Starting the season 1-0 makes the opening weekend of college football all the better. While the hype for a new season was palpable across the nation, after going 4-8 last season and entering the opener as big underdogs, the Cincinnati Bearcats and their fans may not have been as optimistic as the beginning of a season warrants.
Fast forward to today and those worries should be gone. The Bearcats won their opener against UCLA, on the road no less. To do so, they needed to execute offensively as well as defensively. We’ll look at the defense’s role in the victory tomorrow, but today its time to evaluate how the offense helped create such a great start to the season.
The Good: Desmond Ridder, a redshirt freshman, entered the game as the backup and when his number was called, he stepped up. This was especially true early in the game when he completed his first six passes for 53 yards. Ridder also brought a new dimension to the offense, showing much more mobility than the position has had for UC in recent years. He finished with 63 yards on 14 carries.
The Bad: The reason Ridder was even in the game was because of a pretty rough start from Hayden Moore. After being named the starter, Moore went 1-for-2 and was sacked twice (fumbling the second time) before Luke Fickell decided to pull him. He played all of two series and was gone, showing just how much patience there was for a slow start. Outside of Moore’s brief appearance, Ridder exhibited some issues that he can iron out. After a blistering start, he completed only 7-of-18 pass attempts for 47 yards.
Final Grade: C+
The Good: If its taken you this long to realize that Michael Warren dominated this game, then you must have missed this one entirely. Stepping in as the starting (and only) running back, the sophomore piled up 141 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries. The clutch gene was strong with him as well, as he converted on two fourth down plays in UC’s final offensive possession, which ended in a touchdown and accounted for the 26-17 final score.
The Bad: Gerrid Doaks is still recovering from an injury, but with how Warren played, the Bearcats have the luxury of taking their time.
Final Grade: A+
The Good: Jayshon Jackson, who was originally recruited as a running back, made a few big catches.
The Bad: With Moore and Ridder both combining for 110 yards passing, there wasn’t a lot of work to go around for the wideouts. Kahlil Lewis caught three passes on five targets but those created a grand total of seven yards. Warren was actually the top pass-catcher, leading the way in targets (seven) and receiving yards (29).
Final Grade: D+
The Good: Warren might be able to run for 100 yards with five crash test dummies blocking for him, but he didn’t have to against the Bruins. With the Bearcats rushing for 193 yards as a team, the offensive line had to hold its own and push back against UCLA’s front seven.
The Bad: While they did a good job of blocking for Warren, UC’s offensive linemen did let up four sacks and that doesn’t even account for the times when Ridder had to escape a collapsed pocket. Dino Boyd got flagged for two false start penalties as well.
Final Grade: B
For as great a win as they had in the opener, the Bearcats did not outpace their overall offensive work from a year ago. In fact, with only 303 total yards, they were nearly 50 yards below their average from a year ago (351.8 YPG) when they ranked last in the AAC. Still, the belief and consistent reliance on the run game showed the staff knows what works and is willing to keep going to it until a defense adjusts.
With the running game working so well, UC dominated time of possession which has proven to be a major contributing factor to wins during the Fickell era.
As far as conversions go, the Bearcats did an excellent job in the red zone, scoring all four times they got there, including three touchdowns. However, third down still proved to be a difficult proposition (5-for-18).
When you look at the entire body of work, there are certainly things that need to be improved, but even with those few weak points, the offense did more than enough to capture a victory, with Warren leading the way.
Final Grade: B