Another year, another loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Battle for the Victory Bell. For the Miami RedHawks, the 35-13 defeat showed numerous things that they have to clean if they are to salvage the 2019 campaign.
The offense had its opportunities to keep Miami competitive in this game, but it’s hard to win when you go 4-14 on third down, 0-1 on fourth down, 1-3 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and lose a fumble on a drive that probably ends in points. The defense didn’t help Miami’s case as a pair of fourth down conversions by UC led to touchdowns and the Bearcats got their last three touchdowns off of splash plays. Miami has to be better on critical downs if it’s going to be competitive in MAC play.
For the first time in a Iong time, Miami lost the field position advantage on special teams. UC held the edge in both the return game (+5.7 yards on punts per return and +2.2 yards per return on kickoffs) and the coverage game (+0.9 net yards on punt and 2.5 net yards on kickoff). The ‘Hawks can’t afford to let teams like UC have the field position advantage (the ‘Cats average start was their 33-yard line, Miami’s was its own 26-yard line) and this phase of the game needs cleaned up ahead of conference play.
Take the Training Wheels Off
With the game being what it was, there’s no reason why Brett Gabbert should’ve had only 18 passing attempts in the game. The ground game didn’t do much to protect him as the backs rushed for 97 yards on 27 carries, and Gabbert wasn’t having a bad day with 143 yards on ten completions. I understand wanting to protect your true freshman QB for conference play (especially after taking four sacks) but at some point, you have to let your QB have the chance to win a game for you. If you’re not going to let him do that, then there’s no reason to have him out there in the first place.
Although the end of the game wasn’t a good reflection of defensive play, Miami didn’t exactly play poorly in that phase. In most cases, you would be excited about a team that had ten TFLs, five pass break-ups, four sacks, and an interception. Kameron Butler was a pleasant surprise with two sacks and four TFLs of his own. However, the big plays and the inability to get off the field on key downs has to be a huge area of concern going forward.
Rock and a Hard Place
With the loss to UC, it just got a lot harder for Miami to make the postseason. Unless something completely bonkers happens this coming Saturday at Ohio State, the ‘Hawks will open MAC play with a 1-3 record (with that one win coming from a FCS team). The good news is that no one in the MAC has looked unbeatable to this point and that Miami has typically played better as the season goes on. If Miami is able to enter MAC play healthy and has corrected some of its mistake, the ceiling is still high for this team in 2019.