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Grading the Offense: Week Nine

Kahlil Lewis had the best game of his career and Desmond Ridder set some personal bests of his own. However, severe struggles in the red zone kept the Bearcats from overpowering SMU.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

All’s well that ends well they say and since the Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the SMU Mustangs on Saturday, everything is well. The road to that victory was rife with challenges, however, and that included some stern tests for the offense. While the bottom line is the Bearcats will go into next week with a 7-1 record, we would be remiss not to at least examine what they accomplished (and didn’t) on offense in Dallas.

Quarterbacks

The Good: Following a disaster of a start against Temple, Desmond Ridder had to show us something positive this week and he did for the most part. He threw for a career-high 352 yards, marking his first game of 300 yards and also tacked on two touchdown passes. Ridder completed at least one pass to seven receivers and in general kept the ship steady. He also didn’t shy away from shouldering the offensive pressure, as he threw the ball 50 times. Not only did he sling it a lot, he completed quite a few passes (33), settling in at a 66 percent completion clip. On top of the actual passing, Ridder was the second-leading rusher (47 yards).

The Bad: Despite throwing for more yards than ever, there were still some rough edges to Ridder’s performance. He was intercepted twice, giving him five on the season and four in the last three games, and also lost a fumble. Lots of yards and a high completion percentage are great, but they can all be undone by a few turnovers.

Final Grade: B-

Running Backs

The Good: Michael Warren averaged a healthy 4.8 yards per carry and led the team in rushing for the sixth-time in eight games. He was also active in the passing game, ranking second on the team with six receptions for 45 yards.

The Bad: The Mustangs clearly did their homework and knew that if they wanted to win, they had to shut down the run. They had a fair amount of success, as Warren was held to a season-low 67 yards and did not find the end zone. That’s the first time that’s happened this year. Charles McClelland spelled Warren a bit, but after putting together 70 yards on four carries last week, he had only 11 yards on six attempts.

Final Grade: C-

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

The Good: Offensively speaking, this will be forever known as the Kahlil Lewis game. The senior wide receiver has not had the year some (including this writer) had projected. He recorded one reception for seven yards against Temple and accrued a total of 19 receptions for 240 yards and three touchdowns through the first seven games. Against SMU, he nearly doubled those numbers, racking up 12 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

Rashad Medaris had a less incredible game, but considering UC’s lack of huge games from wideouts this year, four receptions for 56 yards is nothing to scoff at.

The Bad: Obviously Lewis was getting targeted all the time, but even with Medaris contributing a solid game, the rest of the pass-catchers didn’t make a huge impact, although Thomas Geddis did have a big third-down catch during UC’s final drive of regulation. If not for that conversion, the Bearcats might not have been able to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Final Grade: B+

Offensive Line

The Good: Aside from a holding call on Kyle Trout, this was a largely disciplined game from the guys up front.

The Bad: While penalties didn’t hurt them, the line did struggle with keeping pressure away from Ridder and opening lanes for the running game. UC surrendered three sacks and 10 tackles for loss, while the team averaged 3.2 yards per carry.

Final Grade: C+

Overall

If you just look at the final numbers, this looks like a pretty good day for the offense. The Bearcats had 25 first downs and 477 total yards. They dominated time of possession (35:00) and even converted 9-of-19 third down tries. The problem was they crumbled in the red zone. A strength early in the season, the Bearcats only scored on one of their three trips and that was via a field goal. In addition, Ridder had too many turnovers and the running game wasn’t as effective as usual. Lewis shone brightly, but the rest of the unit had some real issues that need to be worked through.

Final Grade: C+