It only took 2 offensive series before coach Luke Fickell replaced QB Hayden Moore with Redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder for the Bearcats. Ridder is a former 3-star recruit for the Bearcats. After taking over for Moore, he led the Bearcats to a surprising upset victory of UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Ridder only threw for 100 yards and rushed for 63 yards that game, but that was enough to push them pass the Bruins. Ridder has gone on to throw for 618 yards and 6 TDs.
This Cincinnati team isn’t all about Ridder though, Sophomore RB Michael Warren II has been phenomenal this season, rushing for 435 yards and 8 TDs. Including a 3-TD performance against the Bruins. He is putting up these numbers as the bell cow RB for the team. Fellow sophomore RB Gerrid Doaks has been sidelined all season with a groin injury. Doaks rushed for 513 yards last season with a 5.9 ypc clip. When Doaks is able to get back, him and Warren II will be a two-headed monster in the backfield. The offensive line is huge. With only one guy returning from last years starting group. A fun fact about this group is that they have a former professional hockey player starting. Morgan James played minor league hockey, and had the role of “enforcer” on the teams he played for.
The Bearcats are firing on all cylinders this season, as the defense has been playing well also. They are giving up 13.5 points per game and only 274.5 yards per game. They have caused 5 turnovers and went on a stretch of 7 quarters of shut-out football. The defensive line was expected to be one of the top in their conference and have lived up to it. Last year their sack leader only had 3.5 sacks. Well Cortez Broughton matched that in the 1st game of the season! James Wiggins has also been a leader for this team on the field. He intercepted a pass to seal the comeback against Ohio, and laid the wood against Miami (OH). He has 17 tackles and 2 INTs so far this season.
The Young Bearcats
This football team is young, the roster consists of a nice 69% of players that are freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or sophomores. They are one of the top 5 youngest football teams in the country, and they are coming off their best recruitment season ever. Coach Fickell has this team doing a full 180 from last season and the Tuberville era.
This team has beaten a UCLA team that was favored by -15.5, a Miami (OH) team that was favored by -3, and overcame a 21-0 deficit against Ohio University. While these aren’t the most impressive teams, nobody thought this Bearcats team would be 4-0 headed into Storrs to play UCONN. Many thought they would be 2-2 at best, but more than likely 1-3. They are young, hungry, and ready to play.
I’m not saying this team is going to the CFB Playoff. I’m not even saying this team goes undefeated, but they are a team to keep an eye on throughout the season. They have tough games later on in the season. Mainly against Navy, USF, and @UCF (the defending national champions). The Bearcats like to pound the ball and tire out your defense, then they strike for big plays. On the defensive side of the ball they are suffocating and hard hitting.
This team is young and will be making noise for years to come. Coach Fickell is turning this program around quicker than expected.