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Bearcats Official Site: Previewing The Matchup: Cincinnati vs. USF

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KOCH: Previewing The Matchup: Cincinnati vs. USF

Sept. 30, 2016


By Bill Koch

CINCINNATI – The first four games of the 2016 season have provided the University of Cincinnati football team with plenty of good, meaty motivational angles.

In game two at Purdue, there was a chance to knock off a Big Ten team on the road, which the Bearcats did. The following week UC got a shot on national television at No. 6 Houston in its American Athletic Conference opener, but fell, 40-16. And last week it was Miami and the Victory Bell rivalry, with the Bearcats winning for the 11th straight time.

UC (3-1 overall, 0-1 in the AAC) will play South Florida (3-1, 0-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Nippert Stadium and again there’s built-in motivation for the Bearcats, who will try to atone for last year’s 65-27 loss to the Bulls in Tampa.

But in the big picture, the revenge factor pales in comparison to what’s really at stake. If the Bearcats lose to USF, they’ll be looking at an 0-2 record out of the gate in conference play with both losses coming at home. That would be a tough hole to climb out of for a team that has aspirations of playing in the AAC title game in December.

USF was picked to win the AAC’s East Division title in the preseason media poll. The Bearcats were picked to finish third.

“This will be one of the better teams that we’ll play the rest of the year,” said UC coach Tommy Tuberville. “We’re gonna have to play much better than we have in the past. We rallied against Houston (for three quarters). We just didn’t finish the game. We’re gonna have to do the same thing here, but we’re gonna have to play four quarters instead of three.”

It remains to be seen who will start at quarterback for the Bearcats. Hayden Moore, who started the first three games, was held out last week with a sprained ankle. Tuberville said Moore was moving around better this week, but if he can’t go, UC will likely turn to redshirt freshman Ross Trail, who made his first start last week against Miami and is considered a more mobile quarterback than Moore.


USF started its season with three straight wins over Towson, Northern Illinois and Syracuse before getting its comeuppance last week in the form of a 65-35 loss to No. 14 Florida State.

The Bulls have a powerful offense that has averaged 46 points and 501 yards per game, with 257 of those yards coming on the ground. Like Houston with Greg Ward Jr., USF features a speedy, athletic quarterback in Quinton Flowers, who can hurt a defense with his arm and his legs. Flowers ranks fourth in the AAC in rushing with 77.2 yards per game an average gain of 6.3 yards. He’s sixth in passing with an average of 219 yards per game and eight touchdown passes against three interceptions.

“He’s kind of like they have a 12th and 13th guy on the field sometimes,” Tuberville said. “Their offense is really spread out, but it’s more run-oriented (than Houston’s) . They do throw the ball, but when they do they stretch the field and throw it deep down the field. They’ve got athletes all over the field. This is a typical Florida team that has a lot of skill guys at each position, a lot of speed.”

Flowers and Ward are part of the new trend among college football teams that favor quarterbacks with speed and athleticism over the traditional mold of a drop-back passer.

“It’s run first and pass second, and they’re teaching them to throw,” Tuberville said. “That’s kind of evolving up to our level. It’s very hard to defend these guys because of their running ability. Last week against Florida State, with a very good defense, I think Flowers ran for 175 yards (actually 159)."

UC hasn’t totally bought into the latest trend. At least not yet.

“We want to stay much more intact at this point with the quarterbacks that we recruited with a little bit more of a pro style,” Tuberville said. “You saw Ross Trail last week and one of the reasons he played was because he can run the ball. It gives us that extra dimension. We haven’t had that. Sometimes you have to have a quarterback make something out of nothing. Even the drop-back guy, you want more of a Ross Trail. He’s not gonna be a flashy runner, but he can run. He can make a play. He’s 4.6 (in the 40) on a good day.”

In addition to Flowers, the UC defense, which has allowed 131 rushing yards per game, will have to contend with running back Marlon Mack, who averages 7.2 yards per carry. The Bulls’ attack was too much to handle last year for the Bearcats, who were simply overwhelmed.

“Everybody who played in that game last year,” said running back Tion Green, “we know what we did wrong. We just have to fix it.”

No doubt USF knows what the Bearcats will be feeling when they take the field Saturday. But the Bulls are just as upset about the way they were pushed around last week by Florida State.

“I’m sure they’ll be ready to play,” USF coach Willie Taggart said of the UC players. “We were hitting on all cylinders (last year) and it went well for us. But this year is a new year and we’re playing up there. I know they’ll be ready for us, but our guys will be ready for them as well. Our guys don’t like losing. They’re used to winning. They’re ticked off after last week.”

Bill Koch covered UC athletics for 27 years – 15 at The Cincinnati Post and 12 at The Cincinnati Enquirer – before joining the staff of Go.Bearcats.com in January, 2015.

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Someone really should tell Bill that the final score in the FSU-USF game was 55-35, not 65-35. #Basics

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Bill Koch covered UC athletics for 27 years – 15 at The Cincinnati Post and 12 at The Cincinnati Enquirer

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