The Cincinnati Bearcats enter year two under Tommy Tuberville as The American favorites — that’s the conference; Cincinnati isn’t America’s team. I think that’s trademarked.
Cincinnati was tabbed the AAC favorite by the AAC media. It’s a bit of a spotlight on a program that is chasing the next level of success: expectations.
Cincinnati has been a very solid program over the last decade, the highlight being back-to-back BCS bowl seasons as Big East champions. Since Brian Kelly left, the program hasn’t necessarily hit hard times, but the Bearcats have hit hard times in terms of staying relevant. The Bearcats won a piece of Big East titles, but they were playing in the lesser bowl games while West Virginia and Louisville were winning BCS games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. UC was basically an afterthought in the AAC a year ago after two early losses before the Louisville game brought the national eye back around. Banking 9- and 10-win seasons isn’t a failure by any means, but it feels hollow doing it when Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Syracuse, Rutgers and Louisville have all moved on to bigger, better leagues and have been replaced by Temple, Tulane, SMU, and Houston.
To its credit, Cincinnati is trying to turn things around. Cincinnati is currently renovating Nippert Stadium. It will play its 2014 games at a half-empty Paul Brown Stadium. The Bearcats are fighting for respect. A huge 2014 season would give them plenty.
2013 Record: 9-4, lost Belk Bowl
About 2013 : Cincinnati’s 2013 season was an odd one. The Bearcats opened up the year crushing Big 10 bottom feeder Purdue, 42-7. That was followed up by going on the road and losing to Big 10 also-ran Illinois, 45-17. Cincinnati also lost starting quarterback Munchie Legaux in that contest. After beating Miami University 14-0, the Bearcats had three players involved in an auto accident. One of them, Ben Flick, passed away. The other two, Javon Harrison and Mark Barr, will reportedly never play again.
Cincinnati’s players had a bye week to try to get their minds right for a trip to South Florida. The Bearcats had a field goal blocked for a touchdown and a fumble returned for another touchdown against them. That put UC in a 26-6 hole the team couldn’t recover from in one of 2013′s more surprising losses. After that, the Bearcats feasted on The American for six straight victories. This set the stage for the final Keg of Nails game for the foreseeable future against archrival Louisville.
The Bearcats held a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals. Teddy Bridgewater went full-on amazing with a 14-yard run on fourth and 12 and a 22-yard touchdown pass to put Louisville ahead. Cincinnati answered right back with a 57-yard bomb and a 15-yard touchdown run by Ralph David Abernathy IV. Louisville answered again with another touchdown drive. Continuing the back-and-forth nature of the quarter, the Bearcats came back again. They got as far as the Louisville 9 before settling for a 26-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. In overtime, a pass interference on third down gave the Cardinals a fresh set of downs which resulted in a touchdown. Cincinnati’s final drive ended with three incompletions.
After the loss, Cincinnati headed to the Belk Bowl. Searching for its 10th win, Cincinnati played one of its worst games of the year. The Bearcats gave up a safety, a kickoff return touchdown, and a punt return touchdown in a 39-17 loss to North Carolina.
All Conference Selections – According to Phil Steele
RB – Hosey Williams
OL – Eric Lefeld
DE – Silverberry Mouhon
Players to Watch
The player everyone will be watching on September 12 is Gunner Kiel. He hasn’t officially been named the Cincinnati starting quarterback, but the indication is that he will be the starter. He’s battling Munchie Legaux, who started last year before he was injured. Kiel has the pedigree that attracts every college in the nation. It was that pedigree which seemingly landed Kiel at every college in the nation. He’s found a home in Cincinnati. The expectations are high to see what he can do on the field. After years of hype, we should finally see Kiel’s capabilities.
115 carries, 655 yards, 5.7 per carry, 4 TDs; 4 receptions, 21 yards
15 carries – 70 yards -1 TD
11 – 117 – 2 TDs
14 – 90
13 – 84
Hosey Williams was the leading rusher for Cincinnati in 2013 despite missing a game and despite getting 17 fewer carries than Ralph David Abernathy. Williams proved capable in hitting the home run when he had room. That was a dimension no other Bearcat back brought in 2013. Three times Williams had single game-long runs of at least 30 yards. This is significant because the longest gain for the other two main backs was 27. With a more consistent time share, Williams could threaten 1,000 yards, especially because he has these three blocking for him.
The Cincinnati line was a bright spot for the Bearcats in 2013. They return three key starters, headed by Lefeld. Bond was thrown into action due to an injury in camp. He started at center every game and played pretty well. Ehinger started all 13 games. Lefeld started 12 of the 13. Cincinnati’s line helped UC average 6 yards a play in 2013. The quarterbacks were sacked just 17 times, and five of those were in the bowl game. One of the keys to a big offensive year is the performance of the big offensive linemen and to an extent, continuity among them. Cincinnati has both.
78 receptions, 783 yards, 1 TD. 5 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD; 3-3 passing, 40 yards, 1 TD. 9.9 punt return average
5 receptions – 83 yards
11 receptions – 68 yards
11 – 72
11 – 96
6 – 123 – 1 TD
103 total yards, 1 rush TD
Shaq Washington came out of nowhere to have a huge 2013 as the Bearcats’ possession receiver target. I mean out of nowhere, too: Washington had six total receptions in his career. Washington wasn’t the type of receiver to really stretch the field, he was the type of receiver that ate up any and all available yards. With deep threats Chris Moore and Mekale McKay keeping defenses honest, that left a lot of ground for Washington to dominate. Late in the season when Cincinnati had trouble getting him the ball through the air, Washington ran for 67 yards and a touchdown in the Belk Bowl. A major concern would be that Louisville and North Carolina held Washington to 4 receptions and 47 yards. UC will have to find ways to keep him involved. Washington did it all in 2013; his encore should be fun to witness.
41 tackles, 12.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 7 hurries, 1 pass break up
For his first couple of seasons on campus, Silverberry Mouhon was known for his awesome name. His name is Silverberry, I mean come on. Last season, Mouhon changed the conversation from his name to his game. Mouhon became one of the best pass rushers in the conference. Mouhon earned a second team selection by the media. The most encouraging thing about Silverberry’s sophomore season is that he was consistent the whole way, 3.5 sacks the first four games, 4 sacks the last 5 games. 2014 could be Silverberry’s signature season.
September 12 – vs Toledo
September 20 – vs Miami University
September 27 – at Ohio State
October 4 – vs Memphis
October 11 – at Miami
October 18 – at SMU
October 24 – vs South Florida
October 31 – at Tulane
November 13 – vs East Carolina
November 22 – at Connecticut
November 29 – at Temple
December 6 – vs Houston
Tulane – East Carolina
Big 10 Network Games
Cincinnati’s schedule is beefed up a lot after the disappointing slate in 2013. It takes trips to Ohio State and Miami while hosting a Toledo team that beat the Bearcats in 2012. The non-conference schedule is rounded out by Miami University, the team that Cincinnati has played more than any other. The Ohio State game is one Cincinnati fans have been circling for years. That game could be their ticket for a huge season.
The conference slate is mostly drab until you reach the final two home games. East Carolina and Houston were picked fourth and third in The American respectively. The conference slate alternates home and away until the last road game of the season. That’s what you draw up ideally. There are an abundance of Friday games on the Cincinnati schedule. Never forget that television runs things.
Cincinnati has a huge opportunity in what looks like a winnable road game at Miami, plus a conference schedule which misses the defending conference champion, UCF. If Cincinnati can hit this out of the park, the 2014 season could be one to remember.