In a thrilling way to cap 2018, the Cincinnati Bearcats held off Virginia Tech to win the 2018 Military Bowl by a score of 35-31. This game was a perfect ending to a storied season led by second-year Head Coach Luke Fickell. After a disastrous 4-8 campaign in 2017, the Bearcats came out and shocked the college football world this season by going 11-2. Those 11 wins ended up being the second most from an American Conference team and the most the program has seen since 2009.
When freshman phenom Desmond Ridder went down with an injury in the first quarter, senior quarterback Hayden Moore got one last chance to make his mark in a Bearcat uniform, and that he did. While you can knock Moore’s inaccuracy against VT, you have to give the kid a lot of credit for stepping up at the time he did and playing his heart out, not to mention scoring late in the game on one of the most impressive quarterback runs I’ve ever seen. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve bashed Hayden Moore a lot in the past few years. Since his disappointing sophomore season, he’s been a frustrating player to watch, but with the way he handled this year’s quarterback situation, he definitely deserved to go out the way he did.
With Hayden Moore’s heroics headlining this year’s Military Bowl, it’s pretty easy to forget that Michael Warren II ended up having one of the best games of his career, and was even named Military Bowl MVP. Warren II ended up rushing for a career high 166 yards and two touchdowns, one of which put the Bearcats on top for good. Freshman Charles McClelland also played a pretty major role in the win, starting the game off with a 38-yard touchdown reception that tied the game at 7.
On the opposite end, the defense had a rough start, but ended up bearing down when Cincinnati needed it the most. This definitely wasn’t a game where the defense shined from the first to the final whistle, but the mere fact that they made plays when the game was on the line makes this game stand out as a huge game on the defensive end. Between the strip sack from Malik Clements that gave the Bearcats life and yet another game sealing interception from James Wiggins, fans will definitely remember this one for huge plays on both sides of the ball.
2018 was a great year to be a Bearcat fan. Between a second consecutive 30-win season on the basketball court and a huge comeback year for Luke Fickell and company, I don’t think I can remember a year in which Cincinnati sports were so dominant. The 2018 Military Bowl was an ending that just felt right. Winning in the way they did almost felt like it was destined to happen. While last year was definitely something special, with so much returning talent, many see an even bigger year looming ahead in Clifton.