Months before the season began we marked this game with the Virginia Tech Hokies as Cincinnati’s litmus test for the 2012 season. How they performed against a top-tier ACC team was going to allow us to better judge a Bearcats team that during the offseason replaced players at many critical positions.
And it goes without saying that UC passed this test. But to clarify, they passed. The Bearcats essentially did what many of us did in college at least a couple of times; waited until the night before an exam to study, crammed for a few hours, walked into the classroom, took the test, and walked out with a passing grade. We only got a C+ but, hey, we still get to go on Christmas break with the peace of mind knowing that we don’t have to retake the class.
But that’s what’s so encouraging about yesterday’s win. Cincinnati didn’t play nearly as well as they could have and still knocked off a Virginia Tech team that, while down, has been one of the best ACC teams in the last decade. That’s extraordinary news for UC fans that the Bearcats can have an off day and still beat one of the country’s best. Let’s get to the game.
The defense was its usual suffocating self. It goes without saying that John Jancek is a heck of a defensive coordinator with the way Virginia Tech’s offense was continuously spinning its wheels. He also has a host of playmakers at his disposal like Maalik Bomar and Greg Blair who each set career highs in tackles with 16 and 13 respectively. Also in the secondary Arryn Chenault picked off a pass and knocked away a few along with Camerron Cheatham who was playing outside of his mind against the Hokie wide receivers. The only disappointing factor of the defense was the front four who, lining up against an inexperienced offensive line, rarely got near quarterback Logan Thomas. The lack of size is really showing with this unit. Still the defense as a whole played well only allowing Virginia Tech to convert 4 of their 13 third-down attempts and they did picked off Thomas twice.
The offense however was very shaky and I’m putting a good portion of the game on the coaching staff. This sounds like a made-for-Statestify topic but for whatever reason Jones and Bajakian got away from the run (32 rushes to 43 passes) and never adjusted to the pressure Virginia Tech’s defense was bringing. For most of the first three quarters, Munchie couldn’t complete a throw without getting hit, yet Cincinnati’s coaches continued to dial up long and medium-range plays which took time to develop. It was very disappointing to see and I can’t say enough about #4 for his poise under intense pressure from the Hokie defense. To the players, the star of the game on offense was Munchie but Kenbrell Thompkins is a close second. He was absolutely abusing Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum who cost his team a few pass interference penalties in trying to cover #1. Thompkins finished with 134 yards receiving (career high) and a touchdown.
So now that the Bearcats succeeded on their first test of the season we can finally peer down the schedule. Truth be told when the season began I didn’t really look past Virginia Tech. I knew the first three games; Pitt, Delaware State, then the Hokies. But I couldn’t recall the schedule of opponents after the one yesterday because it was so important in gauging this team. Now that I have a chance to do so I honestly don’t see many teams who can match these Bearcats on the football field. Cincinnati should be the favorites in just about every game going forward save Louisville and Rutgers.
Thankfully the Bearcats get the Scarlet Knights at home but will have a tough roadie when they travel to the Pizza Bowl to face the Cardinals. Both should be intriguing games and there’s no reason Cincinnati’s shouldn’t beat either of these teams. But outside of Louisville and Rutgers, UC should run the table barring an implosion by this team or any major injuries.