For the first three weeks of the season, the Cincinnati Bearcats were carried by their defense. In fact, in week three, during the annual Battle for the Victory Bell, the defense very literally carried the team to victory. The unit couldn’t lead another UC victory this past weekend, however, as a shootout broke out against the Navy Midshipmen, sweeping the Bearcats’ defense up along with it. In previous weeks, scoring 32 points would have made for some bigger wins and a more competitive loss to Michigan. Against Navy, it proved to be 10 points short of a W. Here’s how each individual positional group performed.
The Good: Marquise Copeland had seven tackles, Cortez Brought recorded a tackle for loss and Bryan Wright and Kimoni Fitz combined for one as well.
The Bad: Before we dive into the bad, it’s worth noting that Navy’s triple-option offense is always going to gain a ton of yards on the ground since it’s entirely built on running. With that written, the Midshipmen ripped off huge chunks of yardage and the Navy offensive line pushed UC around to allow that to happen. The Bearcats surrendered 569 rushing yards and a 7.9 yards per carry average and didn’t push Navy back much at all, with the two tackles for loss noted above the only made by UC for the entire game.
Final Grade: D
The Good: Jaylyin Minor had another big day of tackles (12), but he needed to have more if UC was going to win. Perry Young also had five tackles in the second half alone.
The Bad: Unfortunately, Young only played in the second half as he was suspended for the first due to a penalty from the previous week. Without one of their best linebackers, the Bearcats had a great deal of trouble stopping the run, both at the defensive line and linebacker level.
Final Grade: C-
The Good: It was a lighter game for the secondary as Navy threw the ball only three times. Safety Carter Jacobs served as a solid last line of defense, finishing with a team-high 13 tackles while forcing a fumble, which was recovered by fellow safety Chris Murphy. Mailk Clements also followed his breakout performance against Miami (Ohio) with 10 tackles.
The Bad: Despite all that tackling, UC was caught off guard when Zach Abey did throw, as the Navy quarterback completed a 19-yard touchdown pass and finished with 53 yards on only two completions. In addition, when your safeties are leading the team in tackles, but not getting any stops for loss, that means something is breaking down for the unit as a whole.
Final Grade: C
It was a bleak start for UC, which was down 14-0 before the first half was even finished, with Navy looking like it could just march the ball down the field whenever it wanted to. The game pretty much went that way. Navy surpassed 560 rushing yards, gained 31 first downs, went 6-for-8 on third down tries and scored on six of 10 possessions, and that 10th one shouldn’t even count since the Midshipmen were running out the clock. UC was a bit better against the run in the second half when Young came in, but it still never found much of an answer for the triple-option. Teams that run schemes like that are always going to run for more yards than normal, but being unable to stop Navy at all wasn’t a good look for the defense.
Final Grade: D