The Cincinnati Bearcats fell to 5-1 Saturday night. In the wake after the disappointment, there seem to be 2 themes floating through. There is the group that wants to ignore that this game happened and focus on the rest of the season and the Big East. There is the camp that wants to burn everything to ground because holy shit the season is in trouble. I see where both camps are coming from. I'm in the third and smaller camp. That camp is relax and let's see what happens. It seems more detached from the first 2 camps, because it is, but I think in this case it's appropriate. Just like how we all have different exercise programs, we all have different feelings on how the season is going. It's part of life.
If Toledo transferred into the Big East, they would be 4th or 5th. You can't look at them and UConn and USF and Syracuse and Temple and see that big a difference. I would say the Toledo offense is better than all of them. The Toledo defense is worse than all of them. I wouldn't be surprised if Toledo kept it close with Louisville or Rutgers. I also wouldn't be surprised if they played Louisville or Rutgers and lost by double digits. The point of this paragraph is to point out that Toledo is a solid team.
The game on Saturday reminded me of the Rutgers game last year. This game was different because that one was a blowout, but the theme of that game was the same. You waited and waited and waited for the Bearcats to show something. They never did and then the game ended. Munchie was 12-31 in that one, he was 15-36 in this one. This was the first game where Munchie threw over 35 passes in a game that UC lost. Let's get to the happy and angry Butch Jones breakdown.
It's kind of hard to pick a good thing to roll with first. So let's talk about the running game. On the surface, it was great. The Bearcats ran the ball 35 times for 251 yards. They scored a TD with the ground game. Despite the Luallen run up the middle, the Bearcats averaged 7.2 yards a carry. RDA ran for a career best 98 yards on just 9 carries. Winn had 86 yards on 16 carries. Munchie ran for 66 yards on 9 carries. All broke runs for at least 15 yards in the game.
Ralph David Abernathy touched the ball 22 times. 7 of those were in the second half. 1 was a kick return. He ran for 38 yards on 4 carries He dropped a pass and had another pass thrown at him. That's half the production coming when the game mattered most.
George Winn 5 carries for 25 yards the second half.
Munchie 1 carry for -2 yards in the second half.
For the most part, the Bearcats defense was very solid. They sacked Terrance Owens 3 times. Technically twice, but the defense got credit for making him trip over his lineman. The Bearcats had 8 tackles for loss. Dan Giordano and Adrian Witty both had 2, Greg Blair, Drew Frey and Mitch Meador had 1 and Cam Cheatham and Cam Beard shared one. They didn't give up any TDs. There is a but coming.
The defense had trouble with 3 things. 1, they couldn't get sustained pressure on Owens. They had 1 hurry. When the pressure came, Owens stepped up and ran. He had 50 rushing yards. 2, they had 3 drives of 10 or more plays on them. 10-62, 13-75 and 15-59. All the drives ended in field goals. The last 2 drives took up nearly 6 minutes and nearly 7 minutes. So basically Toledo had the ball a whole quarter of the second half on two drives. They had the ball for 20:37 of the second half. Which made it hard for the Bearcats to keep running the ball. The defense bent too far at the wrong time. The whole last drive is thing number 3 and that gets it's own paragraph.
Here is the final Toledo drive.
- Fluellen 2 yard run
- Owens 2 yard run
- Pass to Reedy for 14
- Fluellen 5 yard run
- Pass to Russell for 7
- Owens 2 yard run
- Owens 6 yard run
- Fluellen 4 yard run
- Fluellen 10 yard run
- Fluellen 7 yard run
- Fluellen 5 yard run
- Fluellen 2 yard run
- Fluellen 1 yard loss
- Fluellen 1 yard loss
Toledo was 2-3 on 3rd down. They went right at the Cincinnati defense with 9 running plays in a row starting from the Cincinnati 37. 2 of the 8 tackles for loss happened on this drive. I still think Toledo should have gone for it on 4th down.
Greg Blair had 15 tackles, a game high. Maalik Bomar had 8. Both had some issues with pass coverage, but they were in on almost every tackle. The motors on those 2 don't stop.
The defense stepped up by forcing a fumble in Toledo territory that led to a field goal. Mitch Meador forced a fumble that Owens was able to recover on the drive that put Toledo up 19-13. It would have been a momentum changer if UC could have recovered that one.
The Golden Toe Tony Miliano was good from 40, 37 and 41.
The kickoff strategy was kick the ball short and not to Reedy so he can't return it, instead of Pat O'Donnell booming kicks for touchbacks. His only kick in this game was a touchback. Miliano kicked and kicked short. That strategy saw Toledo start at the 24, 16 (due to penalty), 26, 22, and then Bernard Reedy broke the kick for a score and Pat O'Donnell kicked off the last time. It seemed like a good strategy on paper, but it was a wash the times it didn't backfire on the Bearcats. +10 for smart thinking, Reedy returned 3 of the 6 kickoffs, -1000 for execution.
Bernard Reedy is a player. He has a decent shot of playing on Sundays.
The kick return was a play that gave off the 'oh shit, we aren't gonna win this game' vibe when it happened in real time. It was the reverse of the Vanderbilt game.
To have a reverse of the Vanderbilt game, you have to have a big TD pass. The Bearcats had that with their drive in the 3rd quarter. Munchie was 3-3 for 70 yards. The last was a 25 yard TD to Damon Julian, who went up in double coverage and pulled down the score. It's captured well in this photo.
Damon Julian is a boss.
It's time to accept that the receiving corps is not what we, and Munchie, need it to be. I really like Anthony McClung. I like KT. I like Chisum and Julian and Travis Kelce. The problem is that they are all complimentary guys. If there were a Gilyard or a Binns on this team, they would be great pieces around them. But there isn't. KT seems to always go deep. He had a 33 yard catch. Kelce seems to go over the middle. McClung runs short routes. Chisum/Julian goes short or goes deep. Spreading the ball out is a good thing. It's a smart thing. But it's about time someone steps up and says "Throw me the god damn ball, I'm the effing man." I don't care who it is. Someone needs to do it and now.
Travis Kelce might have laughed all the way down the field on his 46 yard reception after a Toledo linebacker or defensive back thought all it took to take down #18 was a shoulder. No one takes down Travis Kelce with a shoulder.
The Bearcats had runs of 25 and 15 called back because of holding by Thompkins and Kelce. It's not the first time this year that the receivers have held on big running plays.
The offensive line was pretty rock solid. They didn't give up a sack. They had 1 penalty called on them for a personal foul, but that was it. UC averaged 6.6 yards a play. Toledo had no sacks and only 2 hurries. If they needed to, the Bearcats could have gone behind the line every play.
That scoring drive with Julian was the only time in the game Munchie completed 3 passes in a row.
Fun fact. Munchie has started 9 games. He's thrown at least 20 incompletions 3 times.There is also the 19 incomplete pass game against Rutgers that doesn't count. That's not good.
Not to beat up on Munchie too much, but when he is playing like he was on Saturday, Cincinnati is not going to be anyone worth a damn. He played like this against Delaware State and UC was lucky. He might have been 19-42 against Va Tech, but he wasn't throwing careless INTs for touchdowns. The INT in that game was off a tipped pass. The INT at the end of the game was from another stare down. When the horrible announcers on ESPN3 talk about your footwork, that's a sign your footwork really needs to improve. I believe in you, Munchie. Sometimes you don't make it easy.
Thanks to our friend Bearcat Report for this next fun fact, Butch Jones is now 2-11 when trailing after 3 quarters.
Miss you, Walt.
Well, it's time to change focus onto keeping that Keg of Nails. Beat Louisville.
Photos via Cincinnati.com