Cincinnati hopes for faster start on offense

You could say that Cincinnati has been a second half team of late.

The Bearcats have outscored their opponents 59-7 after halftime in their last three games; 39-0 in their last two against Miami (Ohio) and Louisville.

So what does that say about their performance in the first half? Cincinnati has scored 13 points in the first half in its last two games. No doubt Cincinnati would like to get off to a much faster start on offense Saturday against USF.

Coach Butch Jones mentioned an inconsistency on first down in the first half, particularly against Louisville.

"Prior to the last two games we've started fast, but it’s little things that kill drives," Jones said. "A negative yardage play on first-and-10, so now you have second-and-13. You want to be in manageable down and distances. There were way too many third-and-long situations especially starting the game off. This game is played by 11 individuals. To be successful, all 11 have to execute and do their job."

Among the negative plays Cincinnati had against the Cardinals on first down: false-start penalty, sack, and a run for a loss of 2. None of those drives ended in points. Then Zach Collaros threw an interception returned for a touchdown from the Louisville 46 just before halftime.

Cincinnati was able to come back to win 25-16, in large part because of the strong rushing of Isaiah Pead, who had 151 yards and a breakthrough 50-yard running score.

But Jones said that Pead was trying to do too much in the first half as well.

"For the first time, Isaiah was looking for the home run instead of trusting his run reads," Jones said. "I thought we left a lot of yards out there."

In the Miami (Ohio) game the week before, Collaros was 8-of-17 for 82 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in the end zone in the first half. He also lost a fumble on a botched handoff. But in the second half, Collaros was 8-of-13 for 169 yards and the Bearcats easily won 27-0.

No question Cincinnati (5-1) has been much improved this season. Pead has been truly outstanding, and so has the offensive line. Now a little consistency on offense for the entire game would be even better.