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Grading the Defense: Week Six

The Bearcats beat Tulane in a rout and the defense played a large role in that.

Tulane v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

With the sudden ascension of the offense. the Cincinnati Bearcats’ defense has taken a bit of a backseat in terms of headlines. That’s not to say people have forgotten how good the Bearcats are at defending entirely, but when the offense is firing on all cylinders as it has the last few weeks, there can be a dip in defensive appreciation.

In week six, the still undefeated Bearcats vanquished the Tulane Green Wave. Yes, the offense made a huge difference in the game, scoring 37 points, but the defense was able to handle a fairly unique offense and ensure the red and black were in a position to win when the clock hit triple zeroes. This calls for an examination.

Defensive Line

The Good: Considering Tulane is a team that runs the ball quite a lot, the guys up front did an admirable job of limiting the damage on the ground and keeping Green Wave ball carriers from breaking big gains. UC held Tulane to a 3.5 yards per carry average and just 134 rushing yards total.

In addition to a solid front against the run, the defense really terrorized Tulane’s quarterbacks. The Bearcats recorded four sacks and four quarterback hits as a team, and most of those came from the defensive line. Sophomore defensive end Michael Pitts had six tackles, including a half sack, while Kimoni Fitz and Ethan Tucky each had solo sacks. Cortez Broughton helped on a sack and finished with 1.5 tackles for loss. In all, the defensive line accounted for 3.5 of the team’s four sacks.

The Bad: While the overall effort against the run was solid, Tulane’s two best runners, Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine, both averaged more than five yards per carry. However, considering that Bradwell and Dauphine have recorded marks of 6.1 and 9.6 yards per carry on the season, respectively, this was still a win.

Final Grade: A

Linebackers

The Good: When Tulane’s rushers were able to get past the line, they were often met with force from the linebackers. Very few runs managed to make it past the second level of the defense, and sure tackling from Perry Young (nine tackles) and Malik Clements (eight tackles) was a big reason why. Clements also managed a tackle for loss and Bryan Wright had six stops of his own.

The Bad: It’s tough to complain about much from the linebackers aside from a face mask penalty from Wright.

Final Grade: A

Secondary

The Good: Run support was the name of the game for the secondary, as Tulane was never going to let it rip and run an air raid style scheme. Still, the Green Wave broke up five passes, including some key ones from cornerbacks Cam Jefferies, Tyrell Gilbert and Coby Bryant. Darrick Forrest also had a pass breakup and that went with seven tackles. But Jefferies really stood out in the group, adding a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery to his total. In all, Tulane was limited to 132 passing yards while averaging 4.3 yards per attempt.

The Bad: Two of the three touchdowns Tulane scored went through the air and even if most of the attempts weren’t for deep yardage, the Green Wave did average 11 yards per completion. Bryant was flagged for a pass interference call as well.

Final Grade: B+

Overall

We will get to the yardage allowed and success on third down, but perhaps the best sign from the defense this week was the work in avoiding penalties. UC has had a bit of trouble in that area this season, as it is the most penalized team in the American Athletic Conference. The defense has been guilty of a lot of those infractions, particularly in the Ohio game. In this contest, however, the Bearcats were only called for seven flags and the defense accounted for two of the ones that were accepted.

As for those others numbers I mentioned, UC performed exceptionally, holding Tulane to 266 total yards and only a 3-for-15 success rate on third down. Making matters worse for the Green Wave, the Bearcats held strong on all four fourth down conversion attempts they faced.

The only real problem in this game was that the Bearcats surrendered 21 points, which was an entire touchdown more than its AAC-leading average this season (13.7 points allowed per game). That’s why its good to have an offense that can comfortably out-run a 21-spot.

Overall: A-