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October 2009 Archives

UC-Syracuse 4th Quarter

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Tommy G reports that Guidugli is done today with a concussion.

On third and six, Brandon Sharpe sacks Collaros, and Collaros slams the ball into the turf. Nice punt by Rogers for 53 yards.

On third and 10, hand off to Bailey. Great closing speed by Frey to limit him to a two-yard gain. SU has to punt again. At some point, the Orange are going to need to score some points.

Pead dropped for no gain will make it third and 2 at the UC 40. UC takes the delay of game penalty. Third and seven from the 45. Collaros scrambles and picks up the first down. Nice run by Pead, who gains 33 yards to bring the ball to the SU 4. He breaks a couple tackles and uses his speed. Which sets up the 4-yard TD pass from Collaros to Adrien Robinson. Another quick, productive drive for the Bearcats.

UC 28, Syracuse 7 (9:53 to go)

Syracuse seems to have a problem running its offense without false-starting. Three and out, and I think you can close the book on this one.

Collaros is 22 of 27 for 295 yards and four TDs. Not a terrible day, I suppose.

I wonder if anybody is watching the Iowa-Indiana tilt. At this point, that's a pretty important game for the Bearcats.

I also wonder if it's almost pointless to talk about whether BK will leave UC or stay. One guy can say, BK is happy. No need for him to go. Facilities are going to improve. He loves Ohio. He can get to the national title game easier at UC than at many other places in the country. Another guy says, he can get more money somewhere else and can eliminate some of the concerns he faces at UC, he wants to be in the national spotlight every week, he'd love to go to Notre Dame.

At this point, nobody can have any idea what will happen, and I can see why UC fans get annoyed by the constant attention to this question. I, of course, have helped contribute to the discussion. With the epilogue in Bearcats Rising and with this story I wrote for Cincinnati Profile. But at this point, I'm kind of tired of hearing it and talking about it. There will be plenty of time to debate this when coaches start losing their jobs in another month or so. For now, whether BK is here next year or not, I'd just enjoy the ride if I were you.

After Collaros takes a hit that knocks off his helmet, Chazz Anderson is in the game with about 1:30 to go. Looks like he'll just hand off to Pead to run out the clock.

Nice win for UC here. Now, the Bearcats will have to hope Indiana can come back on Iowa to pull off the upset.

UC 28, Syracuse 7 (final)

UC-Syracuse 3rd Quarter

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Tommy G says that John Goebel is done for the day and that Ben Guidugli's helmet is being hidden from him. Apparently, he wants back on the field.

Syracuse kick is out of bounds, meaning UC takes the ball at the Bearcats 40. Collaros throws the fade to Gilyard, and though he was interfered with, he makes a nice catch. Now, it'll be third and 10 from the SU 37. And D.J. Woods is hurting. Looks like he's hurt his right arm. He jogs off the field. Collaros to Binns for the first down. Wow, heck of a catch by Armon Binns for the 13-yard TD. It looked like the ball was going to sail out of the end zone, but somehow, Binns got up for it and snagged it for the score.

UC 21, Syracuse 7 (12:15 to go)

On third and 1 at midfield, Bailey gets nowhere. Looked like John Hughes was the first to stop him. Fourth and 1, and SU will punt.

Syracuse is just waiting for the UC run. Deep in his own territory, Pead loses yards on consecutive plays. It'll be third and 15 at the 4. Somehow, Collaros gets out of the end zone and gains a yard. UC to punt. Not a great one. SU will take over at the UC 41.

On third and 10, Paulus scrambles and Walter Stewart knocks him out of bounds three yards short of the first down. It'll be 4th and 3 from the UC 34. The Orange run the option with Nassib, he keeps it, fakes a pitch that confuses Stewart and gets the first down. Nice playcall. First time the Bearcats have seen option today. It'll be third and six from the 25. Nice job by Van Chew. He's wrapped up by Schaffer after a pass from Nassib, but he fights for another two yards and the first. Bailey gains seven to make it third and 1 from the UC 9. Carter rushes and gets the first. Bad time for another Orange turnover. Carter is hit by Frey, who causes the fumble and Wolfe falls on top of it. Another big play by the defense deep in UC territory.

C.J. Cobb cited for holding on a play in which Collaros would have gained the first down on a rush. It'll be second and 13 from the UC 7. Collaros across the middle to Adrien Robinson for the first down. Actually, Jake Ramsey does a really nice job to lose only one yard on that play. Shovel pass to Gilyard ends the third.

END QUARTER


UC-Syracuse 2nd Quarter

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Second and 2 from the SU 14. First incompletion for Collaros. Weird play by Pead. He maybe should have had the catch, but he kind of gave up on it. It's third and 2. Then, Alex Hoffman and Alli both move at the same time. False start, third and 7 from the 19. Playcall was about to expire, but BK calls the timeout. And he is upset. "Are you (expletive) kidding me," he says, and he's yelling at Chris Jurek. And an offside makes it third and 2 again. Handoff to Pead, and he loses two yards. He had no chance on that one. Sure, why not try the FG fake for the 16-yard TD? Mike Windt snaps to Collaros, the holder, who rolls right. Jake Rogers tries to block (without much success), and though the call looked like a disaster at first, Collaros finds Alli in the end zone. Doug Marrone is arguing and he's conveying to the officials that they might have gotten the call wrong.

UC 14, Syracuse 7 (14:11 to go)

And upon further review, that might not have been a fake at all. Collaros bobbled the snap, and he had to get up and try to make the pass. Interesting.

Some nice running by Carter and Bailey. It'll be third and six from the SU 27. Paulus incomplete, and the Orange will have to punt. That was Paulus' first incompletion of the game.

Orange cornerback Kevyn Scott is hurting on the UC sideline. He walks off the field, though. It'll be third and 4 from the UC 46. And nose tackle Arthur Jones sacks Collaros, and UC will have to punt. Ugh, tough break for Syracuse. Linebacker Doug Hogue is penalized 15 yards for a blow to the head. Don't like the call. He hit Mardy Gilyard, but he basically was jamming him face to face. It'll be third and 5 from the SU 34. Another nice play Arthur Jones on the designed run by Collaros. He comes up the middle, while Jurek was engaged with somebody else, and forces Collaros to a knee. UC to punt. Not what you'd call a good one - a 13-yard punt.

Two runs by Carter, and it'll be third and 2 from the SU 44. Another run by Carter gains him the first down. Thirteen yards for Bailey, who just bounces of Drew Frey to gain another 7-8 yards. On second down, Derek Wolfe does a nice job of slowing down Carter enough to get some help bringing him down. It'll be third and 9 from the UC 34. Bearcats should have had Carter down on the pass from Paulus, but Curtis Young and Dominique Battle both miss tackles, and he gets the first down. Now, it's third and 10 from the 26. Nice time for Mike Williams to get in on the action. Paulus scrambles and he finds Williams to make it first and goal from the seven. Then, like usual, UC's defense comes up big deep in its zone as Drew Frey makes the INT in the end zone. UC has 1:55 to go 80 yards.

Collaros with a lazer to Woods to gain 17 yards and bring the ball to the UC 42. Collaros to Pead loses three, but he throws to Gilyard to get it to mid-field with about 30 seconds to play. Collaros runs around a while and loses some yard. But SU called for offside, giving UC the first down with 27 seconds to play on the SU 44. Collaros hits Binns for 19 yards, and Collaros spikes it. There's 6 seconds left, and that'll set up a 43-yard Jake Rogers field goal. He hits it, but Marrone had called a timeout. He'll have to kick again. And this time, it's no good as the first half ends. Nice job by Marrone, I guess.

UC 14, Syracuse 7 (half)
 

UC-Syracuse 1st quarter

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Live from the couch:

As Tommy G reports, right tackle Sam Griffin remained in Cincinnati with the flu (not the H1N1, Brian Kelly said). That means Alex Hoffman will move to RT and C.J. Cobb will get the start at right guard.

Also, Tony Pike is not dressed out.

Syracuse wins the toss and will receive the kick. I can see why UC is concerned with Delone Carter's physicality. He loses two yards on the first carry, but he just kind of moves the pile wherever he runs. On third and 4, Greg Paulus with the quick strike to Donte Davis that gains 11. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Nassib makes an appearance, pitching it to Carter. It'll be third and 9 from the UC 41. Paulus to Antwon Bailey will make it 4th and 6 from the 38. Syracuse to punt. Grant Mayes had a chance to knock that ball down at about the 1-yard line, but the ball sneaks into the end zone for the touchback.

Huge play from Collaros to D.J. Woods, who found a seam and takes it for a 45-yard gain. But Jason Kelce is called for holding. Now, it's third and 11 from the UC 19. That was a really nice job by Collaros on the 81-yard TD pass to Armon Binns. Collaros has to buy time and then know where the line of scrimmage was so he could pass without penalty. Then, he just floats it to Binns, who runs down the sideline untouched.

UC 7, Syracuse 0 (7:24 to go)

That's probably the way Syracuse has to do it. A nice 11-yard gain by Carter and then Paulus with a quick screen Marcus Sales. Nassib back in the game and he hits Cody Catalina for an 11-yard gain. The Orange back in Cincinnati territory. Nassib does a nice job with that pumpfake. That froze Aaron Webster and allowed Bailey to get past Dominique Battle for the catch that brings the ball to the UC 10. Then, Paulus with the play-action finds a wide-open Catalina for the 10-yard TD. Wow, the Bearcats linebackers really bit on that fake, particularly J.K. Schaffer.

UC 7, Syracuse 7 (4:13 to go)

Syracuse had a chance to tackle Mardy Gilyard in the backfield on that end-around. Instead, Gilyard makes it third and 1 from the UC 29. Collaros to Guidugli for the first down. Collaros again to Guidugli, who is slow to get up. Looks like he might have taken a knee to the helmet from Bud Tribbey and that he's dazed. Still down on the field. Bob Mangine is checking his jaw, but Guidugli looks like a boxer who just got knocked out. He sits up and then walks off the field with some help. Collaros has to scramble to make it third and 3 from the SU 48. Collaros rolls to the right, and Kazeem Alli has plenty of room to make the first down catch. D.J. Woods leaps to secure the 15-yard catch to get it to the SU 22. Collaros has completed his first seven passes.

END QUARTER

I'll Be Rooting For Syracuse . . . Next Week

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As many of you know, I am a proud Syracuse grad who roots for his Alma mater in 11 out of 12 weeks.

 

But not today.

 

On paper, Cincinnati is the better team and if the Bearcats don't make uncharacteristic mistakes, I'm confident that UC will win.  But I am not taking anything for granted . . . not after witnessing what Syracuse fans simply refer to as "the Nebraska game."

 

SU Neb re.jpg 

In 1983 when I was a junior, SU played at Nebraska and lost 63-7.  The following season, the Cornhuskers were ranked #1 in the country when they made the return trip to the Carrier Dome and were a 24-point favorite against a Syracuse team that had been shutout by Rutgers the week before.

 

Syracuse pulled off the shocker 17-9 (here is the game story from Sports Illustrated).  It was SU's only win during a 5-week stretch.

 

Syracuse's new head coach Doug Marrone was a starting offensive lineman in that game and told a great story about it to one of my college buddies - New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini:

 

On the eve of the Syracuse-Nebraska game in 1984, then coach Dick MacPherson, reaching deep into his bag of motivational tricks, told each player to go back to his room and write an essay. The thesis: Why we're going to beat Nebraska. Please understand, Syracuse was at least a three-touchdown underdog, if memory serves, and there was no logical reason to think it would be a competitive game, much less an upset.

 

Naturally, MacPherson's request, somewhat sophomoric, was met with some reluctance. Marrone, the dutiful captain, went to his room, pulled out a few sheets of loose leaf and started writing. He got into it and kept writing. And writing. And soon several pages were filled. By the end of his handwritten pep talk, Marrone was so full of emotion and adrenaline that tears were welling in his eyes.

 

The next day, Syracuse went out and beat Nebraska. Final score: 17-9. You can look it up.

 

"I was absolutely convinced we were going to win that game," Marrone told me once, probably feeling those old, familiar goose bumps as he related the story.

 

Kinda makes you wonder if Marrone had his players write essays last night doesn't it?

UC-Syracuse preview

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Brian Kelly sees the similarities between Syracuse and UC. He can think back to 2007, his first year at the helm of the Bearcats squad, and he can compare it to this season's Syracuse team - in its first year under coach Doug Marrone.

 

He comes to this conclusion: the Orange of 2009 and the Bearcats of 2007 are more similar than you might think.

 

"The first thing that stands out is Doug Marrone has done a great job of getting players to play hard for four quarters," Kelly said. "I told our team this is the first time I've seen some similarities to our team in the first year in terms of playing hard. Everybody has been focused on Syracuse's quarterback situation. (Greg) Paulus did a good job of coming into this year and adding some maturity and stability to the offense."

 

We'll get to Paulus in a second, but first, we'll go to the biggest impact player for the Orange. That would be senior running back Delone Carter, who rushed for a career-best 170 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 30 carries last week vs. Akron. He potentially could be a force.

 

Just noticed this, but Carter is 26th on the Syracuse career rushing list with 1,380 yards. He's 126 yards behind No. 25 Rob Konrad and far ahead of Kirby Dar Dar (I followed this team growing up in Atlanta - mainly because my father was born in Syracuse - so the name Kirby Dar Dar actually means something to me). Carter most likely will catch Donovan McNabb (1,561) before the season is over. But that led me to this trivia question.

 

With all the great Syracuse running backs it's featured during its illustrious history, who leads the school in career rushing yards? Larry Csonka? No, he's third. Floyd Little? No, he's fifth. Ernie Davis*? No, he's ninth. Jim Brown? Heck no, he's way down at 15th.

 

The answer, of course, is Joe Morris**, who gained 4,299 yards from 1978-81.

 

*When my dad was growing up, my grandfather secured an Ernie Davis autograph for him. Apparently, Davis - who won the Heisman in 1961 and later died at the age of 23 of leukemia - was at some function, where he handed out strips of paper that read, "It has been a pleasure meeting you today. I hope we meet again some day." Then, he would scribble his name. Under the signature, my father - who must have been 9 or 10 at the time - scrawled the word "Browns," because that's where Davis was to play in the NFL before he got sick. I've always admired that piece.

 

A few years ago, my parents framed the autograph, stuck an Ernie Davis football card in there and gave it to me for my birthday. It's one of the coolest birthday presents I've received from them in many years (though the Muhammad Ali-signed framed photo of him knocking out Joe Frazier is pretty damn cool, too).

 

**Of course, I'm not sure I'd heard of Joe Morris before today.

 

Anyway ...

 

Receiver Mike Williams - fifth in the nation with 118.7 receiving yards a game - is always dangerous for the Orange, and Paulus has done a nice job getting him the ball. Paulus, of course, is a nice story, even if you're a Duke basketball hater.

 

"It's an incredible feat to go into the competition he's played with all the looks that you see - and they're a sophisticated offense now; it's not like they're getting basic reads - I think it's been an incredible story," Kelly said. "What he's been able to do to their offense, you can see there's more of an identity and there's leadership. He's really helped Syracuse's program get off the mat here.  He makes players around him better."

 

Lately, though, the offense has turned to Carter, and Carter has responded.

 

"He does not have the top-end speed of (Fresno State's) Ryan Matthews, but he's probably as physical - if not more physical - between the tackles," Kelly said. "You can't arm-tackle him. If you try, he'll take you three, four or five more yards."

 

--So, it sounds like, once again, Tony Pike won't play. That's what Kelly said during his radio show Thursday, which means Zach Collaros will get another chance to impress you. I'm sure Doug Marrone would rather face Pike, because he turns the Bearcats into such a one-dimensional offense.

 

Collaros, though, is ready. I talked to him a little this week about what former Bearcats quarterback Ben Mauk has meant to him. The two roomed together when Collaros was a true freshman, and he immediately began to admire the then-senior.

 

"My parents dropped me off and I was living with Ben Mauk," Collaros said. "We'd come down to the field and we'd throw a lot. He was really big for me. I was actually kind of nervous the first time (they met). It was kind of intimidating because he was such a great quarterback."

 

Last week, before starting vs. Louisville, Collaros said Mauk called him nearly every day just to make sure he was preparing himself the right way. The two seemingly have much in common.

 

"Well, we're both short," Collaros said with a smile. "We both kind of freelance a little bit here and there when some stuff breaks down. He had a really good ability to keep plays going. I like to think I have that ability to do the same. He's really helped me out a lot."

 

--Prediction: People have asked me this week if I think UC could have a tough time at Syracuse. Strange things happen inside the Carrier Dome, they say. Syracuse has shown more promise than the Orange have in many years, they exclaim. That's true, I say. I don't think it will matter much, though. I can see how the Bearcats could have an off day - emotional letdown after South Florida and the Louisville Homecoming game, noon kickoff, strange stadium that might or might not contain any gametime energy. But even if they have an off day, the Bearcats will roll.

 

Say, UC 35, Syracuse 17

Wright ready to take control of Bearcats

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He felt the self-pity grow soon after the doctors revealed his freshman season was over before it had even begun. He couldn't stop himself from moping, couldn't stop from feeling sorry for himself.

 

For many months, UC redshirt freshman point guard Cashmere Wright couldn't get over the fact that he had sustained an ACL tear during the first day of practice for the 2008-09 season. For many months, Wright still couldn't comprehend what had happened in the space of just a few seconds.

 

"I didn't get past it until January or February," said Wright, who, as you'll recall, was the nationally-ranked No. 12 point guard by rivals.com before committing to UC.  "It took a long time. First, you have to accept the fact you can't do anything about it and let it go. For the longest time, I was like, 'Naw, this can't be me. I can't believe this happened to me.' After a while, when you realize everybody is playing and you're not getting better and you can't go forward, you have to let it go."

 

When the injury first occurred, UC coach Mick Cronin told Wright he had a chance to learn, in depth, the position he would play after returning to health. There wasn't much else he could do as his knee healed. He could learn what Cronin would want from him, and he figured his experience last year will help as he takes the court now. Wright didn't gain any on-court experience last season. But he received another gift instead - the ability to step back from his life and appreciate how much he loves the game.

 

"He's matured a lot," junior center Anthony McClain said. "I can't put into words how he was, but as more of the season went along, he's became more serous about this. The ACL injury made him more mature. Life is short. You never know what can happen at any given moment. You have to give it your all every time."

 

Said junior forward Rashad Bishop: "I've seen a real big change in him. When he first got here, it was all about him. He sat out his first year and watched, and he figured out we really don't need him to come out and score. He can come out and be solid and get his teammates involved and get them shots. It's going to be big with him coming back. He's going to make everybody's job a lot easier. I had to fill in at point guard a little bit last year, and it will make my job easier. It will make Deonta's job a lot easier."

 

That was the major problem with Wright's injury last season. Since Cronin was counting on Wright so heavily to play the point guard spot, Deonta Vaughn - and a few others like Bishop and Dion Dixon - had to fill in as the No. 1 guard. That led to increased minutes for Vaughn (which Cronin has tried - and failed - to avoid the past three seasons), and he, once again, was clearly fatigued at the end of the year.

 

Wright watched him and felt the guilt.

 

"I felt like I let them down," he said. "I should be out there helping them and that made the transition even worse. It makes you feel bad."

 

Even now, though, Wright said he's not 100 percent healthy. Not necessarily in the medical sense, but in his preparedness for the season. Before last week's intrasquad scrimmage (there's another one this Saturday at 10 a.m., by the way), Wright hadn't played a competitive game of basketball in about 18 months - and no, summer league doesn't count.

 

"I'm still trying to get back in the groove of playing," Wright said. "Even during the scrimmage, I was nervous because I haven't played a game up and down the court in a year and a half. That's a big transition to try to do."

 

Now, though, he's back and ready to contribute to the squad. He'll compete with true freshman Jaquon Parker for playing time at the point guard spot, but he's just happy to be a part of the team again.

 

"I feel more comfortable with what I'm doing and what coach Cronin wants me to do," Wright said. "At the beginning of the scrimmage, I didn't know. I was just going with the flow and trying to feel my way out. After the scrimmage, I told my dad that it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders."


--If, for some reason, you still haven't purchased your copy of Bearcats Rising, there are still a few more opportunities for you to save your soul, beginning next Thursday at 7 p.m. That's when I'll be at the LaRosa's Pizza in Colerain with Kerry Coombs - who will be signing my book along with Cincinnati Schoolboy Legends authors John Baskin and Lonnie Wheeler. Two books, three authors, one intense associate head coach. All for the price of one. Seriously, what else is going on Thursday nights anyway?


Click here for the rest of my signing schedule.


The emergence of Walter Stewart

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Walter Stewart figured he wouldn't play very much this season. Not with Curtis Young and Craig Carey and Demetrius Jones ahead of him on the depth chart at outside linebacker. Not with the lack of experience he had. Not with the fact he redshirted last season and had taken a handful of snaps in the season-opening Rutgers game.

 

But there he was - on the field as the starter at Oregon State with the crowd and the noise and the excitement. And during the 28-18 victory in Corvallis, Stewart played well, recording 2.5 sacks and forcing a fumble.

 

He hasn't stopped producing since. Even when Young, who was replaced by Stewart after suffering an injury, returned to health, the Bearcats coaches can't keep Stewart off the field.

 

He's a redshirt freshman with almost no experience and who, until the Louisville game, still wasn't 100 percent comfortable on the field. Stewart has been a beast anyway, and for a guy not expecting to play much this season, Stewart certainly has turned some heads.

 

"A guy flying around at a million miles an hour," Brian Kelly said when asked what he expected out of Stewart this season. "We were worried about whether he would break down or not, because he's a little leaner than we would like. But he's such an astute kid. He knows the game. He has that kinesthetic awareness of the game that you just can't teach. From a coaching standpoint, this is how you get motivated. That's what gets you fired up as a coach."

 

On the season, Stewart has accumulated 31 tackles, four sacks and the interception he plucked out of the air last week vs. the Cardinals. It's more than he could have imagined.

 

"I expected to be the backup for Curtis - more of a role player," Stewart said. "If he got tired in certain situations, I'd go in for certain packages. (After Young's injury), I started getting all the reps, so you want to bite down at practice and make sure you know what you're doing."

 

He didn't have much confidence, though. His mindset basically was this: if he couldn't make the big tackle, at least know the defense well enough to make sure the opposing offense couldn't ring up a big yardage play because of his inadequacy.

 

Kelly, though, sees Stewart a bit differently than the linebacker sees himself.

 

"Walter is just an impressive young man," Kelly said. "We bring this up all the time, but he is purposeful in what he does, what he says. Everything he does on a day to day basis has purpose to it. That's how a freshman like this can go out there. Wait until you see this young man in a year or two when he's 230-240 pounds."

 

When Stewart arrived at UC, he weighed 185 pounds, but since then, he said he's gained about 30 pounds.

 

"He's lying," Kelly said. "He must have had a couple jackets on when he said that."

 

There's little doubt, though, that Kelly has helped Stewart indirectly. In high school, Stewart was a linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but when he arrived at UC under defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, he was moved to defensive end. Undersized? Just a bit.

 

Yet, now that Bob Diaco has installed the 3-4 defense for the Bearcats, Stewart has returned to outside linebacker. Mostly, he's played the Cat position (the OLB who rushes the quarterback), but lately, he's spent more time at the Drop spot (which means he has to drop into pass coverage) with the absence of the injured Demetrius Jones.

 

But slowly, he's getting more comfortable. He no longer lacks for confidence, no longer feels like a helpless freshman. Now, he's becoming one of the top defensive players on the team.

 

"It was just to experience it, knowing I could play football at the D-1 level," Stewart said. "I felt a little bit overwhelmed at first, because we were at Oregon State and it was a little bit crazy. When I settled down, I thought, 'I can do this. I'm here to play.'"

Soccer in a soccer-mad community

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While the Bengals were putting the smackdown on the Bears Sunday, the UC women's soccer team closed out its season by doing the same, comparatively speaking, to Seton Hall with a 4-0 win that wraped up the Bearcats' year.

The Bearcats didn't have enough wins this season to qualify for the BIG EAST post-season, but that's not to put a damper on what the Cats accompished this year, or what the future for the program can be.

Just like East Coast high schools churn out lacrosse players, the Greater Cincinnati area produces quality soccer players: Look no farther than Cincinnati's own Heather Mitts, now a star with the U.S. national team.

In fact, Cincinnati is the second-highest soccer participation area in the country (behind Kansas City). And almost each year, Cincinnati-area high schools send girls' teams to the state soccer finals.

Just take a look at the roster on the UC women's soccer team: More than a third of the players on this year's team were from Cincinnati area powerhouses like Notre Dame Academy, St. Ursula, Lakota West and CHCA.

The lesson here? Well, it's no secret, because Brian Kelly has turned looking at your own back yard for talent into a science for the football program. High school soccer players in the Cincinnati area certainly have shown they can play with the best. With the opportunity to play in a terrific soccer facility like Gettler Stadium, in a league like the BIG EAST, more and more elite players are looking at UC for their next soccer stop.

Congratulations to Michelle Salmon and the Cats for a great season. More good things are ahead for the program.

 

 

Artrell Hawkins works at new career

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Artrell Hawkins calls this his "demo season."

 

He is trying his hand at radio and TV, learning whatever he can and working with whoever will teach him. He wants to be part of the national media scene. And he's willing to put in the time and pay his dues to get there.

 

The former UC Bearcat football standout is becoming a regular on 700 WLW at 3 p.m. on Mondays with Eddie Fingers and Tracy Jones. He has his own show called 2 Deep Zone on

on 1530 WCKY every Tuesday night (6-7 p.m.) with former NFL player Charles Fisher and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Rich Thurston. Hawkins also joins Mo Egger at 4 p.m. every Friday for the Bengals Breakdown show live from Chi-nnati's in Madeira (3-6 p.m.).

 

"The thing that stands out most is he really works at it," Egger says. "He comes prepared. He doesn't wait for me to pepper him with questions. He has things he wants to talk about. You can really tell he wants to be good at this."

 

Egger says Hawkins brings a unique perspective. He played for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. He played for Bill Belichick in New England. He has many existing relationships with NFL players and coaches, and he's not afraid to critique teams and players, which is important for a good broadcaster.

 

"He really adds an incredible amount of credibility," Egger says. "He just got out of the league; he knows just about everybody in the game. He really brings an insider's perspective.

Every week there's always something that comes up that he can relate to."

 

Hawkins was a sideline reporter for the UC football team's 2009 spring game and was an analyst in the booth for the UC-Southeast Missouri home-opener football game that aired on FOX Sports Ohio.

 

"Artrell did a nice job of 'getting the story' from the sidelines during the spring game," producer David Ashbrock says. "Artrell's player interviews were relevant and cogent. He got more relaxed as the game progressed.   

 

"When Artrell found himself in the booth in September, I think he was a little surprised. Now that he wasn't counted on for an occasional 'hit,' he was expected to have a comment after every play. I don't think he quite expected the job to be that difficult. ... Like football, 'reps' can make all the difference between a so-so career and a great one."

Hawkins knows he needs more experience. That's why he's started
broadcasting high school football games with Channel 19 sports director Brian Giesenschlag. They worked Princeton-Oak Hills together for the Princeton Media Network and will team up for Saturday's Princeton-Middletown game (airs live on Channel 19 at 2 p.m.).

 

"I'm just doing everything I can," Hawkins says. "Pay or no pay. I don't really care. I'm in it right now for the experience and the know-how."

 

Giesenschlag says Hawkins has the kinds of attributes that can't be taught: Great voice, intelligence, playing experience. "He's just raw," Giesenschlag says. "The good thing is he knows it, and he just wants to get the experience. He's in the process of doing that."

 

Hawkins has chosen wisely for someone to emulate: Solomon Wilcots. Wilcots, too, is a former Bengals defensive back who started locally and has worked his way up to co-host of a Sirius NFL Radio show, analyst on the NFL Network and color commentator for CBS' football telecasts.

 

Wilcots has told Hawkins not to try to go too far too fast. "He says to learn the business," Hawkins says. "That's kind of what I am doing."

 

Hawkins, 32, was selected by the Bengals in the second round of the 1998 NFL draft out of UC. He played six years with the Bengals, one year with the Carolina Panthers and finished in 2005 and 2006 with the New England Patriots. His NFL career included 303 tackles, 11 interceptions and four sacks.

 

Truth be told, he was not one of those athletes who was always interested in a career in the media.

 

"I had been told my whole life about how great my voice is," Hawkins says. "But I really never had any interest in any type of communications or broadcasting. I thought I was going to be a business guy. And then I figured out pretty quickly that I don't like business."

 

In 2007, he applied for - and was accepted to - the NFL's first Broadcast Boot Camp, held over three days at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J. Those interested had to submit answers to essay questions. Only 20 players were selected.

 

They got experience working in-studio with James Brown, field reporting and had a chance to simulate calling a game with Dick Vermiel, analyst and former NFL coach.

 

"I got really good feedback," Hawkins says.

 

Last year, he mentioned his new career interest to Dan Hoard, radio voice of Bearcats football and baskeball. Hoard put Hawkins in touch with Lexington-based sportscaster Alan Cutler and other broadcast colleagues. Cutler had Hawkins on air several times. And so the ball got rolling.

 

Now, here's a lesson for all athletes, college and pro.

 

Hawkins tried to be cordial with the media as a player. And now media types have gone out of their way to help Hawkins land some opportunities. "There have been a host of people who have aided me in what I am trying to do without expecting anything in return," he says.

 

"When you play football, for some reason the players have this mind-set that they're the end-all be-all," Hawkins says. "Some guys are very good at treating people the right way and other guys tend to think they're the man and they're more important than what they are. The truth of the matter is, when you're done playing football, you're done playing football. How you treat people is always going to come back to either help you or hurt you later on.

 

"I'm super happy my momma taught me how to be cordial and respect everybody and to not think more of myself than I should."

 

He's made his home in Cincinnati. His wife is from here. Hawkins thinks it's a great place to raise a family. And where else would he be as "relevant" (his word) as he is here?

 

Now the question is: How far he can go? He'd love to have a syndicated radio show. He'd be thrilled to work games for ESPN or the NFL Network. He is learning to do voice-overs.

 

"I want to take over," he says laughing - but serious. "Triple threat.

 

"It's a lot more work than I anticipated. I'm busier now than I was when I played. But it is fun, and it does keep me involved with what I know best - and that's football."

 

 

 

Our Man Armon

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Let's hope that this is the year that the UC basketball team returns to the NCAA tournament.  After all, it could be the key to luring the next Armon Binns.

 

The wide receiver is from Pasadena, CA where he grew up rooting for Kenyon Martin and the Bearcat basketball program.

 

"Growing up, I was always a Cincinnati basketball fan because I played basketball for most of my life and that happened to be the school that I followed," Binns told me.  "It's ironic that I would end up going here to play football because I watched them in the tournament every year and always rooted for them."

 

His interest in the Bearcats proved significant when Binns was a high school senior.  Despite being a standout in football, basketball and track, Armon was not satisfied with his scholarship offers, so his father contacted Cincinnati.

 

"It was getting late in the recruiting process and I was still under the radar a little bit, so my dad sent some film out," Binns said.  "Coach Elston (the recruiting coordinator at the time) got a hold of it and we heard from them really quickly - less than a week.  They said they couldn't believe I hadn't signed anywhere, so I was just really happy and blessed for the opportunity."

 

And now, the 6'4" junior is getting the opportunity to shine.  After catching one pass in each of his first two seasons, Binns has 29 receptions for 385 yards and 4 touchdowns this year.  All four of the TDs have come in the last three weeks.

 

"It's been really exciting," Binns told me.  "I've been working hard and waiting for my opportunity and fortunately this year was that chance so I'm embracing it.  My peers and my older teammates taught me to stay patient and keep working hard and wait for my turn."

 

"With so much rotation and double-coverage geared toward Mardy Gilyard, I think Binns now understands how important he is," Coach Kelly said.  "He went up in the air to get the football a couple of times against Louisville and made some big plays.  If we keep doing that with D.J. Woods in the slot, and our tight ends, and Isaiah Pead, we're tough to defend because we've got so many different answers."

 

While his dad gets credit for helping Armon play football at Cincinnati, his mom played a major role in helping his succeed academically.

 

"My mom has always been on my about grades since I was little." Binns said.  "She's been really serious about it and when I was in elementary school, she wanted me to set a goal of reading 25 books a year to expand my vocabulary and help me get smarter.  Any word that I didn't understand, she told me to look it up in the dictionary and use it in a sentence so I could sound intelligent when I speak."

 

His mom was one of several family members who made the 13 hour drive from Pasadena to Corvallis, Oregon to see the Bearcats face Oregon State in September.

 

Perhaps in January, Armon's family won't have to travel nearly as far to root for UC in a bowl game.

 

I hear there a couple of pretty good ones in Pasadena this year.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Some answers but not many

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The great Tony Pike watch continues. And we still don't have any satisfactory answers regarding his ability - or likelihood - to play this week.

 

UC fans are likely less concerned, though, about Pike's health heading into the Syracuse game Saturday. Which makes sense considering Zach Collaros, in his first-ever start, carved up Louisville with little problem, completing 15 of 17 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns (and if you didn't catch my CBSSports.com story on why the Bearcats can take (seemingly) any backup quarterback and turn him into a winning starter, shame on you. Also, click here.)

 

But when Pike is healthy, he will return to his starting quarterback position. So, naturally, it was a topic of conversation today at Brian Kelly's weekly presser.

 

"I have to see where we are with the modifications with the cast," Kelly said. "That's out of my hands. Tony is going to navigate through this. I don't think we'll know anything for a couple days."

 

The modification Kelly talked about was basically taking off the cast that ran over Pike's elbow and putting on one that stops below that elbow. It's still a hard cast, and though Pike could play with that type of covering (the training staff would have to modify it again and place enough padding on it to satisfy whatever specification the NCAA requires), he'd most likely play with a soft cast on his non-throwing arm. If he, in fact, plays.

 

Basically, it will come down to what makes Pike feel comfortable.

 

"It's a situation that you bring Tony in, and he has to be the guy that ultimately signs off on it," Kelly said. "He has to feel confident to go out there and do what he needs to. Once the medical hurdles have been handled, the individual plays a huge role in this. It's not an issue where he has a concussion and he has to pass a battery of tests. It's what he can and can't do. We know he couldn't do it last week because of the type of cast he had on."

 

If Pike can't play Saturday vs. Syracuse, Collaros will step back into the starting role. He won't have to compete against third-stringer Chazz Anderson during practice this week to win the job again. It's his if Pike can't go.

 

Wide receiver D.J. Woods doesn't need to be convinced that playing Collaros is the right move. Woods had three catches for 54 yards against Louisville, and according to him, the offense never worried about how Collaros would perform vs. the Cardinals.

 

"Not at all," he said. "We practice how we play. Every week we're very productive in what we do. Zach had a very productive week of practice, getting the right keys and the right reads. The whole offense had no doubt at all."

 

--The talk of BCS standings continued into today. I think some were hoping that, given another opportunity, Kelly would rail against the system and raise hell that the Bearcats never should have dropped from No. 5 to No. 8. Kelly didn't take the bait.

 

"I have a pretty good understanding of the BCS, even though it seems like we've lost ground," Kelly said. "It's such a group pack right now, and you're separated by hundredths and thousandths of points. To me, it's not that big. Moving from fifth to eighth, we're in a good position. We're at the top of the pack, and the race is early.

 

"It's great we're getting that kind of recognition, and I hope our admissions are up because of it. But we don't spend any time on it, because we have so much other stuff to worry about."

 

That's because UC still has to face West Virginia and play at Pittsburgh. Many miles to go before he can sleep and all that.

 

But I also thought maybe I could get a reaction if I asked him what he thought about UC dropping in the coaches' poll. Nothing.

 

"No, I don't think any of that surprises me," he said. "We're still not even to November. There are many big games left. It starts to thin itself out in November."

 

And then Ken Broo dropped the whole, "Some people nationally don't think you should even have a chance to play for a national title; what do you think about that?" on him.

 

"There are traditions that we all hold," Kelly said. "We all look toward traditions as to how we buy products. It's just ingrained in us in society that that the new person on the block has to prove itself over a period of time. Virginia Tech had to prove themselves. You know how they did that? They kept winning. We'll do the same thing. We keep winning and we'll change the perception. You can't be a one-shot deal."

 

A Brian Kelly, it must be said, who's behaving himself is not nearly as much fun as a Brian Kelly who's fired up.

 

--And if you happen to live in the Syracuse area, I'll be on ESPN 1410 at 4:30 p.m. today. So, you know, this probably only applies to my Aunt Ronni, but whatever.

Homecoming and Goings

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What a nice homecoming it was...UC beating the 'Ville and retaining the Keg of Nails, with the exception of the ones they used to nailed the coffin shut; Seeing all my media colleagues from my previous time along side them and experiencing the campus once again amidst a stadium holding a record crowd. Other than chasing the cotton candy man down, I had a great time. I went to the parade and endured the cold, hit the book store and shared the time with family and friends and saw new version's of UC fans being born across the campus landscape.

it was indeed a magical time in Clifton and so many people are to be thanked but my hat goes off to the nameless faces that take tickets, brave the cold, park the cars, walk up and down the aisle selling food and drink and listen to the complaints en masse. We tend to forget them because its our time to be rabid fans and alumni; flex our muscles and proclaim ourselves lord of the stadium. So next time you're there, say thank you for doing something most of us probably won't do or haven't done.

Football Alumni props go to all those who show up and still support the team. One alum, Willis Love, who lives in the Pittsburgh area, still makes it to all the games as do many others who live in and out of town. Why I single out his name is simple: He is a true Bearcat and makes no apologies for it. He represents those who previous blood, sweat and tears lay dry on the same turf that is home to the new wave 'Cats. He follows them to the bowl games and watches in earnest to make sure the 'Cats represent. He has season tickets and is proud of their accomplishments and believes they can win it all. So to Willis and all the UC football alum, helmets off and hands up!

And finally to this football team; take pride in restoring pride...people now see what happens when you support your school with financial gifts and attendance. BIG things can happen. Its the graduates of the other disciplines like business, engineering, DAAP and Nursing that enable you to play on turf and ultimately practice indoors. C, everyone has a hand in UC's success, just look around.

That's the way I see it, sitting in the Box Seat.

APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH, BLACK AND ORANGE HELMETS ON HALLOWEEN

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WHEN ARE THEY PLAYING SCOTT?  Saturday, October 31st, some call it Halloween

VENUE: The multi-purpose Carrier Dome

KICKOFF: Shortly after 12 noon

THE SERIES: UC leads 5-4

THE LAST ONE: Bearcats won 30-10 last November 29


     This is a game that everyone wishes would be better. Syracuse wishes it would be better and certainly the Big East wishes the Orange would return to its past status. Heck, in recent years the departed Paul Pasqualoni now looks legendary compared to the substandard numbers Syracuse has put up.

     Greg Robinson (now Michigan's defensive coordinator) was an awful fit, trying to bring a pro-style passing game to a school that gave you Jim Brown, Ernie Davis (the field's named after him), Leroy Kelly, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka,etc. A cumulative record of 10-37 gave a fan base a new appreciation of Pasqualoni, who at least guided the Orange to some bowl games.

     Truth be told, the most respected coach hanging around Syracuse games in recent years has been the retired Dick MacPherson (a one-time UC assistant) who coached from 1981-91 and led the 'Cuse to an 11-0-1 record in 1987 with a tie against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

     Now the man is Doug Marrone, who graduated from Syracuse the year MacPherson was wrapping it up and moving onto the NFL Patriots for a couple years. Like Robinson, Marrone comes most recently from the NFL where he was offensive coordinator with the Saints. While you can't argue the offensive prowess of the Saints, it remains to be seen how NFL coaches adapt to taking the reins of major college programs.

     So far, Marrone is doing what he can with a 3-4 record. The Orange have some talented players (they'd been losing them to Greg Schiano and Rutgers in recent years) but the fact is their most famous player was shooting hoops for Coach K at Duke last year...Greg Paulus.

     The schedule is such that Syracuse has every opportunity to improve on last year's 3-9 mark (and they've already equaled the win total). I mean, what other Big East program has EIGHT, count'em EIGHT home games. Not only that, but UC is the last of what has been a SIX-game homestand!

     SIX straight home games! Now, I don't want to say that smells fishy, but.....

     Oh well, as everyone has said, the league needs Syracuse to be good to boost up everyone else. They are more talented, and they are at home. And much like last week, UC can't let their guard down and assume the Orange are just going to lay down and let the Bearcats waltz into the endzone.

     In a strange, almost unfair way, I think UC will (if the game does end up lopsided) get more credit for a big win over Syracuse than they did by beating Louisville at Nippert. I'm not so sure Syracuse is any better than Louisville, but in the slanted view of the East Coast outlets, beating up the Orange will have more significance.

      Now, minus the creepy UPS guy, let's go to the board and draw this thing up.....


UC's offense vs. Syracuse defense


The story again for this one will focus on the quarterback, although the drama shouldn't be as heavy. With Zach Collaros being nearly perfect and throwing for three touchdowns, there's really no rush to bring Tony Pike back. On the other hand, Brian Kelly knows this coaching business and he knows not to "show his hand" if he doesn't have to. So, despite the medical facts and the reality of what Collaros did vs. Louisville. The starting quarterback was officially listed as Pike OR Collaros OR Chazz Anderson in this week's game notes. However, Kelly clarified in Tuesday's press conference that if Tony Pike can't go (and there's numerous reasons not to rush him now) that Zach Collaros will start.  In the end, when the Bearcats can run and catch like they did against the Cardinals, it's just not going to matter. Sure, Syracuse sacked Akron's QB five times last weekend, but UC and both Pike and Collaros played against USF and the Bulls have had the toughest pass rush to date. The Orange have a good MLB in Derrell Smith, but he was gimped up a bit against the Zips. However, with as much as Doug Marrone is building this game up, saying UC "might be the best team in the country", I don't think there's much doubt about him playing.


Nod: Too many weapons for UC and while the Carrier Dome can be loud, if UC marches down and scores quickly and often, the Orange fans will head back to their tailgating tents for further beverages. I've seen this firsthand and as loud as the place can be, the cavernous facility can be equally as quiet.


Syracuse offense vs. UC defense


As mentioned, Greg Paulus is the "point" man at QB. He has playmaking abilities. However, he still has some rust and as recently as the West Virginia loss (34-13 Mountaineers) was pulled in favor of sophomore Ryan Nassib. Nassib also has some set plays to run and heaves the deep ball. Paulus was back starting last week against Akron, but I think UC's ever-improving defensive line can give him fits. At RB, Delone Carter ran for 170 yards against Akron, but UC's defense has been much stronger against the run since Fresno State's Ryan Mathews chewed them up a few games back. The best player Syracuse has is WR Mike Williams who was suspended last week. When healthy (and not suspended) Williams can be very productive (he caught 13 passes vs. USF).

Again, UC has Aaron Webster in the secondary who makes plays every week, as does Drew Frey, as does Dominique Battle, etc. The "no-name" defense is starting to get some name recognition.


Nod: Syracuse will score, but not enough.


Special Teams


The 'Cuse gave up a 98-yard kickoff return last week and that's not good when Mardy Gilyard is coming to town. Also, Darrin Williams has broken a long one and could do it again should Syracuse kick away from #1. Jake Rogers seems to have his wits about him and is punting and kicking well (including kickoffs). Yes, he missed a 50-yarder last week, but most college kickers do. Rogers has 50-plus yard power and the dome is perfect for long shots. I once saw Mark Dantonio let Kevin Lovell try a 61-yarder (he missed--Jon Bacon's 58-yarder--I saw that too--still reigns).


Nod: As long as Gilyard can see the kicks coming out of the lights and the domed ceiling, he's about due to break another one.


Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks


It's a unique situation in that both teams are dealing with QB situations. Brian Kelly's is better as he has Tony Pike, a Davey O'Brien semi-finalist and still in some Heisman talk. When he doesn't have Pike, he has Zach Collaros who would be starting on a lot of Big East teams. I've made no bones about it, I'm a big Collaros fan because of his versatility and track record. I think UC's offense is in fine hands whenever he's behind center. Yes, Pike should return as starter, but Collaros is pretty darn good.

On the other side, I detect controversy in the Syracuse ranks with "golden boy" Paulus and Ryan Nassib. Paulus brings the flash and the headlines, but Ryan Nassib appears to have a stronger gun and runs it better. This is not Pike and Collaros, this is a QB that someone went to great lengths to get and a youngster who maybe needs a harder look if Syracuse doesn't turn this thing around. One more thing...what's with EIGHT home games and SIX straight in the Carrier Dome! I still don't like it!

I look forward to the day the Bearcats are granted eight home games at the Nipp, don't you? (That's as likely as Mike Brown coming forward to fund Nippert Stadium expansion!)

Add this to your reading list

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This past week I finished reading "Life on the Color Line" by UC's new president Gregory Williams. All I can say is, "Wow."

The book is vivid in description and really well-written. And it's a fascinating story.

I got my copy at the UC bookstore, but you can also get it on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Life-Color-Line-Story-Discovered/dp/0452275334

I might end up writing more about this. The university magazine is looking for some reviews. And rumor has it, I may get a chance to interview Williams next month.

Meanwhile, I recommend adding this to your reading list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't Worry About The BCS . . . At Least Not Yet

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Am I the only Bearcat fan who is not remotely concerned about the possibility that an undefeated Cincinnati team could be left out of the BCS National Championship game?

 

For starters, the 'Cats have a LONG way to go.  If UC is still undefeated on the morning of December 6th, I'll be happy to debate whether the Big East champion is worthy of a shot at the title.

 

But somebody is in this position nearly every year and will be until there is a playoff.

 

In 2004, Auburn ran the table in the SEC - not exactly a conference that struggles to get respect - and watched USC face Oklahoma for the BCS Championship.  Imagine how it felt for Auburn fans to see the Sooners get smoked by the Trojans 55-19.

 

Shoot, as Joe Posnanski pointed out in his phenomenal profile of Joe Paterno in Sports Illustrated this week, Joe Pa has had four undefeated teams at Penn State that were passed over for national championships.

 

(He also pointed out that Paterno was born before Don Shula, Gordie Howe, Arnold Palmer, Shirley Temple, and Elvis Presley among others.  Great stuff.)

 

I've already been through this once before.  In 1987, shortly after I graduated from Syracuse, I was part of the broadcast crew at my alma mater when the Orange went 11-0 in the regular season and did not play for the national title.  #1 Oklahoma and #2 Miami also had perfect regular seasons and met in the Orange Bowl.  Syracuse settled for the Sugar Bowl and finished 4th in the polls after tying Auburn. 

 

I refuse to get worked up about what might happen in January and have the following advice for all UC fans:  Enjoy the ride instead of focusing on the destination.

 

Brian Kelly and his staff have put together one of the most exciting teams in the country (is there a more entertaining player to watch than Mardy Gilyard?) and the #5 Bearcats have already accomplished remarkable feats.

 

Lose 10 starters on defense?  No problem - the 'Cats lead the nation in tackles for loss and rank second in sacks.

 

Lose a Heisman candidate quarterback in the middle of a tight road game?  Big whoop - plug in a seldom-used backup and outscore two conference rivals 58 to 17 in his first six quarters.

 

This is not normal folks.  Have you noticed what happened to Oklahoma when QB Sam Bradford went down?  The Sooners are 4-3.  Winning games after losing a star quarterback is not as easy as Brian Kelly, Jeff Quinn, Greg Forest, Charlie Molnar, Lorenzo Guess, and especially Zach Collaros are making it look.

 

So don't get caught up in the BCS debate . . . and don't look ahead to the monster matchups against #20 West Virginia and #16 Pitt.  Let's enjoy every step along the way beginning with Saturday's game at Syracuse.

 

Yes, I'll be rooting for my alma mater to lose this week.

 

Along with Florida, Alabama, Texas, USC, Boise State, Iowa, and TCU. 

 

 * * * * *

 

I didn't get to see the open basketball scrimmage on Saturday, but I did attend practice the day before and spent much of it focusing on Uber frosh Lance Stephenson.

 

He's the real deal offensively and will be a nightmare matchup for opponents.  Lance is strong enough to overpower most guards, and sufficiently skilled as a ball handler to drive by most forwards.

 

"He's 6'5" and he can put in on the floor like he's 6-foot," Yancy Gates told me.  "He came in strong and able to finish around the bucket with bigger defenders jumping at him and I think that will make him really special with his ability to get to the cup."

 

"He has the ability to make us better on offense right away and not just because he can score," Coach Cronin said.  "He's helped our offense immensely in practice because of his passing - it's tremendous.  He's by far our best passer and has great size to see over the defense.  And he's playing with high-level players who can finish."

 

You can see for yourself next Saturday.  The 'Cats will hold another open scrimmage at 10 a.m.  It's the perfect thing to do before watching and/or listening to the UC/Syracuse football game beginning at noon.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

Enjoy a recent photo of the handsome lad, who enjoyed the beach in South Florida nearly as much as the Bearcats win over the Bulls.

 

Sam in St. Pete re.JPG 

UC-Louisville Rock 'N Roll Party

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Such an easy story to write off today's game. So many different ways to screw it up. Hopefully, I didn't.

 

The gist, of course, is that Zach Collaros starts at quarterback for the injured Tony Pike, completes 15 of 17 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and rushes 11 times for 52 yards to beat Louisville in the 41-10 victory.

 

So many great quotes from Collaros, Brian Kelly, Mardy Gilyard, and Dustin Grutza, it was hard to piece them all together in one coherent story. But the question I wanted to get answered most was this: why do Kelly's UC teams continue to thrive when a backup quarterback is in the game?


With Collaros' win tonight, the Bearcats are 6-0 when a backup has to replace the starter (Grutza replacing Ben Mauk vs. Miami and Marshall in 2007, Tony Pike replacing Grutza vs. Miami in 2008, Chazz Anderson replacing Pike vs. Marshall and Rutgers in 2008, and Collaros replacing Pike today). What is about this system that allows the quarterback to do that?

 

"You are confronted with different challenges each week, and that's the leadership they expect from you," Kelly said. "They expect you to prepare your players. You don't have time to complain about what you don't have. That goes back to my experience in Division II. You have to play with what you've got, and you've got to make them the best players they can be."

 

Said Gilyard: "One guy steps out, the next guy steps in and we keep rolling. I think we added a little more spice to our offense when we added Zach. It keeps the defense guessing. They don't know if he's going to throw the ball - he throws an excellent ball as you saw today - or if he's going to run the ball, like he did against South Florida."

 

Said Grutza, who was on the UC sidelines: "That's what he emphasizes, playing to a player's strengths. He knows how to use his players. He can move guys around. That's definitely an asset. That's definitely a skill he has that makes this team go."

 

Since Collaros takes about 40 percent of the snaps on any given week - much of them with the first-team offensive line - he works on plays that Kelly specifically provides for him. You saw a bunch of them tonight. Pike obviously isn't a running quarterback, so the plays that emphasize the quarterback and his feet go to Collaros.

 

"We put everything on the board, and go, 'OK, this is everything he does well,'" Kelly said. "You try to formulate a plan based on that. We have such a variety of what we can do offensively. It starts from having a big menu to choose from, and then you can pick and choose to what I think suits him.

 

"We do a lot of reps with our 2s. I get a chance to evaluate him, even when he's not the starter on plays that he's pretty good at."

 

Make sure to check out my column on cbssports.com sometime tonight/Sunday. I delve a little more into this question.

 

But first, my favorite quote of the night provided by Cardinals coach Steve Kragthorpe.

 

"To be honest with you, I was hoping Tony would play today, because I knew they would be one-dimensional, and I knew that they would throw it. ... They're a little more one-dimensional with Tony in there."

 

Yes, I'm sure the Cardinals would rather have faced one of the top quarterbacks in the nation rather than the backup who's never started a game at this level.

 

--Sounds like it'll be another week of day-to-day updates for Pike. Kelly said the training staff will alter his cast early in the week - I assume to make it easier for him to play - but like he said last week, the most important factor that will determine whether Pike can play is how comfortable he is in the pocket.

 

"He can rip it with his right arm," Kelly said. "He can throw it anywhere, but we don't want to put himself in a position where he can't protect himself."

 

Kelly admitted that Pike was a little blue this week but that he quickly recovered and spent the night in the hotel with his teammates.

 

"He had a great run going, and this happens to him again," Kelly said. "But the one thing I love about him is that he's going to do whatever's necessary to win. He spent a lot of time last night in the hotel. He could have been back in his own home. He stayed in the dorm last night and spent three hours with those guys, watching film, going over checks. We're really fortunate to have a guy like that. He could say, 'Woe is me, here we go again,' but he was with those guys all night. It was great to see. He was outstanding the last 24-48 hours with these guys."

 

--Gilyard was excited to tie his friend, Dominick Goodman, for the school record with 22 career touchdown catches.

 

"It feels great, tying the record with somebody I know, who took me under his wing ever since I switched to wide receiver in 2007," he said. "Goodie was always that guy. He's not really a verbal guy. He'll pull you off to the side and say, 'C'mon, bruh. Look at this, bruh. Look at that, bruh.' Just watching him do his thing in '07 and watching him do his thing in '08 and leading me into '09, I was blessed to have somebody like Goodie in front of me."

 

--Though he wasn't on the team at that point, senior linebacker Andre Revels remembered the 70-7 pounding Louisville inflicted upon UC in 2004. So did some of the former players on the Bearcats sideline, including Haruki Nakamura, Dustin Grutza and Bradley Glatthaar.  

 

The fact the Bearcats have surpassed the Cardinals gives Revels a warm feeling.

 

"When we first came in, we weren't really competing with them," Revels said. "It was a landslide. Now, we're coming in here and making it competitive."

 

I don't know if I'd use the word 'competitive.' Maybe the word 'dominant.'

UC-Louisville LIVE blog

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As you might know, Tony Pike won't play today. He's dressed in sweats, and Zach Collaros will be the man leading the Bearcats. So, no surprise, but it's now official.

First Quarter

UC opens the game with a Mardy Gilyard 5-yard run, and then Zach Collaros with a short pass to Ben Guidugli for the first down. I imagine we'll see plenty of both those things. Collaros looking good so far. He's dumping short passes and screens to his receivers and running backs and leting them run for big gains. Collaros just had Gilyard open on a corner route, but he overthrew him. UC runs a similar play, and it gains 16 yards. First and goal from the 2. Looked like an offsides, and it is. First and goal from the 1. Isaiah Pead takes the handoff and runs off right guard for the easy 1-yard score. That didn't seem too difficult for UC.

UC 7, Louisville 0 (10:10 to go)

First play from scrimmage for the Cards is Bilal Powell losing a yard; then Vic Anderson with a nine-yard gain brings up 3rd and 2 from the UL 28. Another run for Anderson, and he's not even close. The Cards will have to punt.

Earlier this week, Armon Binns said all the UC quarterback had to do was throw the ball up in the air and the receivers would go get it. That just happened there. Collaros threw it up for grabs, and Binns went up and got it for a 28-yard gain. Collaros runs for another 12 yards. Then another 12 yards to bring it to the UL 24. And then Binns went up and got another one - this one for the 24-yard TD pass from Collaros. The Bearcats making it look easy now.

UC 14, Louisville 0 (5:21 to go)

After Froman fumbles on the center exchange, Anderson with a 6-yard gain. Third and 5 from the UL 25. And the Cards jump. Third and 10. Froman's pass was off target, and UL to punt again. So far, UC has 167 yards of offense. UL has 13.

Collaros threading the need to Guidugli for six yards and the first down. Third and 3 from the UL 41. Only the second third down UC has faced so far. Ramsey is tripped up and is a yard short. UC goes for it and Collaros runs up the middle. He's about half-yard short, and UL will take over on downs.

Second quarter

So far, Zach Collaros has 39 yards on six carries. He's also 8 of 9 for 120 yards and TD.

Froman completes his first pass to Cameron Graham, and it's third and 5 from the UL 45. And the Cards get their first first down with an inside screen from Froman to Stephon Ball. Anderson with a nice run to the UC 29 for a 20-yard gain. Dominique Battle with the corner blitz forces Froman to throw incomplete. It'll be third and 10 from the UC 29. And the play-action doesn't fool Brandon Mills, who sacks Froman for a 10-yard loss. UL to punt.

Collaros with a nice hard throw to Gilyard across the middle for a 20-yard gain and the first down. Man, on Collaros' first-down run, Jeff Linkenbach absolutely dominated UL DE William Savoy. He blocked him to the ground, and then when Savoy tried to get up, Linkenbach bullied him back to the turf. Another nice pass to D.J. Woods on what looked like a go route up the middle of the field. It's first and 10 from the UL 15. And then another great pass, hitting Pead in stride (who beat Cards LB Chris Campa) for the 15-yard TD. Collaros, I've gotta say, looks really good. He's got 236 yards of total offense. He's also 12 of 13.

UC 21, Louisville 0 (9:01 to go)

Two runs by Anderson make it third and 1 from the UL 45. Cards give it to FB Joe Tronzo, who gains a yard and the first down. Dan Giordono with the tipped Froman pass. Darius Ashley, former St. X star, carries for nine yards. It'll be third and 1 from the UC 41. Ashely again for a nice gain for the first down. After the Bearcats finally hold Ashley to a one-yard gain, it'll be third and 2 from the UC 28. Froman with the designed sneak gets the first down. Obviously, the Cards have found something with their running game on this series, and I think some of the credit has to go to Ashley, a redshirt frehsman. Huge tackle by Giordano on Anderson on second and 1. That will make it third and 5 from the 24. Pressured by Battle and Curtis Young, Froman does a nice job getting off his pass to Troy Pascley for the first down. First and goal at the 10. Anderson rushes 5 yards. It'll be third and goal and 3. And another Cincinnati boy comes through. Froman to Josh Chichester, former Lakota West standout, for the 3-yard TD. Nice drive by Louisville that eats up nearly 8 minutes of clock. If the Cards can hold UC here, they'll get the ball to start the second half and could make this game interesting again.

UC 21, Louisville 7 (1:01 to go)

UC takes over with 53 seconds to go after a nice return by Gilyard. UC will start on its 36. Yep, Binns has some moves too. Makes the catch over the middle and then gains another 10 yards or so to the UL 42. Spike. 38 seconds to go. Corralos takes the sack by Campa and fumbles it. Linkenbach makes the recovery, but it'll be third and 17 from the UL 47. 29 seconds to go. Another nice pass, this one to Gilyard who catches it a yard short of the first down. He could have had the first down perhaps but he goes backward. FG unit has to rush to the field, but for some reason, UL calls a timeout. I don't know, maybe they had too many men on the field. Rogers for the 51-yard FG, and again, the Cards call a timeout. And it's way off, wide right. That will end the half.

UC 21, Louisville 7 (half)

First-half stats: Collaros is 14 of 15 for 222 yards and two touchdowns while rushing nine times for 45 yards. That's 267 yards of total offense. Binns has three catches for 75 yards and a score.

Vic Anderson has 10 carries for 47 yards, while Froman is 4 of 8 for 23 yards and a TD.

Third Quarter

First two plays gain UL 20 yards, but it'll be third and from the UL 43. Ashley takes the handoff and gains a tough three yards. Back-to-back penalties on the Bearcats make it first and 10 from the UC 16. First penalties of the game for UC. Froman on the designed sneak, and UC swallows him up. Penalty, though. It's personal four on UL OT Jeff Adams, and that makes it third and 23 from the UC 29. Froman scrambles for a 10-yard gain. Ryan Payne, who's kicking shoeless, hits the 36-yard field goal.

UC 21, Louisville 10 (10:27 to go)

Huge kickoff return for Gilyard. With Darrin Williams leading the way for him, Gilyard catches the ball on the 11 and makes it all the way to the UL 14 to give the Bearcats decent field position. That's a 75-yard return. Collaros to Binns for the 14-yard touchdown on first down, but it's waved off because of an illegal shift penalty. After Collaros scrambles for a two-yard gaining, brining up third and 8 on the 13. Collaros on a designed run up the middle gains five yards. Rogers is out there, and his 26-yard FG is good.

UC 24, Louisville 10 (8:38 to go)

The attendance is 35,099, which UC is calling the largest in school history. I think we can all agree, though, the Pitt game last year had more people in the stands and in the concourse.

Bad snap to Froman, and he struggles to corral it. Then he runs into Ricardo Matthews and John Hughes for a 1-yard loss. Third and six crom the UL 24, and Derek Wolfe hits him with the 7-yard sack, forcing a punt from the Cards. Wow, an absolutely terrible punt. Call that 14 yards. Didn't look like anybody touched it.

UC takes over on the UL 31. Collaros with only his second incomplete pass after it's tipped at the line. He started 14 of 15, and he quickly makes up for it with a beautiful 31-yard TD pass to Gilyard. Just a gorgeous throw. And that's Gilyard's 22nd receiving TD, tying him with the school record with Dominick Goodman.

UC 31, Louisville 10 (6:18 to go)

New QB for the Cards. It's junior Justin Burke, and he gains seven on the keeper to make it third and 2 from the UL 28. And the Cards take their final timeout. Burke had Dough Beaumont in the flat for what would have been an easy first down. But he overthrows it, and UL will have to punt again.

And yes, Pead has some speed. He takes the handoff and gallops 67 yards for the TD, giving UC a four-touchdown lead.

UC 38, Louisville 10 (4:36 to go)

It'll be third and eight from the UL 31. Inside screen to Beaumont gains the Cards the first down. Give the credit to Beaumont for that one. Burke can elude two Cards players, but he doesn't get by JK Schaffer. Tell you what, though, now that Vic Anderson is done for the day, Ashley looks pretty good running the ball. Injury timeout for Josh Byrom, who needs help getting off the field. Hughes, though, gets Ashley in the backfield for a 5-yard loss. Then, after Ashley catches a Burke pass, Ricardo Matthews drops him for another 5-yard loss. And UC with its first turnover of the day. Burke to Cameron Graham, who lets it go through his hands and Walter Stewart grabs it out of the air for the INT. UC takes over on its 45 yard line.

Chazz Anderson is in the game now, and he hits Charley Howard for the nine-yard gain. Goebel runs it for the first down.

Fourth Quarter

Anderson complete to Adrian Robinson for the first down. Some second-string skill players now in the game. Darrin Williams at running back, Charley Howard at receiver, Jamar Howard at receiver, Danny Milligan at receiver. The first team OL is till in, though. Third and 9 at the UL 27, and Anderson is incomplete to Robinson. Rogers in for the 45-yard field goal, and it's good with plenty of room.

UC 41, Louisville 10 (12:40 to go)

Bill Koch has been doing some research, and he's found that if UC wins by more than 30, it'd be the biggest Bearcats victory against Louisville since 1951.

OK, going down to the field.

  

 

UC-Louisville preview

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It's funny how the atmosphere of this rivalry game has been turned around completely in a year's time.

 

Going into last season's game, the Bearcats faced a Cardinals squad they hadn't beaten in five seasons. There were seniors on the team who still remembered the 70-7 destruction from 2004. They were playing at Louisville, and it was UC's fourth game in 21 days. They were tired and perhaps a little unsure.

 

In fact, here's what I wrote in my pregame prediction:

 

I think UC will probably win tonight, but I can understand those fans who might have a bad feeling about this game. I agree it's a game the Bearcats definitely could lose. I just don't think they will.

 

Say, UC 31, Louisville 21

 

And I pretty much nailed it. With some major late-game help from hobbled quarterback Dustin Grutza, the Bearcats pulled out the 28-20 victory to win the Keg of Nails trophy and continue their magical season.

 

These days, does anybody think UC will lose this game? Does anybody think the Cardinals pose any kind of threat to the Bearcats?

 

Well, probably so. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that Louisville could play well enough to pull off the road upset, especially if Tony Pike doesn't play. But I don't think even Cardinals fans envision that scenario occurring, and just a year removed from a game that Bearcats supporters had major concerns about, it's a little strange that this game is being seen by so many as a walkover.

 

Just my observation.

 

--No matter who takes the snaps at quarterback for the Bearcats - and as I'm writing this, I'm not sure who that'll be* - wide receiver Armon Binns said the team would be fine with whomever is on the field.

 

*If I had to rank in order the quarterbacks I think we'll see, from most likely to least likely, I'd guess: Zach Collaros, Tony Pike, and Chazz Anderson.

 

"We're definitely comfortable with whoever is in there," Binns said. "They leave the offense pretty wide open, not matter who's in there. Obviously it's most helpful with Tony. But I've got confidence in all the guys to make all the plays and all the throws. You have the chemistry with Pike and all that, but both of (the backups) are very capable. It's really all about putting the ball there and letting us go get it."

 

I asked Brian Kelly if he would have to tailor his offense to Anderson or Collaros. After all, last season, while Anderson took over for the injured Pike, the Bearcats had to scale back their offense to make things easier for the then-redshirt freshman.

 

"You definitely want to tailor to the strengths and weaknesses of what you do," Kelly said. "You can't go too far outside your comfort zone. We're a spread offense. We're not going to come out in two tight end, two backs and one flanker. We have to be able to do the things we're good at - throwing the football and picking our spots to run the football. The only difference is we now have a quarterback who can run the ball (in Collaros). But if he can't throw it, we became a triple option team. I'm not good at that."

 

--The Cardinals have struggled this season, and they've lost four of their past five contests. But they have some strong players. Junior quarterback Adam Forman, at 6-4, is tall, and last week, he completed 16-straight passes while tossing for a career-high 295 yards.

 

His main receiving target is Scott Long, who's caught 28 passes for 468 yards and one touchdown.

 

And of course, the Bearcats have to beware running backs Vic Anderson and Bilal Powell - who have combined for 699 yards and nine scores.

 

During the week, Kelly said he could see the remnants of Louisville's offense beginning to take shape and play effectively as a unit. He also said he hopes the Cardinals don't figure it out completely in time for Saturday's game.

 

"They're a football team that's playing better and better," Kelly said.

 

--By the way, I just received word that I'll be covering the UC-Louisville game for CBSSports.com as well. So, add that Web site to the immense amount of national recognition the Bearcats have received lately (Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, ESPN and (plug alert) Bearcats Rising, etc.). And make sure to read my game column/analysis Saturday evening.

 

Prediction: It's hard to say, because it depends on who starts at quarterback. I like UC for the win regardless, but I don't know by how much. I'm thinking I'll take Pike + Collaros /2 and that =

 

Say, UC 31, Louisville 10.

Jaquon Parker Draws Early Raves

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Lance Stephenson is the most highly-touted UC recruit in years - maybe ever - and was named the Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year on Wednesday.  But when I asked Deonta Vaughn what Bearcat newcomer has really stood out in the first few days of practice, he picked someone else.

 

"The guy who has really impressed me a lot is Jaquon Parker," Vaughn said.  "If you saw him in open gym you might not have thought that he was an impressive player, but he's not an open gym type player.  He's a team type of player.  He's been really tough.  He gets after it as a defender in practice and he's becoming a better player every day."

 

"Deonta loves him because he passes the ball," Coach Cronin said with a smile.  "Right now we're trying to put Jaquon and Cashmere (Wright) in point guard situations that will get them ready to play.  They're playing against each other with the ball in their hands and Jaquon's been the beneficiary of being on Deonta's team the last few days but that will change."

 

Parker was the Class AAA Player of the Year in Virginia last year, as he averaged 18.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.5 assists while leading King's Fork High School to a state championship.  But he didn't receive much hype from the recruiting services because he was considered a 2010 prospect before taking summer courses to gain college eligibility this year.

 

"Jaquon is a guy that people are definitely overlooking," Coach Cronin said.  "People know about Cashmere and everybody wants to talk about Lance, but Jaquon doesn't have some recruiting service ranking attached to his name.  Jaquon was a monster recruit for us and people are going to find out soon enough.  He is going to be an impact player and will have a tremendous career at Cincinnati.  He is a big strong guard like Anthony Buford and Immanuel McElroy but more of a point guard.  He is a tremendous competitor who makes other people better."

 

Parker is certainly pushing Cashmere Wright who, despite being around the team last year while recovering from a knee injury, is still a freshman when it comes to his lack of experience.

 

"I think Cashmere gained some knowledge and I don't have to talk to him like a true freshman because he saw it first hand." Mick told me.  "But that's not going to prevent him from having to play through some rookie mistakes.  He's still going to have to get that out of his system for the first time because he didn't get a chance to get those things out of his system.  The game is still going to be fast for him.  If you were to ask any of our newcomers, the biggest problem is that the game seems like it's going at 100 mph.  He and Jaquon are going to have to play through it and it will slow down as the year goes along."

 

UC is bound to have some growing pains with two freshman point guards.

 

But it certainly beats having no point guards.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

 

Mick's Feeling Better -- Despite Being Sick

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For the fourth consecutive year, Mick Cronin arrived in New York City for Big East media day feeling sick to his stomach. 

 

"It's depressing," Mick told me.  "Of all the places to have a stomach bug and not be able to enjoy a good meal.  I've been waiting for three months to go out to my favorite restaurant up here and instead I was watching the Yankees in my hotel room."

 

Still, that beats being nauseous because you've just lost a key player.

 

In his first year, UC lost Hernol Hall and Adam Hrycaniuk due to eligibility issues.  In Mick's second year, Mike Williams tore his Achilles tendon before the season.  And last year, Cashmere Wright went down with a knee injury just before Cronin headed to the Big Apple.

 

"Last year while we were here I got the call that Cashmere was out for the year, so I was regurgitating while I was here anyway.  I'd rather be here with a stomach bug and optimism about the upcoming season than to have a nice dinner while coaching a rebuilding team."

 

The rebuilding phase appears to be over.  Cincinnati was picked to finish seventh in the Preseason Coaches' Poll - ahead of Pitt, Notre Dame, and Marquette - and a Top 7 finish in the Big East would almost certainly mean a return to the NCAA Tournament.

 

"I didn't know where we were going to be picked and didn't have any expectations on where we should be picked," said sophomore Yancy Gates.  "Being picked seventh isn't bad - in other conferences that wouldn't mean very much, but in the Big East that could mean an NCAA bid."

 

"Cincinnati is a tough, hard-nosed team that has most of their players returning and with a great recruit like Lance (Stephenson) coming in, there's no telling how good they can be," Louisville guard Edgar Sosa told me.  "Cincinnati is definitely a team to look out for in the Big East."

 

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins answered "Cincinnati" when a reporter asked him to identify his dark horse pick to contend this year.

 

"Cincinnati is really talented," Huggins said.  "I think Yancy Gates is as talented as any power forward in the league.  Lance Stephenson is a very talented guy.  Deonta Vaughn is a first team all-Big East guy.  Cashmere Wright is extremely talented and then Mick's got about six guys that are 6'6" or bigger that fill a role for him.  I think they're really, really talented.  They're experienced and they've been through it before.  I think Cincinnati and Seton Hall have a chance to make a huge jump."

 

Vaughn was one of six players named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team and Stephenson was named Preseason Rookie of the Year.  Connecticut and West Virginia were the only other schools to have at least two players receive preseason individual honors.

 

"To win this league you have to have guys who are named all-league or all-freshman," Coach Cronin said.  "It means you have talent and you're not going to win in this league without talent."

 

A dilemma that Mick no longer has to stomach.

Rogers, a different player

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Admit it: after junior place-kicker Jake Rogers missed an easy 31-yard field goal against Oregon State that would have given the Bearcats a 13-point lead late in the fourth quarter, you had to wonder.

 

How will Rogers respond to an error like that? Will he go in the tank? Will he recover and continue to play to a high standard? What will happen next?

 

The past two years, Rogers had proven that when, after missing an extra point attempt or a short field goal, he allowed that miscue to play mind games with him. He let the doubts creep into his brain and into his leg. He had a hard time forgetting the mistake.

 

This year, through, has been different. He missed the short field goal against Oregon State, but the next week against Fresno State, he averaged 44.7 yards on three punts. He missed an extra point vs. Miami, but he nailed a 42-yarder later in the game and punted three times for 46.7 yards.

 

He's not letting the mistakes affect his psyche any more, and to a Bearcats squad that has watched him struggle with his emotions during his freshman and sophomore seasons - and a team that will need to count on him to help defend the Big East title - that must be a relief.

 

"After the Oregon State game, I was pretty upset with myself because it was a missed field goal I felt like I should have made," Rogers said. "I hold myself to a high standard. I want to perform well, and I don't like letting the team down."

 

Yet, he's also learned to relax.

 

"As the Miami game goes, definitely," he said. "The first kick, I missed the PAT. But you're only as good as your next kick, and that's the mindset I had. I came out for the kickoff and hit it well. I had a 42-yard field goal, and I ended up punting well as well. That's the mindset you have to have."

 

To me, Rogers carries himself a little differently this year. It's hard to describe exactly what that means. But Tuesday was the first time I've interviewed him this season, and he just seemed ... I don't know ... a little different. Maybe a little more sure of himself.

 

"I roomed with Jake his true freshman year, and I've seen the same changes," senior center Chris Jurek said. "With Kevin Huber doing so well, Kevin took him under his wing and taught him some of the ropes and how he should carry himself. Jake has matured as a player and as a person."

 

All while taking over more responsibilities for the Bearcats. Namely, he's won the punting job, as well, and he's performed well. He's averaging 41.3 yards per kick, and he's dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line (against only one touchback). Before this season, Rogers had never punted in a game before, but he's taken to it surprisingly well.

 

"It's technique," Rogers said. "All summer long, I worked with my kicking coach and worked with (backup punter Michael) Cooke and (long snapper) Mike Windt probably three or four times a week. We all knew there was a huge hole there without Huber, and we needed to bound in and buck up. I feel comfortable out there. It doesn't feel foreign to me anymore. That's another thing to add - kickoff, punt, and field goal. I feel great doing them all."

 

And honestly, he just looks like a different player.

 

"The way I've carried myself this season as opposed to the last two seasons, I know I'm here for a reason," he said. "There's no point in being nervous anymore. You're out there to kick field goals and you're out there to make them. Everyone misses one. Even the pros miss. Nobody is perfect. That's the mindset you have to have."

 

--Demetrius Jones sat out much of Tuesday's practice with a huge ice pack on his lower left leg, and Brian Kelly said he's going to be limited for practice this week and the Louisville game on Saturday.

 

Jones - who didn't practice at all last week and sat out the South Florida game - has an inflamed tendon/nerve in his lower leg. Jones has taken a steroid shot, but for now, it's still too sore for him to get much time on the field.

 

"It's just cranky," Kelly said. "He's better. He can probably play a little bit. This week, he's practicing a little bit, and I think he'll get in some emergency work. But it's been tough on him. We're OK now because we've got Curtis Young back. It gives us the flexibility. We're OK, but I'd like to get him back. He helps us, because he's a more athletic kid."

BATTLE FOR THE KEG OF NAILS XLIX

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(As an aside, I do a pre-game show outside of the Lindner Center before home games...I'm the guy in the booth across from the lawn where people are bouncing in inflatables and drinking cold beverages.  Typically, I have some interesting guests.  So far this year I've had on Jim Kelly Jr., Tim Adams and UC Sr. Assoc. AD Andy Hurley.  Jim Kelly will join me early again Saturday, followed by Bearcatlair's Tim Adams.  After that, John P. Wise of the website www.onegreatseason.com (spending this season going to different match-ups each week--this weekend he's here) and if "Bearcats Rising" author Josh Katzowitz gets parked in time he may stop by (if not you can catch him on this website).  Naturally, the talent fees are very handsome and there's often a pretty stiff competition to decide who appears "live".  Anyway, we appreciate any attention we get and we're happy to answer questions from the audience and/or guess your age and weight.  As always, the throwing of fresh produce at the talent is strongly discouraged.)

Now...the preview (sure, it might have to be amended by the weekend, but I'm putting on the eye-black now!)

WHEN: Homecoming October 24, 2009

WHERE: Homecoming means Nippert (duh!)

KICKOFF: 3:30 (by order of Walt Disney)

THE SERIES: UC leads 26-21-1

LAST TILT: Bearcats win the Keg of Nails at the 'Ville 28-20


     This is an odd one. It's Homecoming and everyone should be fired up.

     Make no mistake, they are. However, UC fans are fired up over having the #5 ranking in the country. They're fired up to see if Tony Pike can: a) play, and b) continue to roll up passing stats that'll have him in the Heisman conversation.

     What they're not fired up for is Louisville. Usually a UC/Louisville match-up is pretty intense.

     Now, it seems like the end result is a foregone conclusion. To that I say, "Watch out!"

     With quarterback issues and loftier opponents remaining on the schedule, it would be easy for UC to overlook this game. That would be a monumental mistake because the Louisville Cardinals have great offensive skill. Plus, they're not that far removed from being good.

     To any Bearcat feeling all fat and sassy about this game, I say remember Elder's Eric Wood holding it up the Keg of Nails and egging on the fans at Nippert after a win two years ago. I say, remember the drubbings that John L. Smith gave you. Remember how Bobby Petrino's squad wiped the field with UC when Gino Guidugli couldn't play with a broken hand one rainy, miserable November afternoon (70-7). Remember the conjured up controversy of disrespecting "the bird" (the Cardinal on the middle of Papajohn's stadium).

     Find what gets your motor running and use that to your advantage.

     Louisville was once where the Bearcats are at and look how they've dropped. It shows how the mighty can fall. It also shows how difficult it is to maintain greatness.

     Regardless of how you feel, this is one of your team's rivals. This is a game that always feels good to win. There's a trophy up for grabs and UC wants to keep it in the Bearcat family next to the Victory Bell and the River City Rivalry.

     The funny thing about the Keg of Nails is...there are no nails in it. It pretty much is an empty barrel. Back in the Rick Minter era, it served as a table top for my old school Marantz cassette recorder during some of "Minter's meanderings". When UC lost it back to the 'Ville, I had to improvise and actually hold my recorder.

     Prior to the return of the Keg last year, it was almost nowhere to be found in Cardinal country. When UC pulled the upset a few years back in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, they had to send an equipment guy back into their football building to retrieve it. No one knew where it was, and no one thought they'd lose.

     Funny how things can take such a dramatic shift in just a few years. Where a few years back, Louisville might've had the Keg locked in a closet with some tackling dummies, now they'd probably storm the sideline as if it were the national championship trophy to get it. The key is to prevent such an embarrassing thing from happening which most certainly would spoil Homecoming for "Bearcat Nation".

     How will that be done?


UC's offense vs. Louisville defense


The big question here will be who your Bearcat quarterback is as Tony Pike's departure from the USF game was broadcast to the nation. He returned to practice Monday, but had a surgical procedure Tuesday.  So it looks like it will be a gametime decision as to whether or not he'll take shotgun snaps and march the 'Cats downfield in precision-like fashion against Steve Kragthorpe's Cardinals. If not, Brian Kelly's been preparing both Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson. While he claims it wouldn't alter the game plan, realistically the available plays for the back-ups are reduced. In the end, Kragthorpe doesn't know for sure which quarterback he'll face and Kelly wins the mind game by not revealing his hand and forcing the Cards to be ready for all three. The wild card in this is you don't know whether to prepare for a scrambling quarterback (Collaros) or an empty backfield guy (Pike). I wouldn't be shocked to see both, if not all three in this game and then there's the "Bearcat formation" with Travis Kelce that's been temporarily shelved. Could four quarterbacks take snaps in this one? However it plays out, the Bearcats still have dominant receivers and running backs that can alternate from passing game to ground control. Louisville's defense has given up 31, 30, 35 and 38 points to Kentucky, Utah, Pitt and UConn--all offenses that don't (in my opinion) have the firepower of UC's.


Nod: Too much for the Cards to prepare for, especially when you don't know for sure what you're preparing for. Each game has had it's own little wrinkles.


Louisville offense vs. UC defense


The UC defense has been the unsung hero in a lot of games. Despite not being able to bring down B.J. Daniels at times, they got to him eventually and hurried him enough to impact what USF was trying to do on offense. Louisville has started Adam Froman of late and Justin Burke before that at quarterback, and neither of them comes close to being as "feisty" in the backfield as Daniels was. The Cards do have a couple of good runners in Victor Anderson and Balil Powell (St. X's Darius Ashley hasn't received a lot of carries for a variety of reasons--word is, he's unhappy). Scott Long has been the go-to guy so far among the receivers, and local fans will recognize 6-8 Josh Chichester from Lakota West on the field. I think with UC's improved defensive line play and the maturity of the secondary, the Cardinals could be in for a long day if the 'Cats step it up like they did in the second half at USF. The key to all of this is stopping Anderson in the run game which then forces U of L to focus more on throwing (Froman does OK, but the Louisville pass game pales in comparison to UC's).


Nod: This is a fragile Louisville team that'll need to be shut down early. If not, they do have enough talent to put some points on the board and could keep hanging around.


Special Teams


Jake Rogers took Big East Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his field goals, punts and kickoffs against USF. I'm frankly surprised that Rogers is still punting, given that the redshirt's been burned on freshman Patrick O'Donnell, but Rogers has been fairly consistent with his punting. Mardy Gilyard is always a return threat for UC and probably is about due to break one. On the other side, Louisville's got a good return man in Trent Guy, but I would hope UC's seen enough tape on him to have a plan in place. Ryan Payne's been OK on field goals (7-10) but did blow a couple PAT's last week. Cory Goettsche is the punter and is someone UC fans will hope to see quite a bit Saturday afternoon.


Nod: Good return games for both squads, Rogers is back at home so we'll assume the Big East honors have restored his confidence and he'll be good to go on both ends of the kicking game. With Trent Guy returning kicks, WHERE Rogers deposits his punts and kickoffs will be important.


Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks


At the risk of saying "trap game"...well, I guess it's too late. UC's riding their biggest wave of popularity and has pretty much stolen the Big East football spotlight--a light the folks down I-71 had not all that long ago. THEY were going to the Orange Bowl, and THEY were ranked high. When UC went to play them, the 'Cats were huge underdogs. Now, it's all flipped. As I alluded to before, UC has to drudge up all of the old, unpleasant memories they have of Louisville and use that to their advantage to win this one. Frankly, I'd run the 70-7 drubbing tape over and over to show them the purposeful humiliation that was inflicted upon them that year. I'd haul Craig Carey's brother Collin in to speak to them about how Louisville repeatedly pounded him into the mud. Or, bring in Gino Guidugli who had to watch the waxing since he couldn't play with his hand broken. As a fan, I'll remember that game forever until a UC team administers the same type of beating the Bearcats took there a few times under both Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith. Heck, I even have trouble eating Papa John's pizza to this day!

 

Spread the Word

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So here I am on "Twitter," like so many people, and I get a direct message from @sprtswrtrgirl 
who tells me she's an aspiring sports reporter and watches my coverage on Fox19. Well, of course, I start following her on Twitter so I can see what she does. Come to find out, she's a member of the Rally Cats on the UC campus, and then I start following her 'tweets.' Pretty soon I noticed that, along with the usual college angst of books and late nights and such, she's also very active in inviting her followers to attend all kinds of sporting events.

"Come to the women's soccer game. Free pizza afterwards!" (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of her tweet.)

And that got me to thinking about a couple of issues: First, the whole issue about "no one comes to our games." Well, have you invited them? Let's think. If everyone on the women's soccer team has, oh, around 500 friends on Facebook, and if, on their status lines, or on their 'tweets' on Twitter, each player says, "Big home game Friday night against Rutgers. Come cheer on the Bearcats as we get ready for Big East tournament play!"

Let's say, again, if one-fifth of those people decided to wander over to the game, and each person brought a friend. That's 200 people at the game. And that's what just one player could bring to a game.

The second issue is, supporting the university's programs in general, not just soccer, not just men's or women's sports. A couple of years ago former women's basketball players from both U.C. and Xavier were invited back for the women's crosstown shootout game. Afterwards, these players said, more than once, that they wished they had supported other sports and other female athletes while they were on campus.

I'd never seen a lacrosse game in person until I did the announcing for one of the women's games last spring. Now, I think the sport is awesome! So take in a volleyball game, soccer game, or one of the other sports that don't necessarily get the headlines. You'll see athletes just as skilled, just as dedicated as the ones playing football or basketball.

And you don't have to wait for an invitation.

 


Catching up with Bearcats in the NFL

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How closely are you following the Bearcats in the NFL?

 

There are 14 former UC players currently on NFL rosters, according to sports information guru Ryan Koslen. Thought it might be fun this week to check in and see how they all are doing.

 

Also thought it might be fun to turn it into a little quiz.

 

So, here are the 14 players:

Connor Barwin, Trevor Canfield, Brent Celek, Antonio Chatman, Trent Cole, Troy Evans, Andre Frazier, Tyjuan Hagler, Kevin Huber, Mike Mickens, Haruki Nakamura, DeAngelo Smith, Brandon Underwood, Mike Wright.

And here are the questions (each guy can only be used once):

 

1.    Which three are on their team's practice squad?

2.    Who is on injured reserve?

3.    Which one of the remaining group plays offense?

4.    Which one of the remaining group plays exclusively special teams?

5.    Of the defensive players, which three have more than 10 tackles this season?

6.    Who plays for a team that is still undefeated?

7.    Who plays for a team that has beaten the Bengals?

8.    Which three play for teams that have lost to the Bengals?

 

I won't make you wait. Here are the answers:

 

1.    Trevor Canfield (Arizona), Mike Mickens (Dallas), DeAngelo Smith (Chicago)

2.    Antonio Chatman (Cincinnati)

3.    Brent Celek (Philadelphia). Celek has caught 30 passes for 378 yards (third among all NFL tight ends) and two touchdowns. He is averaging 12.6 yards per reception.

4.    Kevin Huber (Cincinnati). Huber has punted 36 times for a 43.6 average, which ranks 21st in the NFL. He has a long punt of 61 yards and has nailed 12 punts inside the 20-yard line.

5.    Trent Cole (Philadelphia), Tyjuan Hagler (Indianapolis), Mike Wright (New England). Cole has 24 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Hagler has 19 tackles. Wright has 15 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.

6.    Troy Evans (New Orleans). The Lakota High School graduate has eight tackles in five games. This is his third season with the Saints and eighth in the NFL.

7.    Connor Barwin (Houston). The rookie defensive end has six tackles and one sack (Carson Palmer) in six games.

8.    Andre Frazier (Pittsburgh), Haruki Nakamura (Baltimore) and Brandon Underwood (Green Bay). Frazier has nine tackles in five games. Nakamura has four tackles and a forced fumble in six games. Underwood, a rookie cornerback, has only appeared in one game.

 

How did you do?

 

A presser about Pike (mostly)

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Naturally, the topic of the day at the weekly presser was the health of Tony Pike and what would happen if he can't play Saturday vs. Louisville. The big news was that Pike underwent a procedure this morning on his left arm to repair the plate that was inserted last season and was damaged again last Thursday in the third quarter of the South Florida game.

 

Pike won't practice today or Wednesday, and from there, his status for the Louisville game on Saturday is unclear.

 

"We have to get the swelling out of there first," Brian Kelly said. "It's something we have to manage day to day.

 

"It's going to depend on the next 48 hours. He cannot go out there if he can't protect himself. We can't put him in a position if he doesn't feel comfortable. The last time it took two weeks for us to feel like he was ready to go. We're hoping that process is accelerated. That's why we're not going to rule him out."

 

Before this week, Collaros was taking about 40 percent of the first-teams snaps in practice (compared to Pike's 60 percent), and considering he played pretty well when called into the USF game, you'd think he might be a frontrunner to start against the Cardinals - assuming Pike won't play.

 

But you also can't forget that Chazz Anderson played well enough to beat Marshall and Rutgers last year when Pike went out with his initial arm injury. Last season, Anderson was ahead of Collaros in terms of knowledge of the offense, but now, Kelly said they're equal in that category.

 

So, when the team practices today, Anderson and Collaros will split the snaps 50-50 to see who would replace Pike if need be. Do you go with the player who was the No. 2 quarterback going into the USF game and who played well in Pike's absence (Collaros), or do you go with the guy who went 2-0 as a starter last season (Anderson)?

 

"By going 50-50, I'm trying not to be prejudiced one way or the other," Kelly said. "I want to give them both the chance. Here's what I know: both guys can win Big East games, because they have. That's a good problem to have if Tony can't play."

 

Though I don't think Pike will play much - if at all - on Saturday, the fact he's been through this injury before could help him mend quicker (at least in his mind).

 

"Just going through it, mentally, he's so much better," Kelly said. "I talked to him this morning, and he's a lot better. That first time getting injured, it works on you a little bit. He's been through it, he knows the procedure, he knows how to do the rehab. This is not my decision to play Tony Pike. This will be our medical people making the final decision. If the swelling is out and the pain is manageable and if he can protect himself, that's the key."

 

Either way, wide receiver Armon Binns is not overly concerned with which quarterback is throwing him the ball.

 

"We're definitely comfortable with whoever is in there," Binns said. "They leave the offense pretty wide open, no matter who's in there. Obviously it's most helpful with Tony. But I've got confidence in all the guys to make all the plays and all the throws."

 

Kelly said Pike has to focus on passing his Spanish class, so if we have questions to ask, we'll have to do it in Espanol. He looked at Denny Janson when he said that, and naturally, DJ responded with a, "Si."

 

--The Bearcats spent part of today signing a banner they'll send to Connecticut in memory of cornerback Jasper Howard, who was fatally stabbed late Saturday night. The banner - seen exclusively on cnati.com (I don't know why I can't get this link to work, but here it is: http://cnati.com/blogs/ctrent/2009/10/uc-honors-uconn-player.php) - has the words, "Teammates for life" inscribed on it with a picture of Howard in the middle of a C-Paw that's colored blue.

 

"We'll send that in tribute to Jasper and his memory," Kelly said. "All Big East members and all student athletes are in this football family. We wanted them to know that he's in our thoughts."

 

Kelly can relate. When he was at Grand Valley State earlier this decade, one of his players fell asleep while driving a car and died in the crash.

 

"It's a tough time," Kelly said. "You're in preparation but you're at a funeral. I know what Randy (Edsall, UConn's coach) is going through. It's difficult to stay focused, because football is still just a game. I'm certain they'll pull together and they'll use the game Saturday to honor one of their teammates."

 

--Although it might still seem like the Bearcats, ranked fifth in the country and in the BCS standings, are living in a fantasy world, Binns is trying to keep himself from looking too far ahead.

 

"It's nice, but it doesn't mean anything if we lose next week," Binns said. "You have to stay focused and win every game. We have to stay grounded. You can't get caught up in your press clippings."

Welcome Home Coach Jackson

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There are times as writers and journalist when we're fortunate to do something that fits the bill and its personally meaningful as well. This is one of those times. 

UC assistant basketball coach George Jackson is not only a great addition to the coaching staff he's a great asset that returns to our community. Most Cincinnatians know his story and his pedigree; 2 final four high school teams, scores of regional, district and league titles plus hall of fames to boot. But what makes him more valuable to this UC squad is his Big East experience. 

George worked along side Louis Orr, a Big East legend at Syracuse and a successful but under appreciated coach at Seton Hall. They got more out of their talent night in and out than most teams in their league and when picked to finish near the bottom they won and won big; Even made it to the NCAA tournament several times. So how does that translate to UC this year? I'm glad you ask.

Experience in the Big East counts...period. Fouls aren't fouls in the Big East and you learn that in practice if you have coaches that know that. Home crowds are more than the ones we have here, you learn that. And you toss your knowledge in the hat with the other coaches on this squad and it becomes a wealth of Big East experience. What works against certain teams has been figured out by Mick and his staff but what if that doesn't work on a certain night? George may have one more idea and that could crack the code that night. I'm not making George the "cure all" by no means I'm just saying if you have 3 scientist, a fourth one might have the last piece of the puzzle.

I'm excited for UC basketball this year; as excited as sitting with the Big O, Oscar Robertson on game day and that's a treat. I think they'll do well this year and they have solid players coming back and more importantly players coming off the bench. In the Big East last year, UC's one's matched up well, but thier 2's didn't. Depth in power conferences count big time and UC finally has it. They even have depth at the coaching spot too. George adds to that depth and he adds something that you can't measure: Love for the game, the university and the city. You can't buy it and you can't deny it when it comes to Coach Jack.

Welcome home Coach Jackson, welcome home.

Tony Pike update

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Just got off the Big East coaches teleconference with Brian Kelly, and he said we might know something later today about Tony Pike. He's scheduled to see Dr. Angelo Colosimo at University Hospital, and BK obviously is hoping for some good news.

 

Originally, BK said after the South Florida game that Pike was out for the Louisville game, but on Friday, I reported that his status for next Saturday's contest was up in the air. What changed?

 

"I don't have my degree," BK said. "Obviously I need to defer to the medical personal that know a lot more than I do. In my mind, either you're in or you're out and he was out. My mind goes to the next guy in. The medical staff is going to make the determination when he can do that.

 

"Obviously he's going to have to be able to do the things in the shotgun offense. We can't put him in there if he can't protect himself. It'd be very difficult to run no-back, spread offense. If we were an I(-formation) team, we could get away with it a little bit more. It's just a manner of managing our spread offense."

 

Depending on how Pike feels, BK will open the quarterback competition this week to Zach Collaros - who made the Big East honor roll for his performance in the USF game - and Chazz Anderson, who did a nice job last year spelling an injured Pike and helped lead the Bearcats to a win vs. Rutgers.

 

They'll practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and split the snaps about 50-50. Pike, if he can play, won't need to take many reps, BK said. He knows the offense well enough where he can just take mental reps.

 

"We'll see which player has really stepped up in the three days of preparation," BK said.

 

--BK did have a nice compliment for Pike's toughness for returning to the USF game after halftime.

 

"It sent a message to our team that this guy is going to get out there no matter what happens," he said.

 

--Jake Rogers was named the Big East special teams player of the week. He scored 10 points and averaged 45.1 yards on seven punts. Two of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.

 

--The Oct. 31 UC-Syracuse game will be a noon kickoff on ESPNU.

Will UC Need A Steelers Fan To Lead It To Victory?

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After his brilliant second half performance against USF on Thursday, I'm guessing that Zach Collaros is extremely popular in Bearcat nation.

 

So popular in fact, that you'll probably cut him some slack for being a Steelers fan.

 

I learned of Zach's love for the "Black and Gold" when I saw him head to practice at Nippert Stadium a few weeks ago wearing a Steelers "terrible towel" on his waist.  You'll be happy to know that the UC coaching staff told him to remove it immediately. 

 

"I'm a Pittsburgh fan at heart," Zach told me with a grin.  "My dad is a big Pittsburgh fan - Steubenville is about 45 minutes from Pittsburgh so I grew up liking the Steelers."

 

OK, so the kid is not perfect, but his record as a starting quarterback nearly is.  In three years as the starter at Steubenville High School, Collaros led the team to a 41-1 record and didn't lose a game after his sophomore year.

 

With a medical update on Tony Pike expected on Monday, we'll soon know if Collaros will make his first college start this Saturday against Louisville.

 

"It's never a good thing to see your starting quarterback go down and Tony's one of my best friends on the team," Collaros said.  "We have a great training staff here so he'll be back.  I just have to do what I can to help the team win and get him back in the same situation that he left."

 

Collaros did most of his damage against USF on the ground, rushing for 132 yards on 10 carries including his game-changing 75 yard touchdown run in the third quarter.  But he's a much more confident passer than he was last year as a freshman - thanks in part to watching Tony Pike.

 

"I think last year I relied on my athleticism a lot and if the play broke down I was quick to scramble," Zach said.  "But his year, working with Tony, I've learned the check downs and how to get the ball out in certain situations where you have to get it out fast.  His pocket presence is really good - he can tell when the pocket is going to collapse.  He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he has a great feel in the pocket.  He helps me out with my reads and knowing where to go on certain plays and I take in a lot by watching him."

 

Collaros has only thrown 22 passes in his college career, but from what I've seen at practice this year; Zach seems to have much more zip on his throws.

 

"I think I've picked up some arm strength, but what helps out a lot is just having more confidence," Collaros told me.  "Knowing that you're going to get the reps every day, you know where to go with the ball and you can put more zip on it."

 

This year, Collaros is 10-for-18 for 201 yards with 2 TD passes and 1 INT.  Admittedly, that's a small sample size, but it computes to an NFL quarterback rating of 108.8.  Zach modestly credits the offensive system of head coach Brian Kelly.

 

"It's great," Zach told me.  "You're going to get the opportunity to throw the ball 40 times a game and you can put up numbers to win the Heisman.  He gives you so many options when you're on the field.  He gives us full control and it's a great feeling to know that he trusts you like that."

 

We'll soon know if he's being trusted to lead the 5th-ranked Bearcats to their 7th straight win this weekend.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

UC is No. 5

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1. Alabama (39) 7-0 1447
2 Florida (20) 6-0 1434
3 Texas 6-0 1365
4 USC 5-1 1213
5 Cincinnati 6-0 1163
6 Boise State 6-0 1156
7 Iowa 7-0 1092
8 Miami (FL) 5-1 1056
9 LSU 5-1 1014
10 TCU 6-0 1001
11 Georgia Tech 6-1 861
12 Oregon 5-1 849
13 Penn State 6-1 753
14 Oklahoma State 5-1 690
15 Virginia Tech 5-2 684
16 Brigham Young 6-1 601
17 Houston 5-1 478
18 Ohio State 5-2 373

Unreal

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Here's this week's top-25 AP poll.

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. USC
5. UC
18. Ohio State

Did you ever think you'd live to see the day?

Connor Barwin story

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The Enquirer gives a nice update on former Bearcat Connor Barwin today (Sunday) since he is in town to face the Bengals.

http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20091014/COL19/310140013/1082/SPT0104/Barwin+thinks+UC+will+run+the+table

Connor Barwin story

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If you want to catch up on former Bearcat Connor Barwin, The Enquirer has a story today (Sunday) since he's in town to face the Bengals ...

http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20091014/COL19/310140013/1082/SPT0104/Barwin+thinks+UC+will+run+the+table

 

Tony Pike update

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OK, there's not much of one. But here's what I just tweeted on my twitter page:

Pike going to see doc today. Probably won't be updates until Monday. Perhaps not as bad as originally thought. UL game up in air.


Mick Cronin Q&A part II

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With UC basketball beginning practice this evening, here's the second part of my one-on-one interview with Mick Cronin. The first part ran last week, and you can find it here. Without further ado:

 

KatzontheCats: Tell me about the front court (Yancy Gates, Steve Toyloy) and how much those guys will improve for this season.

 

Cronin:  They all get better as they get older. We all want them to be good right away, but that's not how it always happens. Some guys, you take it to the junior year. I can tell you Steve Toyloy is in tremendous shape. He had a great offseason. Not that he's all of a sudden going to be the best scorer, but he's going to have a better year. He didn't graduate from Miami-Dade (Community College) until last August, so he had zero preparation time.

 

KOTC: What about the juniors? Guys like Larry Davis, Rashad Bishop and Darnell Wilks. Is there a chance a few of them might fall by the wayside because of all the young talent?

 

Cronin: Our guys all know that you have to be effective to get on the floor. You have to contribute. Larry Davis is a guy who plays with maximum effort at all times. He's an integral member of our team with the way he's gotten better with his ball skills, as far as ball-handling and passing and developing a pace to his game. He brings a lot to the table. His injury at Pitt last year really, really hurt us in a major way. He was playing great basketball, and he's got great toughness. With all those guys- Darnell Wilks is a great athlete and Rashad is a consumate team player - the experience factor is one. Two is our style of play. We're going to play at a much faster pace and be able to have 10 guys who can play. You have to play your bench, and your substitution takes care of itself. For me, I'm looking forward to having guys who know what they're doing out there. Because they've been here, they know what they're doing.

 

KOTC: You guys have been getting a lot of hype from some national analysts. How do you think you guys will handle that kind of success?

 

Cronin: Really? I don't see all that stuff. I've been hard on the recruiting trail and getting ready for my daughter's birthday.

 

KOTC: Well, some people have you in the top-four in the Big East.

 

Cronin: It's something you have to address every year as a coach because of all the hype surrounding every team. You're going to be better, you've got that guy, you've got this guy. Welcome to our league. You look at our roster, and it's impressive. But so are about 10-12 rosters in our conference. OK? Now you worry about what the character is of a winning team and winners in general. You make sure we're able to beat another really good team. We've already begun to talk about it in our week leading up to practice, we're trying to talk about what our goals are and how to advance those goals and how hard it's going to be. Rah-rah is great. But reality is Big East basketball of six to eight teams in the top-25 and ranked opponents every week. Teams in 10th or 12th place that were ranked before. It takes extreme mental toughness and fortitude to get through a Big East schedule. The biggest thing for me is having some guys who understand it. They know how hard it is to win in basketball. They know it's not easy. We talk about reality. (Freshman Sean) Kilpatrick in the paper is predicting us to be in the Elite Eight. We've got to worry about being in the Elite Eight of the Big East.


  • And while I've got you here, let me tell you about my appearance Saturday at Books By the Banks. It runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Duke Energy Center, and I'll be selling and signing copies of Bearcats Rising. Come keep me company.



I Guess The Joe Tresey Angle Wasn't Overblown

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As it turns out, USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey did have an enormous impact on Thursday's Big East showdown against his former team.

 

He recruited Zach Collaros to Cincinnati.

 

But he couldn't figure out how to stop him.

 

Subbing for an injured Tony Pike, the sophomore quarterback ran for 132 yards and passed for 72 - all in the second half - as the #8 Bearcats beat the #21 Bulls 34-17.

 

"When I first went in I wasn't that nervous," Collaros told me after the game.  "I thought I was going to be very nervous, but the offensive line was great.  They were getting a big push so I knew we could run the ball and control the clock."

 

Pike's injury is to his left forearm - the same arm that he fractured last season.  That injury was surgically repaired with a plate and six screws, and head coach Brian Kelly told reporters that the plate shifted when Pike got hit on Thursday night.  Tony is likely to at least miss next week's game against Louisville.  Last year he was able to play with a cast on his arm after missing two games. 

 

"A specialist is going to look at it (on Friday) and I think we'll know a little more about what his situation is but Zach came in and did a nice job," Kelly told us on the post-game show on 700 WLW.  "I'm sick about it because of Tony and his progress and I really feel bad for the kid.  But Zach is a winner.  He was a state champ in high school and is a tough, competitive kid." 

 

"It's never a good thing to see your starting quarterback go down and Tony's one of my best friends on the team," Collaros said.  "We have a great training staff here so he'll be back.  I just have to do what I can to help the team win and get him back in the same situation that he left."

 

When Collaros replaced Pike in the third quarter against USF, the Bearcats were clinging to a 17-10 lead and lost a yard on their first two offensive plays.  You could barely hear yourself think as 60,000 Bulls fans were going bonkers.  But on 3rd-and-11, Coach Kelly called for a slightly different-looking quarterback draw that had Collaros follow running back Jacob Ramsey up the middle, and Zach was barely touched on a 75-yard TD run that gave UC a 14-point lead.

 

"We have draw where I follow the running back and another one where I don't," Collaros told me.  "The line created a huge hole and Jake Ramsey crushed a guy on it.  I saw a seam and tried to split two guys and I was actually surprised I split 'em to be honest with you.  All I kept thinking was, 'Don't get caught, don't get caught.'  When I got to the 40, I figured somebody had to be closing on me, but I just kept running.  It was a great feeling."

 

"That was a big momentum swing for us and from that point on we kind of took over the football game," Kelly said.

 

It was Cincinnati's biggest offensive play on a night that saw the Bearcats struggle to get rolling against perhaps the most athletic defensive line that UC will face all season.

 

"It looked like we were hanging out at the beach in our bye week - we were sloppy early on," Kelly said.  "I thought we did a great job of hanging in there and our kids just keep playing.  To get out of here with a win on the road against a Big East opponent that's ranked in the Top 25 is a great victory."

 

Especially with Pike on the bench for half of the game.  Cincinnati had four quarterbacks lead the team to victories last year and Coach Kelly expressed confidence that his team can keep winning until Pike returns.

 

"We're going to do whatever is necessary to win football games and if that means running Zach Collaros 40 times we'll do that," Kelly said.  "We have two quarterbacks who have some wins.  Zach Collaros has a Big East win and Chazz Anderson's got a Big East win (over Rutgers last year).  So we've got two quarterbacks that we can win with."

 

Collaros was a legend at Steubenville High, winning his last 30 starts in leading the Big Red to consecutive Division III state titles in 2005 and 2006.  In his final game, he passed for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for 44 yards and 2 TDs.

 

His maternal grandmother lives in Florida and was in attendance at USF, but his folks watched the game on TV back in Ohio.  Zach still hadn't talked to them when we spoke about an hour after the game.

 

"My phone keeps ringing and ringing," Collaros said with a laugh.  "I haven't talked to anybody yet, but I looked at my phone and I had 125 text messages.  Probably all from Steubenville too."

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

UC-USF 4th quarter

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UC with the first and 10 and the Bearcats 41. And suddenly, UC's run game has come alive. Pead with the 13-yard gain. And that opens up Collaros for the passing. On a go route, Collaros finds an open Ben Guidugli, who barely breaks the plane of the goal line, for the 46-yard TD. Guidugli takes off his helmet, and he's cited 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now, the play is under review to see if his knee was down. And it looks like he didn't get in. So, what happens with the penalty now if he's not in? Guidugli's elbow was down, the refs review. He's a half-yard short, and now, the Bearcats, because of the penalty, have to go back to the 15. Is it first and 10 or first and goal? I guess, first and 10. On second down, Collaros goes for the fade for Binns, but it's incomplete. Third and 11 from the USF 16. UC has to call timeout. And they'll try Binns again, and this time, it's a flag. Pass interference on Jerome Murphy. It'll be first and goal from the USF 2. Collaros on the sneak, and he's a yard short. And now, the officials are calling it a TD. And you know what, I think they're right. No review.

UC 31, USF 17 (13:14 to go)

Pike is done for the day.

Now, it looks like Ricardo Matthews is a little banged up. That's a brutal drop for Matthews. He had clearly beaten Webster and Dominique Battle, and he just dropped it. Third and 12 from the USF 13. Daniels is pushed out of bounds after a short game. USF to punt.

Ramsey gains eight yards and then Collaros rushes for the first down at the UC 46. A 15-yard facemask penalty will put it on the USF 39. (According to Tommy G., Matthews is out with cramps). That was a nice first-down run by Collaros, but Jeff Linkenbach should get credit for a bone-crunching block that sprung him on the 15-yard run. Now, it'll be third and 11 from the USF 18. Collaros to Gilyard for a short gain. Which sets up Jake Rogers for the 29-yard field goal to make it a three-possession game

UC 34, USF 17 (6:29 to go)

After the sack by John Hughes, it'll be third and 10 from the USF 25. Then, Curtis Young gets him. USF looks out on its feet.

Two running plays make it third and five from the UC 44. Collaros gains a couple, but UC will have to punt with 2:50 to play.

Third and 2 from the UC 43, and Daniels is complete to Bogan for the first down. And Drew Frey will seal the win with an interception in the end zone.

Great gutcheck for Collaros and the Bearcats. On the road, starting QB injured, a dangerous QB on the other side of the ball. UC passes the test.

UC 34, USF 17 (final)

 

UC-USF 3rd quarter

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UC has rushed for five yards so far today. So, you know, the Bearcats might want to try to change that. Looks like Tony Pike will play.

USF takes over at the 20. PBU by Aaron Webster, who's having a great day. It'll be third and 12 from the USF 18. Say one thing about B.J. Daniels. That dude is athletic and can avoid the sack.

On the first play from scrimmage, Pike, with an empty backfield, takes the shotgun snap and finds Gilyard for the first down. Man, the ESPN announcers are really harping on this "may be all in Tony Pike's head" thing. Kind of strange. D.J. Woods drops a pass to make it third and 10 from the USF 44. Pike scramble for the first down. DB Quenton Washington could have had a shot to stop him, but he had his back turned the entire time. Pike and Gilyard can't hook up (Gilyard actually dropped the ball), but Jerome Murphy is called for the personal foul. It'll be first and 10 from the USF 17. Craig Marshall with the sack. Griffin actually played that pretty well, but Pike held on to the ball too long. Third and 16 from the USF 23. Pike throws it away, and Pike takes a shot from two USF players. And Jake Rogers misses wide right for the 41-yard field goal. Missed opportunity inside the red zone, and Pike might be hurt again.

Dan Giordano with a big stop on Ford. Two-straight series where UC has stopped USF for a loss while running on 1st down. Now, it'll be third and 6 from the USF 27. Incomplete pass, and the Bulls to punt.

Pike has a big wrap on his wrist. He doesn't look like he's going to go in the game. It'll be Zach Collaros in the game. I expect the Bearcats to try to run now, but Pead is blasted by Pierre-Paul on first down. Then, Pierre-Paul gets Collaros before he tries to scramble. It'll be third and 11 from the UC 25. UC has to call time out. Not a great start for Collaros. Until then, of course. On the designed run, Collaros uses Ramsey as his battering ram, and he runs for the 75-yard TD run. That was a pretty solid playcall.

UC 24, USF 10 (8:34 to go)

Man, the announcers are hammering Joe Tresey now.

Heck of a catch by Bogan from Daniels. Great job on both ends. Now, USF in a Wildcat formation. Walter Stewart makes sure that formation doesn't work. USF WR A.J. Love shaken up on the play. More running from Daniels. Don't you think he'll get tired after a while? Now, Alex Daniels is down on the field and looks hurt. Third and 18 from the 50. Daniels to Plancher for 10 yards. USF to punt.

After a holding penalty on Linkenbach makes it 2nd and 14 from the UC 8, Collaros with the shovel pass to Pead, who gets to the 30. Now, it'll be third and 7 from the 33. Another chance for Jerome Murphy to pick off a UC pass. Again, he drops it. UC to punt.

Three and out for USF.

Gilyard takes the handoff from Collaros and gains 5 yards. Ramsey, with the stiff-arm, gets the first. Pierre-Paul hits Collaros' arm as he tries to throw and Nate Allen picks it off. USF gets the ball at the UC 24.

And immediately, Daniels takes advantage, rushing the ball to the UC 1. And he just dives forward for the 1-yard TD. All of a sudden, it's a game again. Well, first they're going to review it. And he got in. According to Jesse Palmer, "You can't even see him, but you can tell he's over the line." Yeah, a Florida grad.

UC 24, USF 17 (0:27 to go)

On the first play, Collaros fakes the handoff and runs for 11 yards.

 



 

UC-USF 2nd quarter

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In the first quarter, you'd have to say Joe Tresey over Brian Kelly and Jim Leavitt over Bob Diaco.

Wow, huge INT by Aaron Webster at the UC 15 and then runs it back to the USF 3 to give UC unbelievable field position. That's an 82-yard INT return. Then, a great catch by Binns from Pike on the sideline in the end zone for the 3-yard TD score. Man, the momentum swung just like that, eh?

UC 10, USF 7 (14:38 to go)

Man, UC looks totally confused when Daniels hands/or pretends to hand the ball to Plancher. Couple that with the fact UC is getting almost no pressure on the QB, and USF has been moving the ball. The Bulls are in UC territory. Daniels' arm, BTW, looks really good. An incompletion brings up third and 9 at the UC 33. Alex Daniels and Walter Stewart are having a tough time dragging down BJ Daniels, but he's incomplete and nearly picked off again by Webster. USF to attempt the 50-yard FG, and Delbert Alvarado is way wide right. UC takes over.

Not to pick on Sam Griffin, but man, a false start penalty on him. Pike almost pick-6'd by Jerome Murphy. Murphy will replay that in his dreams. It'll be third and 10 from the UC 33. Armon Binns tagged for the offensive pass interference, and yeah, it was pretty obvious. USF declines, and UC will have to punt.

Some people are complaining about ESPN's announcers. I don't mind them, especially Chris Fowler, but man, Jesse Palmer certainly knows how to drop the "unbelievables." On third and 2 from the USF 31, Ford takes the handoff and is dropped a yard short. USF to punt.

Jeff Linkenbach has done a pretty nice job on Selvie, but he breaks few, knocks the ball loose from Pike. Pike recovers. Third and 17. Wow, I don't see how Pike avoided the safety, drifted left and finds Woods on the sideline for the first down. That's 25 yards. Yep, officials will review. Looked good, though. I thought Woods got one foot down and then dragged the other. Unless, they say the ball was being juggled. I actually could see the ball moving a little bit. And yikes, how cheesy is that Big East commercial with the coaches e-mailing each other and fans? OK, it's a catch. First down. Two penalties on USF on the same play makes it first and 10 at the USF 46. That's a 20-yard gain on what should been a loss of yards by Ramsey. And there's that bubble screen to Gilyard that I love so much. It goes for 27 yards. First and goal at the USF 8. Heck of a catch by Armon Binns for the 8-yard TD from Pike. Heck of a way to end the drive. Well, I guess the officials will review this one. I think the catch is good. The commentators are impressed. Yep, it's good. UC touchdown. The Bearcats OL is beginning to play better as well.

UC 17, USF 7 (4:31 to go) 

I'll just point this out. On the kick-off return, Charley Howard with the shoestring tackle on Bogan. Jessie Hester, BTW, is limping to the locker room. Brandon Mills has two chances to sack Daniels for big losses, but he whiffs on both. Mills looks exhausted after that. This time, Ricardo Matthews gets Daniels for the sack, getting some help from John Hughes on the back side. Third and 12 from USF 44 with less than 2 minutes to go. Incomplete pass, and there's 1:39 to play. Pike will get another chance to score.

The Bearcats will start with 1:33 to play and 89 yards to go for the TD. Pead goes for 10 yards on the first play. Delayed call, but Pike will get called for intentional grounding. He half-heartedly complains, but it looks like the right call. Now, it'll be third and 16 from the 15. USF with the timeout to perhaps get the ball back. Zach Collaros on the field, and he hands off to Pead and gets next to nothing. And Pike is running off the field with the doc.

And Howard with another great tackle on Hornes. USF would have had it about the 50, but a 10-yard block in the back penalty moves the Bulls back 10 yards. First and 10 from the USF 41 with 43 seconds to go. No timeouts for USF. Daniels runs for 14 yards and the first down. Spike. Second and 10 from the UC 45 with 29 seconds to go. Completed pass from Daniels. First down, then a spike. First and 10 from the 34 with 19 seconds to go. Short pass play makes it second down. Spike makes it third. Illegal shift penalty on USF will move the Bulls back five yards. It'll be third and 9 from the 33. Incomplete pass, and somehow Eric Schwartz curves it inside the uprights for the 50-yard field goal with no time on the clock. Apparently, it's Tony Pike's left wrist. Tommy G said it's nothing serious, so we'll see.


UC 17, USF 10 (halftime)

UC-USF 1st quarter

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Live from the futon in my basement:

Well, that first drive is not the way UC is going to win the time of possession game. Three and out to start the game, and it sounds loud at Raymond James Stadium.

On USF's first possession, Curtis Young in the game already. Nice tackle by J.K. Schaffer to make it third and six from the USF 15. Incomplete from B.J. Daniels. The Bulls will punt back. And UC will start in Bulls territory.

A false start penalty by D.J. Woods. Ah, there's big Joe Tresey on TV. He was usually a big help to me. Gilyard with a nice out route. He was wide open for the first down. Looking to see how well the UC OL protects Pike. Screen pass to Isaiah Pead. I expect to see plenty of screens and dump-offs to the running backs. Third and 2 at USF 17. Early on, OT Sam Griffin seems a bit overwhelmed. Jake Rogers perfect with the 37-yard field goal. Credit the Bearcats special teams and defense for that score, giving the offense such good field position.

UC 3, USF 0 (9:57 to go)

I have a buddy who lives in Tampa who said USF's fans are obnoxious and he hopes UC beats the crap out of the Bulls. So, the Bearcats have that going for them. Which is nice.

Penalty on UC on the kickoff. Offsides, and the Bearcats move 5 yards back. Rekick. USF will start at its own 42. Curtis Young makes a nice tackle to keep Daniels from the first down. But then, he limps off the field. 3rd and 1. Mike Ford gets to the outside and makes a nice gain to the UC 35. The crazy, zig zag run by Daniels will be walked back because of clipping on Zach Hermann. But just to show how you elusive Daniels is, Craig Carey missed him three times on the same play. It'll be third and three on the UC 28. According to Tommy G., Daniels and Jason Kelce are both fine. UC rushes four, and Daniels, with plenty of time, makes the Bearcats pay. He hits Jessie Hester right across the middle for the 28-yard TD. UC had nobody in the middle of the field.

USF 7, UC 3 (6:14 to go)  

Ramsey takes the direct snap, but Jurek has a bad snap and Ramsey has to fall on the fumble. Third and 10 from the UC 34. Pike has to scramble, and he's well short of the ball. That time, the OL give him good time, but he couldn't find anybody open.

Dominique Battle comes into the backfield on the option keeper, and he tackles Daniels four yards behind the line. It'll be third and 3. Daniels to Patrick Richardson for the first down, and then, a late hit after the play gives the Bulls 15 more yards. It'll be another third and 3, and this time UC pulls down Daniels. Going for it on fourth down at the UC 27. Looks like Richardson should have had the first-down catch, but he drops it. Ball was a tad behind him, though. USF turns it over on downs.

Pike told me this week he didn't have to worry about the crowd noise with the WR, because they all have hand signals. Well, so far tonight, Woods and Gilyard have been called for false starts. Pike to Armon Binns for 12 yards. Man, Jason Pierre-Paul is really making life difficult on Sam Griffin on the right side of UC's line. Now, it's third and 10 on the UC 39. Pike, right now, is not looking good. UC has to punt.

Jake Rogers - with his punting and FG - is the UC MVP of the first quarter.

Moise Plancher with a 15-yard gain to start the series. Aaron Webster has to make what could have been the TD-saving tackle on Daniels after he fakes the end-around to Plancher.

In the first quarter, you'd have to say Joe Tresey over Brian Kelly and Jim Leavitt over Bob Diaco.


Mike Windt = Ashton Kutcher

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I ran into Joe Windt down here in Tampa - the father of Bearcats long snapper Mike Windt - and he told me his son had played a pretty good prank on him.

 

The Windt family arrived here before the team, and Joe received an excited phone call from Mike saying he was no longer coming.  Windt told his dad that after the Bengals cut their struggling long snapper Brad St. Louis, former UC punter Kevin Huber had convinced the team to give Mike a tryout.  He went on to say that it went so well, that he was turning pro and joining the Bengals immediately.

 

Just kidding dad!

 

Mike Windt is here in Tampa and newly signed Clark Harris will snap for the Bengals on Sunday.  Let's hope they're both flawless.

 

 

Extra, extra read all about it

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   There is no substitute for great national exposure like this. Check out these links to stories on UC football from USA Today and the New York Times.

 

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/bigeast/2009-10-14-cincinnati-kelly_N.htm

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/sports/ncaafootball/15cincy.html?_r=4&ref=sports

 

   This kind of stuff helps with recruiting, voting in polls, individual honors, etc ... It is nothing but good for the university, too.

UC-USF preview

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When Matt Grothe was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in a September game against Charleston Southern, the common thought was that the Bulls were in deep trouble.


Without that senior, experienced, multi-faceted quarterback running around and creating havoc, it was easy to figure that USF was going to struggle for the rest of the season. Especially with a redshirt freshman as Grothe's backup

 

That has not happened, thanks in large part to that rookie, quarterback B.J. Daniels, who has helped lead the Bulls to a 5-0 record and a No. 21 ranking. Daniels is not Grothe, mind you - at least, not yet. But he's been pretty good in his own right, and he'll provide a major challenge for the Bearcats defense when the two teams meet tonight at 7:45 at Raymond James Stadium.


"He's done an extraordinary job in a very short period of time," Brian Kelly said. "Their coaches on the offensive side of the ball have done a very good job of adapting his skills to the offense instead of saying, 'You have to run what we ran with Matt.'"


Said Bearcats senior defensive end Ricardo Matthews: "He's elusive, he can make you miss, and he's quick. Nothing bad to say about him. We just have to execute the defense and stop him. We have to execute close to perfect to do that. He's not Matt Grothe, but they're finding out they can win without him."

 

One of the biggest problems UC will face tonight is Daniels' ability to make the big play (he's had five 40-plus yard gains this year). He's also the team's leading rusher with 291 yards on 48 carries (a 6.1 average), and though he's not yet the passer Grothe is, he's still thrown six touchdowns against only two interceptions. He's probably more dangerous as a runner, but he can beat you with the pass as well.


"Here's the question," BK said. "When you have an athletic running quarterback, do you stop the run? If you stop the run, then you're one on one on the outside (with your cornerbacks against the opponent's receivers). If you play pass, you give him the opportunity to run the football. We have to pick our spots. We have to be able to stop the run and sometimes we have to double up on their receivers. When you play a quarterback of this ability, that's the difficulty."

 

Daniels, though, isn't the scariest player for USF. Those honors belong to the Bulls defensive ends - senior George Selvie and junior Jason Pierre-Paul. Selvie has been the best end in the conference the past three years, while the athletic Pierre-Paul has an 81-inch wing span and can turn a backflip in full pads.


The problem for the Bearcats it that they can't double-team both ends at the same time. That means either tackle Jeff Linkenbach or tackle Sam Griffin will have to spend some of their time tonight trying to play Selvie and/or Pierre-Paul one-on-one to keep them off Tony Pike.


It won't be easy, even for an offensive line that has kept Pike clean for most of the season.

 

"We've only given up three sacks all year," BK said. "That's pretty good for a spread offense that throws it as much as we do. We have to have answers if we're getting too much pressure from their ends. We move the pockets, we screen, we do so many things we hope that slows down their pass rush. We play tempo football. We have to have answers, and we do if we need it."

 

  • The Bearcats, as you know, are 3-0 on the road with victories vs. Rutgers (47-15), Oregon State (28-18) and Miami (37-13). Why do the Bearcats have so much success when they're playing away from home?

 

"It's the way the guys lock in during that week of practice," Pike said. "We understand it's going to be hostile and we're going to face some adversity. You're not going to go on the road any time and things are going to go the way you want them to. They're going to make some big plays or we're going to make some bad plays. The biggest thing about this team is we react so well to what happens to us."

 

  • Mardy Gilyard's home town is about three hours away from Tampa, so he expects many friends and family to be in attendance at tonight's game.

 

"The Gilyard gang," he said, "is going to be in the house with full effect."

 

He also looks forward to facing USF senior linebacker Chris Robinson, a former teammate at Flagler Palm Coast High School in Bunnell, Fla.

 

"I've been calling him for two weeks," Gilyard said. "He hasn't picked up his phone, probably because he thinks I'm going to talk junk to him. I call him every year about the same time, talk junk to him for 10 minutes, and he hangs up on me."

 

  • My prediction: At this point, it's almost silly to pick against the Bearcats. With the way Pike and the offense has played, the way the defense has come up big when it's been needed the most, the way the coaching staff has put together the weekly game plan, I think, once again, UC will come through with a win in its toughest game of the season.

 

Say, UC 28, USF 24.

Good Morning From South Florida

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When the UC basketball team was dominating Conference USA, one of the most enjoyable parts of my job was going into a big road game as "the villain" and leaving town with a win.  I always got a huge kick out of seeing fans at places like Charlotte and Memphis foaming at the mouth when Cincinnati took the court . . .  only to be slumped in their seats on the verge of tears after yet another loss to the Bearcats.

 

In two-and-a-half years, Brian Kelly has created similar "road rage" for the UC football program.

 

I've been in South Florida since Saturday (we made the trip a family vacation) and I can tell you that USF fans are treating this as one of the biggest home games in school history.  A local landmark was illuminated in USF "green and gold" on Wednesday night, and a crowd of more than 60,000 is expected at Raymond James Stadium.

 

As you might expect, Mardy Gilyard's comment that UC's coaches were "licking their chops" to face former Bearcat defensive coordinator Joe Tresey is getting a ton of play, but I think the Bulls have said a few juicy things as well.  Consider this nugget that appeared in a recent Brian Bennett story on ESPN.com:

 

"I don't feel as if these guys have been challenged up front like we are going to do on Thursday," South Florida linebacker Kion Wilson said. "They haven't been hit and been physically abused yet. That's what we plan on going out there and doing."

 

While the Bearcats are ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in school history, we almost forget that USF has cracked the Top 10 in each of the last two years before tailing off.  In 2007, the Bulls climbed to #2 before losing three straight games.  Last year, USF peaked at #10 before dropping four out of five.  I asked Coach Kelly if the Bulls are better equipped for the long haul this year:

 

"It's hard to say," BK told me.  "I think we're both at that point where we're starting to answer some questions about our football teams.  They've had a great road win against Florida State, and I know they had a similar win in '07 at Auburn, but this team offensively is built to be more consistent.  Matt Grothe was a great player and they're sorely going to miss him, but he had his ups and downs.  B.J. Daniels is not that kind of player and they don't call the game the same way.  I would tend to believe that this is a football team that's going to play pretty consistently the whole year."

 

Perhaps the biggest storyline going into the game (expect it to be pummeled to death on ESPN) is the presence of Joe Tresey on USF's coaching staff.  I asked BK if Cincinnati had to make any significant changes because of Tresey's familiarity with UC's system and personnel.

 

"It's business as usual," Kelly told me.  "You don't tweak things in your system because you have a coach on the other team that's been with your staff.  That happens a lot - more than you think - in the SEC there are coordinators bouncing around all sorts of programs.  You may change a signal here or there, but you are who you are going into the sixth week of the season."

 

It should be a great game and a blast to broadcast.  We'll have the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on 700 WLW, XM 102, and Sirius 126.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

Must-see TV ... and then some

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   Only in the last six months have I had HD and a DVR. Tonight's a reason why it's a good thing.

 

  •    UC Bearcats on ESPN.
  •    Survivor: Samoa on CBS.
  •    Flash Forward on ABC.
  •    Grade-school open house.
  •    Soccer practice.

 

   Holy smokes.

 

   I may need a nap to get ready for it all.

 

 

   (I should mention that you can follow me on Twitter at mdp14)

Welcome, welcome, welcome

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Welcome to the new era of gobearcats.com. Where you get seven writers for the price of zero. Where you get any kind of UC sports coverage you want - any time you want it. Where you get to look at cartoon pictures* of the writers.

 

*Though I really like mine.

 

You've come to me the last 14 months for coverage of Bearcats sports, and I really appreciate it. We've had some fun together, and hopefully, you've learned something from me about your favorite players and teams. Or followed along during the live game blogs. Or laughed at my stupid gags.

 

Nothing will change on this end. We'll just have a prettier way to present the news and notes and features and jokes to which you've become accustomed. Thanks again for your patronage, and I look forward to bringing you more of the same.

Welcome to my blog!

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Hello everyone and welcome to my UC women's sports blog here at gobearcats.com. I've posted one blog here earlier, but this week is the official launch of our 'new and improved' blog channels.

Just to give you a little bit of background, I have been following UC women's sports ever since I was an honorary coach for the "Lady Bearcats" as they were called then, when I worked for WCPO-TV. The school and especially the women's program have grown since then, and I hope to be able to tell you a little more about them as the seasons go on.

Now, I'll probably be writing a little more about the women's basketball team, just because I do the stadium announcements for the team at 5/3 arena and I'll see them more often. But I also plan to tell you a little more about some of the other women's programs along the way, as well.

And that's where you come in. I hear all the time that 'women's sports needs more coverage," so here's your chance! Unfortunately, I can't be at every event every day on campus, so I'm depending on you to let me know what you'd like me to write about, if there's a particular player who is a favorite of yours who has a great story, or a team that has really captured your imagination.

We are expecting this to be an exciting time for Bearcats programs, especially the women's programs, and I hope you can help me tell their story. Drop me a note at bross@gamedaypr.com and tell me what you'd like to see, and I'll do my best to cover it.

This is a terrific chance to cover women's sports, and I hope you'll join me on the journey.

 

The best beaches are south of here in Siesta Key!   Seriously though, this is your weekly preview I'll give you as part of the newfangled website that features some rather frightening caricatures of some of us.  Rest assured, as ominous as it may look, my photo has never appeared in a post office. 

What I'll do here each week is give you the lowdown as I see it on the upcoming game.  Granted, I'm slightly biased as a UC grad and having worked 14 years on the football broadcast team.  However, what true fans liked about me then was that I said exactly what was on my mind and I tried to speak to you as if I was next to in "The Nipp".   I won't make predictions here because that makes administrators nervous...I'll just let you "read between the lines".  I'm also outside the Lindner Center before home games with the "Stadium Show" before you go in, so don't hesitate to stop by and air your opinions.  As always though, the throwing of fruits, vegetables or other foreign objects at the show host won't be tolerated.

Here we go kids....

DATE OF THE CONTEST: Thursday, October 15th

VENUE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

KICKOFF: 7:30ish (after the fancy ESPN intro and all)

THE SERIES: Bearcats up 4-2

LAST TILT: UC won 10/30/08 24-10 at Nippert


It's simply the biggest game to date for the Bearcats as they carry the #8 ranking into Tampa to play South Florida, who just made it to #23. So, it's two ranked opponents from the Big East (when NONE of them were ranked preseason) getting busy in the ESPN Thursday night show.

UC's had a little more "big game" exposure than USF, with road wins at Rutgers and Oregon State and the home victory over Fresno State. However, after three cupcakes and the loss of long-time starting quarterback Matt Grothe to injury, USF went to Tallahassee and beat Florida State. Having lived five years in Tampa and with degrees from both UC and USF, I can tell you that's a monumental win for the Bulls.

Both schools have similarities. They're both commuter schools for the most part with big enrollments. UC just hit the 39,000 plus mark, South Florida's the second biggest school in the state behind the Gators with over 46,000 students.

Both are relatively new to the Big East and both have represented well and made bowl games. Actually, a couple years back, it was USF that cracked the Top 10 and made it all the way to #2 in the nation. Both play in "pro" towns (although the Bengals and Bucs have been far from NFL juggernauts). Brian Kelly needs to expand his on campus facilities, while Jim Leavitt's men bus downtown to play at the "RayJay" they share with the Buccaneers. (Should they build on campus--out near the Busch Gardens area--they'd have major traffic issues--much like UC faces in "Concrete Corryville".)

Both teams also fight annually for respect. USF wants to be "in the conversation" with the in-state powerhouse Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes. They even erected a billboard at the busy interchange of 275 and I-4 stating such (that head coach Leavitt didn't like). UC wants to be in the same company with the Buckeyes up north. Even though they're ranked ahead of OSU for the first time in 58 years, there's still a condescending attitude prevailing from the "acorns".

Frankly, you get the sense that many in Columbus feel that it's their God-given right to be superior and that it's sacrilegious for an Ohioan to consider rooting for another team.

How's it all settled?

Well, this Thursday game will make someone's bark a little bit louder, while the loser will just have to keep kicking and scratching.

Now, allow me to put my UC and USF degrees together to analyze the various match-ups....


UC's offense vs. USF defense


With his inclusion on the Heisman watch and the ESPN love the Bearcats have gained in the last week, all eyes are going to be on Tony Pike. Brian Kelly has said USF's team speed reminds him of Virginia Tech. If there's one team that Pike or any UC fan doesn't want to be reminded of, it's Virginia Tech (hands down the worst game of Pike and Kelly's time at UC). DE George Selvie is healthy and can be an absolute beast and newcomer JC transfer Jason Pierre-Paul has been coming on strong. Factor in that USF DC Joe Tresey was on the UC sideline against Virginia Tech and I think you can bet the ranch that pressure from all angles will be coming at Tony Pike. They also know all about Mardy Gilyard and one of USF's best LBs (Chris Robinson) is a HS teammate of Gilyard's from Flagler Palm Coast HS in Bunnell, Florida. I think this is a game where the guys that don't normally get the headlines...get the headlines. I think UC's going to need key runs from Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Pead and it would be nice if John Goebel could be mixed in with some receptions out of the backfield. This could also be the game for the reappearance of the "Bearcat Formation" featuring Travis Kelce. There's wrinkles out of that formation that haven't been seen yet. D.J. Woods will obviously have to be a factor with a lot of focus on Gilyard and I'd like to see the TEs get some touches.


NOD: USF's been tough on the rush of late, Tresey has inside info, and UC might want to run to keep possession minutes. That said, never underestimate Kelly. If UC can keep the fast pace in the more humid weather, they're in good shape. Otherwise, this could get frustrating. I'm calling it even (unless there's a cold spell in Tampa).


USF offense vs. UC defense


It doesn't appear to me that USF's lost a beat by losing Matt Grothe. Redshirt freshman QB B.J. Daniels has come in and led them to back-to-back wins over FSU and Syracuse and made huge plays.

He's a tad bigger than Grothe (6-1, 210) and arguably a more talented runner (105 yards vs. Charleston Southern in mop-up; 126 against the 'Noles). He's also found the "deep ball" with Carlton Mitchell (the biggest threat) Sterling Griffin and Theo Wilson. That said, I'd look for him to take his shots at UC's "newer" secondary (no more Mike Mickens to haunt USF fans). Fortunately for UC, they have Dominique Battle and Drew Frey healthy and freshman Chris Williams is due back for insurance. On the D-line, Curtis Young is slated to return. If Young is back to form along with the emergence of Alex Daniels lately, that could help keep B.J. Daniels under control. USF's Daniels also isn't a precision-like passer and has been susceptible to INT's. Their RBs haven't had breakout games as most of the big yards have come from rushing the QB. Again here, Joe Tresey has tipped B.J. Daniels off on some UC defensive tendencies, so we'll see how much Joe knows in this one.


NOD: Brian Kelly has compared USF's Daniels to Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor. For those that saw the Orange Bowl, that's not good. Fortunately, the guy running the defense (Bob Diaco) was not at the Orange Bowl so he can block those ugly images out. UC played a fairly vanilla game (by their standards) against Miami (OH) so you might see some looks here that haven't appeared yet. Because UC's historically struggled with "dual-threat" QBs I have to give USF a slight edge here.


Special Teams


This can be a huge factor in this game. Last time down, Jake Rogers didn't have a great game and BK got to the point late in the game that he was going for it on 4th down, rather than rely on his kicker. That can't be a constant on a Top 10 team. Jake rallied back with some big punts and a field goal last week, so hopefully everything's in order and he kicks with a "Crash Davis" attitude rather than "Nuke Laloosh" (rent "Bull Durham" for the references). USF's had kicking woes too with Delbert Alvarado now just punting and Eric Schwartz kicking ( he's missed some too). The punting aspect could be key here and I would guess Rogers would get the bulk of those, if not all, over Patrick O'Donnell. It's pretty tough to throw a true frosh out there in a game of this magnitude. However. O'Donnell's from Palm Beach and might feel comfortable in the Florida night. A big return here could be key if the offenses are sluggish. While USF will key on Gilyard, they might not on Darrin Williams or D.J. Woods.


NOD: These teams are so similar in their pluses and minuses. You hope this game doesn't come down to a field goal/blocked field goal/extra point/blocked punt/kick return...but it very well might. Neither team stands out here, so we call it even again.


Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks

USF's making a big push for this game, as they should. They're pulling out the "sea of green" with all the fans in green. From a logical standpoint, I wonder about that. Whereas a "white out" can be visually distracting, I would think green wouldn't bother anyone at all (unless they're using green balls--which they can't). Green provides a decent backdrop to see (in my opinion) so the only thing UC will have to deal with will be the obligatory insults and 'Catcalls. I'm not sure Tampa can out-vulgar Jersey on a good day and the trip to Corvallis wasn't necessarily a visit to the public library. UC's pretty road-tested for game #6. I think they're just going to have to keep themselves in check on the field as I'm guessing yellow hankies will be flying at the slightest disagreements or infractions. Neither coach is "bad" or "incessantly dirty", but each will want to "establish their presence". How much of that is allowed by the "zebras" could be a big factor. If UC maintains composure, eliminates the "not-so-jolly" green folks from the equation with early scores and can contain B.J. Daniels as well as they have Matt Grothe in the past, it should be another one in the win column. Oddly enough, Syracuse probably had the best offense USF's played so far and that was a 14-13 game at the half. An Orange implosion led to the USF rout and that is exactly what UC needs to avoid Thursday.


Allow me to introduce myself ...

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This feels a little strange. I have to admit that right from the start.

 

   Consider this my introductory blog post as a new contributor to the UC Athletics Web site. Why does this feel weird? A few reasons:

 

1.       I am writing in the first person and probably will be a lot. Because that's what blogs do. I'm a former newspaper reporter, and reporters were always taught that they were not the story and no reader cared about them. But over the last five years or so, media outlets have been asking reporters to blog and chat with readers about their personal experiences. Heck, former Enquirer reporter Dustin Dow once blogged about buying shoes in Italy when covering the Winter Olympics and it was considered hilarious and fascinating stuff by his editor: Me. I'll try to get used to this quickly.

 

2.       I am allowed to write for a UC-related Web site.  Let me explain that.

 

   I was in newspapers for most of the last 25 years (not anymore, obviously). I have covered sports at just about every level - high school, college, pros, international.

  

   The majority of my reporting career was spent covering college basketball at Purdue, Xavier and Cincinnati (the Steve Logan years). I became deputy sports editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2002 and sports editor in 2004.

 

   Reporters and editors pride themselves on objectivity. I may own clothes with a team logo on them, but I would not wear them in public. You can't let anyone perceive that you have a bias.

 

   Quick story: When my first child was born, I was the Xavier beat reporter. One night the kid was sick and I had to quickly dash to Kroger for medicine. It was cold. I reached into the closet and grabbed a sweatshirt. It happened to be a UC sweatshirt. Hadn't worn it for years. Well, sure enough, there I am going down an aisle and I get stopped by a Xavier fan who knows I cover the Musketeers and wants to ask me a recruiting question. But I notice that he can't take his eyes off my sweatshirt. He did not comment on it, but I am grateful he was not running home to post on a chat board that the Xavier reporter is a UC fan. I did not make that "mistake" again.

 

   Where was I?

 

   Oh yea, objectivity. Not a concern with this blog.

 

   Here in this space, my charge is to help link the past and present of University of Cincinnati sports. That means I may write some items with historical perspective (whatever that means), I will track down some former players and write about what they're up to, and other than that I plan to make things up as I go.

 

   Just to establish a little Bearcat credibility:

 

   I am a 1984 UC graduate. I covered the 1992 Final Four team for what was then called Horizons, the alumni magazine. I wrote the book "Tales from Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball" in 2004 after interviewing 75 to 80 former UC basketball players, coaches and staff members. I was editor of the book "Cheer Cincinnati: The Bearcats' Special Season," which was produced by Enquirer Media and came out at the beginning of this year. I am a former News Record sports editor and editor. I am teaching advanced journalism at UC this quarter and serve on several UC-related committees. And, I am working on a few new side projects that involve UC sports (more on those some other time).

 

   I hope to have fun here, but mostly I want to keep this interesting. Feel free to send me questions, comments, ideas and former players you'd like to know about in any sport.

 

   One final thought for this post: I find blogging to be kind of like doing a radio interview. I never think anyone's listening or reading or paying attention until later when I run into someone who comments on something I said.

 

   So, don't hesitate to lemme know if you're out there.

 

   And if you are one of my former Calhoun Hall dorm mates who used to use my News Record articles to line your bird cages ... get your printer ready - I'm back! :)

 

More Content, Same Price . . . Free!

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If you've been reading "Heard It From Hoard" for the past few years at gobearcats.com, here's what you can expect from me on the website's new format:

 

More.

 

I'll be writing more frequently and you will be receiving it more rapidly.

 

In previous years it took several hours - sometimes days - for my columns to get published.  Now, when I have information that I think you'll find interesting, I can post it on gobearcats.com immediately.

 

I plan to share pre-game and post-game observations before my UC football and basketball broadcasts, and hope to tell you a few things about Bearcat players and coaches that you haven't seen or heard elsewhere.

 

And yes, there will be updated photos of the handsome lad.

 

I also plan to answer your questions.  You can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

So if you've enjoyed "Heard if from Hoard" in the past, I'm sure you're going to enjoy it on the new-and-improved gobearcats.com.

 

Hopefully, even more.

GAME OVER, GOD BLESS

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Yes, I'm the same Wayne Box Miller who co-hosted the award winning Prime Time Sports Show and now I'm  honored to be blogging a little for the University of Cincinnati. UC was like my second home during my college days, and many people thought I graduated from UC as I was a frequent visitor on campus when Morehead State University concluded school for the summer much earlier.

I like so many of you probably followed basketball a lot more than football until Coach Dantonio and ultimately Coach Kelly arrived. But I did follow football when Gottfried was here as well as Rick Minter. UC has a rich sports history and from time to time be prepared for me to get on my soapbox to have a street or building named after the greatest UC athlete in history, Oscar Robertson, aka "The Big O".

I will leave the x and o's to the other guys and write from off the beaten path. I love sports still but have moved into the hospitality industry and into a new life with my beautiful fiance' who is the biggest UC fan I know. 

So as always I hope you enjoy my perspective and I ask you not only to support UC but High School and youth sports as well. Go Cats and UC I'm glad to be on board!

And for those who use to hear hear it...Game Over GOD Bless will still be my outro for my blog. It is my way of professing my faith, something that has become increasingly important in my life... 

Beware The Backup Quarterback

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I'll admit it.  When USF quarterback Matt Grothe suffered a season-ending knee injury a few weeks ago, I figured this Thursday's game in Tampa got a whole lot easier for the Bearcats.

 

Duh . . . you would think that someone who was behind the mic when UC had four different quarterbacks lead the team to wins last year would know better.

 

I certainly don't think the game looks easier now.  Grothe's replacement - redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels - has been "Mr. Excitement" in leading the Bulls to road wins over Florida State and Syracuse.

 

His passing stats in those two games aren't spectacular - Daniels is 20-for-41 (49%) for 423 yards with 4 TD passes and 2 INT - but he's produced several big plays.  In the win over FSU, Daniels had completions of 77 and 73 yards, and in the Syracuse game he threw an 85 yard touchdown pass.  In other words, B.J. is not likely to carve Cincinnati up with a short passing game, but if the Bearcats bring their safeties up to stop the run, he will look to go deep.

 

Oh yea, Daniels can run too.  He carried 23 times for 126 yards against Florida State and added 32 yards against the 'Cuse.

 

Daniels actually grew up on the Florida State campus (his dad was the campus housing director) but wasn't recruited by the Seminoles.  Here's a great story on how he wound up at USF.

 

* * * * *

 

I'm sure we're going to hear quite a bit this week about former UC defensive coordinator Joe Tresey who now runs the defense at USF.  He was the subject of this story in the Tampa Tribune on Sunday, and I found the following paragraphs to be extremely interesting:

 

Last week, Tresey met with USF offensive coaches, including coordinator Mike Canales.  He went through Cincinnati's defense, player by player, offering his impressions on strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

 

"It was invaluable," Canales said.

 

Both teams will probably downplay the significant of Tresey changing sides this year, but that information had to be helpful for the Bulls.

 

* * * * *

 

The much-maligned Big East is starting to get some respect from the pollsters with two teams in the AP Top 25 - Cincinnati at #8 and USF at #21.  Additionally, Pitt is 26th and West Virginia is 28th.  Admittedly, not quite the SEC with Florida and Alabama ranked 1-2, but it's an improvement.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

Enjoy a recent photo of the handsome lad who appears to be stunned that his father dressed him in Cleveland Browns colors for no logical reason.

 

 

Big brown eyes re.JPG 

 

BEARCAT FOR LIFE?

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Ok everyone and their roommate are on the UC Bearcat bandwagon and I wonder are you new? Have you been for life? or in fairness are you new to the game? I hope you're in it to win it meaning regardless of the BCS outcome you'll remain loyal to the university. Cincinnati has always been called a fair weather town and this is your chance to change that perception. Like Mike Thomas and the athletic department did by not only bringing Coach Brian Kelly in but giving him what he needs to compete on a level many thought (including some of you reading this) the 'Cats couldn't.

But what happens if they lose? have a bad season? suffer misfortune? Are you still on board as a fan, alumni, Cincinnatian? I say yes to some and sadly no to others. Its easy to jump off the bandwagon, sprain an ankle or two but to be a real fan means enduring your friends ridicule if their team is faring well at the time or if you see no light at the end of the tunnel. A Bearcat for life means I accept the outcome but I'm always wishing for the best, year in and year out. Are YOU a Bearcat for life?

If you are waive your flag, wear you gear, buy a ticket, put UC carpet in your recreation room, make a donation or even applaud a student athlete who may not get lots of playing time. Being a real fan carries responsibility and a committment to getting involved. Take the lead like you tell the players to do when you're coaching from the stands and make sure your section stays pumped up throughout the game; there's nothing worse than a half-hearted fan criticizing a young student athlete about not producing, because they're certainly not getting motivation from you to ramp it up. I love it when I watch games and the crowd KNOWS they're making a difference. UC fans make a difference and be a fan for life!

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A TEAM

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 Welcome to my blog on Cincinnati Bearcats' women's sports! Let me tell you a little about myself, and what I'd like to accomplish before we get into my first posting: First, I've been covering Cincinnati goings-ons for some 20 years now. Those of you who have been around town for a while know I started in news here in town, then jumped to ESPN back in 1997. I had five terrific years there, then came back home in 2002 to start my own sports p.r. business. Sports has always been a passion, and my schedule now allows me to cover women's sports for a number of TV outlets in the area.

 I know there is interest out there for women's athletics. I talk to women and men alike who are interested in women's sports and want more coverage. This blog is a start. But I'm always looking for your thoughts and suggestions on sports and athletes to cover, so feel free to pitch in. I'll post my email address at the bottom of the blog.

 I've been writing already about the development of the women's basketball team under new head coach Jamelle Elliott, and the plan she and her staff has to rebuild the program. The latest step in that effort came earlier this week, in the first of a series of 'meet and greets' Coach and the staff have scheduled around Greater Cincinnati.

 Now, this isn't the first time Coach Elliott has gone out to introduce herself to the community, Since her appointment in May, she's been very active in getting out to alumni and young professionals, preaching the gospel of UC women's basketball. If you don't know, she has the pedigree to back up her message, with a dozen years of coaching at the side of UConn's Geno Auriemma, four years of playing for the Huskies and six national championships to show for it.

 But what's a team without fans? And that's the message behind this community 'house party' tour. Supporting the Cats is one thing, supporting them by attending games is quite another. My former ESPN colleague, Nell Fortner, now coaching at Auburn, once said something I thought was right on target: When she was coaching the Indiana Fever WNBA team, she said she'd get requests from friends all the time for free tickets. "Now, I can get them all the free tickets they want," she said. "But I want them to BUY the tickets, give back to the program, and support us with their dollars."

 We all have more choices than ever for our entertainment dollars. We want family-friendly activites that won't break the bank. A ticket to a women's basketball game is not only a show of support for the program, it's an investment in the University and the young women who play the game. As John Wooden always said, if you want to see how the game of basketball should be played, go to a women's game. I encourage you to do the same.

 If you have suggestions on other topics or athletes you'd like to see covered, please drop me a line. My email is bross@gamedaypr.com.