Lake’s O’Quinn featured on national stage

By Press Staff Writer


Lake football knows how to build linemen. Lake 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior Connor Moore was the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Lineman of the Year. 

Moore would love nothing more than to follow the lead set by a former Flyer, Dylan O’Quinn.

O’Quinn, the University of Cincinnati’s 6-4, 305-pound starting junior offensive right tackle, who played for former Lake head coach Mark Emans, found himself on college football’s biggest stage.

The No. 4-ranked Cincinnati football team went toe-to-toe with the defending national champions before ultimately falling to No. 1 Alabama, 27-6, in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. 

The Bearcats, which went 13-1 for the season, were playing for the opportunity to play the winner of the Michigan-Georgia game for the national championship. The loss to Alabama did not take away Cincinnati’s historic season.

“It doesn’t feel great right now, but we at least had the opportunity to step back here, reflect a little bit more and recognize where it is that we’ve come from just in the last five years with this group of guys,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said.

 “I don’t know if I can see it or pick it up right now, but I promise my wife will make me...take a couple deep breaths and recognize where these guys have taken us and what they’ve done for us.”

Fickell, who was an Ohio State coach a few years ago, has made a tremendous turnaround to the Cincinnati football program and O’Quinn was a benefactor. 

This year the Bearcats set several records winning 22 out of their last 23 games, going undefeated during the regular season and playing in their first ever College Football Playoff game. It is also the first time a football team from outside the power five conferences qualified for the NCAA Division I FBS final four.

Fickell has guided Cincinnati to one of only two undefeated records and to the highest rankings in school history. UC was ranked as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press and Coaches’ Polls earlier this fall and its current No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings is the highest ever by a non-Power 5 school. UC’s fifth-year head coach is 47-14 during his time at Cincinnati, including a 43-6 mark since the start of 2018.


‘Big, strong and physical’

O’Quinn, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, quarterback Desmond Ridder, wide receiver Alec Pierce and running back Jerome Ford said facing the No. 1 team in the country comes with obvious challenges, and one of the biggest challenges for the offense was going to be controlling Alabama’s defensive front. 

 “I think it’s how athletic they are,” said Denbrock. “They give you so many different looks, and then you combine that with the quality of athletes they have on the defensive side of the ball, that presents some real issues.”

O’Quinn knew the solution to defeating Alabama would come in the form of Cincinnati’s five offensive linemen.

 “It’s Alabama,” said O’Quinn. “They’re big, strong and physical.”

 Cincinnati’s offensive line featured three All-AAC First Team selections in O’Quinn, junior guard Lorenz Metz and sophomore center Jake Renfro. When you add junior Jeremy Cooper, senior Vincent McConnell and junior James Tunstall, you get one of the best offensive line rooms in the nation.

 As a group, this offensive line paved the way for an offense that averaged 6.93 yards per play, which ranked sixth nationally. The league champion Bearcats also led the American Athletic Conference in yards per rush (5.4).

 For a quarterback to have as good of a year as Ridder did, he needs to be protected, and the offensive line did that. They allowed only 1.54 sacks per game, which ranked second in the conference. 

 More impressively, the Bearcats ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss allowed with only 3.23 per games (42 total). Temple was the AAC’s next-highest ranked team (61).

 While not getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage is important, that doesn’t matter much if you can’t put points on the board. Cincinnati didn’t have trouble doing that this year. 

 Led by the consistent play of the offensive line, the Bearcats set single-season school records with 70 touchdowns and 510 points scored in their 13 games. Running back Jerome Ford also exploded for a monster year behind this line, rushing for 1,242 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

The success of the offense, and specifically the offensive line, is due in large part to the experience and veteran leadership of the group. Between Cooper, O’Quinn, Renfro, Tunstall, McConnell and Metz, they’ve played in 194 career games. 

 That experience plus the line’s ability to stay mostly healthy this year led to consistent success up front for the Bearcats’ offense. 

 Cooper and O’Quinn have started every game while Renfro started all but one. Tunstall took the starting left tackle job over in week four and hasn’t looked back. McConnell started the first two and last three games and served as a team captain in multiple games this year. Metz started eight games in a row, earning All-AAC First Team honors.

 So even against an Alabama defensive front that most consider elite, Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator had confidence in his group when facing off against an alite team.

 “I think this is a group, because of the leadership we have, that’s capable of matching up and having success in any situation,” said Denbrock. “These guys play for each other, they believe in each other, they’ve been through the wars together. This is truly a family of football players, and they play for each other.”

And even though they were labeled as the underdogs against Alabama by most people, this group did not back down or change anything that they have done all year.

  “We’ve heard a lot about this David versus Goliath talk, but the fact of the matter is, everybody puts their pants on the same way, everybody plays the game of football,” said O’Quinn. “We’re focused on being us, we just want to go out and be us.”

(— By Press Sports Editor J. Patrick Eaken from UC Athletics Communications press material)




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