These season openers against non-D1 schools are more taxing than I remember them being. A year after putting forth a pretty uninspiring performance in a 28-7 win over Tennesee-Martin, the Cincinnati Bearcats struggled out of the gate yet again, managing to escape with a 26-14 win over the Austin Peay Governors at Nippert Stadium.
Of course, last year’s team was under the eye of Tommy Tuberville, who was replaced by Luke Fickell. For all the excitement surrounding the program this offseason, things didn’t really look much different in terms of performance when actual football got going, as the Bearcats punted on their first three possessions before scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Moore to Thomas Geddis in the second quarter.
Moore ended up throwing three touchdown passes, which is good, but his overall stat line wasn’t amazing, as he threw for only 151 yards on 17-of-28 passing. Mike Boone got pretty much all of the work out of the backfield, running the ball 19 times for 100 yards, mainly boosted by a 26-yard run on the Bearcats’ final touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Boone scored that final touchdown which proved to be enough to hold off Austin Peay, a team that went 0-22 in the last two seasons combined and hasn’t won a game since 2014.
The Governors were committed to the run all night, rushing the ball 60 times for 224 yards. That run-heavy attack ended up gaining only 313 total yards, with quarterback JaVaughn Craig rushing for 92 yards and throwing for 63 more. While the 313 total yards allowed (and 10 tackles for loss) that the Cincinnati defense recorded was a good look from that side of the ball, the fact that the offense was out-gained by a team that, once again, hasn’t won a game since 2014, was as far from encouraging as you can get.
As noted in our preview of this contest, Fickell wasn’t going to right all of last year’s wrongs in one game, but the expectation was that things would at least look better, especially against a program like Austin Peay. After tonight, it seems like even that was asking too much.