An opportunity arises Friday for the struggling Bearcats offense to find itself and gain much needed momentum against Temple.
In frustrating aftermath of the loss in Tampa questions needed to asked and tough answers given along the flight back to Cincinnati. Yet, even on a day where 14 points were given away and the offensive line struggled to keep Brendon Kay not only upright but breathing, a bit of a breakthrough occurred.
Under the guidance of personnel changes and urgency an offense which went scoreless in six of the previous eight quarters against FBS competition showed a burst of potential that nearly salvaged last Saturday.
UC ran off three consecutive double-digit play drives for a total of 214 yards, two of which ended in touchdowns. Confidence, precision and purpose entered the equation consistently for the first time since the opener against Purdue.
Those drives may go down as a late, failed comeback in the grand scheme of a frustrating season or could be viewed as the jumping off point of an offense finding itself. Friday night against Temple will go a long way to directing the pendulum.
"We started flowing," said Kay. "Started doing what we can do, what we are capable of doing. We just have to continue that onto this week and the rest of the season."
The flow stemmed from nobody in red and black halting it. Kay credited spreading the ball and tempo for the difference late in the game.
On half of the first eight drives of the USF game a turnover or missed field goal killed any momentum. When not acting as their own worst enemy, the Bearcats offense can be pretty spectacular. Case in point the conclusion of Saturday's game.
"I don't want to say we gave it away, but we kicked it away," Tommy Tuberville said. "We weren't able to be productive. If you look at our stats and the things that we're doing, it looks like we're playing pretty good football until you get to one area of turnovers and the miscellaneous parts for having turnovers for touchdowns."
UC ranks in the top third of the NCAA in total offense and throwing for 253 yards per game. They rank in the top third in third-down conversion rate and time of possession. Yet, tied for 97th in turnover margin negates them all.
This week arrives a Temple team ranked 122 out of 125 in total yards allowed per game. Every opponent scored at least 22 points. Fordham racked up 520 yards in a 30-29 win against the Owls.
A struggling defense facing the Bearcats inside Nippert Stadium for the first time in a month presents a glaring opportunity for this offense to get well, to transfer the final three drives against USF into a trend and not a blip.
Finding identity and gaining confidence needs to happen now because the offensive road grows more challenging the rest of the season.
Here are the current total defense rankings of the remaining opponents:
- UConn: 52
- Memphis: 15
- SMU: 101
- Rutgers: 51
- Houston: 74
- Louisville: 3
Not exactly the '85 Bears, but the time is now to start the ball rolling if momentum is going to carry this team in the conference title picture.
"We have to be a lot more productive and consistent at moving the ball down the field on long drives and scoring on long drives," Tuberville said. "You like to score in four or five plays, but there's going to be some games where you are going to have to make 8-12 play drives and punch the ball in the end zone and keep you're defense off the field. This hasn't been the fact in the last few games."
I want to hear from you! Shoot any comments, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.