When Luke Fickell was announced as the new head football coach at the University of Cincinnati, many were questioning the decision as other coaches seemed more flashy. If only the fans knew what was to follow, but it didn’t always start out pretty.
The fan base could feel the excitement as a new era was beginning with Hayden Moore leading the Cats yet again. It was imminent after the first game that Moore was not the future as he only completed 56% of his passes on the season. He had stellar performances against SMU and Navy, but costly turnovers lost both games and frustration began to grow. Many had wondered where Moore’s form had gone from his freshmen year, but it was clear he was not the same quarterback.
Even though Moore has suffered another down year, that didn’t stop Kahlil Lewis from making big plays. Lewis to Moore was the most fun duo on the field as Lewis would haul in seven touchdown receptions during the course of the season. Lewis would even lead the Bearcats with 676 receiving yards in a year where many had high expectations for Devin Gray. It was clear that Lewis had big play potential and would serve as a heavy leader for next year’s squad.
Many would argue that beating Miami (OH) was the greatest win in 2017, which is in large part to Malik Clements. In his breakout season, he tallied up 60 tackles and, as mentioned before, a game-winning pick-6. While Clements was breaking out, Kevin Mouhon was having another stellar season on the front line as he recorded two sacks and seven tackles for loss. Cortez Broughton, however, had a rough season as he had very high expectations, only tallying 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Tyrell Gilbert improved on his sophomore season as he recorded two forced fumbles and added a sack as well. The defense did not have a stellar season by any means, but the talent was imminent across the field.
After several different blowouts during the 2017 season, fans had grown impatient by the rebuild and questioned if Fickell was the right guy. Boy, did he prove them wrong.
A year in which most starting offensive lineman had graduated, Fickell turned to his star senior, Garrett Campbell. Campbell was a local kid (St. Xavier High School) who was playing in his sixth year at UC. He was a true leader as he moved to center in 2018 and was named one out of four captains on the team. To go along with Campbell, Chris Ferguson, Dino Boyd and Ohio State transfer Kyle Trout stepped in to take control of the front lines. In a season where the offensive line looked as the most questionable position, the seniors have taken excellent control in creating holes and stopping pressure.
Hayden Moore came into the spring knowing he had the job, but RS freshman Desmond Ridder battled Moore for the starting spot. There was no news on who would start, but everyone expected Moore to come out for the first series. Sure enough, Moore came trotting on the field, but after two mediocre series on offense, he was benched. No one could’ve predicted what would happen next as Ridder would lead the Bearcats the rest of the season. Moore ended up seeing action in games this season, even throwing a touchdown pass during the Navy game and running for a touchdown against UCONN. Moore has come a long way since 2015, and even though it might not have gone the way he wanted it to, he played a crucial part in both Tuberville’s and Fickell’s offense.
Kahlil Lewis continues to have a great season, but struggled early trying to get separation and create big plays. As a leader in the wideout position, Lewis’ tenacity and leadership skills will be truly missed as he has been a reliable target for several different quarterbacks during his time in Cincinnati.
The defense has been the key to Cincinnati’s success this year, and that can be in large part to the seniors up front. Cortez Broughton has made life scary for opposing quarterbacks and Marquise Copeland has been his right hand man as the Bearcats have allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the AAC. Kimoni Fitz has been a welcomed surprise by many as he has had a breakout season, recording 4.5 sacks to go along with his nine tackles for loss. Tyrell Gilbert has flowered into a leader as he is the only senior in the secondary, and it has shown on the stat sheet as he has seven pass deflections and two turnovers to his name. Malik Clements has been as solid as ever in his safety/linebacker position, but it’s sad to see Kevin Mouhon go after a rough senior season in which many had predicted a breakout year.
It’s sad to see so many old faces leave a program, but they deserve our full attention this Friday as they have been the leaders in this rebuild.
Thank you Hayden Moore, Kahlil Lewis, Tyrell Gilbert, Malik Clements, Cortez Broughton, Chris Ferguson, Garrett Campbell, Dino Boyd, Keith Minor, Kyle Trout, Kimoni Fitz, Kevin Mouhon, Tinashe Bere, Marquise Copeland, and Chris Murphy for all of your hard work and dedication to this program.
Make sure to cheer on the seniors this Friday as they take on ECU and look for their tenth win of the season. Go Bearcats!