The University of Cincinnati football team has some similarities to Rodney Dangerfield - they get no respect from the football pundits, at least going into the season. The "woe is them" birds had the Bearcats in the middle of the top fifty teams nationwide since they lost their starting QB and star RB. On offense add in the fact that the OL returned just one full-time starter at guard. The defense lost two starting line men including the leader in sacks. Throw in losing a standout MLB and starting DB and, as one respected preseason report stated: "Cincinnati is riddled with question marks . . . ."
With a 5-0 record and currently ranked in the top 25 of all four major polls including #18 in the Coaches Poll, it seems Head Coach Butch Jones has more than a few answers.
Bearcats on Offense
Let's start with that "questionable" offensive line. Standout LG Austen Bujnoch anchors an OL that leads the Big East in rushing with nearly 221 yards per game. The Rockets are racking up close to 190 yards on the ground. Losing a running back, who was the Big East offensive player of the year, to the NFL hasn't been a problem to date.
The Bearcats' running attack is led by big, strong and fast RB George Winn (5'11", 210#) Winn is averaging 6.4 ypc and 104 yards per game. Spelling Winn is RB Jameel Poteat (5'10", 215#) who is averaging 4.1 ypc. For a change of pace, the 'Cats bring in Ralph David Abernathy IV (5'7", 161#) - you should recognize his famous grandfather's association with our civil rights. RDA IV or Cuatro, as UC fans call him, is amassing yardage at 5.2 yards per tote. He has both speed - he's the fastest Bearcat - and quick cutback ability. And then there's the team's second leading rusher, QB Munchie Legaux with a 5.7 ypc average.
In fairness to the woesayers, there are issues with Legaux' play. He has a tendency to overthrow receivers and miss with touch passes, often using less than perfect footwork. These have translated into a completion percentage of less than 57%. Still he is throwing for more than 241 yards per game with 11 TDs with just three INTs.
What he is doing is controlling the game by his deft ability to conceal the ball in play option plays fooling defenses and camera operators. He possesses superb scrambling abilities making him a DC's nightmare similar to NIU's Jordan Lynch only taller at 6'5". Near the goal line, the Bearcats insert converted LB Jordan Luallen (6'3", 222#) to run the wildcat similar to Jordan Lynch on uppers.
Nearly 77% of Legaux' passes have been caught by a handful of receivers each with 10 or more catches. WR Kenbrell Thompkins leads with 16 receptions followed by RDA IV with 15. WRs Damon Julian and Anthony McClung have a dozen receptions each. Tight end Travis Kelce (6'6", 260#) and WR Danny Milligan have 10 and seven catches respectively and two TD catches each. Abernathy leads with three touchdown grabs including a team long 76-yard reception.
Similar to the Rockets play, the Bearcats are balanced in their rushing to passing ratio. To date, they have scored 11 TDs both rushing and passing.
Bearcats on Defense
Cincinnati's rush defense, like last year, is stout allowing less than 102 yards per game and less than 4 yards per carry. This unit is close to seven TFL and is averaging three sacks per game.
The Bearcats employ a three-man defensive front augmented by one, two or three line backers/linemen who rarely settle into a static alignment. They resemble popcorn approaching the two-minute mark in a microwave.
Dan Glordano, tops in QB hurries, and John Williams, a CMU transfer, are standouts on the D-line. LBs Greg Blair, Maalik Boma, Walter Stewart and Nick Temple are all over the place. Blair and Bomar rank 1,2 in total tackles. Stewart leads in TFL and sacks.
UC's secondary is allowing a bit more than 250 ypg via the air but just one TD pass per game on average. When receptions are made, the Bearcats defensive backs close in a hurry. They will be the best coverage group the Rockets have faced since the opener in Tucson. DBs Deven Drane and Camerron Cheatham have combined for three INTs, six pass break ups, and nine pass deflections. Each has a pick-six.
Bearcats on Special Teams
Place kicker Tony Millano has connected on six on nine field goal attempts making every kick from inside the thirty-yard line. He is 23 of 24 in PATs.
Pat O'Donnell handles the punting averaging 43.4 ypp with nearly a quarter of his punts travelling more than 50 yards. Seven of his 17 punts have been returned for a 6.7-yard return average. About two-thirds of his kickoffs go for touchbacks. When they are returned, UC coverage team keeps opponents within the 25-yard line on average.
Kickoff and punt return duties have been handled by RD Abernathy and Anthony McClung. Danny Milligan has returned three punts for an amazing 20.7 ypr including a punt return for a TD Saturday against Fordham. This may be a question for Coach Jones as to who will be handling punts in the Glass Bowl. It appears he has two good choices. No questions about who will back for the Bearcats on kickoffs. RDA IV is averaging more than 29 yards per kickoff return.
Special teams play certainly is not a question mark for Coach Jones.
What to Look For:
Offensive fire works from #1 on both teams, Reedy and Abernathy.
Battle royal between Rockets OL and Bearcats defensive front.
Most of the scoring to happen in the second half.
The Rockets offense to employ more quick tempo snaps than normal.
Half a dozen penalties for each team.
The Rockets to use the pass to set up the run.
The Bearcats to have more sacks than the Rockets.
Multiple field goal attempts by both teams.
The Rockets defensive play to resemble the Western Michigan and Bowling Green games more so than the Eastern game.
Number 10 to run from the wildcat position on both teams, with the Rockets also using #22 in the same formation.
Both teams looking to limit #1 in returning punts.
A sold out Glass Bowl with a large contingent of black and red fans from Cincinnati.