Brian Kelly’s former team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, got drilled last night in the Sugar Bowl, losing to a Florida Gators team that could’ve named the score against its out-classed Big East opponent. Whether it was Kelly, interim head coach Jeff Quinn, or the ghosts of Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, the Bearcats would’ve had absolutely no answer for Tim Tebow and the high octane Florida offense, as the Bearcats’ achilles’ heel — their defense (sound familiar, Irish fans?) — was unable to force a punt until Florida was leading 44-10 in the fourth quarter.
For Irish fans watching the Bearcats for the first time, there were more questions than answers after watching Cincinnati try to slow down the Gators attack. Likely defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense gave up 659 yards of offense, 533 yards of it to Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, and the Bearcats explosive offense only managed 246 total yards, nearly all of it after the game was well in hand for the Gators.
For those Irish fans that worry about Kelly’s ability to install a defensive system with the ability to play passable defense, Friday night’s game does nothing to instill confidence in the new coaching regime, which will have as many as four Cincinnati coaches joining Notre Dame’s staff. But those sweating the ghosts of Rick Minter, Jon Tenuta, and defensive coordinators past, fear not: the Irish defense already has better personnel than the 12-1 Bearcats.
Diaco and his new Notre Dame defensive staff will inherit a defense replacing little in the front seven, and only Kyle McCarthy from the starting secondary. They’ll also have nine months to instill a new attitude and develop fundamentals that plagued the Irish defense during its transition back to Jon Tenuta’s favored 4-3, heavy blitzing, Cover 2 system.
Anybody that watched Cincinnati this season knew their defense was mediocre, and even Brian Kelly acknowledged his coaching strategy was designed to win football games — most often in spite of his very green defense. While it would’ve been nice to see the Bearcats put up a good fight against the defending national champs, there’s no reason to hit the panic button just yet.