The Opposition: Bearcats present experienced quarterback, strong defense

When Cincinnati makes its way to BBVA Compass stadium for a contest with UH, third place in the American Athletic Conference is on the line. The winner places itself in better bowl position as the season begins to wind down.  Sports editor and football beat writer for the News Record, Joshua Miller discusses the Bearcats’ defense and depth of skill position players with The Daily Cougar.

The Daily Cougar: UH is averaging 35 points per game and looks to spread teams out and attack the middle of defenses with its inside receivers, but Cincinnati is the eighth ranked defense in the nation. Does Cincinnati have linebackers and nickle corners that can cover UH running backs and receivers across the middle?

Joshua Miller: In terms of coverage, Cincinnati has a very deep defensive backfield, with as many as seven or eight different guys that have proven to be capable defenders. But like you referenced, I think UH could hurt UC with some linebacker coverage matchups. Linebackers Jeff Luc and Greg Blair are solid defenders — outstanding against the run — but they aren’t as stout in pass defense.

TDC: Who are a few of the difference makers on the Bearcats’ offense and defense that could challenge UH?

JM: Offensively, UC’s slot receiver combination of Shaq Washington and Anthony McClung has been giving defenses fits. It’s tough to contain UC’s offense with them on opposite sides of the field and that has taken up enough attention to allow for the emergence of Mekale McKay, who had three touchdowns against Rutgers last week.

TDC: Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay threw for more than 400 yards and had four touchdowns against Rutgers. What skill set does he bring to the table?

JM: With Brendon Kay, you have a quarterback that is willing to go out there and take a beating for a win. I don’t think he has played a game in his entire career when he was 100 percent healthy, but has managed to stay out there this season and he’s second in the country in completion percentage. So he’s extremely accurate and, with his shoulder continuing to get healthier, his arm strength is looking better every week.

TDC: One of the strengths of UH’s defense is the ability to cause turnovers, even on the road. Is taking care of the football a strength of Cincinnati?

JM: I certainly wouldn’t say it’s been a strength. By no means does UC have a turnover problem, but in both of their losses this season they lost the turnover battle. For the season, UC’s turnover margin is negative four, so that’s certainly not a stat a head coach wants to see.

TDC: UH’s freshman quarterback John O’Korn has a strong arm that allows the offense to vertically attack defenses. Is Cincinnati good at limiting big plays?

JM: I would say that UC has done a very good job of limiting big plays, especially against Rutgers, who lives and dies on big plays — they certainly died by them last week.

TDC: Prediction?

JM: UC 34, Houston 31.

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