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Michael Warren Appreciation Post: Reflecting on Career Highlights

RB Michael Warren II has declared for the 2020 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

RB Michael Warren II announced that he will be leaving Cincinnati early to play in the NFL in 2020. It’s the smart decision for Warren, who will go down as an all-time legend and one of the best running backs to ever play at Cincinnati. He leaves as the 6th all-time rusher and 2nd all-time in rushing touchdowns.

Warren was a major reason why the Bearcats went 22-5 the last two years, and ended each season with a bowl game victory. The best way to describe Warren is elusive, speed, shifty, vision.

This post is an appreciation for Warren and his career highlights.

Top 4 Plays

Typically, this would be a top 5 or top 10. There are so many great Warren moments, but these are truly the four best and three of them were key moments in three of the Bearcats’ biggest wins of the Luke Fickell era.

4. 60 yard run sets up TD vs UCF

Cincinnati beat UCF 27-24 on October 4, for their first victory over a ranked team in 10 years.

On the final play of the third quarter, with Cincinnati up 20-16, Warren broke free for 60 yards, setting up the Bearcats at the 11 yard line.

The next play, was a Desmond Ridder touchdown pass, giving Cincinnati a 27-16 lead, putting them in position to pull off the victory.

3. Career-long run vs Tulane

In 2018, Cincinnati beat Tulane 37-21 to improve to 6-0 and secure bowl eligibility. Down 7-3 early in the second quarter, Warren ran for an 81 yard touchdown. It’s the longest run of his UC career.

2. Game-winning touchdown in the Military Bowl

The run above, helped Cincinnati secure their first bowl bid since 2015. However, Cincy hadn’t won a bowl since 2012 Belk Bowl. That changed on New Year’s Eve 2018, when Cincinnati beat Virginia Tech 35-31 in the Military Bowl.

Shockingly, the Bearcats took the lead when Warren scored the go-ahead TD from 8 yards away with 1:29 remaining in the game.

And now with Dan Hoard’s voice...

1. 4th and Goal vs UCLA (2018)

Warren broke onto the scene for Cincinnati in a big way in 2018. He was a rotational running back in 2017, but with Gerrid Doaks out injured, Warren became RB1 to open the season. Coming off back-to-back 4-8 seasons, no one gave the Bearcats much of a chance to win at UCLA in week 1, with Chip Kelly making his Bruins debut. But Michael Warren had other ideas.

He ran for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns, including this one at the 6:00 mark on 4th down, to put the game away.

Up 19-17 with under 2 minutes to go, coach Luke Fickell had a choice - play it safe and kick a field goal and force UCLA to score a touchdown or play to win the game and put it away. He made the right call (regardless of the result). For a team in desperate need of a spark, it found one in Warren and won the game 26-17.

This is Warren’s #1 moment because it came at a time where he was relatively unknown and this performance and the result both came from nowhere and surprised a lot of people.

Career Firsts

Warren’s first career rushing touchdown came in 2017 as a freshman, with Cincinnati down big against Marshall.

His first career receiving touchdown came as part of a 4 total touchdown day vs USF in 2018.

Top 5 Games

This list represents the 5 best performances of his career.

5. Miami 2019

2019 was the 14th consecutive victory for Cincinnati over Miami Ohio, as they kept the Victory Bell in Clifton. Warren had yet another 3 touchdown performance, including a 73 yarder to cap off the game in the final minutes of the third quarter. Warren did whatever he wanted, averaging 9.4 yards per carry, running for 113 yards on 12 carries, 3 TD. He also led the team with 5 catches, tying a career-high 45 yards receiving.

4. ECU 2019

This game was weird. The defense was horrendous, giving up 43 points and over 600 yards of offense to ECU. Ridder was bad, struggling with accuracy and turnovers. But do not fear, Warren was here! Warren carried the ball 18 times, running for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns.

3. UCLA 2018

In that breakout game of week 1 2018 that’s highlighted above, Warren was an absolutely workhorse, carrying the ball 35 times, for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also tied a team-high with 3 catches and led the team with 29 yards receiving. The 142 yards are the third most of his career.

2. Virginia Tech (Military Bowl) 2018

In rainy, sloppy conditions, Warren helped carry the Bearcats to their first bowl win since 2012 and their 11th win of the season. Starting QB Desmond Ridder got injured early on, forcing senior Hayden Moore (who was previously benched for Ridder) to come in. Warren ran for a career-high 166 yards on just 20 carries (averaging 8.3 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns, including the game-winner shown above.

It’s impossible to ranked his first game and last game of the 2018 season. The UCLA game was a huge moment, because it served as the big breakthrough no one expected. The bowl game was an epic performance, that gave Cincinnati a second victory over a power 5 school, one who has long haunted them in bowl games.

1. South Florida 2018

In the grand scheme of things, this game was just another game for UC in 2018. This didn’t have the same meaning or excitement as the UCLA or Virginia Tech wins. USF was spiraling out of control at the time and ended the year 7-6, on a 6 game losing streak.

Warren helped contribute to the spiraling by running for 151 yards and tying a career-high with 3 rushing touchdowns. He also caught the first receiving touchdown of his career, giving him 4 TDs and 178 total yards of offense for the game.

Notable stats

  • 4 games with 3 rushing touchdowns
  • 11 games with 2 (or more) rushing touchdowns
  • Scored a rushing TD in 18 out of 24 games played
  • 14 games with over 100 yards rushing

Cumulative stats (2018-2019 only)

  • vs USF - 54 carries, 285 yards, 4 TDs (plus 1 receiving)
  • vs Temple - 49 carries, 238 yards, 2 TDs
  • vs Ucla - 61 carries, 234 yards, 4 TDs
  • vs Memphis - 44 carries, 221 yards, 3 TDs
  • vs UCF - 41 carries, 214 yards, 0 TDs
  • vs Miami - 41 carries, 204 yards, 4 TDs
  • vs Uconn - 27 carries, 166 yards, 4 TDs

What are you going to remember most about Michael Warren and his career at UC?