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Grading the Defense: Week Three

Malik Clements’ interception highlighted an excellent night.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Clements and the defense quite literally won the 12th-straight Battle of the Victory Bell for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Clements’ 14-yard interception return capped a big comeback and matched half of what the Bearcats’ offense had been able to stumble upon in the first 58 minutes.

At 2-1, UC is doing OK through the first three games and that play by Clements is kind of a microcosm of why: the defense has been strong while the offense stumbles. Through the first three games, it is the defensive side of the ball where UC has succeeded more often. Let’s take a look at the best week of defending done by the Bearcats.

Defensive Line

The Good: Kevin Mouhon and Marquise Copeland finally showed up! Mouhon was a beast when it came to rushing the passer, recording two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, joining forces with fellow defensive lineman Mark Wilson on one. Copeland also helped out in pressuring the quarterback, sacking Gus Ragland once. However, he also did more than that, finishing with seven total tackles (tied for the second-most on the team) and three whole stops for loss. Not only did some individuals perform well, the Bearcats as a whole held the RedHawks to 2.2 yards per carry on the ground. Stopping runs at the line played a major role in that.

The Bad: There really isn’t much to gripe about from this one. The guys up front were disruptive and effective all night.

Final Grade: A

Linebackers

The Good: Jaylyin Minor’s quest to tackle every single player he comes close to is going swimmingly. Minor finished with 10 tackles against Miami and now has double digit stops in each of the first three games. Tyrell Gilbert played the SAM role and tackled effectively, finishing with seven stops and two pass breakups. In addition, the run defense got a boost from the second level.

The Bad: Perry Young didn’t have his best game of the season, finishing with only three tackles while being called for a personal foul on a third down play in the fourth quarter. The penalty costed the defense a stop and ended up leading to a field goal for Miami.

Final Grade: B+

Secondary

The Good: That interception, though. Really, Clements’ play overall was excellent. The safety added seven tackles to his game-winning interception. Linden Stephens did some good things in pass defense as well, breaking up four throws from Ragland, who only managed to complete 16-of-31 pass attempts. Grant Coleman also broke up two passes and had five tackles.

The Bad: Stephens and Marquis Smith were both called for penalties, but really it was a fairly solid game from the secondary, highlighted by the biggest play of the game.

Final Grade: B+

Overall

After giving up a touchdown to Miami on its second drive, the UC defense forced five-straight punts. In total, 10 of the RedHawks’ 13 possessions ended without points and seven didn’t even yield 10 yards. The 221 total yards allowed by UC was a season-best and the work against the run and on third down (Miami went 3-for-14) were exceptional and allowed the sluggish UC offense time to jump-start the comeback, which was finished by Clements.

Final Grade: A