For the 9th time (in 10 games) during the 2019 college football season, the Cincinnati Bearcats won. As Scotty Whitehouse said during our podcast this week “survive and advance.” He equated Cincinnati’s season to a playoffs - win and move on, lose and the Cotton Bowl is done and the AAC Championship would be in jeopardy.
This team continues to play with fire and make it really difficult for themselves, but for the 20th time in 23 chances, dating back to week 1 of the 2018 season, the Bearcats continue to find ways to win.
Let’s start with the offense, which played it’s worst non-Ohio State game of the year.
- In the first half, Cincinnati ran 25 plays that produced 46 total yards and 0 points and converted just 1 of 7 third down attempts
- Sacked 4 times in the first half (6 times total)
- 4/14 on third down conversions
- 8 punts averaging 40 yard per punt
- 78 yards passing for the game
Cincinnati had 7 possessions in the first half. They punted on the first 6 and fumbled on the last one. That fumble was brutal. With under one minute to go in the half, Cincinnati tried to make something happen on offense, but QB Desmond Ridder basically dumped it off to his running back on first down which seemed to signify that they were content to go into the locker room down 10-0 and get it figured out. On second down, Ridder held the ball way too long as he was setting up, what seemed to be, a deep shot down the field and would fumble the ball, giving USF another shot at points before the half.
The half ended with USF kicker Spencer Shrader missing his third field goal of the half.
The offense was bad and it starts with that last bullet. Ridder completed 9 of 18 passes and threw for just 78 yards. That’s not acceptable. But here’s the thing with Ridder and here’s the thing with everyone who wants him benched - it’s not going to happen. Maybe it should, but it won’t. Here’s why.
Cincinnati made adjustments in the second half and scored on their first three possessions of the half, including a touchdown on their first possession, after USF went three-and-out. On the first play after the touchdown, USF QB Jordan McCloud threw a 49 yard pass to Kelley Joiner Jr which set up a 7 play touchdown drive, to put USF back up 17-7. But that would be the end of the Bulls’ scoring as Cincinnati’s defense, as it does every single week, locked down and made key plays at key times.
Cincinnati tied the game at 17-17 to start the fourth quarter. What followed was some bad football. USF’s possessions went like this - fumble, punt, missed field goal. Cincinnati’s possessions went - punt. punt, field goal.
Not a lot of action in the fourth quarter, but the kicking game was the deciding factor. Spencer Shrader, who missed three field goals in the first half, missed a 33 yard field goal with 2 minutes to go, after a 13 play, 82 yard, 5 minute drive by USF.
With the score tied at 17-17, it was time for Ridder to do what he does - make big plays in the clutch. He did. Cincinnati converted two long third downs - 11 yard pass to Malick Mbodj on third and 11 and a 30 yard catch and run by Michael Warren on third and 10. Warren’s run set them up at the USF 40. Warren ran the ball four straight plays after that and put Cincinnati in position to kick the game winning field goal.
For the second time in three weeks, Sam Crosa (a grad transfer from Western Illinois) hit a walk off field goal as the clock expired, this one from 37 yards out.
Keep on Truckin’
Michael Warren II was responsible for 164 of the Bearcats 278 total yards of offense. And 50 of those 164 yards came on the Bearcats’ final drive. Warren had his 11th career 100 yard rushing game, going for 130 yards. Both he and Doaks ran for touchdowns and Doaks had 48 yards rushing.
Clearly, the offense is built around the running game and Cincinnati will continue to rely on Warren and Doaks, and also Ridder’s abilities, to move the chains and keep this offense going. Warren has proven at times that he can also be a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
Ja’Von Hicks - Turnover Machine
Ja’Von Hicks, a sophomore safety, was forced into action this season due to a pre-season injury to James Wiggins. Hicks has performed very well and all he has really done this year is force turnovers.
His 4 interceptions and tied for 4th nationally and his forced fumble on Saturday, was his second of the season.
- Bryan Wright was a beast on defense, recording 9 tackles (all solo) and had Cincinnati’s only sack of the night.
- Wilson Huber got his hands on a punt in the second half, a partial block, as Cincinnati’s special teams continues to make plays and block punts each week.
- Tre Tucker had a long 43 yard kick return that helped set up Cincinnati’s field goal in the second half.
- Kicker Sam Crosa is now 9-13 on field goal attempts and is a perfect 4-4 the last 3 games.
Bearcats play their final home game on Saturday 11/23 against Temple. Owls have won 4 straight games against Cincinnati. A Bearcats win clinches the AAC East and a spot in the AAC Championship game on 12/7, for the first time in school history.