green Wave.

Dec. 6, 2014 vs. Houston

On the way to a 38-31 win over Houston which allowed UC to earn a share of the American Athletic Conference championship, Boone erupted for three touchdowns and 92 total yards.

Oct. 24, 2015 vs. UConn

Although he rushed for 118 yards on only four carries earlier in the season against Miami-Ohio, this game sticks out as he, Green and Williams combined for 328 rushing yards.

Nov. 14, 2015 vs. Tulsa

This remains the best game of Boone’s career. He did not surpass 200 yards like he did as a freshman against USF, but the 137 yards were the second-most he ever had in a game and the three touchdowns put it over the top.

Sept. 24, 2016 vs. Miami-Ohio

He had to fight for every yard in this one, but he finished with 74 yards and a score on the ground while adding 34 yards through the air.

Oct. 22, 2016 vs. ECU

There weren’t a lot of performances to be proud of by the Bearcats in 2016, but this was one of them. Boone helped UC to a 31-19 win by rushing for a season-high 88 yards while his one reception went for 54. This was vintage Boone.

Aug. 31, 2017 vs. Austin Peay

After this game, I thought the old Boone was back. He piled up 100 yards and a score on 19 carries.

Nov. 25, 2017 vs. UConn

In the final game of his collegiate career, Boone rushed for 83 yards. He had at least 50 yards in four of his final five contests. This was clearly not the most incredible performance but it was good to see him go out on a relatively high note.

A Final Goodbye

Boone was always the player I was most excited about seeing each Saturday the last four seasons. When he got the ball, especially in the first two years, you never knew when or where the play would end. You just knew it was going to yield lots of Bearcat yards. Boone never went down quickly and he found the end zone at an incredible rate. Whether its the injury he suffered near the end of 2016, poor offensive game planning around him or something else, it will always be a bit of a letdown that Boone never rose to national stardom, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the running back that defined the last four years for the Bearcats.