The Cincinnati Bearcats shook off an uneven offensive first half to rout the Temple Owls 52-3 in a glorious return to a sold out Nippert Stadium under the lights.
While the Bearcats improved considerably from 2017-2019, they never consistently looked like they were miles ahead of the rest of the conference. The losses to UCF and Memphis in 2018-19 showed that but so did the 15-13 win over Temple and the 46-43 barn burning win at East Carolina. Last season’s blowout wins over Memphis and SMU displayed a talent gap that seems to be growing wider, especially on the defensive end.
The Blackcats defense is elite and only second to the Georgia Bulldogs, statistically speaking. They were dominant for all four quarters on Friday night with the only Temple points coming from a 55-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced through. Temple’s quarterback, D’Wan Mathis, was on the run almost all night and frequently heaved the ball up in the air just so he wouldn’t get sacked. Both Bryan Cook and Wilson Huber destroyed Mathis as he was trying to roll outside the pocket to buy extra time. With no one open downfield, Cook and Huber used their excellent closing speed for their respective sacks. Coby Bryant had an interception which added to his stellar performances against Temple in both 2018 and 2019.
The offense did not match the defense’s performance in the first half. They benefited from a muffed punt to get their first touchdown of the game, making it 10-0. Another touchdown drive after a Temple three and out made it 17-0, but a badly missed Cole Smith 44-yard field goal prevented Cincinnati from putting a stamp on what should’ve been a dominant first half. The first play of the second half essentially ended the game. Jerome Ford took a handoff 75 yards to the house and Temple’s spirit was broken. From then on, it was open season for the Bearcats as both sides dominated at the point of attack. Tyler Scott, Ethan Wright, and Charles McClelland all made the Owls defense look foolish as UC marched toward a dominant 49-point victory.
The offense has to improve on their opening few drives of the game. Slow starts can put a team in a hole especially if they play a high-flying offense like Ole Miss or Ohio State. This has been my main sticking point with Mike Denbrock. His play calling can be extremely vanilla and predictable with Jerome Ford runs up the middle or five yard outs to Michael Young. However, it’s not all on Denbrock. Young had a bad drop on third down that would’ve led to a touchdown. Desmond Ridder missed a few passes including a badly thrown ball intended for Tre Tucker on a 3rd and 4 in the first quarter. He also took a bad sack on 3rd and goal when he should have just thrown it away. Once Ridder settled down, he more than made up for it with pro-level touchdown passes to both Alec Pierce and Michael Young.
With the insurmountable lead in the second half, the back-ups got some playing time as well which is always good. This helps the younger guys get more experience while also keeping them away from the transfer portal. Backup QB Evan Prater only completed one pass for 4 yards, but Ethan Wright broke off a 58-yard touchdown run. RS Freshman LB Jaheim Thomas also gave us a peek into the future with a big stop on 3rd and goal late in the fourth quarter as Temple failed to get a garbage time touchdown.
I mentioned it before, but the kicking game remains this team’s most glaring weakness. Cole Smith barely squeaked through a 30-yard field goal before missing the 44-yarder. It seems like it can be fixed because he is pulling every one of his kicks left, but Smith was a career 56% kicker before this season. The place kicking will cost us a game if it does not improve and Smith looks like he’s lost all confidence at this point.
Going forward, the Cincinnati Bearcats just need to take care of business. Don’t worry about where you’re ranked now because nothing matters until the end of the season. If the Temple game is any indication, the Bearcats are locked in and ready for UCF on October 16th at Nippert Stadium.