Saturday’s matchup was about as bad as it gets for the Bearcats. After years of waiting, the University of Cincinnati football program finally got the chance to play on a stage that fans and players alike have been itching for.
A few minutes into the game, it looked as if everything had fallen into place. On UCF’s first play from scrimmage, star quarterback McKenzie Milton fumbled the ball in his own end zone, recovered by Cincinnati’s Kimoni Fitz. The very next drive, Milton threw two incompletions, then was sacked by Cortez Broughton resulting in a three-and-out.
From that point on, everything went wrong. Cole Smith missed two field goals, Desmond Ridder fumbled the ball three times, and UCF proceeded to dominate, scoring 35 unanswered points.
Don’t get me wrong, Saturday was awful. The Bearcats had a huge opportunity to win one of the biggest games in program history, which could have led to an American Conference Championship and a New Years’ Six Bowl. When all was said and done, they got embarrassed on national television. However, Bearcat fans should be excited for what lies ahead of the program. This year’s team was one of the youngest rosters in all of college football, and has a chance to win eleven games. This is especially mind-boggling considering the fact that the Bearcats were a few plays away from being 1-11 last season.
On both sides of the ball, the Cats exceeded expectations. In 2017, the Bearcats sat at the bottom of the American Conference in nearly every offensive category. With a redshirt freshman quarterback leading the offense this season, the Bearcats sit at 5th in the American Conference, as of Week 13, in points and yards per game. Along with that, the Bearcats have had their first 1,000+ yard rusher since 2012 in Michael Warren II, who also is tied for 2nd in the FBS in rushing touchdowns with 17.
Defensively, the Bearcats were among some of the top teams in the nation. As of Week 13, they sit at fourteenth in the nation in points per game and tenth in yards per game, topping the AAC in both categories. The defense will most likely retain six starters next season, including the leader in solo tackles (33) and interceptions (3), James Wiggins, and Jarell White, who is second on the team in total tackles (32).
Nearly every position group will retain the majority of their key pieces for the for the 2019 season, and with Fickell bringing in more and more big name recruits to Clifton, the future looks very bright for the program. The Bearcats have shocked many for their play in 2018, and with the way things appear to be headed, next season should be a special one.