The Cincinnati Bearcats’ task on Friday got a little bit easier with the news that the Toledo Rockets will be without starting quarterback Phillip Ely. He suffered an injury in the second half of UT’s game against the Missouri Tigers on Saturday. It seems that injury was an ACL tear that will cost him his 2014 season.
Obviously one player doesn’t make a team but when that player is a team’s starting quarterback, it’s a big deal. Ely was solid in his first two games since transferring from Alabama, passing for 541 yards and 4 touchdowns. But those scores came against FCS New Hampshire in Toledo’s 54-20 victory in late August. He completed just 50% of his passes for 204 yards and an interception against Missouri.
Even so, the talent and experience was there with Ely.
Now head coach Matt Campbell will have to go back to the drawing board with sophomore Logan Woodside. That’s an absolutely enormous advantage for the Bearcats who are coming off a double-bye to start the season. The Rockets were battle hardened with Cincinnati coming in ice cold. Toledo, for better or worse, knew what they had with Ely and could game plan for his strengths and weaknesses. While Woodside I’m sure has taken oodles of reps in practice, translating that to a live game is extremely different.
To be clear, I don’t think this equates to an automatic victory for Cincinnati. Runningback Kareem Hunt is as dangerous a ball carrier as the come. He’s averaging over 8 yards per carry and has already crossed the goal line 5 times this season, including 3 touchdowns against Missouri. But without a proven leader at quarterback UC can load up the box to focus on Hunt while worrying less about Woodside’s arm. Overall, it bodes well for the Bearcats’ chances.