The Cincinnati Bearcats will be happy with a 58-34 victory over the Toledo Rockets to open the season, but Tommy Tuberville‘s squad can’t be content with the team’s overall play.
The Bearcats’ offense was spectacular at points under the direction of quarterback Gunner Kiel. The sophomore signal caller tied a Cincinnati record with six passing touchdowns in his debut. Kiel also threw for 418 yards.
Gunner Kiel’s 6 passing TD are the most by any FBS player in his career debut. #TOLvsCIN
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 13, 2014
Kiel, a former five-star recruit, exceeded expectations, but he had plenty of talent around him to keep the offensive moving. Kiel repeatedly challenged the Rockets’ defense with deep passes. More often than not, the Bearcats’ receivers came down with a reception. Ten different receivers caught a pass during the contest. Junior Mekale McKay led all receivers with 175 receiving.
But all the positives for Cincinnati came from the offensive side of the ball. The Bearcats’ defense had plenty of trouble stopping the Rockets’ spread offense.
Cincinnati was complacent after a strong start and a 41-14 lead at halftime. From the end of the second quarter to start of the fourth quarter, Toledo scored 27 unanswered points to pull within one score.
Toledo moved the ball at will. The Rockets accumulated an impressive 563 yards of offense. The Rockets were able to gain 240 yards on the ground, and the number may have been higher if running back Kareem Hunt was able to play and produce in the second half. Hunt finished the contest with 12 hard-fought carries for 101 yards.
Cincinnati also struggled when the Rockets were able to stretch the field horizontally and complete passes on the edges of the defense. Tuberville’s secondary and linebackers didn’t rally to the football and were gashed by the Rockets.
Complacency, poor defense and lackluster effort are not associated with teams considered the favorites to claim a conference championship. Cincinnati may have been voted the preseason favorite to win the American, but Friday’s performance showed they have a long way to go at least on one side of the ball.
With the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Miami Hurricanes on the docket in the next month, Tuberville must have his team prepared to play on both sides of the ball. Otherwise, the Bearcats dreams of an American Athletic Conference championship and a College Football Playoff appearance are nothing more than pipe dreams.