Cincinnati fans had to stay up late to watch this one, not sure if they’d say it was worth it. Yet another game where Cincinnati leads many important metrics in the box score, and the team comes up short. Scott Satterfield led his team into Provo, Utah Friday night to take on BYU in the first conference match between the two programs. Both were looking for their first conference win. In front of a huge home crowd, Cincinnati committed two very costly turnovers and dropped its third straight game by the score of 35-27.
Turnovers Proved Costly
Starting off the game with a pick-six is not the way the Cincinnati offense scripted it. On a third down on Cincinnati’s first possession, quarterback Emory Jones made a crucial misread of the defense and threw it right to BYU defender Jakob Robinson for a touchdown the other way. When you lose by eight, something like that really haunts you.
The second turnover came at another horrible time for the Bearcats. After two consecutive touchdown drives to start the second half from BYU, Cincinnati responded with a field goal, then a touchdown. They were answering. When the Cincy defense got a stop and forced a punt, veteran wide receiver and punt returner Braden Smith made a crucial mistake. Letting the punt bounce in front of him, then attempting to field it on a bounce over his head. The ball skipped around and BYU recovered on the Cincinnati 15-yard line. Five plays later the Cougars punched it in and extended the lead to 35-20. A deficit the Bearcats couldn’t overcome.
Checking the Numbers
Cincinnati again dominated time of possession and total plays ran in this one. In the first half, the Bearcats held the ball for 22 out of 30 minutes. Yet, they still trailed at half. Watching the game, Cincinnati mostly looked good in the first half. Outside of the first-possession pick-six, they were seemingly in complete control. The deficit at halftime was due to a three-play, 86-yard touchdown drive in the last 36 seconds of the half from BYU. This was allowed by huge chunk plays against the soft coverage of UC and penalties. It was a momentum shift that BYU carried into the second half.
The Bearcats finished with just under 500 total yards in this one. They had a whopping 242 on the ground, and 256 in the air. They ran it for more, they threw it for more, they had the ball more, but it wasn’t enough. Cincy even mightily improved on third down this week. Cincinnati was 50% (nine-of-18) in this contest compared to 20% (three-of-15) last week against Oklahoma.
The Run Game
For the defensive side, the Bearcats stuffed the Cougars rushing attack. Dontay Corleone and company held BYU to just 70 yards on the ground and an impressive two-and-a-half yards per rush. On offense, Cincinnati ran it very well. Corey Kiner looked swift and elusive in the first half especially. He finished with 19 carries and 77 yards with 14 or so of those carries coming in the first half. Quarterback Jones was the Cats’ leading rusher.
In the preview, we mentioned that it would be nice to see Jones’ dual-threat ability put to use. Some read options and other designed runs would benefit the offense. We did see a good bit of this. The broadcast eluded to the fact that Satterfield mentioned he wanted to keep the playbook limited and simplified for the short week. This is likely why we saw more of Jones’ legs put to work. But he looked good running it, finishing with 94 yards.
The run game was up to par on both sides of the ball for the Bearcats against the Cougars, this is why they dominated time of possession and plays ran.
Important Takeaways From the Game
Jones’ Struggles Continue
Jones struggled again with his accuracy. The deep shots just aren’t working for the most part. We did see some designed rollouts and RPOs, but Jones’ accuracy on the run was poor as well. He missed a few guys on important plays. He did finish with 256 yards and three touchdowns. However, Jones was well south of 200 yards before a late, meaningless 80-yard touchdown drive for the Bearcats. The early interception erases a lot of the good in his stat line.
Some Bearcats fans are fed up with Jones’ play, but it is not time to give up on him and assume that there is a better option behind him. Jones has flashed in a great way at times this year. It sort of seemed like the coaching staff played a bit more to his strengths Friday night with more designed runs and quick passes. If Jones can slow himself down, process better, and be more patient, he can turn things around.
Zero Sack Night for the Defense
Defensive coordinator Bryan Brown did order some pressure a decent amount in the game, but the back end could not hold up. Playing man-to-man defense with no help over the top is not working out for the Bearcats. This was evident last week against Oklahoma, and Brown had to shift away from these play calls even further in this one.
Corleone, Eric Phillips, and Jowon Briggs all had stout nights against the run game. The defense had seven total tackles for loss but wasn’t able to bring down the quarterback once. BYU got it out quickly on pass plays and trusted its receivers against the Cincinnati secondary. It worked out for the Cougars.
Cincinnati gets to enjoy next weekend off as the bye week seemingly comes at a great time. After starting off the year 2-0, then dropping three straight including two at home, a re-set is needed. This was a tough one for Cincinnati, it was always going to be. In a tough environment on a short week, UC wasn’t quite up for the challenge.
The Bearcats are back in action at home on October 14th when the Iowa St. Cyclones come to town. A conference game that is more than winnable after the rocky start to the season for Iowa St. Cincinnati has a lot to work on and figure out over the next two weeks, hope to see an improved version of this team when they take the field next.