Houston we do not have a problem. The Cats began the fourth quarter up 35-17 after controlling the entire game. Two Cougar touchdowns shortened the lead to 38-31 with 5:27 left. The Cougars forced a punt on the Bearcats’ next drive, and went down the field to the UC 11-yard line. The game ended on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-one.
Gunner Kiel looked terrific in the first half, going 15/24 for 190 yards and two TDs. Gunner sat out the entire second half due to leg cramps, placing the game in the hands of Munchie Legaux.
In a storybook ending to #4’s career, Munchie led the Cats to a W, going 10/14 for 158 yards and added a few scrambles. Munchie said “to go out and help our team win a conference championship, it means a lot.” “The story has been the same for me all year: You’re going to get your opportunities and when you do, go out and make the most of it.” And that he did, each and every time. Enough cannot be said for Munchie as an all-around team player.
Mike Boone and Rob Moore split carries, averaging five yards a carry. Boone carried the rock 17 times for 85 yards and three TDs. Boone is the first Bearcat to run for three scores in a game since George Winn in 2012.
Defensively speaking, the Bearcats forced a turnover and held Houston out of the end zone on the final game-tying drive. They managed to contain both Cougar running backs, who each had a TD and totaled 222 yards. However, the Houston running game still averaged 7.5 yards a carry. The UC secondary also gave up 360 yards to Greg Ward, Jr., a very subpar quarterback. Houston racked up 564 total yards to UC’s 500. Houston also converted nearly 50% of their third down opportunities. On the bright side, UC was only penalized once for 10 yards. The defense has been much improved recently, but today I did have nightmares of the Miami (FL) and OSU performances.
The year started rough,” said linebacker Nick Temple. “As a defense, we didn’t know what identity we had. It went up and down.” “We finally got it together midway through the season.” “The defense started rocking and here it is, a conference championship.”
As we discussed earlier this week, Cincinnati needed to avoid turning the ball over. The Bearcats actually ended Houston’s run of having at least one turnover in 34 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation! Hats off to the coaching staff for putting together a heck of a game plan and executing it.
This is now the Cats’ seventh win in a row, and fifth conference title in the last seven years. That is pure dominance and consistency. In the words of coach Tubbs, “seven straight wins to win a conference, and knowing we had to win them all.” “It’s hard to win a championship in college football.” After starting 2-3, finishing 9-3 with an AAC title is a great accomplishment for the program.
Gunner ended his first season as the Cats QB with 30 touchdown passes, one shy of the school record, despite missing bits and pieces of several games this year with bruised ribs and cramps.
Bearcats Nation will know its bowl destination by Sunday night. Both coach Tubbs and myself are rooting for “somewhere warm,” likely in Florida.
On a side note, five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson was in attendance at this game. I hope his experience, along with his friendship with current UC running back Mike Boone, lead him to Clifton next year. CeCe would be the first ever five-star Bearcat recruit if that happens.
By Andy Smith (Staff Writer)