Austin Peay 2017
The Luke Fickell era officially started at the University of Cincinnati as the Bearcats left the practice field behind taking to the Nippert Stadium turf for an actual game against Austin Peay in front of a reported 30,831 fans who were looking to erase last season from their memory welcoming in all that is new within the program.
A young upstart head coach looking to bring excitement in all phases of the game, fans watched early as things didn’t always go as scripted.
However, when the dust settled, Fickell and his staff walked off the field with their first victory as a staff having defeated the Governors 26-14. While a victory, some left wondering just how good of a win it was as the Ohio Valley Conference foe has struggled the past few years.
Early on the game had many thinking they were watching the Bearcats season opener from a season ago. However, Fickell knew his team needed to face some failures along with success to get a true sense of where they are and where they need to go.
Both teams failed to put points on the scoreboard in the first quarter. And things didn’t look too good for the home team on offense, in what Fickell described as some chaos. While fans may not have enjoyed the early struggles, Fickell was given a chance to see how his staff and players responded.
Like watching a small child take their first steps, the Bearcats slowly started to gain confidence and swagger on defense before quarterback Hayden Moore started to settle down. In the end, Moore would complete 17-of-28 passes for 151-yards and three touchdowns. While the numbers may not have been earth shaking, Moore did show more maturity ending the game without throwing an interception and providing leadership coaches expect to see from a player in the position to lead a team.
Moore shared the wealth hitting six different targets on the night. Leading the way was Thomas Geddis (4 receptions/48 yards/ 1 TD) and Kahlil Lewis (4 receptions/41 yards/ 1 TD). However, not lost was the effort of running back Mike Boone. The senior averaged 5.3 yards per carry and ended the night with 100 yards gained to go with one score behind an offensive line that didn’t give up a sack on the night.
On defense, Malik Clements led all Bearcats with 18 total tackles while Perry Young posted 17 and Jaylyin Minor had 10. Tyrell Gilbert posted an early sack and Bryan Wright showed his athletic ability from the defensive line with the Bearcats only interception on the night.
The game wasn’t a blowout as fans expected, but in the end, Fickell saw his team reach back and grow as things got a little chaotic at different stretches.
Watch Luke Fickell’s comments following the Bearcats win in the video above.