Ugly wins have become the norm for Cincinnati, but the key word there is wins. Somehow, someway, this team continues to find magical dust and win games in dramatic fashion. They are 10-1 overall and 7-1 in AAC play.
What the Bearcats accomplished with this win
- It is the 7th time in the last 13 years that the Bearcats have won 10 (or more) games and the second straight season.
- They have lost just one game in the last 365 days and that loss came to (arguably) the best team in college football in 2019.
- Since the start of 2018 season, they have won 21 out of 24 games.
- 13 straight wins at Nippert Stadium, including back-to-back 6-0 seasons
- AAC East Division Champions and first appearance in AAC Championship game (5 year history)
That’s a LOT of good things. I understand why people might be angry and upset. People are worried about the offense, and the quarterback specifically, and they are complaining about attendance, among other things. But this team is 10-1. Just several years ago, Tommy Tuberville ran this program into the ground. Whatever happens next week at Memphis and the rest of this season, everyone should truly appreciate how special this team has been. However this year ends, it’s been a wild ride and this will go down as an extremely successful season.
Now, for the game itself...
Last week I wrote an impassioned article defending Desmond Ridder and why I felt it was right that he remain the UC starting quarterback. I was proven wrong on Saturday night.
Ridder was largely ineffective on Saturday night and the offense produced just 210 yards and only 62 yards passing.
Now, my one defense of Ridder is this - he made some perfect throws early on. He had Alec Pierce deep and Pierce leaped and the ball slipped through his hands. He threw a perfect ball, past the defender, right into the chest of an open Josiah Deguara, which would have been a touchdown, and the tight end dropped it. There were a few others as well. If Ridder completes that deep ball or that touchdown, we might have a completely different attitude about him and his potential ability to make plays. Instead the wide receivers let him down.
That’s my defense of him, but don’t misinterpret the point - he was bad. For those few perfectly thrown balls, he threw more wild passes. He made wrong reads and threw inaccurate passes all night. There is no defense of that. I won’t blame the receivers, offensive line, or coaches for that.
I will blame the coaches for not putting him or this offense in a better position to succeed. After a crazy play where Temple’s punter basically sacked himself (more below), Bearcats had the ball at the Temple 5 yard line with all 3 timeouts and under a minute to go. Up 3-0, this was a huge possession and they came out of it with only 3 points and a 6-0 halftime lead.
On first down, rather than go with the obvious decision to run the ball, Ridder dropped back to throw. That’s on the coaches. But what’s on Ridder is his decision to drop back 15 yards and take a sack and not just throw the ball away. On second down, when he had no options, he again threw the ball away. Third down, another pass, led to a drop (but the receiver would not have scared anyway). Blame Ridder. Blame Mike Denbrock. Blame everyone. That whole sequence was a disaster.
As for the offensive blame, Ridder should take most of it at this point but I still believe in what I said last week, that this is a collective effort. You can swap out QBs, and insert Ben Bryant for Ridder and that may solve a few things if he throws accurate passes. But at the end of the day, Bryant would play behind the same offensive line, throw to the same receivers, and be saddled with the same play calling.
Regardless of what the coaches decide to do at the QB position moving forward, this team will continue to rely on defense and special teams to win games.
The offense is simply offensive and while the QB is the easy target, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Special Teams are Special
For the 5th week in a row, the Bearcats blocked a kick. This one, might be the most important and could be looked back on as one of the biggest plays of the entire season, when you consider the final score.
With Cincinnati up 13-0, Temple finally found the endzone, a few minutes into the fourth quarter. But on the extra point attempt, the kick was blocked and Coby Bryant picked it up and return it 95 yards for 2 points for Cincinnati. It’s a fun play, one that is rarely seen and one that I can’t recall the Bearcats executing in recent history. That gave Cincinnati a 15-6 lead. Temple scored again to cut the lead to 15-13, which would be the final score. That 2 point conversion proved to be the difference for the Bearcats.
Temple’s special teams was NOT special. They were not even good. Two of their kick offs went out of bounds, giving Cincinnati the ball at the 40 yard line to start both drives. They had the extra point blocked. And they sacked themselves on a punt.
With one minute to go in the first half, Temple punter Adam Barry took the snap and got set to punt. When he caught the snap his knee was on the ground. With his knee on the ground and the ball in his hands....he was ultimately (upon replay review) ruled down. I have definitely never seen that type of blunder before. Of course, Cincinnati failed to truly capitalize offensively, but in a 15-13 game, that field goal before the half certainly mattered.
Speaking of which, in the third quarter, Temple kicker Will Mobley missed a 32 yard field goal, after hitting 11 straight field goals. Again, you can look at those three points as the difference in this game.
NO MORE PENALTIES
I actually haven’t included this in recent recaps, but the Bearcats are the most penalized team in FBS, with 105 penalties. 105 penalties!!! That is absurd. If you want something to complain about, complain about this. This is a direct reflection of the coaching staff too.
What’s actually insane about it is that means Cincinnati have gifted opponents 150-200 free yards throughout the season, yet it hasn’t come back to haunt them yet.
The game started with 3 false starts on 4 plays. They committed multiple false starts on punts. OT Lorenz Metz has been the biggest offender with multiple holds and false starts. Metz is young and still learning, but just another reason to hate Jim Harbaugh for blocking the immediate eligibility of James Hudson.
They continue to commit them at the worst times too, like roughing the passer after a third down stop or defensive holding on a ball that was inaccurately thrown by the Temple QB. Just bad timing and bad decisions.
Odds and Ends
- In the third quarter, Temple was driving and got to within the Cincy 20 yard line. On 4th down, they opted to go for it and senior LB Perry Young blew the play up, knocking the running back back a few yards for a loss. Ethan Tucky, whose been responsible for several of those recent blocked punts, got the initial pressure and Young got the tackle in a crucial spot.
- Safety Darrick Forrest Jr was initially called for a targeting penalty in the third quarter. It very clearly was need. He delivered a big hit, did not lead with the helmet, and did not hit the defender in the head. Had the penalty been upheld by review, it would have cost the Bearcats leading tackler the first half of next week’s Memphis game. He stayed in and secured the game winning interception in the final minute.
- Of the Bearcats 210 yards, Michael Warren II ran for 106 of them. It was his fifth 100 yard rushing game of the season and his third quarter 13 yard touchdown run was the 31st of his career. He is second on the all-time UC list (DeMarco McCleskey ran for 37 TDs between 1998-2002)
RB Corey Kiner from Roger Bacon High School, was at the game, watching from the sidelines. Kiner is ranked in the top 200 recruits nationally and is a top 10 RB and player in Ohio. As a local prospect, he would be a huge commitment for the Bearcats.
Here is a great picture of GOAT meeting GOAT.
We can complain about the attendance all we want but...
Bearcats play at Memphis on Friday at 3:30 on ABC. Memphis is 10-1 (6-1 AAC) and has been rolling of late. The Bearcats are locked into the AAC Championship Game on December 7th. The question is who they play and where they play the game. The opponent will be Memphis or Navy and the location will be Cincinnati or Memphis.
Here’s the situation...
If Cincinnati wins and Navy beats Houston, the Bearcats host Navy at Nippert Stadium.
If Cincinnati wins and Navy loses, the Bearcats host Memphis.
If Memphis beats Cincinnati, the Tigers will host a rematch.