Better late than never to talk about the Bearcats season opening victory over Pittsburgh. That phrase is kind of dumb. It should be better to talk about it instead of not talking about it. Ok, that was very poorly worded and the actual phrase has me beat. I nearly used the thinking of better late than never to do a play by play recap of the Florida State game since it was the happiest game of the year for us Bearcat fans during the off season, but I did not. Right away we get a 'Cool story, bro.' I waste no time in these opening paragraphs getting you to scroll down. The man has skills.
As always, for good plays and positive points, we use clapping Butch Jones:
For negative comments, sad Butch Jones:
We start with a note about the crowd. Over 33,000 packed Nippert Stadium on Thursday night. It made for a great atmosphere on ESPN. The crowd was loud and invested. Until the end, when all the students left to get wasted. It was exactly what we all hoped for as UC kicked off the season. It's not going to be the same Saturday night when Delaware St rolls into town. It shouldn't be because Delaware St is very bad, the game isn't on ESPN, it's not the season opener and not a lot of people care about games that should be automatic wins. Unless you lose. Then they care an awful lot. The 33,000 on Thursday cared an awful lot about rooting on the Bearcats and it was fun to watch. Good job.
Walter Stewart was amazing. He was all over the Pittsburgh backfield. He got credit for 9 tackles, 2nd most on the team. He had 2 sacks. He had 3.5 tackles for loss. He forced a fumble on one of his sacks that caused a turnover. Walter came on strong the stretch run of last season and he came out stronger against Pitt. He could have a big season this year.
Let's go ahead and credit the rest of the defensive line. Dan Giordano had 9 tackles. He got credit for half a sack. He got a ton of pressure on Tino Sunseri in the form of 3 hurries. John Williams had 1.5 sacks. Brandon Mills got a hurry. Camaron Beard recovered a fumble. Jordan Stepp had a tackle for loss. The front 4 ate Pitt's lunch.
Greg Blair made his first start and boy did he make an impact. He nearly picked off a pass on the opening drive. He chipped in 10 tackles to lead the team. The most important play he made was picking off a Sunseri pass in the end zone on 3rd and goal with UC up 14-0. The Bearcats drove down and scored to put the game essentially out of reach. Big day for GB.
Nick Temple looked pretty impressive in his time out. He only got credit for 5 tackles. One of those was a sack. He made a special teams play. I really like what we saw from Temple.
It wasn't all peaches and ice cream for the defense. They got a lot of pressure and made some plays, but were fortunate with some questionable decision making. It's easy to look at the score and say that Pitt wasn't going to win. Hell, it was easy to look at Pitt and say they weren't going to win. The Panthers blew a couple of red zone trips in the first half that would have completely changed the game. At worse, it could have been 17-6. It should have been 17-10. A horrible holding call on Pitt took a TD off the board. Whatever the hell Sunseri did at the end of the first half took a field goal off the board. The defense was good, but a lot of bend but don't break. Pitt had a late scoring drive yes, but they had 415 yards.
Another game against Pitt, another 100 yard rusher for Pitt. This time it was Ray Graham. He put 103 on the Bearcats in 19 carries, a 5.4 yard average. If he was 100%, his 50 yard run would have been a TD and not a field goal. There weren't a lot of negatives, but this was one.
Missed tackles were also an issue. I'm willing to write this one up to first game of the season mistakes.
First play of the game, George Winn goes 58 yards for a TD. Winn scored a shorter TD later in the game. He had 11 carries for 95 yards and 2 TDs. His career total in TDs coming into the game was 2. Winn got the most carries out of the backfield. He used them very well. The only problem with Winn is that he doesn't have the same flash of home run ability the others have. That's crazy to say since he had the longest run out of the backs, but Winn's other 10 carries went for 37 yards.
If I'm going to hammer Winn for not running extraordinaly well, I should say the same about Jameel Poteat. He busted a 23 yard run. He had 2 yards on his other 7 carries. He averaged 3.1 yards a rush. Not all 3 running backs are going to light up a good opponent during the same game. It happens. Which leads us to...
Ralph David Abernathy IV. What a performance. He was the Bearcats leading receiver with 71 yards. He had 20 rushing yards and 24 return yards for a 115 yard performance. RDA IV was electric on his receptions out of the backfield. He caught 2 TDs. Both were no doubters. He had a 13 yard run. There wasn't anything he didn't do. Kid is going places.
Rece Davis saying RDA 4 like UC fans, including me, haven't been saying it nearly forever and acting like he invented it was a low blow. I'm pretty sure they said it at the Liberty Bowl. Stop trying to be Kenny Maine and just do your best, Rece.
Munchie Legaux was the leading rusher for the Bearcats with 117 yards. He showed his ability to turn the corner and fly with his 77 yard run. He was pretty solid in the air as well. He was 14-28, 205 yards, 2 TDs. Munchie made a lot of plays. For his first start as officially 'The Man' he was exactly what you wanted. He didn't turn the ball over, he made big plays, converted 3rd downs and UC won.
Munchie completed half of his passes, but the 14 he missed, he missed a lot. He was putting the ball into the turf like it was a lawn dart. He put a couple of passes high, but on the boundry so that wasn't bad. There were a lot of people talking about his footwork being off. That's something that can be corrected. Accuracy is a big deal. 50% isn't great.
The receivers didn't really do much outside the the 42 yard catch by Kenbrell Thompkins, which was a great catch. They had some passes thrown low, but they also dropped a couple. Thopmkins had 48 yards, McClung 21, Milligan 16. Alex Chisum hurt his shoulder and only had 1 catch for 7 yards. Nothing to write home about here.
Travis Kelce caught 2 passes for 42 yards. It was his career high in receiving yards. The way he was gashing the Pitt defense, kind of wish he saw more balls his way.
It's rare when Pat O'Donnell isn't the best punter on the field, but he was outshined by Matt Yoklic. 4 of O'Donnell's 7 kickoffs went for touchbacks. It wasn't all bad. He's still good.
The Golden Toe Tony Miliano was 2-2 on field goals. He hit from 46 and 39. He also nailed 4 extra points and 5 coeds after the game.
One of the best moments of the game for me was seeing Soloman Tentman get on the field and immediately make a tackle. Doctors thought he would never play again. He proved them all wrong. His hard work and determination really paid off and payed off well. Congrats, 33.
I thought Arryn Chenault played pretty well. Drew Frey was solid.
The line gave up a sack, but was very solid. UC averaged 8.4 yards a rush, 7.3 yards a passing attempt. UC averaged 7.9 yards a play. The line completely blew out Pitt on the opening TD run. I could have gained 20 yards on that one, and I'm a slow white guy.
Cincinnati is 1-0 and leads the Big East.
Team and Winn photo via Go Bearcats/Lisa Ventre. Other photos via Cincinnati.com