It wasn’t the prettiest performance we’ve seen out of the Bearcats after getting off to yet another slow start. A positive sign as that when Cincinnati started to settle down, they really began to take over the game. It started in the trenches as both offensive and defensive lines were manhandling the Cardinals in the 2nd half. To start with the offense, Eric Lefeld replaced starter Sean Hooey early in the game. The redshirt freshman was understandably shaky as this was the most playing time he’s seen as a Bearcat outside of a few stints on field goal tries. He really settled in nicely as the game progressed. The same can be said for the rest of the offensive line. I’ve been pretty critical of the interior of the line but they came together as a cohesive unit and worked Louisville’s front seven. They’re one of the primary reasons this offense got back on track in the 2nd half and guided the Bearcats to a win. One of those players that started firing on all cylinders was Isaiah Pead. And what more can we say about Pead? Another 100+ yard day (151 to be exact) and a long 50 yard touchdown that put Cincinnati up for good. He was having a steady day rushing for about 5 yards per carry but that touchdown run put him over the top. He did his part to keep the Cardinals honest against the run to set up bigger plays in the passing game downfield.
Those plays did occur and were definitely set up by Pead keeping 7 or 8 Cardinals in the box. The deep passes to McClung and Woods, this one winding up being a touchdown, quickly come to mind. But for the most part we saw more and more glimpses of 2010 Zach Collaros in this game- Staring down receivers, not working his check downs, trying to fit the ball into a window that’s neither large nor open. The pick six at the end of the 2nd quarter was particularly eye gouging. First of all, Alex Chisum was not at all open. Zach stared him down and it allowed a Louisville player to easily jump the route and take it to the house. Secondly, Kenbrell Thompkins on the other side of the field was wide-the-hell open and if Zach had used his check downs would have seen that. Finally, the play was at the end of the half and it’s a golden rule among offenses to never allow defensive points right before halftime. A 2 point deficit ballooned to 9 with that pick six. I’m hoping the Zach we saw earlier in the year reemerges as Big East play continues. Finally on offense, I really thought the receivers had great all-around days. Solid blocking allowed the run game to get going and particularly on Zach’s two point conversion try. I also thought they understood Charlie Strong’s defense well and were exploiting the holes all game long both deep and short. Outside of D.J.’s drop on the fade along the sidelines, which by the way has happened so rarely this year, the receivers’ hands were sticky all game.
To the defense I don’t know what more to say about the defensive line led by Derek Wolfe. He was simply amazing. I’m also really glad Walter Stewart finally added a sack this season. He’s been working tirelessly all year but hasn’t seen it pay off on the stat sheet. Overall the unit was again spectacular holding Louisville’s run game to 2.1 yards per carry. The linebackers were flying all over the field and J.K. Schaffer continues to put up all Big East-type numbers with another sack of his own. It’s been interesting watching Nick Temple’s emergence in this linebacking corp. To begin the year he was listed as transfer Ben Pooler’s backup. Pooler’s a great player and a veteran of the college game. But in recent weeks the true freshman has been pushing him hard for playing time. The pregame depth chart even listed both Temple and Pooler as starting linebackers and it looks like the duo are in fact splitting reps. This is a positive sign for both players as Pooler can rest his knees while Temple is showing he’s a FBS starting linebacker even as a true freshman. Getting back on track I thought the secondary had a pretty good day holding Teddy Bridgewater to just under 200 yards through the air. There were a few gaffs where Cardinals wide receivers were wide open but by-and-large they played alright. Overall, the defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in two straight games. Can’t be disappointed with those numbers.
Like most of the team on Saturday, special teams was shaky to begin the game. Pat O’Donnell’s first couple of punts weren’t boomers but some that can be attributed to the winds at PBS. Kickoffs were also short throughout the day as wind was pushing the ball to the 5 or 10 yard line. D.J. Woods and Ralph David Abernathy each fumbled on their returns which had me shaking my head but I was impressed with Ralph’s 36 yard kick return, his second longest of the season. Finally, Tony Milano was superb at place kicker nailing a field goal and both of his extra points. With the game as close as it was he came through big time.
On to South Florida!