Cincinnati Football: Tanner Mordecai, Rashee Rice will challenge Bearcats secondary

Tanner Mordecai of the SMU Mustangs throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. Getty Images.
Tanner Mordecai of the SMU Mustangs throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. Getty Images. /
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If the Bearcats plan to take down SMU tomorrow afternoon, the defense has to be engaged from the opening drive and contain the high-powered offense from creating explosive plays with star quarterback Tanner Mordecai and wide receiver Rashee Rice.

Midway through the regular season, Mordecai leads the conference with 336.0 passing yards per game. Rice’s connection with Mordecai is a big reason for the success as the senior receiver ranks third in the nation with 126.8 yards and 8.2 catches per game.

After spending three seasons as back up quarterback at Oklahoma, Mordecai moved to SMU and became one of the most prolific passers in the conference. First-year head coach Rhett Lashlee has a dynamic offense with Mordecai and Rice leading the way.

Cincinnati Football: Tanner Mordecai, Rashee Rice will challenge Bearcats secondary

SMU’s aerial attack has enough firepower to cause problems for the defense, surpassing the 500-yard mark in 13 of their last 16 games, but the Bearcats should be able to rely on experienced veterans to step up and secure a 19th straight conference win.

Cincinnati’s secondary has been consistent this year, allowing 186.3 passing yards per game, but hasn’t been tested by a dominant pass offense yet. Arquon Bush, Ja’Von Hicks, Ja’Quan Sheppard and others will have to keep Mordecai and Rice under wraps.

During a midweek press conference, Luke Fickell broke down SMU’s offense via Cincinnati Athletics.

"“We have played him (Rhett Lashlee) since he was the offensive coordinator there a few years ago. It’s a group offensively that will be similar to what they have been with being up tempo and throwing the football. Obviously the quarterback is a really good football player. I think more than anything, they want to put the ball in his hands, let him run the show and control the offense. Just because a guy throws the ball really well, everyone assumes he’s just a pocket passer and doesn’t run the football. I think that’s where he can be really sneaky. He can run and we’ve seen that in the past. The last time we played  them, I thought he was a very capable runner and picks the time to do it. You know in a big play or a big situation, he has a lot of ability to make some things happen.”"

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