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WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: HOUSTON AT CINCY

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WHEN 40-16 DOES AND DOESN’T LOOK LIKE 40-16

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Houston v Cincinnati Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Final score: 40-16, Houston

How misleading is this score: Oh, very, and also not at all? It looks like a blowout, but this was 12-10 in the third quarter, and looking very much like a Tommy Tuberville Special.

What is a Tommy Tuberville Special? If you’re not familiar, it’s the thing where an unranked Tommy Tuberville team meets a ranked team and then waits for the higher ranked team to implode, hand them the ball a few times, and foolishly try to win a game. It’s what he did to Miss State when he was at Ole Miss, and to Florida twice when he was at Auburn, to West Virginia when he was at Texas Tech, and it’s what he did last year when Cincy upset Miami. It is what Tommy Tuberville does: he ruins beautiful things. It used to anger us, but you have to respect natural gifts.

Go on? Certainly. Houston outgained Cincinnati 506-307 in yardage, had a whopping 28-12 advantage in first downs, and was obviously the better team even if you took Greg Ward, Jr out of the equation. Have you seen Ed Oliver do work on Houston’s defensive line? It’s bad, unless you’re Houston. It’s so, so bad, as in quantifiably so, per PFF which grades him as stopping a run on every third snap—from the tackle spot. He’s misery all by himself, and he’s a freshman. (Yes that’s a PFF link but deal with it, they count stuff so we don’t have to sometimes.)

Throw in Greg Ward Jr., and the discrepancies were glaring.

So how did this stay close for so long? For starters? Cincy’s got two very good defensive linemen, and they did a lot to clog the middle of the Houston run game. Houston’s right guard had a bad, bad, bad night. His sub did slightly better, but still spent a lot of the game tangling up various assigned pass-rushers in headlocks. The Cougars eventually moved a bit of the run game to the perimeter in response and wore down the middle with play count— but not before the run game stalled and Greg Ward, Jr. got thrown around a bit.

There were also turnovers. Turnovers CON GUSTO:

Most people watching this thought this was an incomplete forward pass when they saw it. So did the PA announcer in Nippert Stadium, who called it that before correcting himself. Greg Ward Jr. contributed by throwing two redzone picks, including an endzone interception killing a potential scoring drive. Greg Ward Jr. doesn’t play well in Cincinnati. He’s already an honorary Bengal.

Cincy played three quarters of relatively clean football in comparison, played inspired defense, and didn’t screw things up. When it was 12-10, you could already see the game-winning field goal coming off the foot of Cincy’s kicker as time expired, and imagine Tommy Tuberville wishing his khakis were 2004 degrees of pleated and billowy all over again.

Why didn’t that sweet dream happen? Because this isn’t 2006, and Houston and teams like Houston will gladly run perimeter game on you until they rack up seventy plays, and then return to pounding your tired defensive front until they break. Because Greg Ward Jr. actually started playing better when they moved him around in the pocket, rolling out and occasionally carrying the ball on halfback lead runs. The run game picked up, the playcount mounted, and eventually Cincinnati really had to start to try to do things on offense, like pass the ball.

And all those points Houston left off the board? The Cougars got a cool rebate thing going on when Cincy quarterback Hayden Moore threw two pick sixes. He’d tried to throw a third earlier in the game, but Howard Wilson juggled, then dropped said hypothetical pick six. It’s cool: Howard got the last one, because good teams get points back eventually.

That’s how a 40-16 score can be both misleading and totally accurate all at once.

Gunner Kiel sighting?

WEARING MIXED GEAR, NO LESS. Gunner Kiel committed to Indiana on July 27th, 2011, and may be the worlds’s oldest 23 year old.