Remember all those preseason predictions and polls pitting UC against Memphis in the first ever AAC championship game in December? Yeah, last Thursday night was a big deal – an important road test for the sputtering Bearcats. A test UC didn’t exactly pass with flying colors.
Hayden Moore was forced into action last week against AAC rival Memphis in the second quarter when Gunner Kiel went down with a brutal blow to the head and upper body on a routine quarterback keeper. Just the week before Hayden Moore rallied the Cats to victory over Miami (OH) 37-33 after Gunner took a late hit to the shoulder. Sure, UC was favored by 20, had won the last 9 games against its little brother RedHawks, but this wasn’t the same Miami team. Miami played with a vengeance and had every right to win that game based on UC’s game management. It wasn’t pretty, but Hayden came in, rallied the troops, and got the W. But now, where are we? And who is Hayden?
As you know, UC was favored to coast to an AAC championship and possibly get a New Year’s Day bowl bid…with a healthy Gunner Kiel…and assuming the defense was passable. Those preseason predictions, however, are not reflective of present realities, and have created burdensome expectations.
After escaping Oxford, Ohio with a win, us fans got a hint of what redshirt freshman Moore, who has never started a collegiate game, is capable of. Most assumed he was supposed to sit his first three years on campus behind do-everything, all-star, 5-star, former #1 QB recruit Gunner Kiel, right? He was supposed to get the Aaron Rodger’s (Favre-back-up) treatment, not the treatment any number of Browns quarterbacks experience, right? WRONG!
Last Thursday, against the then 3-0 Memphis Tigers, Hayden got the call again. What did he do? HE BROKE 9 SCHOOL RECORDS, went 31-53, threw for 557 yards, and had 4 TDs. UC lost, but not because of Hayden. Moore literally did everything we could possibly ask from him and more.
During Tuesday’s press conference, when asked about Hayden’s performance, Tubs said “I’m still amazed. In three quarters he did that. I was proud. I talked to him on the sideline and when I went over to him after the second drive and he’s smiling and grinning and I’m thinking: This kid has lost his mind.”
#8 Hayden Moore is calm, cool, and collected. He throws a good ball, loves the deep routes, and can run. In his limited action, the Moore-to-Morrison connection is developing and is fun to watch. Remember Friday Night Lights? Dillon Panthers all-star QB Jason Street goes down and none other than backup Matt Saracen comes in to save the season. The current UC quarterback situation is indeed reminiscent of this fantastic TV series, albeit without Buddy or Lyla Garrity.
UC stands at 2-2, but there is plenty of room to still salvage this season and have an even better result than last year. Tubs has made it clear Gunner is the best quarterback on this team and will not lose his starting position due to injury. During his extended absence and recovery, it appears we are in good hands. Here is a little more background on this talented, young QB.
Be sure to tune into ESPN Thursday night at 7:30 pm EDT when the Bearcats take on the Miami Hurricanes at Nippert. The game is the first blackout under the Under Armour era. President Ono is giving away 6,000 “the ruckus” T-shirts to the students beginning at 5:30 pm EDT. These things run $30 retail so show up! This is an hour earlier than the gates normally open. Oh, and UC is finally breaking out the much loved all black uniforms.
Hayden beat one Miami this year. Can he make it two?
By Andy Smith