Ok so I may have jumped the gun a bit in my post-game analysis. It was filled with enough negativity that Bill Koch would have been impressed. But in my half-drunken malaise I admit I may have been too hard on this team.
So to amend my error and start this bye week off on a high note, here are some positive aspects of the game on Saturday that I may have overlooked:
1) Munchie managed the offense. This is reflected in the 74% completion percentage, by far the highest of his career in games in which he started. Sure they were short dump offs and mid-range passes but Legaux still did his job. You can’t fault him for running the plays that are called in from the sidelines and he should be praised for completing nearly three-quarters of those passes.
2) Move over Oregon, Cincinnati has the best running game in the country. Alright that might be a little drastic. Chip Kelly orchestrates a nearly perfect zone-read rushing attack that has made the Ducks an offensive machine up in Pacific Northwest. But Butch Jones and Mike Bajakian have a nice thing going here with the three-headed monster of Legaux, Winn, and Abernathy. The trio combined for 240 pre-sack yards on just 37 carries (6.5 ypc) against the Hornets. Tack on Jameel Poteat’s 44 yards rushing as well as his touchdown and the Bearcats rolled up Georgia Tech-like numbers on the ground Saturday night.
3) Munchie’s mistakes were mental, not mechanical. Against Pitt #4 looked more confident but also had some of the same technical flaws that haunted him during his starts in the 2011 season. But against Delaware State he was very sound in his throwing motion. Yes his two interceptions looked bad but the first was a factor of him being indecisive and releasing the ball too late. The second was him getting greedy and forcing a pass. Neither were a factor of Munchie forgetting to set his feet, square his shoulders, etc. He also airmailed a pass to Danny Milligan that should have been picked off but that was a factor of him not working his way through his checkdowns instead of, again, anything with his mechanics. He can only make better decisions with time.
4) The UC defense is every bit as suffocating as last season. Delaware State passes the ball a ton and why wouldn’t they with a talented quarterback in Nick Elko? Cincinnati got after him on numerous occasions sacking him twice, picking him off once, and not allowing a touchdown. He threw for just 151 yards averaging just 4.2 yards per pass. For comparison purposes, the Bearcats rushed for 1.1 yards more than Delaware State averaged through the air. Cincinnati looked like swiss cheese against the run but outside of the 60 yard touchdown scamper by Malcolm Williams the Bearcats held the Hornets to just two yards per carry.
5) The wide receiver corps is deep and talented. This was suspected coming into the season despite the loss of D.J. Woods but Cincinnati boasts a 5-6 man rotation at wide receiver. This is evident in the fact that Damon Julian got the start over Alex Chisum at outside receiver Saturday night and led the Bearcats with 62 yards receiving with a touchdown. Also when Anthony McClung was sidelined, Shaq Washington and Danny Milligan got a ton of reps in the slot in 3-wide and 4-wide sets. It was encouraging to know that if one of the starters went down Cincinnati wouldn’t miss a beat at this position.
6) The Bearcats finally have a pair of sparkplugs on special teams. Let’s start with Ralph David Abernathy. He’s the obvious pick considering his breakout play against Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl. Unfortunately he’s been stifled by college football’s new kickoff rules that effectively keep the ball out of his hands much of the time. But when he is able to field kickoffs he seems to be just a block or two away from taking it to the house. I’ve also been very impressed with Anthony McClung on punt returns. I’ll get into a detailed analysis later this week but he hasn’t muffed a punt and averaged a whopping 19 yards per return against Delaware State. Finally Cincinnati can once against flip the field on special teams not only by the way of Pat O’Donnell.
7) This offensive line is outstanding. This is a big reason why the Bearcats have been ripping off huge running plays in their first two games this season. With their size and experience, Cincinnati’s five hogmollies have been winning at the point of attack and opening up gaping holes for ball carriers to run through. I’ve mentioned that Jones emphasizes recruiting behemoths as blockers and it’s paying off this season. It’s often an unnoticed position group but I’d bet on this offensive line over any in the Big East.
8) UC fans showed up Saturday night. Nippert was filled to about 77% capacity with a little over 27,000 showing up to see the Bearcats. The raw numbers look a little disappointing given the near-sell out against Pitt and how rocking that environment was. But realistically the fact that this team got 27k+ to show up for what essentially amounts to a glorified practice is really good news for this program. Nice job, Bearcat fans!