The Cincinnati Bearcats opened the 2019 season with a solid victory over UCLA Thursday night in front of a nearly sold out Nippert Stadium. Despite sloppy play at times, the Bearcats almost doubled the Bruins in yards and time of possession.
In the first half, the Bearcats dominated UCLA but had little to show for it. Overcoming early jitters (4 pre-snap penalties by the O-Line), UC led 10-0 before giving up a huge 75-yard TD pass. Take away that pass and UCLA had 34 yards in the first half. The Bearcats’ D constantly harassed UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
UC’s offense methodically drove down the field several times but failed to convert a 32-yard field goal and threw a ghastly interception on the goal line at the end of the half. Tight End Josiah Deguara chased down Jay Shaw preventing a back-breaking score before the half.
UCLA earned two unsportsmanlike penalties to end the half, the first of which (spinning the ball, how’s that still a penalty?) moved them out of field goal range.
The Bearcats made up for the turnover before half to begin the 3rd quarter. Perry Young intercepted UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Michael Warren then followed with a 12-yard scamper for a TD to put UC ahead 17-7.
In a drive that mirrored UC’s first TD drive, UCLA picked up a big gain and broke through to bring the score within 3.
UC then answered with a well-balanced, 75-yard TD drive fueled by Deguara, Gerrid Doaks, and Warren, who caught a screen pass to move the Bearcats to a 24-14 score.
After driving deep into UCLA territory, the Bearcats turned the ball over on downs. The Bruins drove the length of the field. UC looked to have stopped UCLA on 4th and 2, but an offsides penalty gave the Bruins the 1st down. On 2nd and 10 from the 18, UCLA QB Thompson-Robinson dropped the ball, and Curtis Brooks recovered the fumble, giving the Bearcats the ball and keeping the lead at two scores late in the game.
The Bearcats’ defense locked down the game, sacking Thompson-Robinson on 4th and 10 deep in their own territory.
Cincinnati’s offense is balanced.
The Bearcats defense is fast and physical.
If Cincy can clean up some mistakes and gain experience on the offensive line, the Bearcats could make a serious run.
Of course, UC next faces Ohio State, which should give us a clearer picture of just how good this team is.
UCLA returns home to face San Diego State.
Cincinnati visits Ohio State in a noon match up on ABC.