If you put video of the Austin Peay and Akron games side-by-side you would think you were watching the same game. I mentioned in my 5 keys to this game and the preview of the Zips that the Bearcats had an advantage at each and every position on the field. Cincinnati executed that dominance to perfection against the Zips who were playing mostly freshman and sophomores. The Bearcats were up 49 – 0 in the first half alone piling on points and benefiting from the short field by the turnovers the defense was forcing. Oh and how good was that defense? Three defensive touchdowns, two of which were beautiful interceptions returned to the house brought upon by a relentless pass rush from the front four.
I can’t help but start with the big man in the middle Derek Wolfe. Cincinnati’s bulldozer up front completely manhandled the interior of Akron’s line. He alone forced a fumble, which allowed Maalik Bomar to return the defense’s first turnover into an immediate touchdown, and also notched a sack. It seemed like just about on every play Wolfe was forcing the opposing guard or center out of position with ease. The biggest disappointment along that line is that the defensive ends Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano. The latter did force a fumble but both for the most part were like ghosts most of the game. Stewart has been pretty quiet most of the season and I’m surprised as the bulk he added in the offseason has yet to translate into many sacks or TFLs.
The linebackers were very average today. For the most part the defensive line pushed around Akron’s offensive line on run plays clogging up some of the gaps. However, gaps were still left unfilled by Cincinnati’s linebackers and the Zips’ leading rusher Jawon Chisholm exploited that to the tune of 133 yards at a 5.3 yards per carry. On one play in particular, Akron ran Chisholm to the left powering through the gap as the defensive line crashed inside. Bomar didn’t stay home and slide to his left to backup the lineman in front of him. There was no one outside to cover the gap forcing Wes Richardson to come up from the free safety position and make a play on Chisholm. He didn’t because that’s what Bearcats safeties now-a-days do, and Drew Frey ran him out of bounds. This kind of position mistakes occurred quite a bit out of the linebackers this game. There were quite a few plays made by Pooler, Bomar, and Schaffer while they were in but I expect near perfection out of a group that is as experienced as them.
The secondary really didn’t get tested today thanks in part to the pressure of the defensive line and the timely blitzes that forced all of the interceptions. I mentioned how two were returned for touchdowns. If Akron’s quarterback had the time he would have most certainly worked his check downs to find the open receivers. Instead, he forced the ball to the outside to receivers who should have never been near a football. Dominique Battle and Cam Cheatham were all over them. The Bearcats did give up a long touchdown while the 2nd and 3rd stringers were in mop up duty so I can’t bash them too much for that, especially when they collectively had 4 picks.
Like I said, the offense benefited from short fields provided by all of the turnovers on defense. That’s why if you look at the box score Akron actually outgained the Bearcats 349 yards to 342. Statistically Zach Collaros had a very pedestrian 157 yards through the air on 10 passes for a single touchdown. Pretty much ditto for the backs and receivers. Isaiah Pead was benched with a minor tweak in his leg so Winn, Poteat, Teague, and Abernathy carried the loads yesterday. For a spread team, Cincinnati has really ran the ball quite well with its starters. Most of the carries yesterday can be attributed to the beatdown the Bearcats were handing and Coach Jones was being merciful. Still, the more balanced this team is the more dangerous they become. The offensive line continues to perform well. I saw against Tennessee how they worked well on both run and pass plays dominating Akron’s front four at every snap of the ball, despite apparently tipping their plays.
Finally, on special teams, I can’t believe another one of Tony Miliano’s field goals got blocked and it’s not on him. Seriously. At only 43 yards out, he didn’t need a line drive and gave it enough air. Somehow the Zips’ bullrush of the interior blockers completely overwhelmed them. I’m not sure how that happened considering some of those guys are first string lineman. It also appears that the kickoff job is still up for grabs as Miliano and punter Pat O’Donnell are far from locking that down. As far as punting goes, O’Donnell is going to be an All-American someday.