Cincinnati Bearcats: UC shoots for quick start against Temple

Offense slow to get out of the gate

CINCINNATI -- Quarterback Brendon Kay can't figure out why Cincinnati's offense takes so long to get started.

The Bearcats (3-2, 0-1 American Athletic) can't seem to get going when they get onto the field. They've scored only 14 points in the first quarter all season, and all of those came in one game.

That's their biggest concern as they get ready to play Temple (0-5, 0-2) on Friday night at Nippert Stadium. Their penchant for slow starts is costing them.

"We've got to eliminate the turnovers and mistakes, whether it's not being on the same page, me holding the ball or throwing the ball late," Kay said. "Across the board, we've got to get better."

So far, the defense has done its part. The Bearcats rank fourth nationally in yards allowed and will be facing an Owls offense with a new quarterback. Redshirt freshman P.J. Walker will start in place of junior Connor Reilly, who has a lingering knee injury but could play if necessary.

Walker took over during a 30-7 loss to Louisville last week and moved the offense better than Reilly, whose mobility is limited. First-year coach Matt Rhule decided to stick with the freshman against Cincinnati, which has done a good job pressuring quarterbacks.

"We have two guys that can play," Rhule said. "I thought Connor played well early. We just didn't have the protection we needed for him to be successful. P.J. has gotten better over the last four, five weeks. It's time for him to go out and play. Connor just has to wait for his time."

Here's five things to watch on Friday night:

THAT FIRST DRIVE: Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville harped on those slow starts this week, hoping for a better opening against the Owls. The Bearcats have been blanked in four of their five first quarters.

They've had turnovers and penalties and plenty of missed chances to put together a tone-setting drive.

 "We have to start faster on offense because if you look at what we have done, we have started very slow every game offensively," Tuberville said. "We looked at every scenario, and something different happens on each and every drive that we start the game out with. We need to play better at the beginning of the game -- I guess play with more emotion."

CENTER OF ATTENTION: The Bearcats' offensive line struggled so much during a 26-20 loss at South Florida last week that Tuberville switched centers during the game, moving senior Sam Longo over from guard. He practiced at center this week, although Tuberville declined to say whether he would start.

"The offensive line is struggling," Tuberville said. "It's obvious we're not blocking and protecting the way that we should."

FRESHMAN QB: Temple's Reilly has a strong arm, which helped him win the starting job during summer camp. He suffered a knee late in the second game of the season, and Clinton Granger started the third game, a 30-29 loss to Fordham.

Reilly returned for the fourth game -- a 26-24 loss at Idaho -- even though his mobility was still limited. Last week, Walker came in for the third series against Louisville and was better able to elude the rush, so Rhule left him in. Walker was 10 of 19 for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 33 yards.

 "I thought he did some good things," Rhule said. "He's very coachable about what he could have done better on Saturday."

 FIRST AAC WIN FOR ONE OF THEM: The game will represent a first American Athletic Conference win for the Bearcats or the Owls. If Temple wins, it'll be the first win for Rhule as the Owls head coach.

 FLICK TRIBUTE: The Bearcats will have a pregame tribute to freshman offensive lineman Ben Flick, who was killed in a traffic accident on Sept. 21. It's their first home game since the accident. Freshman Mark Barr of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., remains in intensive care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in stable condition.

Freshman receiver Javon Harrison from suburban Dayton was treated and released after the one-vehicle accident as they returned from a game against Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The driver -- an 18-year-old Miami student -- also died.
 

 

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