While it appeared we improved in some areas, we lost the game and at the end of the day, that is all that matters. This was not a moral victory and we can and should do better. I certainly expect better. I am very disappointed in this coaching staff and some of the players performances on Friday night.
All that being said, there is no way in hell that Bill Stewart should be fired at the end of the season. Dave Johnson on the other hand is (hopefully) already on the way out [ed. -- this is on my Christmas list]. If anyone knows a good Realtor, he will be needing help very soon.
With that said, on to the grades...
Jarrett Brown and Ryan Clarke: A JB was under constant pressure the entire game, but kept his cool and delivered some big plays. He kept a lot of busted plays alive with his feet and delivered the ball when he got a couple seconds to throw. Unfortunately, that wasn't too often. He seems to be (finally) fully recovered from the concussion and ready to lead this team to potential wins over Pitt and Rutgers to finish the season.
While the Cincy D bottled up Noel Devine, Ryan Clarke lowered his head and ran for some tough yards Friday night. His emergence this season has helped to fix the huge problem we had on third and short a year ago. Does he remind anyone else of Robert Waker? If he does, shouldn't the new Robert Walker get the ball more?
Offensive Line: F They were a huge concern coming into the season and seem to have negatively surpassed those (lack of) expectations recently. Early in the season, JB's ability to escape pressure and Noel's ability to make people miss masked the fact that our O-Line thinks it is illegal to block. They are just not giving us a chance to win games, plain and simple. Dave Johnson has not earned the right to keep his job.
Defense: C+ The middle of the field was open all game and I am really surprised Brian Kelly did not exploit it play after play. I don't know if it is the scheme or lack of field presence, but our LB's never seem to get enough depth when playing zone coverage over the middle.
Casteel, how can you continue to call blitzes up the middle when they are running to the outside on every play? In years past, we saw more blitzes from our spur and bandit positions which brought pressure off the corner and would've been perfect to get a stop against the run.
Special Teams: C- It would've moved up to a damn B, despite the terrible kick-off team, if HCBS would've let Tyler Bitancurt make that field goal.
Coaching: D Why not let him attempt that field goal? Is it easier to make a field goal or recover an onside kick? HCBS tried to exhibit the killer instinct that many were calling for after the USF game. Unfortunately, he exhibited it before the opponent was even close to stunned. It was like trying an uppercut in Punch Out before your opponent was wobbling. You just don't do it.
Replay Official: F With the angle of the camera, the fact that the ball appeared to be moving when Pead began to stretch it out and the reaction of Cincy players, that call could not be overturned by a sober person. Not one Cincy player signaled touchdown including Pead. With all the grades being so poor, the last thing we needed was the officials to screw us, and screw us they did.
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So what do you think? Are the grades too low? Too high? Do Bill Stewart's struggles put more of a microscope on every decision he makes? Let us know in the comments.