A disappointing loss in Orlando has the Bearcats heading back to Nippert Stadium, a 19 game AAC Conference winning streak ended, and the road to the AAC Championship cloudy at best. Will the Bearcats be able to turn the corner this week against the Midshipmen (4:00 ESPNU)? Or will their NY6 Hopes go out to sea?
A Knight to Forget
The Bearcats played one of their most frustrating games of the year last weekend against the Golden Knights. After trailing the entire first half, the Bearcats made two 2nd half comebacks to take the lead, but it was the Knights who took a 25-21 lead with 48 seconds remaining to send the Bearcats back to Cincinnati with their first conference loss since 2019. It was a 19 game streak for the Bearcats snapped by the Knights. Ironically, it was Cincinnati who ended Central Florida’s win streak in 2019, also with 19 straight wins.
The Bearcat offense was largely ineffective for most of the game, managing to get some yards in the passing game from Ben Bryant (25/45 298 yards, 1 TD), however, being totally inept in the rushing game. Had it not been for Ryan Montgomery’s 39 TD run late in the 4th quarter, the Bearcats would have rushed 18 times for 1 yard. A totally inexcusable performance. It’s clear that the changes on offense (Gino Guidugli & Mike Cummings) are causing some growing pains for this offense. A BIG change to the offensive line for this weekend is rumored.
(Credit to Kareem Elgazzar from the Enquirer)
Defensively, the Bearcats played a decent game. QB John Rhys Plumlee f’d around and found out, knocking himself out of the game on a helmet to helmet hit with Ivan Pace Jr. The Bearcats managed to get two fumble recoveries in the Knight Red Zone, which could have had this game out of hand early in the 3rd Quarter. The Knights had success on the ground, rushing for 258 yards and passing for 247. Whatever gameplan the Bearcats had, it clearly didn’t work. A disappointing performance all around has the Bearcats sitting in a 3 way tie for 2nd place in the American, with UCF Controlling its own destiny to the Championship. The Bearcats will have to win out, but with 3/4 games at home in November, don’t count the Cats out, just yet.
You Sunk my Battleship
Last year’s match-up in Annapolis was looking like a blowout late in the 3rd Quarter, as the Bearcats went into the 4th quarter with a 27-10 lead en route to the CFP, but the Midshipmen scored 10 unanswered in the 4th quarter to bring the game within 7. The Bearcats ultimately prevailed 27-20. The Midshipmen chose to not completely rely on their typical Triple Option attack against the Bearcats and had some success catching the Blackcats Defense off guard. Sophomore QB Tai Lavatai threw the ball 15 times (61 total for the 2021 season) and completed 11 (34 total of the 2021 season) for 116 yards, but a costly interception. The Blackcats defense allowed 192 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, a far cry from the 560 yards the Navy had rushing in 2017 against the Bearcats.
Offensively, Desmond Ridder and Josh Whyle were the keys to success in this game, combining for 2 TDs and 60 receiving yards. Could the TEs be a key to the Bearcats winning at Nippert, the last game against Navy before moving to the B12?
In The Navy
This year’s match-up against Navy is the 6th all time meeting between these two storied programs, with Navy leading the series 3-2. The Bearcats will look to even up the series and hightail it away from Navy and their Triple Option Offense as they set sail to the Big 12 in 2023. Navy comes into Nippert Stadium 3-5, with a 3-2 AAC Record, having knocked off East Carolina, Tulsa, and Temple.
Offensively, Navy had a few big performances, scoring 58 against Tulsa, and 34 against SMU, but lost QB Tai Lavatai in last weeks’ game against Temple for the season. Junior QB Xavier Arline is not near the physical speciman as Lavatai, coming in at only 5’9 and 176 lbs. He didn’t complete a pass last week against the Owls, and has completed 11/34 passes for 169 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT in his career. The Bearcats are going to get a HEAVY dose of the run this week and will likely shift from their 3-3-5 base defense to a 4-4 BEAR front to try and slow down the Triple Option. I hate to say it, but this is going to be a frustrating game to watch as Navy pounds the ball for a lot of yards, hopefully stalling out in the Red Zone, as we’ve seen many teams do this season.
Defensively, Navy is awesome against the run, only allowing 92.9 yards per game on the ground, which is good for #8 in the Country. The Bearcats have struggled mightily running the ball this season, and while I don’t think they should completely abandon the run, it might be wise to test Navy’s pass defense (#115). With Lorenz Metz rumored to be starting at RG to try and get the offense back on track, the worry of more false start penalties lingers. The Midshipmen allow 272 yards per game through the air. Navy also allows 25.4 points per game, which is about average in the NCAA. Navy has forced 9 fumbles on the season and recovered all 9 of them, so taking care of the football is going to be important if the Bearcats want to win this game. Bryant to Whyle is looking like a winning connection to this game. Navy lacks the size to cover Whyle and he’s been on a roll the past few weeks as he’s set the record for TE Touchdowns (Brent Celek-14) in a career with 15. The final score is all about how long the defense is going to be on the field, they’ve not shown an ability to be able to get off the field all season, and at this point, we know who they are.
Bearcats – 31