Junior quarterback Gunner Kiel, who will start for the Bearcats for the second straight season, says he has seen marked improvement in the UC defense during training camp.
UC was voted by American Athletic Conference media to win the 2015 league title, with Kiel and a potent offense the main reason. The 31 passing touchdowns tied a school record. “We had a schedule that was horrific in terms of not playing really until around the first of October and we still won the championship, so I’m proud of that team to go through what they went through past year to sacrifice for what we’re sitting and standing in today”. I don’t expect the Bearcats to have any difficulty with Alabama A&M, but we’ll see how they hold up after this Saturday’s home opener.
“I threw a lot of picks past year”, Kiel said.
Kiel made the soaked student section happy by completing all five of his passes in Cincinnati’s opening drive, including a 6-yard TD pass. The Bearcats bogged down with Kiel’s fumble and a blocked punt. “I need to do a better job of controlling the ball. At the same time I need to do a better job of keeping myself safe, not getting those late hits, not getting injured”.
The Bearcats return three running backs, their top seven receivers and an experienced line, so a lot of the focus is going to be on Kiel making good decisions.
Kiel, listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, has gained about seven pounds since a year ago and said he is in better condition. Kiel is the first quarterback in UC history to throw for four or more touchdowns in three consecutive games. “But in the eyes of a head coach and an offensive coordinator, there was a lot out there that he could have really improved on”.
“We want to get him in there as early as possible”, Tuberville said. Tuberville says two years of recruiting by his staff has increased the talent level, particularly on defense, which was a weakness for much of last season, but which promises to be better this fall.
“For the first four games, we were bad”, Tuberville said. The seats are close to the field, providing a much more intimate – and potentially louder – setting than at Paul Brown Stadium.
“That was kind of rough, honestly, ” said Kiel, who never had to sit out a weather delay. After a a few miscues in the run game that failed to produce big yards, Kiel found Holton in the endzone for a quick-strike touchdown to put the Cats up, 7-0. “It feels like past year at this time, when I was waking up every day with pregame jitters and asking guys what it’s like to play a college game”.
UC has played football on the Nippert site since 1901, according to the Nippert history page on GoBearcats site.
“I’m really looking forward to it”.