Cincinnati (0-0, 0-0 AAC)
7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12
Paul Brown Stadium
It’s Week No. 3 for most teams – unless you are the Cincinnati Bearcats, who finally open up their 2014 season by hosting the Toledo Rockets.
Hopefully, Rocket fans know to set their navigational tools on Paul Brown Stadium as a destination. They may be sorely disappointed if they don’t, because Cincinnati’s normal home – Nippert Stadium – is undergoing renovation. Hence, the Bearcats are playing at PBS – home of the Cincinnati Bengals – this season.
The Bearcats are coming off a 9-4 (6-2 AAC) campaign in 2013 and, despite some significant personnel losses, returns 16 starters. Cincinnati was picked as a favorite to win the conference title this year.
The UC starting quarterback spot remained a question heading into fall as senior Munchie Legaux and talented transfer Gunner Kiel battled for the nod. It looks like Kiel will get the call, but either one would likely fare well in the spot. Legaux was a starter until he suffered a season-ending leg injury last year.
Kiel is the nephew former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback Blair Kiel. Gunner was a hot prospect coming out of high school (No. 1 QB in nation/Rivals). He elected to attend Notre Dame, but after redshirting as a true freshman, he elected to transfer to Cincinnati.
Kiel sat out one year per NCAA regulations, but quickly showed his worth with a solid showing in the spring game.
The Bearcats receiving Corps includes Mekale McKay, Max Morrison, Shaq Washington and Chris Moore. Washington led UC in catches (78) and totaled 783 yards for the season. Moore (45 catches) and Morrison (29 catches) were also among the ‘Cats top four receivers in 2013. Moore’s nine TD receptions led the unit.
Senior Hosey Williams (5-9, 199) is back after leading UC rushers with 655 yards on 115 attempts (5.7 ypc). Tion Green (6-0, 220, Jr) gives the offense a bit more size. He registered seven touchdowns to lead the backfield unit and was third on the team with 435 yards on 91 carries.
Cincinnati’s defensive unit was particularly impressive in 2013, allowing 21 ppg (14th nationally) and ranking ninth in total defense.
Senior linebacker Nick Temple (5-10, 218) was second on the team with 80 stops, including a team-high 13.5 TFL with 5.5 sacks last year.
Jeff Luc is also a returning strength at linebacker. The senior had 43 stops with 6.5 TFL in 2013.
Veteran placekicker Tony Milano struggled at times on FG attempts last year. It was part of a special teams unit that hopes to improve in 2014.
The Rockets are trying to bounce back from a disappointing 49-24 loss to No. 24 Missouri. The Tigers bolted out to a 35-7 lead midway through the third quarter before UT’s offense put a pair of TDs on the board – both on short runs by Kareem Hunt.
The 5-11, 215-pound sophomore totaled 148 yards on 15 carries (9.9 ypc) with three touchdowns.
Toledo totaled 410 yards for the day, including 256 through the air as Phillipy Ely completed 17 of 34 (204 yards) and Logan Woodside connected on 6 of 10 (52 yards).
Alonzo Russell’s six catches for 89 yards led a list of nine Rockets with at least one catch.
Jordan Haden and Chris Dukes each recorded one interception, with Haden returning his 26 yards.