Amid, and sort of forgotten among, Cincinnati’s several defensive issues in recent weeks has been Bearcats quarterback Gunner Kiel’s regressing decision making with the ball in his hands.
After throwing for 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in the first 12 quarters of the season, he’s tossed just 4 touchdowns to 4 picks in the last game and a half. That includes 3 interceptions on Saturday against the Miami (FL) Hurricanes. Kiel’s also had a nasty habit of either being wildly inaccurate with his passes, completing just 50% of them, choosing a covered receiver in his check downs, or both.
In this post we’ll address the second issue, which is perhaps no better illustrated than during a first and 10 play against the Hurricanes last Saturday.
Consider the situation. It’s first down and while Cincinnati was losing 48-20 with points at a premium, UC has the maximum amount of opportunities to move the chains. Chris Moore is running a simple drag route directly across Gunner Kiel’s face at the 28 yard line. A completion when the receiver crossed the right hash mark would have given him the option to continue his route or cut upfield into 10 to 15 yards of open space.
That’s as easy a first down as they come.Gunner Kiel’s pass part one.
Instead, Kiel picks Max Morrison running an intermediate, 15-yard crossing route at the 40 yard line. The receiver is no where near open. In fact, Morrison couldn’t be more covered by the Hurricane defensive back, who gets his hand on the ball as the UC wide out is catching it.Gunner Kiel’s pass part two.
That’s Gunner Kiel’s problem in a nutshell.
He has Chris Moore for at least a 10 yard completion but he over trusts his arm to throw it 5 more yards to Max Morrison, a ball that could have been picked off if the corner jumps the route. Is the risk of an interception really worth an extra 5 yards? I don’t think so. Kiel has a cannon hanging off his right shoulder, no question about it, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense continuously forcing the ball into small windows.
To be clear, I’m pleased the completion was made and Cincinnati was able to move the chains. However, it’s decisions like this that’s resulted in several incompletions and 4 interceptions in the last two weeks. Kiel’s only a sophomore so in a sense he’s entitled to making these mistakes but with the way UC’s defense has been playing, he’ll need to mature quickly to guide this offense into the endzone several times a game.