There was nothing Deon Bush could do for the first half of Thursday night’s University of Miami game at Cincinnati but sit and watch the TV from the Hurricanes’ locker room. The senior safety, along with junior safety Jamal Carter, weren’t allowed out on the field at Nippert Stadium for the first 30 minutes of the game because of targeting penalties they received against Nebraska in Miami’s last game.
Bush and Carter couldn’t help their teammates as UC redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Moore, making his first career start, completed 18 of 24 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown while leading the Bearcats to a 27-20 halftime lead.
They returned in the second half and helped the Hurricanes defense find itself but it ultimately wasn’t enough as Miami fell 34-23 before an on-campus record crowd of 40,101. It was the first loss of the season for the Hurricanes after starting the season 3-0.
“It was a hurtful thing but it was something I had to deal with,” said Bush. “I had to be out there to support my team and that was pretty much it.”
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Miami allowed 300 yards on 40 plays in the first half to an offense that had produced a school-record 752 yards on 100 plays last week in a 53-46 loss at Memphis. Moore subbed in for injured started Gunner Kiel against Memphis and responded with a school-record 557 yards passing in a little more than three quarters.
The Hurricanes forced punts on Cincinnati’s first four possessions of the second half. Having Bush and Carter on the field obviously helped but there was more to it than just two players.
“We were happy to get them back, most definitely, but it’s a thing where it was guys just not doing their job at the end of the day,” said senior inside linebacker Raphael Kirby. “It’s good to have those guys back but at the end of the day we have guys at every position that’s ready to play. You’ve got to trust your training and do your job.”
Bush had started the first three games of the season, all 11 games he played in last season and 23 of the 35 games he’s played in his career. Carter is a key backup. Junior Rayshawn Jenkins made his first start since 2013 in place of Bush and alongside senior Dallas Crawford.
Jenkins intercepted Moore in the first quarter, his third pick of the season, to set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Mark Walton that cut Cincinnati’s lead to 14-13 but he and Crawford were each guilty of glaring miscues that led to points for the Bearcats in the first half.
Jenkins had UC running back Hosey Williams seemingly wrapped up in the backfield on a first-and-10 play from the Miami 29 on the Bearcats’ first drive of the game. Williams kept his legs moving, however, behind a stacked wall at the line of scrimmage. Jenkins never took Williams to the ground. The next thing everyone in the stadium knew, Williams was in the end zone.
“I was waiting for a whistle and he popped back up off the pile and starting running again,” said Jenkins. “That’s clearly my fault because I have to make sure he’s down on the ground all the way. At the end of the day we can’t have those mistakes.”
The Hurricanes allowed just 146 yards in the second half but UC came up with the big play it needed with eight minutes left to play when Moore connected with wide receiver Mekale McKay for a 52-yard gain to the Miami 26. Three plays later Moore and tight end Tyler Cogswell hooked up for a 7-yard touchdown to made it a two-possession game.
Bush and Carter each were credited with two tackles. Their return in the second half helped, but the Hurricanes need more.
“Obviously, it helped in the second half but at the end of the day, it is what it is,” said Miami head coach Al Golden. “The next man has to be up. Are we better with them? Sure. But it’s no excuse, Cincinnati played really well. They played really well and we aided them.”