Okay. Perhaps there is cause for concern in Cincinnati.
Through more than a quarter, the Bearcats made it look as though nothing had changed despite the departure of Brian Kelly, Tony Pike, and Mardy Gilyard. Quarterback Zach Collaros was on point, leading UC to a pair of first-half touchdowns and outgaining Fresno a ridiculous 195 yards to 8. By all appearances, it was just another Bearcat blowout in the making.
But then, midway through the second quarter, something changed. In the sweltering valley heat, the UC offense completely shut down, failing to move the ball for more than 22 minutes as the Bulldogs rebounded to tie the game at halftime.
To an observer, it seemed as though the team simply forgot how to play football.
Fresno QB Ryan Colburn had a career game as the night wore on, ultimately tossing 4 touchdowns in the 28-14 victory.
Cincinnati had several major problems that could not be overcome. First, the offensive drought, spurred by the team’s total inability to mount a rushing attack. UC finished with a grotesque 15 yards on 32 carries, mostly due to ineffective scrambling by the typically reliable Collaros. Tailback Isaiah Pead managed only 36 yards on 10 carries.
Second, the offensive line was in disarray, which led to 8 sacks. 8 sacks against a QB that was one of the game’s most elusive in 2009.
Finally, poor fundamentals– a Collaros fumble led directly to 1 of Fresno’s scores while a missed field goal led directly to another. In short, Cincinnati did too many things poorly.
This was truly a shocking loss because it was never supposed to be a lack of offense that might hold the Bearcats back this season. But the unit looked completely out of sorts after its initial burst. The turnaround was inexplicable; one minute the team was running roughshod over its hosts, the next it barely resembled a football team. It was almost as though someone, somewhere threw a switch and turned off the power.
The defeat capped a confusing and alarming weekend for the Big East conference. Fellow favorites Pitt and UConn also fell on the road, and like UC, UConn was stymied offensively. Louisville was shut down by Kentucky, and overall, the conference went 1-4 against FBS opponents. Only a Syracuse win over Akron prevented a complete failure in week 1.
The Bearcats, Huskies, and Panthers are all expected to compete for the league title, but all now have serious questions to answer. Perhaps Fresno State is simply a lot better than most experts believe, but regardless of how talented this year’s B ulldogs may be, Cincinnati has to get itself together. After enjoying so much success under Brian Kelly, fans won’t tolerate much backsliding.
2010 Schedule (all times Eastern)
9/4 — 10:00pm — Cincinnati @ Fresno State — L 28-14
9/11 — 12:00pm — Indiana State @ Cincinnati –
9/16 — 7:30pm — Cincinnati @ NC State –
9/25 — Time TBD — Oklahoma @ Cincinnati –
10/2 — BYE
10/9 — Time TBD — Miami (OH) @ Cincinnati –
10/15 — 8:00pm — Cincinnati @ Louisville –
10/22 — 8:00pm — South Florida @ Cincinnati –
10/30 — Time TBD — Syracuse @ Cincinnati –
11/6 — BYE
11/13 — Time TBD — Cincinnati @ West Virginia –
11/20 — Time TBD — Rutgers @ Cincinnati –
11/27 — Time TBD — Cincinnati @ UConn –
12/4 — Time TBD — Pitt @ Cincinnati –