Cincinnati Football: Takeaways from conference opener against Tulsa

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Ben Bryant throws pass against Tulsa Golden Hurricane. USA Today.
Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Ben Bryant throws pass against Tulsa Golden Hurricane. USA Today. /
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Even though the Bearcats took down Tulsa in the conference opener yesterday, it wasn’t exactly a mistake free performance. There is still plenty of room for improvement as Cincinnati continues to commit way too many penalties and allow lesser opponents to compete into the fourth quarter.

After taking a 24-14 lead into the locker room, Luke Fickell’s team wasn’t as focused after halftime for a second week in a row. The Bearcats were called for 11 penalties, mostly coming in the second half, and that helped Tulsa stay within striking distance.

The Golden Hurricane got within a field goal after a touchdown from Deneric Prince in the third quarter. Less than three minutes later, Cincinnati answered as Ben Bryant found Josh Whyle for a touchdown pass on fourth down to extend the lead again.

Despite picking up double digit penalties for the third time this season, the Bearcats escaped Tulsa with a 31-21 win as both teams failed to score in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati’s aggressive pass rush racked up the most sacks (11) since Fickell was hired in 2016.

Cincinnati Football: Takeaways from conference opener against Tulsa

Jowon Briggs and Jabari Taylor were in the backfield all night long, finishing with a combined four sacks and five tackles for loss, including multiple sacks in the fourth quarter to help secure a win. Ivan Pace added a game-high 10 total tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In order for the Bearcats to win a third consecutive conference championship, the defense has to avoid unnecessary penalties and offense needs to play with more consistency. I’m sure the coaching staff will continue to harp on limiting unforced errors.

Cincinnati has enough talent and depth to beat most conference opponents without playing up to their full potential but those mistakes could be costly against tougher competition. Fickell discussed the road trip to Tulsa after the win via Cincinnati Enquirer.

"“It was a battle and it didn’t disappoint. That’s what it’s like in a conference game and I don’t care what conference you play in. When you go on the road, you better be at your best. I’m not sure we were completely at our best. There were some really critical (penalties). We can’t do that and continue to beat teams, especially on the road, as we get into conference play. I’d like to tell you that I’ve got an answer for it.”"

Next. Cincinnati Football: Jabari Taylor leads Bearcats to most sacks since 2007. dark