If the Cincinnati Bearcats were going to upset the UCF Knights, it was most likely going to be because of their exceptional defense. Even if that came to pass, the offense would have to do its part as well. Now that a potential upset is out the window, we can see that the offense still has a long way to go before it will be able to contend with a team like the Knights.
During a miserable 38-13 loss on Saturday, UC’s offense was able to execute some of its game plan, but ultimately fell miles short of producing enough to even send a momentary shiver up the spine of anyone rooting for the Knights.
The Good: A bread-and-butter play of many an offense, especially a run-heavy one like UC’s, is the read-option. The Bearcats relied on some form of it quite a bit yesterday, asking Desmond Ridder to take the snap from the shotgun and then decide whether to hand the ball off to the running back flanking him or fake the handoff and take off himself. Ridder is getting better and better at running that type of play, as his decision making was often spot on, even in a huge loss. Ridder wasn’t afraid to keep it and get to the outside, as UCF was clearly not going to let anything happen up the middle. In addition to designed run plays, Ridder extended drives when passing plays failed, finishing with a total of 70 yards rushing.
The Bad: The actual passing from Ridder was lacking. While constant pressure certainly kept him in check, he missed a few passes he should have made. In all, he completed only 11-of-26 pass attempts for 127 yards while essentially zeroing in on Kahlil Lewis as the only receiver in the game. Ridder was also partially responsible for all three of UC’s turnovers, which were all lost fumbles.
Final Grade: C-
The Good: UCF did its homework and knew that to beat UC, it had to stop Michael Warren. Even when he was facing that strategy, Warren still managed to produce some solid work. He finished with 81 yards on 18 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt.
The Bearcats didn’t just rely on Warren either. Tavion Thomas brought a lot of energy out of the backfield when he was inserted in the second half, finishing with 79 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. That might have been empty production, since UCF had the game in hand by then, but it was still a positive sign.
The Bad: It’s not really the fault of the running backs themselves, but UC did not make enough adjustments to keep up with UCF. The Bearcats ran the ball 55 times and too often those runs were unimaginative dives between the tackles. Warren, Thomas and even Charles McClelland did their best to make plays, but UCF was ready for them. Not trying to switch things up didn’t help.
Final Grade: C+
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The Good: Kahlil Lewis worked exceptionally hard to get open. He had five receptions for 75 yards, while getting 11 total targets from Ridder. Those 75 yards accounted for 59.5 percent of the total passing output from the Bearcats.
The Bad: Nobody else could get open. Jayshon Jackson was targeted three times, but made only one reception. No other wideout or tight end had either multiple targets or receptions. Rashad Medaris, who is UC’s best option for getting vertical, was held without a catch on two targets. Steady tight end Josiah Deguara had one catch for five yards.
Final Grade: C-
The Good: You have to give the line some credit. The Bearcats were determined to dictate the tempo and control the ball for a large chunk of the game. They did just that, with more than 37 minutes in time of possession. That means the line had to be out on the field for quite some time without many breaks.
The Bad: Whether it was fatigue or the incredibly hostile environment of Spectrum Stadium, the line really had trouble protecting Ridder and avoiding mistakes. Ridder was sacked four times and that doesn’t even include the times he was forced out of the pocket or into a bad throw because there was no time. In addition, the offensive line constantly cost the offense momentum, with three critical false starts and a holding penalty to boot.
Final Grade: D-
When they were between the 20-yard lines, the Bearcats were able to move the ball somewhat effectively. They only had one three-and-out and converted on 11-of-20 third down attempts. The real problem was finishing drives. You can blame the kicking game for that to an extent, as two missed field goals and an errant extra point cost UC seven points. Still, a paltry two red zone trips and just one offensive touchdown was never going to be enough to outdo UCF, especially if there were no big plays on the docket either.
Final Grade: D