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Season in Review: Michael Warren

Warren was Cincinnati’s offensive MVP from start to finish.

South Florida v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Numbers

  • 244 rushing attempts
  • 1,329 rushing yards
  • 19 rushing touchdowns
  • 110.8 yards per game
  • 5.4 yards per carry
  • 25 receptions
  • 232 receiving yards
  • 1 receiving touchdown

It is difficult to imagine Michael Warren having a better season than the one he had in 2018. As spring football gets going this month, the now third-year running back will be in line for another feature role on the offense of the Cincinnati Bearcats, but before we get there, let’s take a last look back at 2018.

As the story goes, Warren wasn’t necessarily supposed to be the No. 1 running back, but the chance presented itself due to a lingering injury to 2017’s breakout back Gerrid Doaks. In Doaks’ absence, Warren climbed to the top of the depth chart and never looked back. He was inserted as the starter in the season opener against UCLA and put the team on his back en route to a 26-17 victory. In that win, he scored three touchdowns and rushed for 142 yards on 35 carries. Efforts like that were common for Warren all season. He rushed for at least 100 yards in seven games and never had fewer than 65 yards, averaging 110.8 per game, which made him one of only three players in the American Athletic Conference to have an average over the century mark.

Warren was perfectly capable of breaking off big runs (5.4 yards per carry), but his impressive 1,329-yard rushing total was also a result of his consistent and massive workload. He totaled 244 rushing attempts across 12 games as he sat out against East Carolina in the regular season finale. No player in the AAC had more carries although Warren never matched the 35 he had in the first game against the Bruins. All of those opportunities gave Warren the chances he needed to become the first UC rusher to tally 1,000 yards in a season since 2012.

Outside of pure running, Warren pitched in as a receiver out of the backfield. Although he wasn’t a constant target for backfield mate Desmond Ridder, he still caught 25 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. For a player who was relied on so heavily to lead the Bearcats’ high-powered rushing attack, the fact that Warren was at least reliable in the passing game was another major boost and part of what earned him second-team all-league honors.

Cincinnati v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Best of the Best

Sept. 1 at UCLA

I already mentioned Warren’s incredible production in what was his first career start, but I didn’t give all of the context. Not only did Warren score three touchdowns, but his final one came with less than two minutes to play and put the game on ice for the Bearcats.

Sept. 22 vs. Ohio University

This was yet another example of Warren playing well all game and coming through in the clutch. He scored the game-winning touchdown during a massive comeback and finished with 124 yards and two total scores on 23 carries.

Sept. 29 at UConn

There was much less drama in this one but still a lot of Warren dominance. He had 106 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and also contributed 41 yards through the air.

Oct. 6 vs. Tulane

With how he played this season, 123 yards and a touchdown may seem like just another day at the office. Let’s not take these efforts for granted.

Oct. 20 at Temple

This was UC’s first loss of the season and Warren still had 132 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

Nov. 10 vs. USF

In the two games prior to this one, Warren had 135 yards on 19 carries combined. That is still excellent production, but was more spaced out than usual. He came back strong against the Bulls, racking up 151 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Dec. 31 vs. Virginia Tech

After missing the regular season finale with an injury, questions were bound to surface about whether Warren would be healthy enough to contribute in UC’s first bowl game since 2015. Warren made those concerns look ridiculous after he had 166 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.

For Next Year

Now that spring football is upon us, there will be plenty of questions to answer over the next few months. Although none of them will center on whether Warren has what it takes to be a No. 1 running back, there will be some about how the work will be shared at running back. Tavion Thomas and Charles McClelland both looked plenty capable as freshmen and Doaks should be back at some point. All Warren can do is continue to be a leader for the backfield and produce at a high level. Even if he doesn’t match all he did in 2018, that will be more than enough.