Tommy Tuberville's Handling Of Bennie Coney On Saturday Was Criminal

Oct 19, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville speaks with an official during the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cincinnati Bearcats up 34-3 on the UConn Huskies just five and a half minutes into the second half, big man Tommy Tuberville did what any reasonable coach would do at that time against a listless opponent; pull his starters and bring in the backups. The purpose is two-fold. Firstly, with the game squarely out of reach, Tuberville didn’t want to bring upon any unnecessary injury to any key first stringers like Brendon Kay. There was little-to-no chance UConn was going to get back in the game and as such no reason for the starters to play any longer and risk injury. Secondly, Tuberville wanted to give the backups, players who might be filling starting roles next season, some playing time to build their experience. The logic being, the more reps they earn now the better prepared they will be for next year.

All of that makes perfect sense but it’s the execution with one player in particular, a guy who might be a key cog in Cincinnati’s success or failure in 2014, that I had a beef with after this game.

Like I mentioned, with Cincinnati up several touchdowns on UConn midway through the third quarter, Tuberville pulled starting QB Brendon Kay for backup Bennie Coney. It was his first time on the field and.. well.. it didn’t go so great. After Tion Green and Jordan Luallen were stuffed on the first two downs, Coney was faced with a third and long in UC territory. Eddie Gran called in a passing play (for some reason) and Coney wound up throwing the ball right to UConn linebacker Wilbert Lee. One pass, one interception. Yikes.

But was that turnover really Coney’s fault? Why on third and long with the Bearcats up by 31 was Eddie Gran forcing his redshirt freshman quarterback to pass on third and long? Why not run the ball, punt, and get your defense who had been stifling UConn’s offense all game back on the field? Who really cares if Cincinnati picked up the first down or not? And what the hell is up with subbing out Coney for wildcat quarterback Jordan Luallen anyways? Do you not want to let your redshirt freshman quarterback the chance to get into a rhythm?

Those are the questions I have for Tommy Tuberville and Eddie Gran this morning.

Additionally, after Bennie Coney threw that interception, the coaches benched him! They brought back in Brendon Kay (still with the Bearcats up by four and a half touchdowns, by the way) and gave the rest of the snaps to Jordan Luallen. I’m really glad both of the reps those two seniors received will make them better quarterbacks when they’re not with the Bearcats in 2014. And I’m sure the immediate benching after he threw the pick really helped Coney’s psyche. Way to entrust confidence in your young quarterback, Tuberville.

About midway through the fourth quarter, the coaches finally brought Bennie Coney back into the game. On his now second pass of the game, almost a full quarter later, the young quarterback threw a 24 yard nice pass to Nate Cole sprinting across the middle of the field. But on his next snap, Coney tried to do a little too much with the football, wound up fumbling it, and it was returned by UConn linebacker Marquise Vann for a touchdown.

At that point Bennie Coney’s afternoon was done. On the day he wound up taking five offensive snaps, throwing for 24 yards, an interception, and a fumble. But it’s not those turnover numbers that bother me. That’s not unexpected with a young quarterback and extremely forgivable. But it’s the lack of playing time that I really have a grudge with and why Tommy Tuberville is in my cross hairs right now.

With the quarterback position one of the biggest question marks in 2014, why did he give his redshirt freshman, a talented but inexperienced player who has a very strong shot at being the starter that season, just five snaps in a blowout win? Even moreso, why was he being subbed in and out constantly? Coney was given zero opportunity to succeed, get into a groove, or mesh with the players around him. And that is a huge failure by Cincinnati’s coaching staff on Saturday.

Thinking long term, we have no idea what life will be like at quarterback when Brendon Kay graduates after this season. But everyone watching this team, the fans and coaches together, would have a better idea of what’s returning at quarterback if Tommy Tuberville hadn’t utilized Bennie Coney so horribly yesterday. The experience he earns now is going to go a long way to developing him as a college quarterback and growing him to the role as a leader of the Bearcats’ offense going forward. Five snaps in a blowout win over one and a half quarters of play is doing nothing to accomplish that. Coney should have been inserted as the quarterback when Kay left with UC up 34-3 and ran the offense from then on out. Anything less is criminal.

Now I’m not sure what the coaches have in mind for Coney or if they have Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel penciled in as the starting quarterback in 2014. Quite frankly, I don’t think they themselves know. But the way Tommy Tuberville and his staff handled Bennie Coney against UConn does nothing but keep that cloud of mystery hanging over that position.

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Tags: Bearcats Bearcats Football Cincinnati

  • bearcats4

    Chris, I,m a former bearcat , and did some high school football coaching, (QB’s and DB’s). I know a thing or two about football. What happened to Coney in Saturday’s game vs. UCONN is a great learning experience that can not be coached. IMO, Coney will learn that when called upon he needs to be ready, and that throwing the ball away or tucking the ball away is a good play in certain situations (like 3rd and long). Coney will always remember his Saturday’s experience, which is exactly what Gran and Tubbs needed (an experience they can coach Coney about). The word “crimminal” has no place in a football story, period. You, Chris,IMO, owe Tubbs an appology.

    • Chris

      I agree it will be a learning experience but why can’t it be an in-game learning experience? Why after throwing an interception on his first pass of the game does he have to be benched? Why can’t he be told to tuck it away on third and long then given another opportunity on the next drive? The constant subbing-in and subbing-out of Coney on Saturday did not make sense and hindered his development. He can learn about the interception both in the film room after the game and in between drives. This was a wasted opportunity to provide a growing moment for Coney.

      • BearcatTWO4

        Mr. Bains,

        First of all I want to thank you for all the coverage you provide. I really believe its folks like you that truly care about this program and want to move it forward. As a former player, we appreciate your hard work more than ever. With that said, I do disagree with you. The play in question was a concept that allowed for multiple levels of routes. It appeared that the corners were playing man or a form of press quarters and the nickle jumped the drag route. I also would have like to see Coney hang in the game but for obvious reasons, I am glad we put a more proven Qb back in. All year we wanted points from our offense and and scores in the waning minutes of the 4th and Coney had his opportunity and missed. Also, if Uconn puts a score on the board, there is still 20 mins left of game which as we know could have been a huge issue. I think on this one, Tubs played his hand the best he could and actually did a solid job of not crucifying him on the sidelines like Kelly did Grutza, Pike and Collaros.

  • Catfan72

    I agree completely with bearcats4. To follow up on that I would hope Coney has a similar perspective. I surely hope he doesn’t have the perspective of “poor me, I deserved a chance to make up for it”. Instead I hope he is saying man I really screwed up when they gave me my first chance and next time if I want to play more I better perform from the beginning. He hasn’t yet earned the right to be allowed to make a mistake and be trusted to overcome them. I believe he will be given his chances but he must grab them and run when they are put in front of him.

  • tmcc


    Chris, I agree with you. However, I think the poor treatment of Coney was intentional and designed to send him a message. The message being to look some place else to play. They are looking to the higher profiled QB, Kiel, as their first choice to be the next UC starting QB.

    • BearcatTWO4


      If our staff is talented enough to not only coach a football game, plan for next year and figure out next years depth chart all in the matter of one snap, I think we are all in for a treat. Coney made a poor read threw into multiple layers of coverage, gave Uconn the ball in threatening territory and could have potentially pushed the momentum in the wrong direction. He is a 3rd string QB, you make a mistake, you sit. Like I said in my comment to Chris, Tubs played his hand the best he could and actually did a solid job of not crucifying him on the sidelines like Kelly did Grutza, Pike and Collaros.

      • tmcc

        Was all the players that made mistakes in that game treated similarly? Clearly, he was not the only one that messed up on a play during the game.

    • bearcats4


      • BearcatTWO4

        Bearcats4: I hope that was not directed at me! I hate trolls, could care less for ND and wish Columbus would remove itself from the United States. Lets hope we get to see Coney give it another shot again in the next coming games. That would mean some pretty big leads!

        • bearcats4

          It was directed at “tmcc”

        • tmcc

          I may disagree with your perspective but can respect it since you did not degrade it to name calling or attempt to make it personal, UC is not committing any crime if my perspective is correct. College coaches often determine that some players at their institutions cannot help their program and often encourage them to go elsewhere. This can be good for both parties.

          However, for bearcats4, I will simply choose to ignore.

  • Marq Governor

    I think Tubbs doesn’t want Coney. Which is a shame because the kid can pay. I played pro football and I coach now. I think they are managing him poorly. Only reason he isn’t a starter is because he had two seniors with paying experience there.