Perfect Cincinnati Bearcats Pull Away Late, Earn Bowl Eligibilty Against Tulane

The Cincinnati Bearcats defeated Tulane 37-21 to remain perfect on the season. The win moves the Bearcats’ record to 6-0 for the first time since 2009 in Brian Kelly’s final season before moving on to Notre Dame.

UC finished 12-0 that season before losing the Sugar Bowl with Jeff Quinn at the helm. The Bearcats became 2018’s second bowl eligible team as 6-0 Alabama’s game finished first.

The Difference Between Perfection and Frustration

Tulane and Cincinnati matched up evenly throughout the 1st half, with only a couple plays separating the teams.

Tulane remained within one score of Cincinnati for much of the 1st half. In a game that featured unique back-and-forth game situations, two plays demonstrated why UC is perfect and Tulane continues to disappoint.

Ahead 7-3 in the 2nd quarter, Cincinnati and Tulane traded 60+ yard punts before UC running back Michael Warren broke Tulane arm tackles for an 81-yard TD run to go up 10-7.

After the teams traded 3 consecutive turnovers-on-downs at midfield, UC faced another 4th down situation within field goal range. Lining up to go for it, Tulane was flagged for an illegal substitution giving the Bearcats a 1st down. On the next play, Desmond Ridder connected with Kahlil Lewis for a 25-yard TD to go up 17-10.

After the TD, the PA guy might have trolled Tulane by playing “Halftime” by the Ying Yang Twins, a special song for many New Orleanians.

In any case, Tulane’s special teams and offense stood up and got crunk on the next drive to pull within one score for the last time in the game.

Cincinnati’s Defense vs. Tulane’s QB Choice

A quick look at the box score suggests (correctly) that Cincinnati’s defense dominated. Tulane perhaps aided the Bearcats with their curious choice to rotate QBs in the first half.

Tulane QB Jonathan Banks started the game poorly, throwing 1-4 for 29 yards. Down 3-0, the Green Wave substituted in Justin McMillan, who led the Wave on a 7-play, 75-yard TD drive. After getting a decent kickoff return on their next possession and needing to answer an 81-yard TD, Tulane ran out Banks instead of McMillan. The drive stalled with a turnover-on-downs at midfield.

Banks did not return to the game, seen without his helmet throughout the 2nd half.

Cincinnati’s defense performed well, getting pressure without having to blitz much. One has to wonder what Tulane’s offense would have looked like if they had stuck with McMillan early on.

Cincy Special (Teams)

UC DE Ethan Tucky broke through Tulane’s punt coverage in the 3rd quarter to block Cincinnati’s first punt in 10 years. UC scored a TD on the next play to effectively put away Tulane. Ridder connected with Lewis for the 2nd time in the game.

Head coach Luke Fickell said Tucky described the moment as the best of his life. “It was, like, surreal in a sense,” Tucky added.

The team lined up in a coverage formation instead of a block formation, according to Fickell. He added that there’s nothing he saw in game tape but coached all out effort, which paid off for UC.

Frustrating Finish

For most of the 2nd half, Cincinnati couldn’t close the door on Tulane. Tulane couldn’t climb back in the game either. From the beginning of the 3rd quarter to the middle of the 4th quarter, both teams traded possessions.

Both teams traded turnovers on catch-fumble-recoveries.

Both teams muffed punts with UC losing one.

Multiple 3-and-outs littered the 3rd quarter.

Time seemed to slow down until the first 4th down conversion by UC to begin the 4th quarter, which was promptly followed up by a Tulane interception.

Fickell lamented the fact that UC couldn’t close out the game. He began his post-game comments saying, “We couldn’t quite put that thing away, couldn’t even relax those last 6 to 8 minutes.”

Looking Ahead

UC: The Bearcats get a break next week and prepare for a trip to a sold Temple team on Oct. 20th. Fickell said he hasn’t discussed the 6-0 record with the team and doesn’t want them to be satisfied in any way.

Tulane: The Green Wave also get a break to prepare to host SMU on Oct. 20th. Bowl eligibility looks beyond the reach of the Wave as they face a couple of the league’s best teams in the second half of the season.

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