HUNTINGTON — Over the last two weeks, Marshall offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey has watched a ton of film of Cincinnati’s three games in 2019.
Just how much?
“They’ve played three games and I’ve seen those three games probably 95 times each,” Cramsey said. “And then we watched last year’s stuff because it’s the same defensive staff. Different personnel on the field, but same staff, same stuff like that. There’s enough film watching now, so let’s go play.”
Throughout all that film work, there was one thing that stuck out to Cramsey.
“Their front six or front seven is probably the best part of their defense,” Cramsey said. “They’re big, they’re athletic, they’re good with their hands.”
Cramsey cited middle linebacker Bryan Wright as the proverbial straw who stirs the drink for the Cincinnati defense. On the season, Wright has been a force with 16 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and two sacks with a pass breakup.
When the opposition looks to neutralize the Cincinnati defense, that starts with identifying Wright’s positioning on the field.
However, Cramsey said there was an impressive group in front of him that also helped pave the way for the second level to be successful with Wright and fellow linebacker Perry Young.
“Their two D-ends are long, athletic kids and then they’ll play a number of guys inside who are all like the same player — big body, good feet, good hand guys,” Cramsey said.
Marshall center Levi Brown said there is one major difference that sticks out about the Bearcats from the last encounter between the teams when the Herd went to Nippert Stadium and handed Cincinnati a 38-21 loss in 2017.
“It’s little things that I think have made them a lot better,” Brown said. “For instance, I went back and watched the game from two years ago just to kind of ... relive it and a lot of times it wasn’t huge plays that we made. It was minor mistakes that their defense made that opened up windows and we happened to have a really good play call for that point in time.
“For instance, they are a lot more gap sound. They will never have two people in a gap. They aren’t going to freelance it and do what they want. They seem like they are coached almost better or they don’t have small mistakes as they used to.”
Cramsey said that because of Cincinnati’s improvement in the last two years in their detail and responsibility to assignment, that has added to a skillful group to produce a winning formula.
While the Bearcats lost a 42-0 contest to Ohio State, they also have wins this season over UCLA and Miami (Ohio) in which they allowed under 220 yards of total offense in each victory.
For that, Cramsey was happy to have an extra week to game-plan against what he may see against the Bearcats on Saturday.
“They do a good job with some pressures and some schemes on defense, so that will be a big part of our game plan — get hats on those guys, create ways to run the ball, change the launch point of the quarterback — all that type stuff,” Cramsey said.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday credited Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell for the job he’s done in developing the defense, which helped turn Cincinnati into a top-25 team by the end of the 2018 season.
“He’s done a great job at developing those players in the couple of years that he has been there,” Holliday said. “They’re fast, physical, play hard and they’re well coached. They don’t get out of position and they tackle well in space. It will be a challenge for us.”