University of Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell and his Bearcats were rushing to get to their bus and plane Saturday night after a chippy game. UC’s quarterback Ben Bryant threw two touchdowns; Deshawn Pace returned an interception for another score, and the Cincinnati defense tallied 11 sacks in a 31-21 at Tulsa. The 11 sacks tied an AAC record. It was both the team’s American Athletic Conference opener and the Bearcats last AAC opener before joining the Big 12.
Photo Cred: Cincinnati.com
“Yeah, they picked this for a reason to be a night game, I’m sure, knowing how it’s been the last few years,” Fickell said. “It was a battle, and it didn’t disappoint. But that’s what it’s like in a conference game, and I don’t care what conference you play in. This is Year 6 in this conference, and I’m telling you, it is a battle. And when you go on the road, you better be at your best. I’m not sure we were completely at our best.”
Photo Cred: Cincinnati.com
Stopping the run has been an emphasis for No. 24 Cincinnati. They allowed 36 yards on the ground. The Bearcats (4-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) allowed 149 rushing yards per game last season. After giving up 224 in the opener against Arkansas, they have allowed 78 per game in the four games since.
“We gave up a lot of yards rushing the year before, so our whole emphasis was not to dominate the line of scrimmage, but to control the line of scrimmage,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. “It comes down to our ability to control the line of scrimmage, stop the run game and put ourselves in better situations than we were in the last two years.”
Photo Cred: Gobearcats.com
The Bearcats’ defense will have a tough test again this week against South Florida. The Bulls average 172 rushing yards led by Brian Battie, who has 397 yards and three TDs while averaging 7.7 yards per carry. The Bearcats have won 29 straight at home and 17 consecutive games against AAC opponents. They haven’t lost at home since Temple beat them 35-24 on Nov. 10, 2017. It is the second-longest home winning streak in the nation behind Clemson (37).
Photo Cred: DownTheDrive.com
Their QB play of Cincinnati still needs work. It seems like there is a half of dominance for Ben Bryant and the passing game then a half where things are out of sorts for some reason or another. If you combine the first two halves of the last two games Bryant is 28/40 (70%) for 446 yards and 6td/0int. In contrast to the 2nd halves, he is 11/27 (40.7%) for 74yds and 1TD/2INT.
Photo Cred: Bearcats.com
Ivan Pace Jr is shining since transferring from rival Miami (Ohio). Pace leads the nation in tackles for loss and ranks second in sacks and tackles per game. He is a local product from Colerain High School. A victory over USF would be Fickell’s 53rd at Cincinnati, tying him with Rick Minter for most in program history. Fickell is in his sixth season. It took Minter 10 seasons to reach that total.