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Grading the Defense: Week 10

A year after being eviscerated by Navy’s run game, the Bearcats allowed zero points and held the Midshipmen to a season-low in rushing yardage.

NCAA Football: Navy at Cincinnati David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Six hundred and twenty two.

If that number means nothing to you, its because you’ve buried the results of Cincinnati’s 2017 meeting with Navy deep in your subconsciousness. To refresh your memory, that is the number of total yards the Bearcats allowed to the Midshipmen in that game. Of those 622 yards, 569 came on the ground. It is not a stretch to say that was among the worst defensive games in UC history.

But there’s no need to dwell on that result anymore because the Bearcats redeemed themselves on Saturday. Navy was completely helpless and wound up failing to even score a point in a 42-0 loss. We could just give the UC defense an A and move on, but then we’d miss out on breaking down each individual position group and where’s the fun in that?

Defensive Line

The Good: Navy runs the ball. A lot. If you are going to shut the Midshipmen down, the guys up front have to play well. That was not even slightly a problem on Saturday. The Bearcats’ defensive line were barely even annoyed — let alone stopped — by Navy’s blockers, Cortez Broughton took away runs up the middle, tallying 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Kimoni Fitz and Michael Pitts then sealed up the outside, combining for 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks. With those three guys leading the way (plus solid efforts from Marquise Copeland and a fumble recovery from Ethan Tucky), the Bearcats held Navy to 2.4 yards per carry.

The Bad: Maybe next week.

Final Grade: A

Linebackers

The Good: The defensive line frequently made Navy’s rushers look like they were running in an ocean of quicksand. When that didn’t work, the linebackers came in to finish the job. Jarell White and Joel Dublanko each had eight tackles, with all eight of Dublanko’s coming via assist. Malik Clements and Ty Sponseller each had four total tackles combined for two of the team’s nine tackles for loss. Clements also forced a fumble. R.J. Potts, Perry Young and Bryan Wright all had four tackles apiece as well.

The Bad: Nothing to see here.

Final Grade: A

Secondary

The Good: There wasn’t as much work to do for the secondary. The Midshipmen only attempted four pass plays and their rushers rarely got past the defensive line let alone the second level. That didn’t stop James Wiggins from racking up six tackles, but most of the guys in the secondary were serving in support roles.

The Bad: Ask again later.

Final Grade: A

Overall

Powered by plenty of negative plays (nine tackles for loss, five sacks), the Bearcats kept the Midshipmen on their heels, rarely surrendering even a respectable yardage gain. Most of the time it was just a short run, a short run and then another short run before Navy punted. The Bearcats kept Navy to a season-low 124 rushing yards and 171 yards total. They also allowed a conversion on only 3-of-13 third down tries and didn’t play a single down in the red zone. That’s how you pitch a shutout.

Final Grade: A