In what has been an unbelievable season in 2018, a year where many had predicted the Bearcats would squeak into a bowl game, Friday was the cherry on top. After being completely embarrassed at ECU last season, UC gave the Pirates a taste of their own medicine in a 56-6 blowout win.
The stars were out early in Nippert Stadium, but it came from a few unlikely players. Michael Warren II, Rashad Medaris, and Chris Ferguson were all ruled out for the game, but that didn’t seem to stop the Cats from steamrolling the Pirates after a humbling loss at UCF the week before.
Kahlil Lewis celebrated his senior day on Friday at Nippert Stadium, and boy, did he go out with a bang. Lewis hauled in three touchdowns to go along with his 203 receiving yards. After a slow start to begin the season, Lewis has picked it up and has provided crucial leadership to a young team.
The most surprising performance from the game came from freshman cornerback Arquon Bush, a kid who has seen very limited playing time in a talented secondary. Bush capitalized on his opportunity as he snagged two interceptions, one being a 36 yard pick-6, and recovered a fumble. He was a welcomed sight for many as he also deflected two passes and created havoc for the ECU quarterbacks.
Yet again, the two freshman running backs made the most out of their opportunities as Michael Warren II sat out after suffering shoulder soreness against UCF. McClelland showed speed and quickness as he rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown while adding 30 yards through the air. Thomas received the majority of the carries as he tallied up 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mike Denbrock will have plenty of talent to use in his schemes as each running back brings a unique feature to the table.
On a Senior day special, Marquise Copeland and Cortez Broughton both had exceptional games, combining for five tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries. The presence of Copeland and Broughton will be missed as they brought leadership and excitement to the field.
Desmond Ridder exposed the Pirates secondary as if he was playing against a JV team, throwing for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Josiah Deguara finally picked up some slack as he recorded 64 receiving yards and a touchdown while Jayshon Jackson added his own touchdown and 42 yards through air. Cam Jefferies also made the game a nightmare for the quarterbacks of ECU as he hauled in an interception and recovered a fumble to go along with his three tackles and two passes deflected.
In what has been a remarkable season, this team has blown expectations out of the water. Luke Fickell has done nothing short of a tremendous job in turning this program around, but he’ll be looked at closely by other schools during this year’s coaching carousel. The Bearcats still have one more game to play, but I don’t think any school would want to face this team.