This was a weird weekend. After watching the Cincinnati Bearcats win every week for six weeks, not having any football made Saturday feel a bit empty. There’s no need to worry, however, since the Bearcats will be back in action next week.
While we keep waiting for the second half of the season to get going, let’s take a little more time to appreciate this team’s 6-0 start. As much credit as Luke Fickell deserves for turning this program around so quickly, its the players who have done the heavy lifting. On a weekly basis, it seems like a new guy steps up to make a big tackle, catch an important pass or get the key block for a major third down conversion.
Here at Down the Drive, we’ve been keeping track of all those players, especially the guys who have stood out above all others each week, by giving out the three stars of the game. With six games down, here are the three players who have been featured the most, which makes them the three stars of the first half.
One Star - Cortez Broughton, DT
With five total stars, Broughton has been the most consistently productive defensive player on a rather stout unit for the Bearcats. He hasn’t just been productive, but disruptive, racking up 11.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. He is among the top three players in the American Athletic Conference in tackles for loss (prior to yesterday) and appears well on his way to returning to the all-league honor roll at year’s end.
His best game of the season was against UCLA when he destroyed the Bruins’ offensive line on the way to 2.5 sacks. It’s such games that have made Broughton the leader of the AAC’s top defense in terms of both yards (274.3 YPG) and points allowed (13.7 PPG).
Two Stars - Desmond Ridder, QB
What else can you say about Ridder? The redshirt freshman took the starting quarterback job away from Hayden Moore on the third possession of the opening game against UCLA and has never looked back. If the Bearcats need him to be an uber-efficient passer, he’s done it. When they need big plays down the field, he’s made them. When the aerial attack isn’t working so well, he gets the offense big chunks on the ground. In total, Ridder has thrown for 1,062 yards, 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. You’ll also need to add 315 yards and four scores on the ground. He is third in the AAC in passer rating and has averaged 9.4 adjusted yards per attempt. He is the quarterback of the present and the future.
Three Stars - Michael Warren, RB
Warren is outscoring entire teams with his touchdown barrage in the first six games. His 11 rushing touchdowns are outpacing a large chunk of the teams at the FBS level, and that’s after the Bearcats took a break this past weekend. Warren has scored at all types of junctures. He’s started the offense on the right foot with early scores, helped push blowout leads even further into the realm of ridicule and pounded his way to clutch scores in the games that have been more competitive.
However, the reason Warren gets the three stars for the first half is not just because he has found the end zone a bunch. He has also carried the offense. Ridder has been great, to be sure, but without Warren, the Bearcats’ scheme wouldn’t be as successful. Warren has rushed for 664 yards on an incredible 124 carries. He is averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and is among the top rushers in the conference as a whole.
On top of his steady and impressive numbers, Warren has allowed the UC offense to not only survive without Gerrid Doaks, last year’s leading rusher, but to thrive. You could pick a lot of guys for first half MVP on this team, but it would be tough to go with someone besides Warren.
Who was the MVP of the first half for the Bearcats?
This poll is closed
Someone else (Sound off in the comments)
Here’s a look at the total star counts for each player who has received one this year.
Michael Warren - 7
Desmond Ridder - 6
Cortez Broughton - 5
James Wiggins - 3
Darrick Forrest - 2
Kahlil Lewis - 2
Tavion Thomas - 1.5
Charles McClelland - 1.5
James Smith - 1
Jarell White - 1
Josiah Deguara - 1