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BYE WEEK BONUS

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     What it is, is a bye week.

     The thing about bye weeks is it leaves the guy that writes the weekly game previews with not much material.

      Sure, I could preview the Illinois game, but it's really kind of early for that. Or, I could just leave the West Virginia preview up, but that's just sheer laziness.

      After seeing my mug on the scoreboard at Fifth Third Arena and Nippert Stadium, I feel obligated to put something here for those of you that my click on my caricature.

      So, we'll give you some stuff about the Illinois game briefly and then just talk about what the Bearcats have done up to this point in their very impressive 10-0 season.

(Again, you'll see this next week but....)


DATE OF CONTEST: Friday, November 27th, a/k/a "Black Friday"

VENUE: "The Nipp" (Game three of the homestand)

BE IN YOUR SEAT: High Noon

THE SERIES: This is the start of it


      Since we have no game to dissect this weekend (unless you want me to breakdown Anderson/Elder at Nippert Saturday night) let's just look at what the Bearcats have done in each phase of the game:


UC's Offense


Well, it's pretty good isn't it? At times it shreds defenses so quickly and so precision-like it's scary. And, they don't need much time. Tony Pike zipped the 'Cats on a number of one to two-minute drives against Fresno State on a day when the Bulldogs were chewing up the clock behind RB Ryan Mathews. While Pike's presence is made with the passing game, when Tony went down and Zach Collaros came in, it was all about the "art of surprise". At first, Zach was considered a runner when he went 75 yards on USF for a TD and finished with 132 on the ground. But then against Connecticut, Collaros THREW for 480 yards as the 'Cats put a ridiculous 711 yards on the Huskies. The receivers have all made defenses pay. Mardy Gilyard is always a threat and is usually double-teamed, but still shares the team lead in TDs with 10 and has 68 grabs and a team-high average of 180 all-purpose yards per game. When Gilyard's been doubled, Armon Binns has shined and has 44 receptions and eight scoring catches. D.J. Woods has 33 catches and a lot of times makes the catches most receivers shy away from. Then there's the running game. With John Goebel out, Jacob Ramsey has been counted on and has responded with big runs and probably bigger blocks. However, Isaiah Pead has really started to blossom as evidenced by the West Virginia game when Pead whizzed by the Mountaineers for 175 yards and a controversial TD (not here--ball crossed white line--light up the toteboard!).


THE VERDICT: They average 38 points a game, 314 through the air and 164 on the ground. It's fun to watch and they win. Brian Kelly can and will beat you in multiple ways.


UC's Defense


Easily, the biggest surprise of the season to the outsiders, but the guys have been believers all along. Losing 10 of 11 starters hasn't phased them in the least and the "next men in" have been effective across the board. Linebackers Andre Revels and J.K. Schaffer are UC's top tacklers. After that, things get pretty even. Senior Aaron Webster and Schaffer have the interception lead with three each. On the sack list, D-lineman Alex Daniels, Walter Stewart and Derrick Wolfe have the lead and many others have hurried or nailed the opposing QB. Senior Curtis Young missed a few games due to injury, otherwise he'd be among the team leaders in sacks also. Promising for the future is that redshirt freshmen Drew Frey and Dominique Battle are making key contributions in the secondary and both have three more years of eligibility. The 'Cats D is giving up 17 points a game. Take away the 45 that UConn scored in the wild affair on ABC and no one's scored more than three touchdowns on them.


THE VERDICT: While we'd all sure like to see the game-ending coverage tighten up a bit after last minute scares from UConn and WVU, the defense has been a pleasant surprise. Guys that bided their team here have been rewarded and are now responding.


Special Teams


Mardy Gilyard has returned a punt for a score and a kickoff 75 yards. Darrin Williams has gone 100 yards on a kickoff return. Gilyard usually gets the Bearcats offense great field position. In the kicking game, Jake Rogers is 11-16 on field goals--not bad-- but not exactly where you'd want to be. However, when Jake's on he has a rocket leg and he has had a four FG game. Punting is another issue with Jake's average around 41 yards. Patrick O'Donnell's had a few kicks but his average is about 38. Both of those are several yards off of what Kevin Huber did here, but there's a reason Huber was a 5th round NFL draft pick.


THE VERDICT: If Gilyard has the ball on the run, he always has a chance. Kicking-wise, you'd like to have more accuracy and reliability, but just when you get down on Jake Rogers, he nails several field goals or booms a key kick-off. For the future, the punting has to get more consistent. Kick coverage has been OK, but there was the TD by Robert McClain of UConn that turned a rout into a game.


Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks


Football games are about momentum and UC usually has had it. Against Rutgers, the momentum was so strong, the Scarlet Knights didn't know what hit them. As it turns out, Rutgers is not a bad team.

Likewise, UC rallied behind Zach Collaros to change the momentum of the USF game. Once the offense separated, the defense then started finding and frustrating B.J Daniels and the Bearcats recorded an impressive road win in Tampa. Conversely, UC had comfortable leads in the UConn and WVU games, but both teams were able to respond and reverse the energy their way. Up 37-17 on the Huskies and 24-14 on the Mountaineers, those games needed to be finished and finished emphatically. While it may be good to have experience in pressure cooker games and in onside kicks, it's not good for the disposition of the coach. As they says in the "rasslin'" circles, the Bearcats need a "finishing move". All in all though, critiquing a 10-0 start is quite a luxury.

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