Justin Cashman | Staff Reporter
Last season the Bearcats fell to the South Florida Bulls 33-3 in the midst of a very disappointing season in which they finished with a 4-8 (2-6 AAC) record.
On the other hand, the Bulls finished their 2017 season 10-2 (6-2 AAC) in Charlie Strong’s first season as head coach, after being fired from Texas.
Their record put them second in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) East Division, behind only undefeated Central Florida.
The rhetoric is different, but somewhat similar, coming into this year’s game against South Florida.
Cincinnati is coming into this matchup sitting at 8-1 (4-1 AAC), which puts them in second place in the East behind undefeated UCF, just like South Florida last season.
The Bulls are 7-2 (3-2 AAC) following two straight defeats against Houston and Tulane by a combined 47 points.
“You have to play great in November if you want to championships” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said.
That is exactly what this team looks to do as they chase the goal of becoming AAC Champions in early December.
Fickell believes the Bearcats played “as clean of a game as we’ve played as a team this season”, after beating Navy 42-0 at home this past weekend.
Fickell understands that “you can’t settle for field goals” on drives, and so did the rest of the Bearcats offense as they scored five touchdowns on five straight drives at one point.
Navy came into last Saturday’s matchup against the Bearcats averaging just over 300 rushing yards per game.
The stout Cincinnati defense held the Midshipmen to just 124 yards and held their leading rusher, junior quarterback Zach Abey, to only 37 yards on 1.3 yards per carry.
The only other team to hold Navy to less than 200 yards was the Air Force Falcons when they held them to 129 yards.
The Cincinnati defense will face another great rushing attack this week from USF as their leading rusher, junior running back Jordan Cronkrite, is averaging an outstanding 6.9 yards per carry with seven touchdowns on the season.
The defensive side of the ball for Cincinnati has been picking things up in the late stages of the season, holding their last five opponents to less than 25 points.
Fickell explained “the whole key of the week was to finish defensively to the ball,” and that is exactly what the Bearcats did and have been doing.
Senior defensive tackle Cortez Broughton is one of many key components to the success this defense has been having the past few weeks.
Broughton finished with 10 total tackles against Navy, and his 4.5 sacks on the season puts him at No. 7 on the sack leaderboard in the AAC in 2018.
Fickell praised Broughton for his speech about how thankful he was to the scout team for challenging the first team every single day and just how helpful they have been to everyone on the team.
He wasn’t told to say anything to the scout team by anyone, but it goes to show how good of a teammate and person Broughton is
This late season duel with a very good USF opponent will not be easy as Fickell feels, “Sometimes the toughest thing is not Navy week, but the week after Navy” due to the way in which your defensive scheme needs to be modified before and after playing against a triple-option team like the Midshipmen.
Either way the Bearcats feel as if they are up to the challenge to pull off a home win with the energy of Nippert Stadium’s fans behind them.
The matchup against USF will be on Saturday at 7 p.m., and will be broadcasted on ESPNU.