The Bearcats had a rough go of things Saturday afternoon in Knoxville. The picture up top, courtesy of our good friends at the Cincinnati.com as are all photos, pretty much sums things up. I don't really have the heart to do a full write up of the game series by series, so it's going to be more sequential thoughts. For example, I'll write about the first quarter first, and the fourth quarter last. See, that makes sense. Instead of explaining it, I could put it into action. Let's do that. Also, instead of the logo, we are going with clapping Butch Jones, and sad Butch Jones for the paragraph leads. The picture up top is sad Butch Jones.
The game started off brilliantly. On the 3rd play, Isaiah Pead took his first carry up the middle, got a shoulder tackle attempt instead of a wrap up, bounced outside and went 65 yards for a TD. It was pretty fucking awesome.
The questions about the secondary were answered right away, as Tennessee used 4 completions and a pass interference to get to the UC 2. That's where Marlin Lane took over and punched it in for the tie.
Tennessee went tricky on the Bearcats with an onside kick. Woodard got a little chewing out from Butch Jones on the sideline. 2 plays got the ball into UC territory. From the 33, Tyler Bray threw an absolute strike to Justin Hunter for 6. The Enquirer got an amazing picture of it here. Dominique Battle just missed it. If you are a second off, you pay dearly.
The Bearcats showed some resolve by marching right back down on the Vols. Pead broke a 27 yard run to get inside UT territory. A pass interference and a 5 yard run got UC to the 13. Zach Collaros and Adrien Robinson had their own pretty TD, when Zach put one up in the back of the end zone that Robinson was able to pull down and get a foot in. It was nice. And it tied the score at 14.
The Bearcats looked to have momentum going their way, and continued it when Battle forced a fumble on Lane at the UC 28. That's about where the fun stops in this one. With the ball and the score tied, the Bearcats had to punt. Bray hit 3 more passes, and a 17 yard run to the UC 21 ended up at the 10 when a horse collar flag was thrown. It took UT 1 play to score. 21-14.
The Bearcats managed to get to the 49 for a 4th and inches. They went for it, which was the right move in nearly everyone's book. The playcall was a stretch play for some reason. Why they didn't run a sneak or a bootleg or anything else I don't know. Tennessee stuffed the play for a turnover on downs. Tennessee couldn't cash in on that, missing a field goal wide left. The teams traded punts.
The Bearcats got the ball to the UT 46 on their next possession for another 4th and inches. This time, the Bearcats went spread formation, 5 receivers. Everyone thought a sneak was coming. That's why Tennessee sent 17 people up the middle and Collaros got nothing. This time however, the Vols marched their way into UC territory. From the 15, Bray threw a strike to Da'Rick Rogers for a TD. That made it 28-14.
UC had 67 seconds in the half to make something happen from their 28. They got a 23 yard run by Pead to get them to the UT 43. With about 11 seconds or so left, Collaros ran to the 29. UC chose to run the clock and settle for a FG attempt from 48. I like Tony Miliano, but you would think they would try to get him closer, or take a shot at the end zone. The result of the kick was this:
UC needed a stop to start the second half, as the Vols had possession. UT got 4 first downs in the first 5 plays of the half. They drove to the 1, where Bray called his own number for a sneak and a 35-14 score.
The Bearcats came right back. Woods caught a pass and went up the left sideline for 46 yards to the UT 27. Collaros hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a pass to the 1. A sneak didn't get in. A shotgun play where Collaros couldn't hand the snap and got back to the line didn't work. A play action pass was rushed. Instead of going for it a third time, Butch Jones chose to take a delay of game and settle for a 23 yard field goal. 35-17. This gets a clap because they scored.
Tyler Bray once again picked apart the UC secondary to get to the UC 16. From there, he hit a wide open Zach Rogers for a TD. The Bearcats would cut the score to 42-23 two possessions later. Walter Stewart forced a fumble at the UT 22. Collaros hit Woods to the 9, and a penalty put the ball at the 6. That's where Zach hooked up with Anthony McClung for a TD. UT answered with a 37 yard field goal, to get us to the 45-23 final.
Positives and negatives time. The positives will have a +, the negatives a -. Original.
+ Isaiah Pead had 155 yards on just 14 carries. The line gave him all he needed, and he ran very fast.
- Pead only had 16 touches on the day. He's got to get more involved. He was the best player when he was on the field.
+ The offensive line had a very good day. The 1 holding penalty was costly because it was a drive killer. For the most part, Collaros stayed vertical. Pead had room to run. They controlled the game.
- The defensive line didn't have as good a game. Tennessee had 3.6 yards a rush, which is a good thing. But, there were times when UT just rammed the ball down their throats. The pass rush from the front 4 just wasn't there. Tyler Bray had all day to do whatever he wanted. And he did whatever he wanted.
- One of the reasons Bray was able to do whatever he wanted, was because the secondary was picked apart. UC played a ton of cover 2 zone. They didn't play it very well. Bray was 34-41-405 yards. Bray broke Peyton Manning's record for highest completion percentage with 30 completions, and is the first non-Manning with 400 yards in UT history. When they were giving up catches, they weren't tackling. Multiple missed tackles led to lots of YAC.
+ DJ Woods had a solid game, 9 catches 111 yards. He was targeted 10 times. He made something happen when the Bearcats desperately needed it.
+ Kenbrell Thompkins had modest numbers, 4-58, but he played well. His 24 yard catch was a huge play.
- Speaking of huge plays, it seemed every huge Tennessee play happened around Drew Frey. I don't want to pick on Frey, and besides, Matt from DtD did a nice job on that. I don't know what the other options are at safety, but Pat Lambert can't be that bad. Malcolm Murray can't be that bad. Chris Williams can move back to safety right?
+ Adrien Robinson made a hell of a catch. Didn't know he had it in him.
- The tackling overall by the Bearcats was bad. I blamed the secondary, but they weren't the only ones missing. It was a rough day for everyone on the defense.
+ JK had 12 tackles.
- I think a lot of what happened to the defense can be blamed on the defensive game plan. It was as plain as the Ann on nose's face that the zone was not working. Bray was picking UC apart. UC was slow to react.
- Especially in the red zone. Tennessee was 5-6 TD wise there.
- Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers had 20 of the 34 catches for UT. No adjustments at all.
- In fact, the game plan was worse the second half, because Tennessee ate the clock. UT had the ball 10:29 in the third quarter, and 9:07 in the fourth. UC had no answers. You have to put the players in position to succeed, and I don't think that happened Saturday. If Drew Frey is getting his ass kicked in coverage, you do something so he doesn't get his ass kicked. If Bray is throwing where he is with great success, you try to take that away. It didn't happen for UC.
- Butch Jones and the offensive coaching staff made their share of questionable moves. The play calling on the 4th downs was touched on earlier. Not taking a chance at the end of the first half was part of the reason points were left on the field.
- The play calling at the 1 gets it's own section. The calls, sneak, shotgun draw, play action, were uninspired. The decision to kick was baffling. Down 21 points with no momentum on your side, you would think that UC would go for the gusto. Instead, they take a meaningless 3. It's hard to wrap your head around the decision to not go for it there, while not punting earlier. If you are going to lose your balls, lose them at midfield, not at the 1. It was a sign of giving up. It was like saying, "we aren't going to win, so let's make the score respectable." That's actually what I think happened now. And it's bullshit if it did.
+ UC plays Akron next, and Akron blows.
Well now, I was more fired up than I thought about the game as I write this on Sunday night.That was good to get out though. I feel better. Ready to move on. And move on we shall. But before that, here are the box scores from Go Bearcats.