After the adventure of a lifetime in Colorado, I’m back and ready for some Bearcat Football! In this article I’ll very briefly touch on the Racers, break down our win in Bloomington and the reddest face I’ve ever see looms on the horizon in South Bend.

Race Day in Indiana

I won’t hit on the Murray State game much, but the Bearcats came out lame against the Racers and needed a half time ass chewing from Desmond Ridder, before coming out to a 42-7 victory.

The Bearcats headed to Bloomington, Indiana against the first ever non-conference sell out crowd and the largest non-conference crowd since 1988, when the Kentucky Wildcats headed to Bloomington to play the Hoosiers. Reports from attendees confirmed this must be rare, as traffic in and out of Bloomington was an absolute nightmare and the stadium completely sold out of bottled water on a hot Summer Saturday. The Hoosier concessionnaires resorted to selling tap water for $5 a glass to the parched Bearcat and Hoosier faithful.

On the field, the Bearcats stumbled out of the gate, trying out a new pre-snap offense that focused on huddling and wristbands with plays, which threw the Bearcats out of sorts. The roar of the Hoosier crowd led to over 5 pre-snap penalties for the ‘Cats in the first half. After 3 embarassing drives, they abandoned their plan and resorted back to the original offense which started to pay dividends late in the 1st half.

Freshman John Williams made a bone headed play late in the 2nd Quarter, when a strip sack on Desmond Ridder hit the turf. Instead of diving on top of the ball, Williams tried to pick up the ball and run, before soon to be ejected Hoosier Micah McFadden knocked the ball out and led to an easy 6 yard Touchdown Drive by Indiana to go up 14-0.

The traveling team had a strong end of the first half, scoring 10 points over the final 5 minutes of the half, heading into the locker room down 10-14.

Indiana and Cincinnati traded blows in the 2nd half, going back and forth, including a 99 yard Tre Tucker kick-off return and a goal-line forced fumble by Darrian Beavers to prevent an Indiana score. The Bearcats boarded the bus out of Bloomington with a 38-24 victory and a week off before a date with the Fighting Irish in South Bend.

Cat-a-holics vs. Catholics

It was a shock to Bearcat faithful, when the Bearcats Athletic Department announced a date against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on April 25th 2019. A dream game for many fans for many reasons, including retribution against former Bearcat Coach Brian Kelly. Storylines are abound for this game, including former player and coach Mike Mickens coaching the Irish Cornerbacks, former Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman accepting the Defensive Coordinator role for the Irish, current Bearcat Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock, a former Notre Dame coordinator, and WR Michael Young who transferred from ND.

The storylines don’t end there. When Notre Dame scheduled this game, they had no idea where Cincinnati would stand as a program. This week Brian Kelly mentioned in his press conference how great of an opportunity it is for the Bearcats to get a shot at the Irish. Little did they know, Cincinnati would be coming in as the higher ranked team in a #7 vs. #9 match-up in which they are currently a 2 point favorite on the road. Notre Dame and Cincinnati haven’t met since a 58-0 blowout in 1900, when Cincinnati wasn’t known as the Bearcats, and Notre Dame wasn’t yet known as the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame has struggled this season, especially last week against Wisconsin, which seems weird when you see the final score was 41-13. Notre Dame actually trailed 13-10 early in the Fourth Quarter, before they ran a kickoff back and forced two pick 6 touchdowns off Wiscy’s QB. The Irish needed overtime to beat an 0-4 Florida State team, scored a TD with 1:09 left to beat a 2-2 Akron Zips team, and beat a 3-1 Purdue team 27-13 in an in-state match-up.

The Irish Offensive Line has lived up to their namesake. They’ve allowed 21 sacks in four games, over 5 per game, which is 128/130 NCAA teams. The Irish allowed 5 sacks in the first half against Wisconsin last week. Their rushing attack ranks 122nd in the NCAA with 80 yards/game. One of the Bearcats biggest strengths is their defensive line, but they’ve struggled to actually generate sacks, as most teams are scheming to get the ball out quickly to neutralize the Blackcats pass rush.

If QB Jack Coan plays (he left last week’s game in the 3rd Quarter with a leg injury), I see the Bearcats getting home and generating some sacks against the Irish QB. Coan lacks the athleticism to escape the pocket once it collapses. Notre Dame’s biggest threat catching the ball is TE Michael Mayer from Covington Catholic High School. Mayer is going to be an early round draft pick when he’s eligible and leads the Irish with 3 TDs and 267 receiving yards. He’s a mismatch nightmare and it’s going to take a strong performance by the Bearcats LB core, especially Darrian Beavers and Deshawn Pace to keep him in check.

Defensively, the Irish have started to settle into Marcus Freeman’s scheme. They took a big step last week against Wisconsin getting 1 sack, forcing 4 interceptions, a fumble and scoring 2 TDs against the Badgers. They haven’t had to face a QB as athletic as Ridder yet this season, and I’m sure Freeman will have them ready for the Bearcats, but Denbrock’s vanilla offense thus far this this season should open up and Ridder should have some more designed runs to keep the Irish defense honest.

QB Desmond Ridder was warned about the crowd noise by his Offensive Coordinator, who spent 7 season in South Bend, but Ridder responded “It shouldn’t be loud for too long”. Ridder, who certainly isn’t shy, provided some bulletin board material for Irish fans, but you have to love the confidence going into the biggest regular season game in his 4 year career. The winningest active QB in college football should be ready for the task after his road warm-up in Bloomington.

Ultimately, both teams are going to need to bring their A-game in South Bend. Any mistakes are going to be amplified in this Top 10 Match-Up. The Blackcats defense is going to be hungry and players like Myjai Sanders (I’m sorry what I said, please un-block me on Twitter) are going to want to make a name for themselves on the big stage. Ridder finally gets his legs going in this match-up to be the x factor the Bearcats need.

Bearcats – 27
Irish – 17

Juncta Juvant

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