Get to Know: Cincinnati

How good are the Cincinnati Bearcats? It’s a little tough to tell. Due to an oddity in their scheduling, they started their season with two bye weeks and have only played Mid American Conference opponents Toledo and Miami since.

That means their opponents have a combined record of 2-6. The Bearcats have barely even faced a top-100 defense.* (Cincinnati is 99th in points against.)

Still, it’s fair to say Cincinnati has at least managed a passing grade…as in they pass well and pass a lot.

Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel is 10th nationally in pass efficiency, completing 50 of his 76 attempts so far this season, and he has already thrown 10 touchdown passes. Against Toledo, he became the first ever player to throw 6 touchdown passes in an FBS debut. Six TDs also tied the school record held by Tony Pike (2009).

And Kiel will spread it around. He’s used 12 different receivers, while 7 different players have caught touchdown passes. (Ohio State’s numbers through 3 games, by comparison, are 11 and 5.)

Leading the way is 6’6″ junior Mekale McKay, who averages 17.9 yards/catch and 31.4 yards each on his ten career touchdown grabs. As if that wasn’t enough, the Bearcats also have 5’9″ Maple Heights, Ohio native Shaq Washington, who was the team’s most prolific receiver in 2013. In fact, his 78 receptions last year was good for the fifth best season in Cincinnati history.

When they do rush it, Cincinnati’s top option is Hosey Williams, who was the team’s leading runner a season ago and continues to pace the team this year.

Even though they returned eight starters, the Bearcats defense has struggled, giving up nearly 464 yards every time out, but when they need a defensive stand most, they tend to get it.

Consider that they kept Miami from scoring despite the Redhawks having a first-and-goal from the one-yard line with minutes to go Saturday. That helps contribute to the fact that the Bearcats are ranked 5th nationally in red zone defense, giving up just 3 touchdowns the 9 times their opponents made it within the 20.

Plus, Cincinnati leads the nation in averaging 5.5 sacks per game. Getting into the opponent’s backfield most frequently with 2.5 sacks to his credit is 6’5″ defensive end Brad Harrah, and not far behind him with 2.0 sacks is fellow defensive end Terrell Hartsfield.

The club’s leading tackler overall is also one of Cincinnati’s 20 transfer students. Jeff Luc was a Florida State Seminole before joining UC, and now the linebacker has 30 tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss just two games into his senior season.

As you’d expect from a team that gives up a lot of yards, though, the Bearcats have struggled to get teams off the field on third down. They’re ranked 113th nationally in that category.

Tackling issues have spilled over to their kick return defense (80th nationally) and punt return defense (109th nationally).

Cincinnati’s kicker is 2/2 this season. However, Andrew Gantz hasn’t been called on much, and his long is from 34 yards out.

Finally, the Bearcats are coached by Tommy Tuberville, who is 2-0 all time against Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.

*Yes, Cincinnati does have something to do with that.

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