Guerin Emig: Cincinnati's home loss to Miami (Ohio) may provide Sooner Nation with a sense of security that may have worn off.
A few hours after Oklahoma polished off Tulsa 66-17 last Saturday, Cincinnati lost at home to Miami (Ohio) 31-24. No doubt Sooner Nation awoke Sunday morning with a sense of security about the following week’s OU-Cincy Big 12 opener.
I wonder if any of that security has worn off since.
A dive into the Bearcats deeper than that final score against Miami reveals they outgained the RedHawks 538-358 and had 30 first downs compared to the RedHawks’ 16. They lost because they scored just one touchdown on five drives inside Miami’s 5-yard line.
OU fans should be aware of that, and of the size and strength of Cincinnati’s offensive and defensive lines, and the danger lurking in Emory Jones, Xzavier Henderson, Corey Kiner and Ryan Montgomery, Cincy’s dual-threat quarterback, go-to receiver and 1-2 punch at running back.
The Sooners are aware.
“It’s gonna be a really strong challenge,” Brent Venables said this week. “They’ve had plenty of really good teams come to their place the last five years and not have success. So we gotta find a way to have the kind of success we need in order to give ourselves a chance to be successful.
Let’s see who that starts with. Might be a bit of a surprise.
One player: OU center Andrew Raym
The anchor of an offensive line that must really knuckle down.
OU’s most reliable mode of offense has been passing. That shouldn’t change here, meaning the Sooners must protect Dillon Gabriel as solidly as they have throughout their 3-0 start.
Don’t expect Cincinnati’s pass rush to be as resistible as Tulsa’s, SMU’s or Arkansas State’s. The Bearcats had 10 sacks over their 2-1 start. They’ll expect more in Big 12 play. Bryan Brown coordinated a Louisville defense that racked up an FBS-high 50 sacks last year. He’s now at Cincy with former Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield.
Raym must coordinate OU’s pass-blocking Saturday, while holding up against Dontay Corleone, Cincinnati’s preseason AP All-American nose tackle. He must be mindful that Appalachian State transfer Troy Everett is likely to start next to him at left guard in place of the injured Savion Byrd.
Nobody singled out Raym this week in Norman, but then what offensive linemen ever get singled out barring holding penalties? The task Saturday belongs to OU’s offensive line.
“There’s still room to improve at every position on our football team. They’re not excluded in that,” Venables said of his O-linemen. “But I like where we’re at right now up front.”
We’ll see if that changes leaving Nippert Stadium.
Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Emory Jones. (Carter Skaggs/The Enquirer / USA TODAY Network)
One problem: Emory Jones can move around
The Cincinnati QB rushed for 101 yards against Miami (Ohio). He ran for two scores while throwing for five more in a 66-13 season-opening stroll over Eastern Kentucky.
Pitt contained Jones in the Bearcats’ 27-21 road victory Sept. 9 (11 carries for 17 yards, 18-of-26 passing for 125 yards), but he has the skill to hurt a defense with his arm and legs.
“He’s a really dangerous player,” Venables said. “The things that he can do and the headaches that he can cause… His ability to improvise is a tough thing to simulate.”
Quarterbacks Cardell Williams and Preston Stone pierced the Sooners the last two Saturdays by evading the rush and making things happen on the run. Jones is just as mobile, and more likely to call his own number in designed QB runs.
One preposterous prediction: OU wins this one on special teams
We’ve barely noticed the Sooners’ kicking game because we haven’t had to. Josh Plaster has punted five times. Zach Schmit has tried two field goals, converting from 21 yards against Arkansas State and 20 against Tulsa.
Cincinnati counters with Mason Fletcher, a preseason All-American punter and the 2022 AAC Special Teams Player of the Year, and Carter Brown, an Arizona State transfer who is 6-of-7 on field goal tries including distances of 46 and 47 yards.
Advantage, Bearcats? Not Saturday.
Plaster flips the field a few times during a lower-scoring game than anticipated, where field position is at a premium. The Sooners move the ball but like Cincinnati last week, they settle for more field goals than touchdowns. Schmit delivers by going 4-for-4.
One pick: OU 26, UC 21