Do you believe in moral victories? If you do, then Saturday’s showdown between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the No. 8 Michigan Wolverines was the game for you. The visiting Bearcats entered as 33 1⁄2 point underdogs to the Wolverines and managed to put up enough of a fight to not only cover the spread but instill hope for the rest of the season.
The 36-14 final score shows that Michigan was the superior team, but by keeping it close for most of the first three quarters, the Bearcats proved that they aren’t going to roll over and go 0-12.
The initial impressions were not so cheery, as Michigan easily moved down the field to score a touchdown on its first drive, with Wilton Speight using play action to hit Kekoa Crawford for a 43-yard touchdown strike. Later in the first quarter, Hayden Moore was picked off by Tyree Kinnell, who returned the ball 28 yards for a touchdown.
But Mike Boone scored on a one yard touchdown run before the end of the first period and the Bearcats once again cut their deficit to a manageable number in the third quarter when Moore threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kahlil Lewis.
Moore was still awful in the game, as he completed just 15-of-40 pass attempts for 132 yards while being intercepted twice. He did not look confident on many of his throws and that showed in his final stat line. Credit must be given to the Michigan defense for making Moore uneasy, as the Wolverines recorded four sacks and constantly got pressure on the UC signal caller.
Boone had some moments of greatness, and finished with a team-high 72 all-purpose yards, while catching five passes, which was more than any receiver on UC. Jaylyin Minor was the standout player for the defense, recording 11 tackles, including one for a loss. But even he couldn’t stop the Wolverines’ running game, as Ty Isaac rushed for 133 yards on 20 carries to power a 193-yard effort from the team as a whole.
Although UC was in the same neighborhood as Michigan in terms of time of possession (30:27 to 29:33) and first downs (16-13), the Wolverines were the more efficient offensive team by a long shot, more than doubling the Bearcats’ yards per play output (6.3 to 2.9) and total production (414 yards to 200).
Still, the fact that UC held on for so long in a incredibly hostile environment as the Big House shows that there is hope after all. Now its just time to start turning moral victories into actual ones.