Cincinnati Bearcats ended the 2019 season by beating Boston College 38-6 to win the Birmingham Bowl game.
The simplest reaction - it is what it is. This was a great all-around performance by UC against an underwhelming performance. Cincinnati took care of business and did what they were supposed to do. But after going 10-3 and losing in the AAC Championship Game, this team definitely deserved a more exciting opponent than an ACC team that finished 6-6, lost at home to Kansas 48-24, fired their coach and played this game without their offensive coordinator, star running back, and several key players (due to injuries).
Several national media members chimed in on twitter throughout the game to express their disappointment in the matchup too.
Kind of an insult that Cincinnati didn't get a better bowl pairing, but I guess there are worse things in the world than a really easy 11th win.— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) January 3, 2020
But at the end of the day, it is what it is. Cincinnati gets win #11 and wins a bowl game, both for the second straight year.
Inside the Numbers
The 32 point victory is the largest margin of victory in bowl history for the Bearcats. It’s the school’s 10th bowl win, putting them over .500 with a 10-9 all-time bowl game record.
With an 11-3 record in 2019, it gives Cincinnati back-to-back 11 win seasons for the second time in school history (2008-2009). It’s also the third time in school history, that they win bowl games in consecutive seasons (2006-2007 and 2011-2012).
With a 22-5 record over the last two seasons and losses to two teams who played in NY6 bowls in 2019 (Ohio State, Memphis) the arrow is pointing sky high for Cincinnati’s future.
QB Desmond Ridder and RB Michael Warren II both ran for 105 yards, respectively. Cincinnati, as a team, ran for 343 yards.
Ridder struggled a little bit with accuracy and threw for only 95 yards. But in addition to the 105 yards rushing (his third 100 yard rushing game of the season and second straight), he ran for a career high three touchdowns.
Cincinnati’s offense was lifeless before a lightning delay. They ran 6 plays and gained 0 yards. Of those 6 plays, 5 of them were designed pass plays (Ridder ran on two of them) and Warren ran on one. But after that, the offense took off.
RB2 Gerrid Doaks ran for 27 yards, which doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, it gives him 526 yards on the season, a new career-high after he led the team in rushing in 2017 with 513 yards. Freshman RB Ryan Montgomery also ran for his second TD of the year in the final seconds of the game.
James Hudson Debuts
A big part of the running game’s success was new starting LT James Hudson. Hudson transferred to UC last year from Michigan but was forced to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Hudson made an immediate impact, mauling BC lineman and leading a path for Warren on several runs and clearing a huge hole for Ridder on a 14 yard touchdown run, that followed a Boston College fumble.
Hudson has two years of eligibility remaining and will be a major piece of the Bearcats’ offense moving forward.
Thank you seniors
The seniors on this team, that spent 4 (or more) years at UC, have had a really special experience. Cincinnati was 4-8 in 2016 and 2017, respectively, before winning 11 games and a bowl game in each of the last two seasons.
LB Bryan Wright was an absolute beast in his final game. He had 4 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. He was all over the field and made his presence known throughout the game. Wright, in many ways, is the heart of the defense and will certainly be missed. Fellow LB Perry Young tied Wright with a team-high 4 tackles, with 1 tackle for a loss.
TE Josiah Deguara caught 3 passes, which was tied for the team-high. He also had a huge block that helped spring Ridder for his third rushing TD of the night. Deguara finishes the season with a career-high 492 yards and 7 touchdowns, though he did not score in his final four games.
Sam Crosa nailed the final field goal of his career, a 32 yarder in the first half. Crosa finishes his one season with Cincinnati having hit 13 of 18, with just 3 misses since the start of October. He hit all 46 extra point attempts.
Chris Ferguson, who grew up in the Bahamas and never played OL before 2015, had an eventful 6 years at UC. He started all 13 games in 2018 and started most of this season.
Boston College’s Struggles
Look, we know BC isn’t a great team. They lost to Kansas at home by 24 and finished 6-6, going 3-5 in a bad ACC. But I can sympathize a little bit - they fired their head coach, offensive coordinator left, star RB (AJ Dillon) sat out, and they had to deal with multiple injuries.
Now, excuses aside, boy this was a struggle. It’s probably a combination of Cincinnati’s dominance and BC’s lack of excitement for the game.
The play chart for the game for BC went like this - punt, punt punt, blocked FG, fumble, punt, punt (halftime), punt, punt, turnover on downs, end of game. They only had 4 possessions in the second half (though the last one came with 30 seconds left, so 3 real ones).
BC finished the game going 0-11 on third downs and 0-1 on fourth down. Overall, they had just 164 yards of offense with 1 turnover.
The only points for BC came on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.
BC was held scoreless in the first half for first time since 2017 at No. 2 Clemson (any time you can compare Cincinnati to Clemson, it’s a big deal).
There’s also this...
Boston College has scored their fewest points in a bowl game since the 1940 Cotton Bowl, a 6-3 loss to Clemson. This includes the 2018 First Responder Bowl that was cancelled in under 10 minutes in which they scored 7 points.— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) January 3, 2020
Cincinnati had just TWO(2!!!!!!!!) penalties. If you’ve been a reader of this site all season, you would know how much we have been harping on penalties all season.
Tre Tucker might just be the fastest man on Earth. He had a season long 32 yard run (video below) and he also had two drops in the endzone late in the fourth quarter. After a solid freshman season, one would expect Tucker to see more usage on offense moving forward, both out wide and out of the backfield.
WR Tre Tucker comes around the end and takes the handoff for a 32-yard gain to start the Bearcats' drive.— Andy Backstrom (@AndyHeights) January 2, 2020
Cincinnati is running the ball down BC's throat right now. pic.twitter.com/ygADMyk1ly
Cincinnati’s special teams was SPECIAL in 2019. For the 6th time this season, they blocked a kick. Elijah Ponder was credited with a blocked field goal in the first half.
Wilson Huber made his debut at linebacker, changing his number to #2 and converting from TE. Late in the game he had deflected a pass and had a chance to pick it, which would have led to a touchdown.
Junior WR Malick Mbodj finished the season 4th in receptions and receiving yards and caught his first career TD pass from Ridder.
I can’t recall ever seeing a starting QB, and other key players, being removed from a bowl game because of a blowout, but that’s what happened in the fourth quarter as Ben Bryant saw some action, completely 3-7 passes.
There was an hour plus weather delay due to a lightning strike. One year after Boston College’s bowl game was cancelled (2018 First Responders Bowl vs Boise State), it seemed like it could happen again. Maybe it should have for their sake? Bearcats clearly had some fun in the locker room..
The immediate questions are what, if any, changes will be made to the coaching staff? And will any current players enter the transfer portal? It’s possible nothing happens on either front, but, specifically with the coaching staff, it was unlikely any moves would have been made until after the bowl game.
As for on the field, Cincinnati opens the 2020 season at Nippert Stadium against Austin Peay on September 5th (or perhaps a day or two earlier). Non-conference schedule also includes Western Michigan and Miami and a trip to Nebraska. In AAC play, Memphis and Houston comes to Nippert Stadium and Cincinnati goes on the road to face UCF, Temple, SMU.
Bearcats, with most of their starters returning, a highly ranked recruiting class, and continuity from the coaching staff, could be projected as the favorites in the AAC and the group of five NY6 spot.
Much, much more to come on what’s next...