Despite losing the Victory Bell to the Cincinnati Bearcats for the 11th straight season, the Miami RedHawks still have things they can build off of as they head into Ohio week. Here are the five big takeaways from Saturday’s match-up in Nippert.
1. Billy Bahl needs to take the next step before Miami can be really good. Despite throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns, Bahl didn’t manage the game well with 13-of-24 pass attempts complete, an interception, and five sacks. Right now, Bahl plays like a true sophomore quarterback; he thinks he can make every throw with his big arm and he doesn’t always get the ball out on time. The only way Miami will be really good is with Bahl playing much more efficient football.
2. The offensive line has a lot of work to do. Although the unit played well against better fronts this season, the OL couldn’t do much of anything against Cincinnati with 2.2 yards per carry and the aforementioned five sacks in Saturday’s game. The line play has been a problem for the RedHawks for a long time, and not all of their problems can be fixed by coaching.
3. James Gardner will be a handful for MAC secondaries. Gardner continued his great start to the 2016 season with six catches for 79 yards and his fifth touchdown of the year. With Rokeem Williams still potentially out this week, Gardner needs to carry the passing attack (which he has done a good job of so far).
4. The defense needs to perform better in the critical situations. UC was able to convert eight-of-16 on third down and scored three touchdowns in six red zone trips. Despite getting two interceptions, the unit didn’t get off the field when it needed to and the Bearcats took advantage of it.
5. The sky isn’t falling. Losing three one-score games isn’t a reason to blow everything up. What Miami needs more than anything is stability right now, and they’re set up to be really good next year and win some games this season. It’s unfortunate that the ‘Hawks haven’t won yet, but there’s a lot of season left and there’s more good than bad with this team as opposed to the other RedHawk teams of the past.