Hiring Mike Denbrock as offensive coordinator did not get the same type of headlines that Luke Fickell’s appointment did, and for good reason. Head coach is obviously a larger post than offensive coordinator. But Denbrock was still an exciting hire. A proven offensive mind who had coached at Notre Dame, Denbrock was supposed to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.
While we imagined what the new scheme would look like, knowing that improved pace and play calling should come, it was mostly agreed upon that the offense would be better than last year.
Then Thursday happened.
While one game is far too small a sample size to judge entirely, the production put forth by the Cincinnati Bearcats was less than awesome, especially considering the opponent: an Austin Peay group that hadn’t won a game since 2014. I feel like that’s not getting mentioned enough.
The Good: Hayden Moore did manage to get things under control eventually after a rough open, as he threw three touchdown passes and wasn’t picked off. Moore also led an offense that made sure to take advantage in the red zone, as the Bearcats scored on 4-of-5 attempts from that range.
The Bad: A slow start nullified much of the good that Moore did, as he threw for only 151 yards on 17-of-28 passing.
Final Grade: C-
The Good: Mike Boone was the skill position player who was the most consistent, although if it weren’t for a 26-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, that consistency wouldn’t have equated to super effective. Boone rushed for 100 yards on 19 carries and he also scored a touchdown. Averaging 5.3 yards per carry, Boone was clearly the feature back, with Michael Warren II getting the three other attempts by a running back.
The Bad: If not for that 26-yard run, the game would have been a lot closer and Boone’s final line would have looked a lot less strong.
Final Grade: B-
The Good: Potential breakout candidate Thomas Geddis was the best of the bunch, finishing with 48 yards and a score on four receptions. Kahlil Lewis also got involved relatively heavily, with four catches for 41 yards and score. In addition, the new offense featured the tight end a bit more, as Tyler Cogswell caught three balls and scored.
The Bad: Last year’s leading receiver, Devin Gray, came away with all of two receptions. With the passing game somewhat subdued, there weren’t a ton of receptions to go around, as Moore completed passes to six different receivers.
Final Grade: C-
The Good: The line did a fairly good job in pass protection, keeping Austin Peay from recording a single sack.
The Bad: The running game didn’t get as much help, as the Bearcats were only able to manage an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
Final Grade: C-
The Bearcats had fewer total yards (313-248) and first downs (20-15) than the Governors, who essentially ran the ball on almost every play. UC had more balance, throwing the ball 28 times and rushing 29, but that balance didn’t mean much, as 248 yards is not good, no matter who the opponent is.
Now, there is some leeway to be given. Since Austin Peay ran the ball so often, the Governors were able to control time of possession, leaving UC with fewer offensive drives to work with. However, going 3-for-11 on third down meant many UC drives stalled out, including the first three, which ended in punts. The sluggish start was reminiscent of the opener against Tennesee-Martin last fall, and to people other than this writer.
“It felt similar to last year’s game against Tennessee-Martin. I definitely had a slow start,” Hayden Moore said. “I missed some throws, but as we settled down and I started making some easy throws, everybody started to do their job. That’s what coach always talks about, if everybody does their job we’ll be good.”
It may take more than that for this offense to be good, especially with Michigan looming next on the schedule.
Final Grade: D-