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Cincinnati Toughens Up for Playoff Run

College Men

Cincinnati Toughens Up for Playoff Run

Last year a slow start and some close losses doomed the University of Cincinnati to also-ran status, but things are just a shade different this year, and that small difference is actually pretty big.

In 2015 Cincinnati lost 29-27 to Ohio and 22-18 to Western Michigan to start the season. And despite a 3-0 run to end the league run, they missed out on the playoffs. This year, the Bearcats scheduled some non-conference teams to warm them up and get those mistakes done before the league came around.

They beat Xavier University in August, and then ran into Ohio State, Kentucky, and University of Notre Dame - all tough teams, and all losses. But when the MAC schedule came around, UC was ready beating Ohio 33-18, edging Louisville 26-25 on a late try from Jake Moore, and then scoring two late tries to beat Dayton 15-10.

Head Coach Nick Lauterbach said those close wins wouldn’t have happened without those warmup games.

“We have a young team, and with those guys the learning curve is pretty steep,” said Lauterbach. “But those early games gave our guys the kind of experience they need. Ohio State crushed us pretty good, but the guys didn’t fold. We played Kentucky pretty well, and after that the guys felt ‘OK, we’re here. We can compete.’”

Lauterbach said his team hung with Notre Dame for about 60 minutes before the Fighting Irish pulled away. But all of those games helped prepare his squad.

Now, 3-0 in the MAC South, the Bearcats have Miami of Ohio next.

“We’re not looking past Miami,” said Lauterbach. “We need to use this game to get into the proper position for the playoffs.”

While freshman No. 8 Andrew Butt has been a very pleasant surprise, Lauterbach said the season so far hasn’t been about one or two players, but about somebody doing something special each week. In the first league game, it was the front row of Nathan Dixon and Kevin Sherry whcih produced three tries. Against Louisville, it was the goalkicking - Louisville scored five tries and missed five conversions while Austin Baker kicked three conversions, including the game-winner. And against Dayton, there were no conversions on either side, and after Dayton took a 10-0 lead, Grant Gallagher scored a try to make it 10-5, and another to make it 10-10 late in the game, before scrumhalf Tony Parente won it.

“Every game it’s somebody different,” he said. “It shows we’re coming together. We know there’s work to do, but we’re coming together.”

Should UC beat Miami, they will win the MAC South and be set for the conference playoffs, in which they will meet Western Michigan. Should they get through the Broncos, chances are they will meet Bowling Green in the final.

Dayton takes on Louisville in a clash to see who takes #2 in the MAC South. Ohio is 2nd right now, but will be passed by whichever team wins the game. 

Cincinnati MAC Conference Games:
Cincinnati 33 Ohio 18
Tries: Gallion, Dixon, Sherry 2, Gallagher
Convs: Gallagher 4

Tries: Mulkern, Telepak
Convs: Mulkern
Pens: Mulkern 2

Cincinnati 26 Louisville 25
Tries: Bard, Gallagher, Beitman, Moore
Convs: Baker 3
Tries: Shanklin, Vatuvei, White, Gladney, Rugby
Cincinnati 15 Dayton 10
Tries: Gallagher 2, Parente Tries: Simon, Kirby