Not the opening I was expecting for the 2016 Bearcats season to start. Yes, they did get the win. However, if we ignore the first half of the game, the bearcats did a solid job. Right from the get go on the Skyhawks opening possession, they marched down the field and took a 7-0 lead. The bearcats offense led by sophomore QB, Hayden Moore, struggled in the first half and didn’t score until seconds left in the 2nd quarter. They were down 7-6 at halftime due to back up kicker Josh Pasley’s missed extra point. Also, in the first half, the bearcats allowed 3 turnovers (1 interception, 2 fumbles). Hey, Tommy, I thought we are supposed to limit those this year? In the 2nd half, things started to change. The defense started to make plays and the offense ran and took care of the ball and scored 2 more touchdowns. Late in the 4th quarter, the bearcats sealed the victory with a pick-6 touchdown by Tyrell Gilbert. Final score: 28-7
My thoughts. It was very alarming to see the bearcats struggle against an FCS team. Usually, they steam roll an FCS team that comes into Nippert. However, you do have to take into consideration that most of the starting lineup is their first collegiate game. The offensive weapons we lost last year and a new defense, the new players didn’t know what to expect. The jitters showed in the first half and they progressively got better as the game went along. Luck was on our side last night. Even though the Skyhawks scored only 7 points, it could’ve been worse if the defense didn’t force the turnovers and if their field goal kicker didn’t miss his 4 attempts (talk about pressure). The defense allowed 177 rushing yards. That’s a lot. The defense, now, has a lot of film to look at before their game against Purdue. The line needs to be more aggressive and tackle better too. The penalties were a problem too. The bearcats had 60 yards in penalties. Penalties and turnovers were our Achilles’ heel last year and I really hope the coaches and players stress to limit those this year. We cannot afford to have too many of those and expect to win. On offense, Hayden Moore was good. I was sort of expecting a 557 yard performance like he did at Memphis last year. Then again, this is a new offense with new receivers. It’ll take time and patience to get better. One impressive feat was JUCO transfer/receiver Devin Gray. He had 111 yards averaging 22.2 per play. Not bad for his D-1 debut. Nate Cole had his share with 64 yards and 1 touchdown and Kahlil Lewis with 16 yards and 1 touchdown. The rushing duo of Tion Green and Mike Boone compiled a total of 132 yards and it’s only going to get better. Overall, forget about the first half, the bearcats played pretty good and so stoked the college football is finally back!
Next week. The Cincinnati Bearcats travel to Layfette, Indiana to take on the Purdue Boilmakers in another non-conference match up. In my senior year of 2013, I saw the Bearcats crush the Boilmakers in Nippert Stadium with a 42-7 beat down in Tommy Tuberville’s first year. Even though Purdue hasn’t been doing well lately (last year’s record of 2-10), I have no doubt that revenge is on the minds of the Boilmakers when the Bearcats come into town. I’m sure the bearcats have learned to take no opponent for granted and play hard at every game. It’s hard to win on the road but the bearcats can do it if they can take them off their game. It’s hard to predict since the bearcats have played only 1 game and Purdue starts their season tomorrow against Eastern Kentucky. It’ll be nice, though, to get that Big 10 win. Til next time. Go Bearcats!