After an epic first half performance last Saturday at Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats head out west to OKLAHOMA! to take on the Golden Hurricane (7 PM ESPNU). The first match-up in our AAC Farewell Tour takes the Bearcats to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with another AAC Championship on their mind. Can the Hurricane slow down the Bearcat offense? Or will the Bearcats blow through H.A. Chapman Stadium and level Tulsa?
Emotionally Exhausted Hoosiers
— Justin H (@Captain_Cincy) September 24, 2022
The Bearcats came out, guns blazing, against the Hoosiers racing to a 38-10 half time lead. Ben Bryant threw for 314 yards and a team record 4 TD in the first half, but the Bearcats rushing attack was shut down aside from a late rushing TD from Corey Kiner. WR Tyler Scott (AAC Offensive Player of the Week) finished the game with 185 yards and 3 TDs becoming the first Bearcat to have back to back 100 yard receiving games since Chris Moore. After a fast start by the Bearcats offense, scoring 31 points in the first half and getting an immediate fumble recovery TD to end the half up 38-10, the Bearcats could only muster 7 points in the second half against an Indiana team that focused 100% on shutting down the Bearcats rushing attack. Indiana loaded the box in an attempt to disrupt the Bearcats offense, but they “F’d around and found out” in the first half. This Bearcats team has yet to put together a complete game offensively, aside from Kennesaw State. They might need it against Tulsa this week, who has a potent passing attack.
Connor Bazelak on digesting a 104-snap game at Cincinnati: "It's definitely a lot of film to watch, that's for sure. I just think we kind of beat ourselves."
Cites penalties, missed throws, the empty drive inside the Cincinnati 10. #iufb
— Zach Osterman (@ZachOsterman) September 26, 2022
Bazelak, who currently leads the country in passing attempts per game (50.5) threw 66 (team record) times against the Bearcats, completing only 33 of those passes, 31 to Indiana and 2 to the Bearcats. It’s hard to stomach someone saying they beat themselves when they walk out with a 21 point loss and gave up 38 points in a half, but Indiana was “emotionally exhausted” after playing 3 close games to start the season. RB Shaun Shivers was Indiana’s best player rushing 19 times for 79 yards and a TD and adding 5 receptions for 22 yards and a TD. Cam Camper gained 126 yards on 10 catches, but didn’t see pay dirt as the Bearcats managed to keep him out of the end zone. Overall, the Bearcats did a good job shutting down the Hoosier running attack, limiting them to a total of 68 yards (after sacks against Bazelak count). Defensively, allowing 280 yards on 66 passing attempts is also a good day for the Blackcats as they played over 100 snaps. LB Ivan Pace Jr. (Bednarik Award National Player of the Week, AAC Defensive Player of the Week) finished the game with 15 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 3 QB hurries. Pace leads the country in Tackles for Loss, and is Top 10 in Tackles and Sacks. He’s also trending towards a team record in tackles (186 Mike Brookins, 1979). Pace has been a huge addition to this Blackcats defense.
Last year’s game against Tulsa knotted up the series 17-17-2, with the winner of this game likely taking the series lead long into the future, as these teams are not likely to meet anytime soon. Bad blood between the two started in the 2020 season, when the Bearcats had a rash of COVID-19 cancellations, leading the Tulsa team to say the Bearcats “Didn’t want that smoke.” After ultimately defeating them in the 2020 AAC Championship Game, and last season at Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats head west to H.A. Chapman Stadium, in a game Tulsa has had circled for years.
After a visit by College Gameday, The Golden Hurricane had the Bearcats on their heels at the end of last year’s match up. The Bearcats held a 28-20 lead, but the Bearcats had to successfully stop Tulsa on 8 straight red zone plays to continue their march towards the Cotton Bowl.
Tulsa marched down the Red Zone, turning the ball over on downs on the 2 yard line with little time to spare, but Desmond Ridder immediately turned the ball back over on the 2 yard line to give Tulsa another shot to tie the game. 4 more successful goal line stands against Tulsa led to a forced fumble by Darrian Beavers recovered by Jabari Taylor and a victory by Cincinnati. Tulsa QB Davis Bryn threw for 160 yards and 1 TD, but the Bearcats got gashed on the ground for 297 yards, allowing 2 100 yard rushers in Shamari Brooks and Anthony Watkins. Fortunately, for the Bearcats, neither of those players are on the Tulsa roster.
A Different Tulsa
This year’s Tulsa team has changed drastically from last season, as they graduated 2 offensive linemen to the NFL and Shamari Brooks, a 1000 yard rusher also graduated. They’ve changed to an explosive passing attack with Davis Brin as one of the elite passers in the nation. He’s currently 4th in the NCAA with 1318 passing yards, despite not playing in the second half last week against Ole Miss. He also has 12 Passing TDs to go along with only 1 Interception. Brin has been Questionable all week and if he does play, I look for the Bearcats to attack hard and early to get him uncomfortable on an injured leg. His back-up, Braylon Braxton is a much different player, more of a dual threat, running type QB, who has 7 rushes for 68 yards, but only completed 50% of his passes for 109 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT on the season. If Brin can’t go, I think we see a heavy dose of the run again, with Ivan Pace Jr in charge of containing Braxton. Tulsa has a pair of explosive WR in Keylon Stokes (31 rec for 507 yards, 3 TDs) and JuanCarlos Santana (18 receptions, 381 yards, 4 TDs) that are going to be limited if Braxton takes the start.
Defensively, Tulsa has been pretty bad against the run (#114, allowing 196.2 yards a game), but pretty stout against the pass (#31, 189.0 yards a game). However, their last two games they’ve played against teams that have been very run heavy and haven’t faced a QB the caliber of Ben Bryant. If the Bearcats can get their rushing attack going, it could be a long day for the Golden Hurricane. I think the Bearcats put together their first complete game offensively in Tulsa. I also hope and assume Brin does play. The spread is 9.5 points in favor of the Bearcats and I just can’t see a way it doesn’t get blown out of the water.
Bearcats – 45
Golden Hurricane – 24