Despite the big win over the Miami Hurricanes last Thursday, Cincinnati will be searching for answers to a few questions during its week off before traveling to Provo to take on BYU next Friday.
The most pressing of those questions: who is going to be the starting quarterback?
If you told me at the beginning of the season that Hayden Moore, Cincinnati’s redshirt freshman back-up quarterback, would see the field in a few games I would not have been shocked, especially given Gunner Kiel’s injury history. However, if you told me Cincinnati would have a quarterback controversy and be legitimately faced with a decision on which one to start based on performance, I would have asked you how much you’re willing to bet on that.
Well, I would have lost that bet, because Hayden Moore has actually earned consideration to be the Bearcats starter going forward. Don’t believe me? Kiel and Moore’s stats this year are nearly identical. Check out the blind resume comparison below:
|Player||Comp.-Att. (Comp. %)||Yards||Yards Per Att.||Touchdowns||Interceptions||Rating|
Have any guesses?
QB1 is Kiel, and as you can see, he only leads Moore in one of the six categories. Add to that the fact that Kiel has only played an entire game once this year (a loss to Temple in which he turned it over five times) and a murky situation becomes even… well… murkier.
Moore has only made one start, but has seen significant time in four of Cincinnati’s five games this season. In the three games he played due to an injury to Kiel he has rallied the Bearcats to a win over the Miami Redhawks on a late touchdown drive, set a school record for passing yards (557) in a close loss at Memphis, and delivered the signature win of the Tuberville era in Cincinnati by beating the Hurricanes while throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
Tommy Tuberville was adamant before the Miami game that Kiel would not lose his job due to injury, but had this to say after the game:
“They’ll both compete… It’s going to be a friendly competition. I’m not going to let it be anything other than that, and let the best man go.”
That statement could be as little as “coach-speak” and an attempt to motivate Kiel, or it could be Tuberville actually admitting that he is opening his starting quarterback spot up for competition.
When specifically asked about Kiel, Tuberville said, “It’s really going to be good to have him back.”
That’s not exactly the most ringing endorsement of Kiel, and leads me to believe his job is truly up for grabs heading into the week off and looking towards the BYU game.
So, who should start for the Bearcats against the Cougars?
In my opinion, this is still Kiel’s job and he will start out in Provo.
For one, he should be healthy after sitting out against Miami and getting the added time off this week. After the scares he has had suffering injuries to the neck in the last two games, that extra time is much needed.
Also, Kiel was able to take the Miami game in from the press box, which Tuberville hoped would give him a little different perspective.
Gunner Kiel watched #UC win from press box. Tuberville wanted him to observe from above
— Tom Groeschen (@TomGroeschen) October 2, 2015
It couldn’t hurt, could it? I compare it to a struggling hitter in baseball getting a day off to watch the game from the bench instead of attempting to play through it. Sometimes a different way of viewing the game lets you to discover that one thing that you were missing before, allowing a breakthrough.
And why else should Kiel keep the starting gig? He’s a better player with a higher ceiling.
Kiel wasn’t receiving preseason hype as a dark horse Heisman candidate for nothing. This is a guy who just last season threw 31 touchdowns and has an NFL-caliber arm. His greatest flaw this season has been turning the ball over, which is correctable with more focus and better reads. Plus, Moore hasn’t exactly been immune to the turnover bug either.
Many people will fall victim to the recency bias that Moore’s performance and the Miami win will present, but I have to believe Tuberville knows what he has in both players. It’s a great situation for Tuberville in that he can turn to a guy like Moore off the bench if the situation arises, as it already has in 2015.
However, this team’s best chance for success is still with a healthy Kiel as its starting quarterback. Here’s hoping we see that in Provo come Oct. 16.