Tony Pike throws a 7 yard completion to Mardy Gilyard, 6 yard completion to Armon Binns, another 6 yard completion to Armon Binns, 9 yard completion to Ben Guidugli, 6 yard rush for Isaiah Peed, 16 yard completion to Mardy Gilyard forcing a Rutgers timeout, 27 yard completion to D.J. Woods, and the drive is capped off by with a 2 yard touchdown run by Isaiah Peed... the season began that quickly. In a mere 2 and half minutes the Bearcats took the opening kickoff and marched 81 yards in 9 plays for a touchdown. If you were expecting rust, or early mistakes, or starting slow you were mistaken. I could not have pictured a more perfect start to a season. Sure a long pass for a touchdown would have been cool, or a Mardy Gilyard kickoff return for a touchdown would have cause the all of us Bearcats that made the trip and those watching from home to go bonkers, but neither would have told us as much about the Bearcat offense as that incredibly quick and yet still 9 play drive. The Bearcats never got less than 6 yards on any play that drive. For me the highlight of the drive was Rutgers burning a timeout because they simply were not ready for the onslaught of offense and the speed of the attack. This was just a pure, methodical drive. It was exactly what this Bearcat offense is about.
The Bearcats went on to run Rutgers out of their newly expanded stadium and then laid 70 on Southeast Missouri State (a team with the worst nickname in sports). It amazes me the complete 180 many in the media have done on Rutgers since that game. Before the game there were a ton of people picking Rutgers to win the league. They were talking about their 7 game winning streak to end the season, their favorable schedule, their talented defense and all the offensive lineman they returned. After the game the general consensus has seemed to become “Rutgers is not that good.”
To me, however, the game said far more about what this Bearcat offense is capable of than it said about Rutgers. I felt going in this would be the best Bearcat offense in my lifetime, now I feel this will be one of the best in the country. The Bearcats went to a hostile environment and looked brilliant. Trust me when I say this these Rutgers fans and players were absolutely stoked for this game. The Bearcats had become a nemesis to the Scarlet Knights and nothing would have made them happier than to take down Cincinnati in their newly expanded stadium. The ability of our no huddle offense to function at that capacity, on the road in front of 60,000 screaming fans was incredibly impressive. It is going to translate well this week at Oregon State.
To me the most exciting part of the offense this year and been the stellar play of the offensive line. Tony Pike has really not been touched. I believe Pike has been sacked one time this season, on a blitz that was not read as a player came untouched. The Bearcat lineman have absolutely been abusing their opponents. They are also getting down field and hitting people on running plays. They have opened up huge holes for both Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Peed. The size, strength, skill and athleticism of these offensive lineman seems to be exactly what Brian Kelly envision when he described what his offense could be as he took over the Bearcats. If the offensive line continues to knock people around like this I expect the offense to continue to dominate all season.
So what does all this mean for the huge match-up this week in Corvallis, Oregon against the Oregon State Beavers?
Bearcat Offense vs. Oregon State Defense:
The Oregon State defense has given up some yards through the air so far this season and they really have not been able to pressure the quarterback. Bare in mind their first two games were against Portland State and UNLV. Now I am sure Mike Reilly was not showing everything in those games, but that has to give the Beavers pause for concern. I really believe the Bearcats will be able to move the ball against Oregon State. The key will be maintaining the efficiency they have shown in the first two weeks. I believe the first team offense has punted 1 time (a three and out last week where the Bearcats dropped two passes), and turned it over one time (the int against Rutgers). Other than that the Bearcats are scoring and scoring touchdowns. If they can continue to play fast and pick up yards in large chunks they are going to force Oregon State to keep up.
Bearcat Defense vs. Oregon State Offense:
To me this is the area where there are still a bunch of unknowns. I was very happy with the Bearcat performance on defense against Rutgers and I did not read much into their performance against Southeast Missouri State. I still think the Bearcat front seven is very good and will cause problems. Brian Kelly's strategy against Rutgers seemed to be to make the Scarlet Knights sustain long drives if they want to score. I believe we will see a similar strategy against the Beavers. The Oregon State offensive line is probably not as good as the Rutgers line so I believe the Bearcats will be able to do the job at the line of scrimmage. Still to slow down Jaquizz Rodgers the Bearcats linebackers and safeties are going to have to fill the gaps and make tackles. Rodgers is not as explosive a back as you expect but he consistently gets solid yardage. Very few teams have slowed him down.
The other key will be that the corners and safeties do not give up big plays to the Oregon State wide receivers. To me this is the way Oregon State can hang around this game. I firmly believe the Oregon State offense is going to have to score 30+ to beat Cincinnati and the only way they are going to do that is by getting some big plays. The Beaver offense has not been nearly as efficient as the Bearcat offense so far this season. UNLV pretty much shut them down in the first half last week. To win the game Cincinnati does not have to shut down Oregon State, instead they need to continue to limit big plays forcing Oregon State to sustain long drives. I do not believe their offense is efficient enough to put up big points that way. Forcing teams to sustain long drives is also how the Bearcats force opponents into into making mistakes and turning the ball over. If the Bearcats win the turnover battle, they are not going to lose this game.
Clearly I think the Bearcats are the better team in this match-up. I do not think the Oregon State defense is going to be able to slow down Cincinnati's fast, efficient spread offense and I think the Bearcat defense will slow down the Beavers enough to create some separation. For Oregon State to win this game I believe they will need some big plays on offense, to protect the ball on offense, and to force the Bearcats into a 2 or 3 turnovers. Playing out in a very hostile environment where the Beavers rarely lost will not be easy, but the Bearcats showed at Rutgers they are more than capable of being efficient on offense despite a hostile crowd. If Oregon State starts as slow as they did against UNLV they will be in for a long day. My prediction is the Bearcats jump them early, give up a few scores, but win going away.