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What to do about the defense

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So, at what point do the Bearcats start to worry? At what point does it become a problem? I ask, because, at this point in time, they don't seem to be concerned with the defense.

 

Now, before we get into our talk about the defense and how it's struggled, let's get this out of the way. In the grand scheme, the defense hasn't cost UC any victories. The Bearcats, of course, are undefeated and continue to have a slim chance to play for a national title. And for much of the season, the defense has been just fine (15 points to Rutgers, 3 to SEMO, 13 to Miami, 10 to Louisville and 7 to Syracuse).

 

But what about now? What about a Bearcats squad that allowed 45 points to Connecticut on Nov. 7 and 36 points to Illinois last week? Shouldn't that be worrisome to a team that's set to play an opponent in Pitt that ranks 11th in the country in passing efficiency and 22nd in scoring offense (its 32.2 points a game rank fourth all-time in school history)?*

 

*Just to get the other side of the story: Pitt is 32nd in rush offense, 56th in pass offense and 46th in total offense.

 

What do you think about it, senior linebacker Andre Revels?

 

"We're winning, and that's what really matters," he said. "We're 11-0. I can't complain about anything."

 

Yeah, but hasn't the defense been a bit of a problem?

 

"I don't feel like you can have problems if you're winning," Revels said

 

Maybe the Bearcats will feel differently when they face a balanced Pittsburgh attack this Saturday that features a quarterback in Bill Stull who's playing the best football of his career and a freshman running back in Dion Lewis who needed just eight games to reach 1,000 yards during his rookie campaign.**

 

**Lewis had 1,029 yards after his eighth game, compared to Tony Dorsett who had 1,142 in his first eight appearances. LeSean McCoy needed nine games during his freshman season to reach 1,000 yards. So, I guess you could say that Lewis is better as a freshman than McCoy and almost as good as the legendary Dorsett. Right now, he's 1,446 yards.

 

"The only thing we're concerned about is throwing up 'W's,'" Revels said. Right now, we're doing a good job of it."

 

Still, the trend is a bit disturbing. Especially when UConn gains 462 yards - the most since UC allowed Fresno State 443 - and then gives up a season-high 476 vs. Illinois.

 

"They're battling," Kelly said. "All I can tell you is it's tough to stop people, especially when you have dynamic players - like Illinois and like West Virginia - and when you have a physical team like Connecticut. It's a difficult chore. We're battling the best we can. We certainly don't help them in the style of offense we play. But I'd rather put more points on the board at the end of the game. We're close to last in the country in time of possession."

 

That's something UC has struggled with all season. Since the offense is so quick-strike, the defense finds itself on the field more often that it would like. But after the Illinois game, Kelly said that while he could slow down the offense to give the defense more rest, he wasn't inclined to do so. Why bother buying a Ferrari if you're only going to go 35 mph in it?

 

That attitude could turn the Pitt game into a high-scoring affair.

 

"They're called on to a lot more than they should in these circumstances," Kelly said. "I have a great deal of confidence in our defense. We've given up some points, but I'm confident we can compete and keep the score to where it doesn't have to be a shootout."

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