He works for the "Quiet
Company", Northwestern Mutual, but during his Bearcat career, Andre
Revels was far from quiet.
Sure, he could be introspective
and some may have mistaken his blunt honesty for "attitude", but
on the football field, Andre Revels was never quiet. Even if he
wasn't "talking smack", Andre Revels would hit you "loudly".
Evidence of that comes from the
cover of the Cincinnati Enquirer pictorial book, "Cheer Cincinnati"
which followed UC's run to the Orange Bowl during the 2008 season.
In the picture, Andre has just leveled a Pitt player at Nippert and
is standing over him in the pose that Cassius Clay (at the
time)/Muhammad Ali had as he hovered over a beaten Sonny Liston.
As his Bearcat career evolved,
Andre Revels went on to be a vocal leader. He was brought into
weekly press luncheons, he was brought to the media room after his
last game (Sugar Bowl) and he was eloquent last season at a UC
basketball game drumming up support for Coach Butch Jones.
His passion remains high, but now
his "playing weight" is lower.
"About 20 or 30 pounds," said
a subdued Revels at a recent Starbucks meeting in the Rookwood
Revels' Northwestern Mutual
office is just around the corner and now he wears a suit to work
selling the various financial offerings Northwestern has to offer.
(Here's the plug--you can find him at email@example.com.)
Nowhere is the #50 present, but
he does sport an oversized bowl ring that he earned for his efforts
at UC. Unlike some of his teammates, Andre's strapped on the pads
for the last time.
"I knew most of the way through
the season," admitted Revels. "Whatever bowl game we were going
to be in, that was going to be it for my collegiate career."
Instead of maintaining weight,
hiring strength coaches and agents and trying to hook on for a few
more licks, Revels is nearly unrecognizable in his lighter frame.
His brilliant smile and air of confidence give him away though and he
represents the student-athlete that most coaches hope to produce
after a player has gone through his "tour of duty".
Now instead of enforcing policies
for a program, he's selling them for another in the same respectful,
professional manner he carried himself on the field. And yes, he's
available for a consultation should the Bearcats need his services.
"I'm there for them through
anything," said Revels. "They know I'm not really a
'rah-rah'-type guy so I doubt it will be for a speech. But, if they
need it, I'll go up there and get it going."
Again, if you heard him speak at
Fifth Third Arena with Coach Jones this winter, you know he can get
it going. I've heard a lot of student-athletes take the mike in
those situations and Revels was as eloquent as they come. (QB Chazz
Anderson is very good too, but that may be another story for another
It's all part of the Coach Jones
mantra of "Representing the C" and it's something that Revels has
obviously bought into.
"I haven't played for him but I
have gone to many engagements with him throughout the offseason,"
said Revels. "He seems like a really great guy, a great
character--a man that doesn't just want a football team--a man that
wants to coach a group of great individuals that can fit inside
society later. That's not characteristic of football coaches, it's
usually all about wins."
Revels knows a thing or two about
coaches, having played for Associate Head Coach/DBs Kerry Coombs at
Colerain and Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly at UC.
"Dantonio is a whole lot quieter
than Coach Kelly," said Revels in perhaps the understatement of
the year. "They both are on the same philosophy system as far as
getting the work done. Dantonio wanted more of a power running team,
Coach Kelly was more 'let's air it out and throw a bunch of points on
the board'. At the end of the day, they wanted people to stay true
to who they were and to the system."
"Coach Jones seems like he's
going to follow in that same characteristic. The characteristic is
that, 'we're a team, we stick together, we win together and we're
going to go out there and play good football.'"
Good football was synonymous
with Revels as he won a state title at Colerain and was perpetually
in the playoffs there and then was around for bowls in all four of
his playing years with the Bearcats. Unfortunately, his last bowl was coached by an
interim (Jeff Quinn) when Brian Kelly bolted for Notre Dame on
banquet night last December.
Even on that night, Revels was
courteous and thoughtful in his words to the media.
"It was rumored through the
grapevine that it was coming, so we were kind of braced for impact,"
said Revels. "People took it in different ways. Some reacted
less than desirably to it. Some were very unhappy. At the end of
the day, this is a business, it's about production."
While many think UC's trip to
the Sugar Bowl might've had a different result had Kelly stayed and
seen the team through, Revels refuses to speculate.
"No, there's no excuses for
losses," said Revels. "You either win or you lose, end of
Based on the way Florida's Tim
Tebow played that night and the inspiration the Gators had from Urban
Meyer, I'm not sure if a combination of Lombardi, Don Shula,
Parcells, Walsh and Paul Brown would've made a difference.
Still, there's no debate that
Andre Revels was a part of great success, tradition and transition in
UC's football program. Even now, the door to the Bob Goin team
meeting room down the hall from the lockers has Andre's picture on it
as a career of lasting memories lives on.
"We didn't have the Lindner
Center at first," said Revels. "We didn't have the weight room
at first. There's so many things that have developed over the last
four years. What I'll remember most is the locker room time, riding
on the planes, the time with my teammates which is really more
special than what any win-loss column will show."
To this day, former safety
Cedric Tolbert is Andre's best friend. He also enjoyed the company
of Terrill Byrd (at Colerain and UC) and Ricardo Mathews. Beyond
that, Revels wouldn't mention a particular Bearcat that stood out, nor
would he mention the recipient of his biggest hit, game or practice.
"I don't know, hopefully
everybody that I hit received my biggest hit," said a grinning
That's the kind of effort he
gave. Every play, every hit--the same. No one ever got cheated.
It's simplistic and mundane,
but it's a pretty good approach to life: give every day your best
shot and if it doesn't work out, dust yourself off and do it again.
Repetition. Muscle memory.
It only leaves you if you let it and I assure you, it hasn't left
Sorry, we had to skip the Breakfast yesterday due to some prior committments and unique circumstances. I hope you survived without me. If you didn't, you probably should investigate professional help.
Tuesday was a pretty special night around this city, I hope you all remember where you were and who you were with. I know its one of those I will never forget. We've had so few truly memorable moments as Cincinnati sports fans recently, the ones that do come along feel that much more gratifying. It's the same way I'm sure everybody reading this blog feels about Armon Binns' TD catch against Pittsburgh. You'll never forget Binns and you'll never forget where you were and who you were with when you saw it.
Hopefully there are many more moments like that to come for both teams. That hope is what makes me love covering sports.
Well, that and halftime cookies.
On that note, time for Breakfast...
--- First off, need to pass along a big congratulations to Mike Waddell. The former senior associate director of athletics at UC, and who made the wise and genius decision to bring me on board with GoBearcats, accepted the job as Athletic Director at Towson, of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Waddell was passionate about UC and set the template for what we are doing here. He will most definitely be missed, but I certainly wish the best of luck to him and his family in Baltimore.
The bottom line is TCU would be a great get for any league. They own a piece of the Texas football market,which is invaluable. They own a market the BE currently doesn't have a footprint in. They boost the league's football profile. In the new age of expansion, few other factors matter, including the fact TCU is as far from being East as I am from not being bald.
The numbers are indisputible. 1-10 vs. BCS conference foes. 0-5 againt Top 25 teams. No BE teams in the Top 25.
As Vingle points out, over the past three years, they also have no recruiting classes ranked in the Top 25. The conference fared well over the past few seasons, particularly in bowl games, so it's hard to judge if the failure has been an exception or the new rule, but it doesn't help recruiting when you don't have the ammunition of big wins to take into recruit's living room.
For a moment on Wednesday, I was
able to do what numerous Oklahoma Sooners couldn't do in the last
game against the UC Bearcats...catch Isaiah Pead. You see, Pead
was my scheduled interview after practice, but I had to wait on some
post-practice drills and then #23 was intercepted on his way out by a
couple of former Bearcats who had stopped by--Alex Daniels and Brad
That discussion was then broken up
by Bearcat Athletic Training Guru Bob Mangine who usually keeps his
men walking the straight and narrow. He began imploring Pead to
exit the Jefferson Avenue practice field and get into the whirlpool
in the training room.
That's when Isaiah Pead started
wrestling away from Mangine as if he were a middle linebacker,
telling him he had to do his interviews. When Mangine saw it was me
(longevity and loyalty occasionally has its upside) he told Pead that
I would walk with him.
So, I limbered up my sore knees
(that team orthopedist Dr. Angelo Colosimo has worked on) and caught
the young back that broke Archie Griffin's high school records at
Columbus Eastmoor Academy.
Not really. Pead's Division II
400 meter championship time is some 10 seconds better than anything I
ever did on the old cinder track at Anderson. Still, Isaiah's a
friendly sort, so he waited up for me to talk about his general
overall soreness after rumbling through Oklahoma like a dust storm at
Paul Brown Stadium.
"Still a little bit of nicks
and bruises from the game, but that's part of football," said Pead
of his breakout game full of breakout runs.
Had one particular long run not
been negated by replay, Pead would've easily been over the 200-yard
mark rushing. As it was, he finished with 169.
"That's just discipline,"
said Pead of spinning out of a tackle and nearly skipping off to the
endzone last Saturday. "There was no whistle, so you keep playing.
I didn't feel I was down either. I didn't even think I stepped out
of bounds toward the end. The referees called the elbow 'grazing the
grass' which made me down. The run was nice."
What Bearcat fans saw was a
difference maker in the offense that had been sputtering without him
early on this season. The moral victories aren't really fulfilling,
but getting that kind of effort from Isaiah Pead week-to-week can
only boost the confidence of the offense.
" It feels good," said Pead of
his best game thus far. "Of course, the greater feeling would've
been to actually get the win. I just wanted to come out and not be
a bust to my team. They've been behind me (during) my whole injury.
I just wanted to come out and be the spark that I can be."
What Pead can be is a perpetual
headache to an opposing defensive coordinator. Plus, he's one of
many Bearcats that openly expressed confidence in their chances of
beating #8 Oklahoma and some of the fans caught on as gameday
"You could tell from the good
luck wishes we were getting from fans and family that their mindset
was what ours was." said Pead. "We had got to the point as a
team that we were going to do this for ourselves. We knew we could
play with them. We knew that we could play with the last three
losses that we have. We've got to stop making mental mistakes and
get back (to) winning."
Getting back to winning is
never easy, but realistically, with the Big East being down early,
it's easy to be optimistic about the rest of the schedule. No game
is a pushover, but three of UC's first four appear to be the
strongest challenges they may face.
"Big East--we're in a big
hole right now as far as overall records playing other teams,"
acknowledged Pead. "One thing you can say is the Big East plays
each other hard. Conference games are going to be dogfights, all of
them. We've got to gather ourselves, get the Victory Bell next week
(vs. Miami) and then start working on our third ring."
Should there be a third ring,
these early growing pains may be all worth it. In the meantime,
Isaiah Pead needs to get to the whirlpool.
Seeing as interviews aren't
allowed in there, this one is over.
Not as in Boys II Men, the prolific R&B group who covered the song made famous in Cooley High the movie, but coming off a loss like the one against Oklahoma makes you want to play again the very next week and take it out on someone else; as well as correcting the mistakes that cost you the game. A good bye week? Not for me...maybe for the coaches to correct some things and some players to heal from injuries but all in all I would think players want to get back after it because the real potential of this UC team revealed itself including its never say die attitude.
When I was a broadcaster on 1230 WDBZ the Buzz, one of the callers had a quote I still use to this day: "If ifs were fifths, we'd all be drunk." There was never a truer statement after the turnovers, penalties, etc. against the Sooners; but it also showed this team can be aggressive, attacking and a winner no matter who they face. Someone said to me the difference in the game was one team knew how to win and the other one didn't. I can't say I totally agree with that, but for that game, I can't argue it either. UC grew into Butch's team this week and that is a strong sign that his style is taking hold, taking shape. I thought he was going to get several penalties for his outlandish expressions but the refs respected his efforts to get his team pumped up and keep them there and that's one of the reason why I like this coach. He IS a football coach complete with Cattitude, discipline, commitment and drive.
I have no doubt going forward this team, the one we saw Saturday; the one's who sprint to the opposite end of the field at the end of quarters; the one's who kept going even in the fourth quarter, represent the Butch Jones style of football that will become signature here at UC. The only downer is that I have to wait another week to see it. Oh well, I look forward to the same intensity and same effort against Miami and every Big East team on their schedule.
If that happens...never mind I have to remember my own quote.
Amid the outrage over the Bearcats offense and the countless message board posts spent complaining about the new coaching staff, the bright spot of the 2010 UC team has been lost in the shuffle.
Has anybody noticed a defense with zero senior starters and one of the youngest secondaries in the country has been significantly exceeding expecations.
This was the same defense called into question as the only reason UC wouldn't be able to duplicate 2009. They lost too many starters. They don't have enough experience. They have no depth.
Hogwash. Balderdash. Poppycock.
The Bearcats run defense has not only exceeded what were average expectations of the fan base, but become one of the better units in college football. No, seriously.
Let's start with what occured against Oklahoma.
Many UC fans might not understand the enormity of what the Bearcats did to DeMarco Murray. The senior RB is among the best pass-catch combos in Oklahoma history. That includes the likes of Adrian Peterson, Quentin Griffin and Billy Sims.
He will own the OU record for most receiving yards by a RB by the end of the season and moved into the top ten in their history in rushing yards.
Entering the game he has 5,197 career all-purpose yards in his career.
The Bearcats held him to 28 rushes for 67 yards for a 2.4 yard average.
They also held him to seven receptions for 21 yards and a 3.0 yard average.
They combined for his lowest total this season.
Murray didn't manage one reception or run of double-digit yardage. Let me repeat that again. One of the biggest home-run hitters in OU history, as healthy as he has ever been in his senior season of an explosive offense, touched the ball 35 times and not once gain even 10 yards.
Want to know how often that has happened?
Against Texas Tech last year he only had 11 touches and hardly played in the second half of a 41-13 loss to the Red Raiders.
On Oct. 4, 2008, the Sooners blew out Baylor, but Murray had 94 yards on 26 carries with a long of nine.
The Sooners continually tried to establish Murray and break a big run Saturday, but he never did against the Bearcats defense.
I talked to J.K. Schaffer about it after the game and mentioned that before game if you'd have said they would hold Murray to under three yard average on 35 touches, you'd probably have said I'm crazy.
Schaffer didn't agree.
"I wouldn't say your crazy," he said. "We pride ourselves in stopping the run. We work real hard on that. We don't care who it is or what your name is, we are going to do our best to stop em and that is that. It was just everyone being in posion and playing hard every snap."
Schaffer was chief among those as he continues to be a dominant player at middle linebacker. He leads the Big East in tackles at 11.2 a game. That number is good for 10th overall in the country.
It goes beyond Schaffer, though, who moved the middle backer position in the preseason. The man who replaced him on the outside, sophomore Maalik Bomar, has turned into a star on the defense. He had his best game yet on Saturday with 10 tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble.
"I want to say that the defense had a mindset tonight that we were going to go out there and throw the first punch due to the fact that the only thing about Oklahoma is the hype of their name. The hype of their school," Bomar said. "They bleed, they sweat, they practice just like we do. We are just going to go play ball."
As great as the Bearcats defense played on Saturday, this hasn't been an isolated incident. It was their best moment, but even in defeat, the defense has carried this team through the first four games of the season, especially against the run.
Through four games, UC ranks No. 11 in the country in average yards allowed per run at 2.71 an attempt.
Those don't come against slouches, either. Fresno State returned its entire offensive line from a team that sprung Ryan Mathews to school rushing records.
N.C. State had the combination of Russell Wilson's running ability with Mustafa Greene and Marcus Haynes. Oh by the way, NC State is 4-0 and now ranked No. 23 after posting 45 points on Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Now, the Bearcats are in the middle of the FCS pack when it comes to points allowed, at 24 a game, but the turnovers by the offense have put the team in difficult situations. Also, the pass defense hasn't had near the success of the run defense. They've been gouged for a few explosive plays. But even they took a big step against Oklahoma, not allowing any long plays after the first two drives of the game when the Sooners scored two quick touchdowns.
As soon as the young secondary continues to come along, the UC defense could become one of the best all-around in the Big East. Even better than that? They'll all be back next year.
"We are defientiely young," Schaffer said. "Guys are learning every single day. Guys are really coming togther. I think we are going to have a great defense by the time this year is over. I think we are really good right now, you can see everybody growing each week."
Last week was pretty slow when it came to former Bearcats in the league. Not so much this week. Two former Bearcats grabbed some awards from Peter King and Mardy Gilyard grabbed his first NFL reception.
Let's go down the list.
--- TRENT COLE: Cole had one of his best games as a pro. Eight tackles, two sacks, two QB hits, pass deflection.
Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia. With the embattled Eagle defense holding Jacksonville to 184 yards (now we can see why the upper deck is tarped), Cole led the way. He had eight tackles, two sacks of David Garrard, two more quarterback hits and a pass deflected. For Philadelphia to cover for some of their weaknesses in the back end, Cole and his front-seven mates have to continue to get the kind of pressure they got Sunday
--- MARDY GILYARD: It finally happened for Mardy. Gilyard managed his first NFL reception in St. Louis' 30-16 upset of Washington.
It was a big one, too. Bradford hit Gilyard for a crucial first down in the red zone.
Unfortunately, it wasn't mistake-free. Gilyard fumbled on a kickoff after suffering a big hit from Reed Doughty.
--- BRENT CELEK: Celek caught four passes for 42 yards in the Eagles' win against Jacksonville. It was not a good day for Celek, though, as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Celek suffered a wrist contusion.
--- BRANDON UNDERWOOD: Underwood returned to practice from an injury suffered in preseason and was ready to go for Monday night's game between the Bears and Packers.
Even though this is the Bearcats Breakfast, it's hard to start anywhere but with the Reds today. Tonight has the makings to be one of those special evenings at Great American Ballpark. The first of its kind there. With a win tonight, the Reds will pile up on the mound, go crazy and spray champagne all over each other.
A year's worth of work will all be celebrated in front of the home fans.
This is one of those games worth getting up off your couch, driving down to the stadium, paying the prices and soaking it all in.
If you don't want to go, the problem isn't them, it's you.
This has absolutely nothing to do with UC, but the Bearcats talk all the time about the city they represent and being a big part of that. Well, the city could have a very big night tonight, I encourage all of you to forget all the problems and stop booing for one night, be a positive part of it and celebrate this team.
That's enough Reds talk, let's chat Bearcats...
--- Bill Koch wrote about the team being a work in progress. Without doubt, Saturday stopped some of the venom being spit at the program and Butch Jones over the first few weeks. Granted, wins still need to follow, but the progress that game showed meant quite a bit for the future direction of the program.
Granted, both Air Force and Utah State also played to within a touchdown of the Sooners. Oklahoma was playing on the road and UC was feeding off the home crowd. But this was still a UC team that looked every bit as talented as the one on the other side.
They were one play away.
You certainly couldn't have said that following NC State and Fresno State.
--- Bill also had a blolg about moving more games to PBS. I discussed this briefly here yesterday so I won't get too much more into it, but I think placing the biggest non-conference game, or a WVU or U of L game as Bill proposes -- down there makes a lot of sense.
You may take away some home-field advantage with the confernece games by basically opening up space and seats to the opposing teams fans, particularly Louisville, but playing in the Big East UC needs to have big non-conference opponents every year anyway. And they have showed a desire to play them with future games against Virginia Tech and Tennessee.
Moving those downtown brings more UC fans in and NFL enviornement to help sell the program.
--- Brian Bennett ranks the biggest disappointments in the Big East. He has the UC offensive line at No. 3. Yeah, they did give up three sacks on Saturday to run their FBS-worst total to 18 through four games.
But they were much, much better. Those sacks weren't as much a product of the O-line, but a number of other things.
Alex Hoffman at RT and CJ Cobb at RG may have been the puzzle piece they missed. Or maybe, as Jason Kelce talked about during the week, the just weren't as far off as it seemed, it another week of learning some lessons the hard way made all the difference. Whatever it was, their ability to hold OU in check made all the difference in the offense returning to being explosive.
--- B-twice talks about UC in his preview/review and also admits error in selecting DJ Woods for his helmet sticker instead of Isaiah Pead. As he points out, we should give him a pass on this one, he spent the weekend in New Orleans, if the worst thing I did in NO was give the wrong helmet sticker on a blog, well, then...you know what, I probably shouldn't go into this on a public forum.
--- The Big East can't even consider another volleyball player for Player of the Week. Stephanie Niemer is that good right now. For the third week in a row, she took the honor. This comes one week after being the national POW.
I agree with Isaiah Pead, I felt like UC was the better team.
If they continue to play as they did on Saturday, this team will win many more than they lose. I just don't envision those kind of wild mistakes happening on a consistent basis. Plus, in the wretched Big East, everyone else will be making plenty of mistakes themselves.
--- By all accounts, the experience at PBS was a big hit. I think an annual trip to the river for a big game every year would be a fantastic idea. Even from the press box, which tends to be very withdrawn from crowd emotion at PBS -- you could feel the energy out there.
My folks went to the game and loved the atmosphere.
Let's hope this happens more than twice a decade.
And next time they open the lots before 2 p.m. I heard that was an absolute disaster.
--- UC-Miami will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9 at Nippert.
--- J.K. Schaffer=beast. He is averaging 11.2 tackles a game, tops in the Big East.
--- Brian Bennett moved Cincinnati up to a T-3 in his Big East power rankings this week. He also left the No. 2 spot vacant. And who can blame him?
The Big East is a mess. Their big weekend to prove themselves went just as the rest of the season. Let's make it 1-10 vs. FBS AQ schools for the league. Ugh. Hanging your hat on a WVU win against Maryland just feels dirty.
There is no positive spin. There is no way around it. The Big East is going to get a BCS Bowl game spot and the rest of the country is going to talk about taking away the conference's BCS affiliation for the rest of the season. They will have a valid point. Come to terms with it.
I believe UC is headed in the right direction, but for the BE, there is no shaking off a 31-3 loss to Miami by Pitt. There is no disregarding UConn being slaughtered in The Big House. As much as we may trying none of the national pundits are going to forget Fresno State and NC State.
No matter how well any team plays during the conference season in the Big East, there will be little to no respect on a national level because of this poor non-confernece showing. At the end of the day, that doesn't mean much. The system isn't changing midway through, but don't expect anybody who runs the table in the BE to move very far up the polls.
--- Mo Egger, radio host, prestigous UC backer, at his absolute best today on his blog. If you follow the Reds even a little bit, you need to read this. That especially goes out to all of you jagoff fans who have spent the past month booing every move Dusty Baker makes and pretty much every pitcher coming out of the bullpen not named Chapman.
"There are absolutely no moral victories.We play to win and we came up a little bit short.But I'm extremely proud of our young men.You saw the heart and soul of a football team coming together and we're going to keep getting better." - Butch Jones to sideline reporter Tom Gelehrter after Saturday's 31-29 loss to Oklahoma.
At this point, can Bearcat fans agree that there is life after BK?
The UC team that lost to #8 Oklahoma is capable of spending New Year's in New Orleans...or Miami...or Pasadena...or Glendale.
By the way, since it comes up every year, let's get this out of the way right now - the Big East Champion goes to a BCS Bowl Game.Period.There is no "must finish in the Top 12" provision for the Big East Champ and no need to read any fine print.In 2004, Pitt opened the season 5-3 (including a 3-point win over Furman) before winning its final three games to earn the league's automatic BCS bid.The ONLY thing that matters in winning the Big East title is how you do in league play.
Here are some thoughts from the broadcast booth following the loss to the Sooners.
The offensive line was solid.Flip-flopping Alex Hoffman and C.J. Cobb on the right side appeared to pay dividends as the 'Cats passed for 305 yards and ran for 156 (averaging 6.6 yards per snap).Kudos to O-line coach Don Mahoney for having the 'Cats well-prepared against a talented front seven for Oklahoma.
Isaiah Pead is a STUD.After missing the IndianaState game and having no carries against NC State, Pead was the best player on the field in the Oklahoma game as he finished with 169 yards on 21 carries (102 more yards on 7 fewer carries than OU star DeMarco Murray).
"I think that having Isaiah Pead back really took a load off of everyone," Zach Collaros told us on the post-game show."That's not taking anything away from John Goebel or Darrin Williams, but Isaiah has a different gear and he was electric out there."
Before his career is finished, I predict that Pead will become the first Bearcat to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Richard Hall in 2004.
D.J. Woods = quick strike ability.Yes the fumbles hurt, but in the last two weeks, Woods has finished with 146 receiving yards against NC State and 171 yards against Oklahoma.The fumbled punt is on him, but let's give Oklahoma defensive back Jonathan Nelson credit for making an incredible play as he punched the ball out of D.J.'s arms on the first fumble.It's not like Woods was holding the ball carelessly - he was running full-tilt with the ball cradled in the arm that was away from the nearest defender.It took a perfectly-timed uppercut to knock it out.
LB Maalik Bomar and CB Reuben Johnson are emerging as future standouts.J.K. Schaffer is clearly the leader of the defense, but I really like what I'm seeing out of sophomores Bomar and Johnson.Johnson had 8 tackles against the Sooners and shows no fear in playing the run.His coverage ability should continue to improve as he gets more playing time.Bomar had 10 tackles and forced a fumble on Saturday, and appears to play with a little more confidence every week.
"I love Maalik - he's a warrior," Schaffer told us after the game."He'll go out and hit anything and everything and battle all game long.There isn't anyone I'd rather have play next to me at linebacker."
Red zone efficiency has to improve.Most of the fans I talked to after the game mentioned fumbles as the key to the loss, but Coach Jones and Zach Collaros both seemed more disappointed by blown opportunities inside the 20 yard line.Here are the details:
1st quarter:First-and-goal at the OU 2.D.J. Woods end-around for no gain.Collaros run loses 3 yards to the 5.Collaros incomplete pass.Settle for short field goal.
2nd quarter:First-and-10 at the OU 22.Pead runs for 7 yards to the 15.Collaros throws INT in the end zone.
3rd quarter:First-and-10 at the OU 19.Collaros incomplete pass.Collaros runs for 5 yards to the 14.Collaros gets sacked for 12 yard loss.Settle for field goal.
In short, UC scored 6 points when it could have had 21.Ballgame.
"We were clicking and I feel like we beat ourselves," Isaiah Pead said."Now we just need to start winning.We're a good football team - we just need to stop making mistakes."
It's time to be more creative with Armon Binns.Over the past few games, most of the passes thrown to Binns have been high tosses near the sideline relying on his ability to leap over his defender to make the catch.How about getting him involved in the middle of the field?With the emergence of Woods as a big play target, there should be more opportunities for Binns to shine as well.
NC State might be the best team in the ACC.The Wolfpack is 4-0 and should move into the Top 25 this week after beating defending ACC champ Georgia Tech 45-38 on its home turf.The Wolfpack gets to play Virginia Tech and FloridaState at home this year and does not have to face Miami during the regular season.Russell Wilson might be the most underrated quarterback in the country.There's no shame in losing in Raleigh this year.
How about playing a game or two every year at Paul Brown Stadium?The atmosphere was fantastic before, during, and after the game.It's my understanding that if the crowd exceeds 45,000, it's more profitable for UC to play at PBS than Nippert.I would love to see "Bearcats on the Banks" become an annual tradition.
I think we were all encouraged by what he saw on Saturday night, and the bye week comes at a great time with all of the players who are battered and bruised.Here's hoping a great crowd turns out at Nippert on October 9th to see the annual "Battle for the Victory Bell" against Miami.
"We're going to be alright," Coach Jones said."These kids have a lot of heart and they've been down the last couple of weeks.We came up short, but we're going to come back tomorrow and get better.I love Cincinnati and we know what's at stake.We're going to keep working hard to make everyone proud - I can promise you that."
I'd love to hear from you.Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you're from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CINCINNATI - On the schedule, the 31-29 final score against Oklahoma at Paul Brown Stadium will list as another loss for the University of Cincinnati - the third in three tries against BCS schools under new coach Butch Jones.
To those that weren't among the 58,253 at Paul Brown Stadium, it will be another win for a top 10 team in the country and another loss for the struggling Big East.
Those who experienced the emotional roller coaster of Saturday night between Oklahoma and Cincinnati? They know better.
They'll tell you all about it once they get their voice back.
In a game everyone expected to leave their seat by the end of the third quarter, the Cincinnati fans did just that. Only they screamed at the top of their lungs in front of them.
A team, a program, left for dead on the national landscape, resuscitated back to life.
Isaiah Pead changed the face of the Bearcats offense with 21 carries for 171 yards and controversial tip of an elbow away from 62 more. Zach Collaros sprinted sideline to sideline, manufacturing points from every blade of turf at PBS.
A young defense, talented but raw, shut down one of the most prolific running backs in college football. Sophomore Maalik Bomar forced a fumble. Without the Bearcats' most experienced corner, Dominique Battle, young players like Camerron Cheatham and Pat Lambert pounded their chests and flexed after adding to the season-high nine tackles for loss.
The swagger of 12-0 returned.
Once the final onside kick attempt bounced into the arms of the No. 8 team in the country, the bottom line read the same as the two meaningful games that preceded it.
But as clear as the Cincinnati skyline overhead, this was different. The team Butch Jones built under the context of passion, character and pride, showed the Bearcats fan base what the future looks like.
It jumps up and down with passion and doesn't stop swarming for four quarters, whether inside the sidelines or out.
In the end, four turnovers sealed the Bearcats' fate. But a team in desperate need of confidence earned it.
Saturday was a lot of things for the Bearcats: A turning point, an offensive breakthrough, a claim for national respect.
Just don't call it a moral victory. For the Bearcats, it wasn't. Just ask them.
"There are a lot of good things to build off of," junior linebacker J.K. Schaffer said. "A lot of positive things to look at for the upcoming weeks. But I wouldn't say the word victory in any sort of fashion."
Jones beat reporters to the punch by answering in his opening statement before the question could be asked.
"There is absolutely no moral victories," he said. "They made more plays than we did, but I think you saw a team with heart. I think we have come of age."
The swap of offensive lineman Alex Hoffman and C.J. Cobb -- moving Hoffman to RT and Cobb to RG - allowed Collaros to drop back without fear. His 23 of 38 for 305 yards and 3 TDs resembled the numbers expected of the junior QB.
But a strip from behind as Woods neared the goal line on a long pass over the middle, fumbled punt return and inability to score touchdowns in goal-to-go situations left UC two points short.
Even though the Bearcats didn't win Saturday, they showed they can - against one the elite teams in the country.
That's why Pead, even in arguably the best game of his young career, couldn't peel away enough sting to put progress in perspective.
"I feel like we outplayed them tonight," Pead said. "I feel like we took their will early. But they also have players, too. Kudos to them, but I feel like we were the better team today, but instead of beating them we beat ourselves."
The stark reality that everything gained between the sidelines on Saturday didn't garner any tangible results is tough to swallow. Particularly for a player like D.J. Woods, who set a career high with 171 receiving yards on seven receptions. He added a 25-yard punt return. Unfortunately, none of those stats will be remembered.
A fumbled punt and fumbled would-be touchdown will stain his memory. But it won't dirty Jones' image of his receiver.
"DJ also made a couple big plays for us," he said. "It's just an individual trying to make a play. We coach ball security on every single snap. He knows it. But it is just one of those things that happen. I will live and die with DJ Woods. I love that young man."
In many ways, Woods' night was symbolic of the entire UC team. The negatives were as obvious as they were devastating. But the positives were such a stark difference from the previous three games of this season, they demanded attention.
This may not have been a breakthrough win for the Bearcats, but should make everyone associated with Cincinnati believe one isn't far off.
"I just can't say enough about our kids tonight," Jones said. "And I know they hurt. You got a locker room in there of 105 individuals who hurt right now and they should hurt. But I think they showed a lot tonight.
"I sense a hunger. There are no moral victories, everyone is extremely disappointed. The more you give the more it hurts when you lay it on the line. I thought we took great strides tonight, but still we came up a little bit short."
A few quick thoughts on the eve of the Oklahoma game:
For those of you who don't feel very confident in the Bearcats chances of pulling off an upset on Saturday night, here's something to consider.
There have only been three Top 10 teams that have visited Cincinnati in the last 11 years.
In 1999, UC stunned #9 Wisconsin 17-12.
In 2002, the Bearcats lost a heartbreaker to #6 OhioState 23-19 at Paul Brown Stadium as Jon Olinger and George Murray dropped potential game-winning TD passes in the end zone in the last minute.
In 2006, Cincinnati crushed #7 Rutgers 30-7.
In short, the Bearcats are 2-1 and could very easily be 3-0 in their last three home games against Top 10 teams.
Does that mean the 'Cats are going to beat #8 Oklahoma?Of course not...but it does make you think that they've got a shot doesn't it?
* * * * *
Alright college football fans, here's a quiz.Identify the head coach who recently made the following comments about his team's offense:
"We're still trying to find out about each other and that takes a little time.Unfortunately, we don't play preseason games - they count for real.So we're still a work in progress relative to finding the right pieces within our offense and then identifying what our strengths are.Then you kind of go to that chapter in the playbook and start to look toward featuring this kind of offense.We're still needing to gain more playmakers from an offensive perspective and that's going to take time through recruiting, so in that transition, we're going to have to play to what our strengths are."
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly.
I'm as guilty as anyone of expecting UC to score a ton of points from Day 1 under Butch Jones since his offensive system is similar to BK's, but there is an adjustment period under any new head coach.
Butch's track record is outstanding - his teams at Central Michigan averaged 34.8 (2007), 29.5 (2008), and 33.9 points a game (Brian Kelly's last team at CMU averaged 29.7).
I think his teams at UC are eventually going to be very productive offensively.
Saturday night would be a great time to prove me right.
* * * * *
I want to thank all of the Bearcat fans who took part in the Bearcats Rally on Fountain Square on Friday at noon.
There were a handful of Oklahoma fans in attendance.I thanked them for helping the local economy...wished them a great time in our fair city...and told them I hoped they had a miserable ride home after the game.
Just joking of course.
* * * * *
I'm looking forward to checking out the 25th-ranked UC Women's Volleyball team on Friday night at 7:30 as they open Big East play against Seton Hall.
My pal Reed Sunahara has guided the 'Cats into the Top 25 for the first time since 2003.
The 'Cats also have a home match on Sunday at 2:00 vs. Rutgers.
* * * * *
Here's another reminder that due to a conflict with the Reds game on Saturday, our radio broadcast will be heard locally on 102.7 FM WEBN.It can also be heard on Sirius 126 and XM 203.
I'd love to hear from you.Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you're from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at email@example.com.
No. 8 Oklahoma represents the most talented opponent UC will see all season. They arrive in Cincinnati at a time where UC is struggling to make much traction toward a breakthrough win.
Still, despite how much everyone in the country is alredy counting the Bearcats out, they are going to go ahead and play the game anyway.
The Bearcats hopes of pulling the upset lie in five key matchups. Here's my breakdown:
1) UC O-line vs. Oklahoma D-line
No secret here. The Cincinnati offensive line has been under fire, and rightfully so, as Zach Collaros has been sacked 15 times in three games -- the worst mark in FBS.
Oklahoma boasts one of the most disruptive lines in the Big XII and in particular, Jeremy Beal is a candidate to become OU's first Ted Hendricks Award winner. He had 11 sacks last season.
2) DB Dominique Battle vs. WR Ryan Broyles
No defensive coordinator in the country likes his mathcup with Broyles. He's turned into an almost uncoverable WR. He has five consecutive games with over 100 yards and a touchdown. In the Sun Bowl he head 13 receptions for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
He's averaging 10 receptions and 127 yards a game this year.
Battle has seen quality receivers, but never gone against one with the overall skills Broyles owns. He got beat on a double move against NC State, but is the most experienced corner the Bearcats field. There will be a lot of pressure on him to keep Broyles from having a monster game.
3) UC special teams vs. OU coverage
On the surface, UC's defense and offense won't be able to win this game on their own. If you look at almost any major upset and some type of special teams score played a role in it.
UC has yet to duplicate the explosiveness of Mardy Gilyard in the return game, but D.J. Woods has the capability returning punts. Oklahoma P Tress Way 22 punts of 50+ yards last season and is a major weapon. But if he booms some kicks it will leave some room for a Woods return.
4) Armon Binns vs. Jamell Fleming
If there is a weakness on the Sooners defense it is at corner. Both of their starters from last year moved on and Fleming along with Demontre Hurst started their first career games this season.
They have had some success, but Armon Binns has shown an ability to be one of the elite WRs in college football. UC needs explosive plays and if Binns can get one-on-one with Fleming or Hurst it will be advantage UC. Look for Zach Collaros to take a few opportunities to lob the ball up to Binns and let him be a playmaker.
5) Derek Wolfe vs. the world
Derek Wolfe played 80 snaps against N.C. State. I don't expect it to be quite so much on Saturday, but he is the engine that makes the Bearcats defense go. He must consistently win battles up front to force Demarco Murray to cut before he wants to and throw off Landry Jones' timing.
Wolfe is the one guy who can constantly pressure against the massive OU line. If he can't get into the backfield it will turn into a highlight reel for the Sooners.
Went to go see The Town last night and will open with a positive movie review. Good storyline and plenty of suspense. A few too many brooding, shirtless Ben Affleck shots, but outside of that, it was enjoyable.
I don't like to envision Blake Lively as a drug addict, but if I had to be stuck with a drug addict, she would top my list.
That's enough Ebert and Roepering, we are one day away from UC vs. the other OU.
Remember, we will have the UC-other OU live chat from PBS starting an hour before the game on Saturday, so if you are an out-of-towner, we hope to see you here at the blog.
Let's peruse the interwebs.
--- Dan Hoard strolled over to PBS along with the team yesterday for a walk-through at the statdium. UC banners are hanging over the edges and DH took some photos.
He also talked to Butch Jones asking one word to describe Oklahoma. I'll make you click-thru to find out. Plus, bonus Dan gives us a bonus by posting a picture of the handsome lad.
--- Bill Koch talks to Isaiah Pead, who should provide a boost to the offense this week. For a team that has struggled with explosive plays, adding a RB with sub elite speed and a history of breaking big runs should help. The key will be blitz pickup and slipping the ball to Pead in space.
--- Great news for Josh Schneider. After weeks of waiting following all kinds of controversy, it turns out he has been reinstated and will be a member of the US National Team.
--- In today's randomness, St. Petersburg is my second favorite city in the country. The weather is fantastic, you get all the amenities of a big city with a small town feel. The only detraction is...massive alligators.
On Thursday night, I asked Butch Jones to describe the 8th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in one word.
"Explosive," Jones said."They are an extremely explosive football team and very deserving of their Top 10 ranking.Every Monday I watch about seven different games to see what teams are doing and they're the best team I've seen on film.They have weapons everywhere."
And few coaches use their weapons as well as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.When Butch Jones was an assistant at West Virginia, the Mountaineers' coaching staff spent several days at Oklahoma one off-season studying the Sooners offensive system.
"The big thing that stood out was their tempo on offense," Jones said."They're going to test you.They played an Air Force team that controlled the ball last week and they still managed to run 80 plays on offense.That's a lot of plays.The other big thing is the way they distribute the ball to their playmakers."
Oklahoma has a running back averaging 123 yards in DeMarco Murray, and a wide receiver averaging 127 yards in Ryan Broyles.Quarterback Landry Jones is only a sophomore, but he threw 26 touchdowns passes last year when he was pressed into service due to a shoulder injury suffered by 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.
"The lead scout for the St. Louis Rams was in my office two days ago and he said he had never seen a quarterback that had as much poise, arm strength, and ability as Sam Bradford," Jones said."Then they bring in Landry Jones and they don't miss a beat."
The Bearcats, on the other hand, have skipped a beat on offense this year - largely due to their inability to protect Zach Collaros who has been sacked 15 times.
"The problems on the offensive line are very fixable," Jones told me."We have to have some individuals step up.Football is a game of winning your one-on-one matchups and we've done some different things schematically to try to help them.They're a very prideful group and they made strides against NC State.I expect them to make great strides again this week.They've come every day with a workmanlike mentality and our team has really supported them.Our inconsistency on offense is not because of the line - it's a combination of a lot of little things."
Cincinnati will not have tight end Ben Guidugli this week due to an ankle injury, but running back Isaiah Pead is back to full strength.
"We have to do a great job of getting Isaiah the ball in space," Jones said."He's a very explosive player and does a great job of making the first tackler miss.He's had a good week of practice and I'm excited to watch him play on Saturday night."
As I mentioned in my last column, when Butch Jones replaced Brian Kelly at Central Michigan in 2007, the Chippewas got off to a slow start before rallying to win a MAC Championship.Jones says he's sees several parallels in his first year at Cincinnati, and expects the Bearcats to turn things around too.
"I like our players, I like their work ethic, and it's our job to keep demanding what we expect on a daily basis," Jones said."We are not wavering in what we believe in, and we're not panicking, we're just going to keep doing what we're doing and getting better.We've been through this before and proved that we can do it."
* * * * *
Here are a couple of nuggets from Thursday's practice at Paul Brown Stadium.
Look for true freshman Roney Lozano to make his debut on the defensive line against Oklahoma.The starting front four of Brandon Mills, Derek Wolfe, John Hughes, and Dan Giordano is simply playing too many snaps.The coaches have decided to give up Lozano's redshirt year to add him to the rotation.
And while it might not happen this week, don't be surprised to see freshman quarterback Munchie Legaux line up at wide receiver in the near future.The Bearcats are thin at the position due to the season-ending injury to Vidal Hazelton and the ineligibility of Kenbrell Thompkins and Dyjuan Lewis, so Legaux volunteered to switch positions.He could give the Bearcats another big target at 6'5".
This week's game captains are Dan Giordano, Alex Hoffman, and Tom De Temple.
The endzones will still say "Bengals" on Saturday, but Paul Brown Stadium will have a UC look this week.
It should look great on TV.
Finally, due to a conflict with the Reds game on Saturday, our radio broadcast will be heard locally on 102.7 FM WEBN.It can also be heard on Sirius 126 and XM 203.
I'd love to hear from you.Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you're from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All offseason, the number stood as a sense of pride for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Through 13 games in 2009, the offensive line allowed only 15 sacks. The effort tied for 17th in the country.
The emotions surrounding the number are flipped now. In three games, the Bearcats equaled last year's total of 15 sacks. In all of the FBS, that's good for dead last - 120th. Idaho comes in at 119 and they only allowed 13.
Jason Kelce guarded the line last season. You could have used any number of adjectives to describe them. Stout. Impenetrable. Dominant.
These days, Kelce doesn't need a thesaurus to describe his offensive front.
"We obviously don't like what we consider ourselves to be a laughingstock right now," he said. "It's embarrassing, the number."
It stands as a reminder of the reality facing the Bearcats offensive line as they approach their most difficult test of the season. But, that reality, in the minds of Kelce and his lineman teammates, isn't as far from excellence as the number would infer.
"We are a step here or there to where it is a very good game for us," Kelce said.
Almost any time the offensive line is called into question during a press conference or postgame interview, Butch Jones reminds everyone that protection isn't the sole responsibility of the offensive line. If you break down the 15 sacks allowed, a few of those have been the product of dropped snaps out of the shotgun by Zach Collaros, a few have come from missed assignments by running backs and others have been the fault of a scheme with too few blockers to protect against the blitz.
In fact, in the first half against N.C.State, Collaros was only hit twice.
This is a unit adjusting to life without current Indianapolis Colts OL Jeff Linkenbach and three-year starter Chris Jurek. Only one player is in the same position he was a year ago and two are starting for the first time in their careers.
All of this rationalization is not meant to deflect all blame. Kelce admits the line deserves heat and must improve. But, if you're looking for explanations, there they are. But the Bearcats aren't looking for explanations. They are looking for solutions.
Kelce believes the solutions aren't as far off as the No. 15 would insinuate.
"We are getting stuff corrected each and every day," Kelce said. "The first game a lot of it was mental. Same thing with the last game. We are getting it corrected. We'd like to have these things corrected already, but like we've been saying all year we've got these new pieces this year."
The difference from last season to this season is easy to understand for the senior lineman.
"I'm playing next to two guys I never played next to before," he said. "I played with Link and Jurek, played next to them for two years. We had that chemistry, that footwork, we knew what each other were doing each and every play. This time we know what other guys are doing, but offensive line if you are a half a step off, it's the difference between the quarterback getting hit and a good block."
Nobody expects the offensive line to revert to its 2009 form overnight. The goal is for improvement every week.
"Our offensive line continues to progress," Jones said. "I see marked improvement."
Holding a talented Oklahoma front at bay will be more difficult than Fresno and N.C.State.
For Kelce, how this team reacts when the Sooners do make a play will be the key to continued improvement. Perhaps more than any new pieces or missed assignments, that represents the biggest difference between UC circa 2009 and UC circa 2010.
"Last year's team was a little bit more veteran, when something goes wrong you are able to forget about it, you are able to make corrections so that doesn't happen again," he said. "I'm not saying anything about anybody, but as a whole unit we need to be able to have that swagger about us. That no matter what, we are going to make this happen, we are going to take control of the game."
Fall is officially here and I couldn't be happier because my DVR is working on overdrive. Modern Family and Survivor: Jimmy Johnson's Hair were locked in last night. 30 Rock, Community and, of course, the JShore on the way tonight.
I may need to put plastic on the couch to avoid identation.
Any shows you guys swear by that I need to add to the DVR? I was thinking about $@*# my Dad says but hear some bad reviews. If anybody recommends Glee, I will block them from the site.
--- Paul Daugherty stepped over to SI and wrote this column on Mick Cronin. This is something Cronin has talked about a lot before and I have wrote about as well at CNati after talking to him this summer.
The pressures placed upon him to win off the court are stronger than they ever were at UC before him. Doc gives a good look at the challenges he faces and has faced. Cronin makes a myriad of moves on the court fans don't understand. He takes a lot of heat among an impatient base used to winning. He's everybody's favorite pinata.
The job he has done is probably among the most underrated in all of college hoops.
Remember when every offseason was a series of police blotter reports? Remember when Art Long punched a horse? Remember when Donald Little did, well, what doesn't need to be repeated here? And this was before cell phone cameras.
When's the last time you heard of one of UC's current guys in serious trouble? (That sound you hear is Cronin pounding on a wood table) Cashmere Wright had a silly tweet once. Oooohhh. Yeah, a lot has changed around the program.
But nobody cares about that stuff.
A team with a lot of talent last year let a lot of games get away. Whether you liked to hear the excuse or not, they were young.
The bill of winning is about to come due at Fifth Third, but for all the message board blasters who spend their days wirting Cronin hate instead of CareerBuilder.com applications, you have to realize the guy deserves the chance to prove he can rebuild a clean program and make the NCAA tournament.
He told me once this summer when I asked him about worrying about job security that he was a few buckets in a few games away from everybody wondering if he was going to leave Cincinnati for a bigger job.
People would have said he rebuilt a program left for dead, returned Cincinnati to the tournament and cleaned it up -- ahead of schedule.
I kind of chuckled to myself at the time, but once I thought about it, I realized he was correct. There would have been buzz surrounding him had the ball bounced his way a few times. People inside college hoops understand how difficult this rebuilding process was.
No final second collapse against Rutgers, no cold-blooded 3-pointer with a man in his grill from Marquette's Lazar Hayward, no DeSean Butler 3-pointer and what are we talking about?
A team that won at least 22 games, made a run in the Big East tournament and made the Big Dance. Those things happened, so you have to hold them against UC, but they were pretty darn unlucky by any stretch.
Say what you will: say I am a Mick Cronin apologist, say I am pandering to the people who sign my checks, say I am as ignorant as I am bald, but all those things I said in the preceding paragraph are facts.
I'm not saying Cronin is the long-term answer, but I am saying he deserves the chance to prove he is.
--- OK, that rant kind of came out of nowhere, so I apologize. There's some football game this weekend, too.
Brian Bennett talked to JK Schaffer about playing the role of underdog -- again. We don't condone gambling of any kind here at GoBearcats.com, but the spread for the game is 14. My only reason for bringing it up is, when was the last time the Bearcats were two-touchdown underdogs at home?
I may not be able to tell you the last, but I can tell you one time they were: Sept. 21, 2002. The last time this team played at Paul Brown Stadium against then No. 2 Ohio State. They nearly won that day.
I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
--- B-twice also made his Big East predictions. He's got Oklahoma 38, UC 17. Also, don't forget, Miami at Pitt tonight. Wannstache in high definition. Feel the thickness.
--- For those of you who want to listen to UC-Oklahoma on the radio, the broadcast has been moved to WEBN 102.7 FM because of the Reds-Padres game interfering.
This weekend represents a serious chance for the conference to revamp its national image. Pitt and WVU, in particular, really need to win to keep any respect alive going forward.
--- Everyone needs to listen to Mo Egger this afternoon at 3:33 on 1530 AM when he has the guy who was Rufus the Bobcat and plotted his attack on Brutus the Buckeye for a year and a half. I may tear up with school pride just listening to the man speak.
--- Nice story at BND.com about Mardy Gilyard wanting to contibute on offense. He is yet to even line up at WR this year for St. Louis.
He said the big hit he took last week wasn't his Welcome to the NFL moment. He's waiting for a bigger one.
"I just need one of them big, dumb, dauber hits right under the chin," he said.
--- For some randomness today, it's a tough day for you as a parent, if you have to answer questions from the media outside of a jail just before your son is let go in a full body, red, spandex suit.
--- In case you didn't know this already, I am a big viral video fan -- particularly, autotuned song versions of viral videos. You can run and tell that.
But there is a new one that I particularly enjoy. The below witness statement has been makign the round -- watch that first -- then check out the obligatory autotune conclusion. I dare you keep the song out of your head.
Oklahoma...where the wind comes
sweeping down the plains and where the Sooners come breezing in near
the Ohio River expecting to dust off the Bearcats for their fourth
Well, in the words of ESPN
Gameday's Lee Corso, "Not so fast!"
While the Bearcats have had a
rough 1-2 start, this is still a home game for them, albeit in Paul
Brown Stadium. The last time the Bengals played at PBS was the
infamous Ohio State game eight years ago where the Bearcats had the
Buckeyes on the ropes and were literally a wide receiver's fingertip
away from a victory that might've spoiled an OSU season.
As older fans of The Mickey Mouse
Club know, "Anything Can Happen" (and that's a reference that
dates even me!).
11 guys have to play 11 guys and
the shape of the ball causes it to do funny things. You just never
know. That's why two teams will pack their gear and trot onto a pro
field with fans of both teams surrounding the oval and countless more
watching a national cablecast.
Two years ago, UC defensive
lineman John Hughes was one of the players that saw duty in Norman,
Oklahoma when UC hung with the highly-ranked Sooners and eventual top
NFL draft pick Sam Bradford for about three quarters. Sadly,
thanks to Bradford (now of the Rams) and tight end Jermaine Gresham
(now of the Bengals) the Sooners prevailed 52-26.
"For me, it was my second game
playing for UC," said Hughes. "Thing I remember about Oklahoma
was they had a tempo offense. They went fast. Everything was fast,
Had UC not lost then-starting
quarterback Dustin Grutza, the game could've gone differently as he
was also having some success moving the ball and Mardy Gilyard
(teammate of Bradford's now on the Rams) was having a breakout day.
Then again, if Grutza doesn't get
hurt, Tony Pike (Carolina Panthers) might not have developed and had
a chance at the NFL. Again, strange things happen that are often
While the Sooners have gone
three-for-three in the win department, they've also not left their
home field. And, even though they devastated Florida State, the
Sooners only beat Utah State by a touchdown and Air Force by a field
As far as John Hughes is
concerned, the Sooners play fast, but defending the Bearcats in
practice the last three years should have the defenders ready to
"Yeah, that's why I feel like
we're prepared for this game," said Hughes.
If the biggest game last year
came in a pro stadium (Heinz Field in Pittsburgh) then perhaps this
year's highlight might come on the pro turf here. Realisticallly,
Nippert Stadium couldn't accommodate the audience for this game, so
it's been scheduled at Paul Brown Stadium all along.
"I'm real excited about playing
in the Bengals stadium," said Hughes. "Even though I love 'The
Nipp', this will be the first time at the Bengals (stadium)."
For many, it'll be the only time
playing at the Bengals stadium (outside of the handful of courtesy
tryouts that are often given ex-Bearcats). A football career goes
quick and a game like this one could be one that these players
remember forever as absolutely no one following college football will
give them a chance.
The upside is...that's familiar
territory. It's been noted this week that Coach Butch Jones has
been establishing a mantra of "belief".
"We're used to being
underdogs," said Hughes. "The two or three years I've been
here, that's the only way we like it."
Hughes does acknowledge the
magnitude of the game on a historical scale. At #8 in the AP and #9
in the coaches poll, this is the highest ranked team that's hit town
since #7 Rutgers came to Nippert and was thoroughly spanked 30-6.
That game proved to be a major
stepping stone in the transition of UC football going from just
another so-so team to being mentioned prominently on pregame shows on
"If we can get this one, it
would be big," said Hughes. "We're going entirely in to win.
There's no other way to go in there. This is a game to step up and
show our talents."
If Hughes and his defensive
cohorts are to stop the Sooners they'll have to get in the face of
Sam Bradford's replacement, Landry Jones. Not only does Jones have
a classic Southern signal-caller name, he's capable of lighting up a
football field. The 6-4, 219-pound sophomore zapped the Seminoles
of Florida State for 380 yards and four touchdowns with a 30-40 day.
"Landry Jones is a good
quarterback," said Hughes. "As a defense, we've just got to try
and contain him."
Straight, textbook media answer
from Big John, but highly accurate. Assisting Jones are two guys
that also did major damage to the Bearcats two years ago--running
back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Ryan Broyles--both 22-year-old
"He's a pretty solid back,"
Hughes said of DeMarco Murray. "We're working on trying to stop
the run, so hopefully we'll be alright. Broyles is also pretty good.
He had a big day back when we played them. Our defense is working
hard on this Oklahoma game, we should be ready."
Being ready is one thing,
being precise is the other. A defender can be as ready as anything
to make a play, but if he's in the wrong spot, it often appears as if
he just going through the motions. This week, Hughes hopes to have
all gaps plugged.
"It's about fundamentals,"
said Hughes. "Guys knowing their assignments. Execute your
assignments and everything's going to go good. That's what we've got
to get back to."
The UC player's assignment
(and they have no choice but to accept it) is to not go into a game
like this assuming it's "Mission Impossible". Sure, Oklahoma's
been to BCS bowls, but so has UC.
Butch Jones knows that
without "belief", nothing goes your way.
Thus, the mindset for the
Oklahoma game Saturday for UC has to be one that includes waking up
on Sunday singing, "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning"!
(As an extra added bonus--since I forgot my recorder for this interview and had to use my Blackberry--here's unedited John Hughes video, complete with my stammers,etc.)
Each week throughout football season I will feature a tattoo of a UC football player. Everybody has ink these days and these tatts obviously mean something to the guys. They spend plenty of hours and energy coming up with the perfect concept. They should be given the opportunity to show them off.
What better way to get to know the Bearcats players you cheer on every weekend than to hear about things most important to them.
This week I spoke with DL Dan Giordano. In case you couldn't tell by his last name, Dan is Italian. He grew up in a traditional Italian family and was extremely close with his grandparents.
Giordano has a few tattoos, but one that honors his grandfather was his undeniable favorite.
Who: Dan Giordano, RS Soph., DL, Frankfort, Ill.
What: Italian flag, the word Papa, 1929-2006, "Bone that made the bone."
When: Giordano got parental consent when he was 16 years old for his first tattoo.
Meaning: "It is a memorial for my grandfather," Giordano. "I called him Papa. Every week, I come from a big Italian family, so I have pasta on Sundays. I saw the grandma and grandfather every week. When he passed away, he left me his car, which was pretty special. I was 16 driving it around, it was a Grand Marquis.
"'Bone that made the bone was his No. 1 saying, he is the top guy of them all."
Ritual: "Before the game I always look at it like that. He was a big mentor in my life."
Family: "They lived 20 minutes away. Every time I go home, the first thing I do before I go to my house is see the grandmother."
The Bearcats practice this afternoon and have the final player media availability before Saturday's game against Oklahoma.
Then the next time we will see them is at 6 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium.
Hopefully, you all will be there as well.
--- Yesterday, I posted a few different items. There was a Bearcats in the NFL roundup from Week 2 as well as a reaction to yesterday's media availability.
Most of my post was about the message of Butch Jones and emphatic nature with which he defended himself and the program. To be expected, for sure, but definitely worth noting.
I know people are frustrated and angry and without doubt the Bearcats players and coaches are as well, but all this anger and disdain toward Jones needs to stop. The guy is working tirelessly to turn this thing around. Judging him is fine and expected, but you can't judge now. View the entire year's body of work before jumping to conclusions.
--- This program is having to get used to losing for the first time in a long time. The last time it lost 2 of 3 was Oct. 2007. Bill Koch talked about how the team is dealing with emotions and fixing the problems.
Judging by what I saw of at the end of Wednesday's practice, there is no lack of fire, that's for sure.
--- Jones said Ben Guidugli will not play against Oklahoma with his sprained ankle. Guidugli has struggled to get into the flow of the offense this season. The Bearcats haven't been able to get him in space or open in the middle of the field. Plus, his services were much more important blocking on the line.
Adrien Robinson will take a more prominent role as the starting tight end. With Robinson's bigger body type it will be less of a loss than you would think. Since Guidugli wasn't being used as much as a receiving tight end, having a bigger body inside to help block would be playing more to Robinson's strength anyway.
--- Regardless of what the Bearcats have done, it should still be a pretty festive atmosphere down at PBS on Saturday. UC athletics released all the gameday information so you know where to do go and what to do.
--- Did you know Derek Wolfe played 80 snaps on Thursday? Dan Giordano said he was up around 70-75. I don't care how great of shape you are in, that is a lot of snaps.
That makes the offense sustaining drives all the more important considering the lack of depth behind them on the d-line.
Butch Jones said this about the situation:
"Do we want Derek Wolfe to play over 80 snaps? No, but you know what, that is what it is. That's where our depth is, there is noting we can do about it. That is a tribute to him. He walked in and was like, coach, I am a believer. I played more snaps than I ever have and I was ready to go.
"The problem of playing 80 snaps is not getting off the field on third downs. We have to play better third down defense. When you are playing an upetmpo offense the whole key to the game is third down."
Collaros is a stand-up guy. He's accountable. He's open about his successes and failures. He has been since Day 1 when I stood in a damp hallway at South Florida and talked about his breakout game.
For the first time I can remember, he got caught on camera showing his frustration at a dropped pass against NC State. As he said to Adams, "I regret doing that...I obviously have to control myself better."
Nobody will hate on Collaros for being human, it's hard to do anything but respect him for owning up to it.
--- Mardy Gilyard hasn't been able to get on the field in the passing game for St. Louis. Writer Bernie Miklasz had this to say, questioning the decision of coach Steve Spagnuolo.
"I've said it before and I'll mention it again: I'm not sure why GM Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo seem to think they're on a 5-year, 7-year, rebuilding plan. It doesn't work like that in the modern NFL. So why is rookie WR Mardy Gilyard a spectator in the passing game? Gilyard isn't a burner; he won't win track meets. But Gilyard has the ability to elude defenders and make them miss. He has the potential to take a short pass and juke it for a longer gain. He could be a playmaker if given an opportunity. So why is the kid being given a redshirt season, at least so far? Same with the rookie tight end, Fendi Unobun. He may have to play some now, simply because the Rams are so banged up at the position. And sure, Unobun is raw. But he's also a 6-6, 250-pound target with real athletic ability and above-average speed and agility for a big man. So if nothing else, why can't Unobun be deployed on passing downs in an attempt to create a mismatch? The Rams cannot surpress talent. They have to turn it loose, even if it means living with rookie errors."
--- Brian Bennett takes stock of the Big East. He mentions the quality game D.J. Woods had against N.C. State and takes notice of UC's struggles in the return game. As he points out, the Bearcats have only one return over 30 yards this year.
--- Big East bashing is as popular as Glee. And equally difficult to take in. (I don't get it, I will never get it, don't try to explain to me why it's a great show. It's not.)
I have had time to absorb the loss and the absence of confidence seemingly of this year's Cats. Their Cattitude seems to be in short supply based on what we've seen thus far and the great news is its fixable. That being said it better start in a hurry because the Oklahoma Sooners looked impressive to start the second half in their win last week over Air Force. Now I know Air Force is no Texas or Alabama but you saw what happen once they put the Sooner in gear. His name is DeMarco Murray and he is legit; and so are lots of players from this once dominant football factory.
How ironic is it in the world of sports that when your back is against the wall, and when you have to make a statement, you encounter one of the toughest games on your schedule? I am OK with that because this is no time to wish for Indiana State or Wilmington. Make your statement about your program and the pride you possess. That goes for you too fan come lately. When UC was winning, getting on board was as easy as getting in limo on Friday night. Well now it's getting on a school bus and toughing it out at Paul Brown stadium so it feels like a home game and more importantly a road game out of conference for OU.
We'll see what this team is made of this Saturday at 6 PM and we'll also see what you the fan is made of; constant cheering? Making lots noise when UC is on defense? encouraging others to show up to ensure home field? Truth is there is a lot you can do but most of it rest with the players who swore their allegiance to the Red, Black and White uniforms. I personally hope I see nothing white on the field with UC on it, but red and black gear and red and black mentality that says: enough is enough! We have to get back to playing our brand of football, the brand that put us on the map and the brand that will keep us there. Anything less is not UC football; anything less than your vocal best is not a fan. We all have a job to do this Saturday; Are you going to do yours?
There were a few nuggets of news coming from Butch Jones at Tuesday's press conference.
--- TE Ben Guidugli will not play against Oklahoma with his sprained ankle. His status for the game against Miami on Oct. 9 is up in the air. Jones said he would continue to be monitored over the bye week.
--- As was mentioned in Monday's teleconference, Jones again said RB Isaiah Pead will be back for the Oklahoma game. Jones had this to say about Pead's progress after playing a limited amount without a carry against N.C.State:
"He has had a couple extra days to heal and we practiced on Sunday, he looked great. He is going to be full strength ready to go...You take Isaiah out of our offense, too, and we are a different offense. It is what it is, our players respect his play-making ability. He's a player we are going to try to get the ball to to make plays."
--- S Drew Frey's status is still in question after he left Thursday's game with an injury.
Jones said they are still waiting on him and they will monitor his progress during the week.
--- DL Rob Trigg will not play on Saturday.
--- All those pieces of information are important in regards to the Bearcats' chances against Oklahoma, but I thought the overwhelming theme of Tuesday was the nature of the positive message from Jones.
Jones has been good at saying the right things even through some adverse situations from the moment he took over at UC. But I thought the emphatic way with which he stood and professed his belief in all aspects of what the Bearcats are doing at UC was worth noting.
Sure, nobody expected Jones to step forward, start shaking his head and announce that the program is indeed in shambles and they are switching to a triple-option offense taking all the slogans off the wall. Of course not.
But with his program under duress and faced with the challenge of keeping a room of impressionable young men from letting doubt slip into their mind about Jones, his staff or UC, the coach left no doubt about his vision and confidence of UC.
"I am excited where the program is," Jones said. "I am excited where we are headed and there is absolutely zero panic in what we are doing here."
Jones reiterated that message in a number of ways on Tuesday, but for some reason leaving the VarsityVillage, that last line stuck out to me.
Say what you will about the disappointments of the first three games of the season - and we will say plenty about those soon enough - but in a situation like this one, this is why you like Butch Jones as your coach.
This is why you hire Butch Jones as your coach.
His formula of creating a family atmosphere and team that believes in each other works. It works because when these teenagers could jump ship mentally and question what this new staff is doing around them, the constant preaching of togetherness and family is done specifically for this moment.
I'm not saying it's for better or worse than any of the previous coaches at UC, but you get the sense this team truly believes in what Jones is saying even if the results haven't equaled those of the past.
"We are not changing in our expectations," Jones said. "Our expectations are to win football games and do it right. I am not going to waver. I am going to lay the foundation."
Jones isn't wavering because he's been here before. He opened his transition in taking over for Brian Kelly at Central Michigan by going 1-3. That including a 44-14 home loss to North DakotaState. The Chips went on to go 8-6, but won the Mid-American Conference at 6-1.
Judge how you will about what has happened thus far, but Jones has shown he knows how to rally the troops. His method of coaching is setup that way.
"What's amazing is I had about 30 kids from Central Michigan call me or text me and say, 'Remember that turning point coach?'" Jones said. "We've been through that. Our system, the way we play, the way we practice, what we believe in, it works."
With the UC helmet plastered across the front of ESPN.com on Monday documenting the Bearcats' fall from last season, Jones grinds forward, undeterred. He holds the same blue-collar, lunch pale, full-speed ahead pace.
The last time this program lost two of three games was Oct. 20, 2007. That hasn't dampened Jones' mentality or energy. It's only made his message louder.
"I remain as positive and upbeat as I was when we started camp in August," he said. "Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes, we have a lot of work to do. I knew that coming in. I knew that after spring football, I knew that in August, I knew that when we concluded camp, I knew that at Higher Ground. But to me that is a challenge. I have not wavered one bit in my belief of our players, our program and what we are doing. I expect us to win. I put my head down just like our staff and I continue to work each and every day."
He sees improvement on the offensive line (more on that later). He sees a defense that is a tackle or two away from being very good. He met with players and used the extra days this weekend to evaluate what is going on within the program and the mind of his players.
Jones saw a team reflecting the attitude of its coach.
"So much of the game is mental," Jones said. "It's how you react to things. This is where your will is tested -- your belief system, your belief in your teammates, your belief in the coaches, your belief in the program. Our kids have been unwavering. They have come in, I have met with a bunch of kids individually, we have had a lot of team meetings and they responded the way I would like them to respond."
--- TRENT COLE: Cole didn't come away with a sack as he did in the opener, but was disruptive in the pass rush in a victory against Detroit.
He had four tackles, a pass defensed and QB hit.
--- MARDY GILYARD: Gilyard is still without his first career catch, but is entrenched as the starting kick returner. He had five returns for an avearage of 23.2 yards and long of 30 in a 16-14 loss to Oakland.
The most notable element to the game, though, was his Welcome to the NFL moment on a kick return where he got absolutely leveled. I couldn't find any video of it on YouTube, which is probably a good thing.
--- BRENT CELEK: Celek had a pretty mundane week for the Eagles. He caught three passes for 27 yards in the win against Detroit. .
--- BRANDON UNDERWOOD: Underwood was among the inactives for the Green Bay Packers.
--- RICARDO MATHEWS: Mathews was inactive for Indianapolis.
--- JEFF LINKENBACH: Linkenbach was active, but did not start for the Colts. As long as Charlie Johnson is healthy, he will continue to receive the majority of the snaps at LT.
--- MIKE WRIGHT: Wright moved into a sub-rusher role, giving his DE spot to 2009 second-round pick Ron Brace to give New England a heavier look.
Wright had one QB hit.
--- KEVIN HUBER: Huber had a good day for the Bengals, kicking eight times for a 44-yard average. His 59-yard boot out of his end zone created a serious field flip in a game of field position with the Ravens.
Marvin Lewis had this to say about Huber:
"I thought Kevin had a couple good, backed-up punts, but we had a couple punts in the plus-50 area where we can still do better at, and we've got to keep working at that. He's good enough to make those harder plays for them. We kind of changed Kevin's routine in practice last year, and since then he's really benefitted from it. He's (done) everything we expected him to do."
--- HARUKI NAKAMURA: He had a quiet game in his latest return to Cincinnati. He managed one tackle in the 15-10 loss to the Bengals.
The Bearcats football availability and luncheon will be this afternoon. Butch Jones will talk and a few other players will be roaming around, attempting to sample the spread. I will be back later today with some news and info that comes out of the event.
Until then, let's get to the Breakfast...
--- Some news came out of Jones' Big East teleconference on Monday as Jones confirmed that Isaiah Pead will play on Saturday and is back to full recovery.
Darrin Williams and John Goebel did a nice job filling in for Pead, but the big-play ability he brings out of the running game with his speed can be a game-changer. It will be a nice addition to have him back for Oklahoma.
--- This was supposed to be a monster week for the Big East with half the league facing significant national opponents. However, with early losses some of the luster has been taken off it, this from Brian Bennett.
--- Some other news to come out yesterday was that Rashad Bishop is officially back with the basketball team, as Bill Koch reported. This has appeared almost inevitable if you read between the lines of Mick Cronin over the last month, but hearing the official word is a nice boost for the Bearcats.
When focused, Bishop can be one of the most underrated players in the league. What he brings defensively on the wing and in the paint will be invaluable for this team that is still searching for an offensive personality early in the season.
I talked with Cronin yesterday about the schedule which was released -- you can read that here -- and he talked about this team being more equipped from a maturity standpoint to handle the Big East season than ever before. Bishop, with more starts than anybody on the team, is a big part of that.
--- Another note from my conversation with Cronin came from some talk about Dion Dixon, who played extremely well in Canada.
Cronin called Dixon their best player in practice from a standpoint of being consistent and solid.
"He's close. Veteran coaches always say, talented guys, it takes two years to get him where you want to get him through. He has been through enough in his first two years. He matured as a player and we can play to his strengths. His practices leading up to it were great. He played with great pace, his decisions were great."
--- The UC volleyball team is on fire. They are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2003. They beat No. 5 Illinois and won the Big East/Big Ten challenge this weekend.
And Stephanie Niemer is a huge reason for the their success. She is being named Big East Player of the Week for the second consecutive week and is nomiated for National POW. And Shawn Sell tells her story.
You can take my word for how great the team is playing or get out there this weekend as they host Seton Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Rutgers at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Most of the games were already known before the schedule release, but there were a few interesting twists with the release.
The top things the stick out to me are the Xavier game being moved from December to Jan. 6, two road games in the MAC including the first trip to Oxford since 1993 and the early January gauntlet of four of five games on the road including Villanova, St. John's and Syracuse.
Outside of that, no major surprises. Still, I caught up with Cronin to talk about the schedule and his decision to ruin my New Year's Eve with a home game at 8 p.m. against Seton Hall.
Between all the Big East television options, teams playing in different venues, it takes quite a while to put the final schedule together. But Cronin said he accomplished what he was hoping to get out of it.
"Scheduling is tough. It's one area in life everyone is allowed to look out for their own interest," Cronin said. "But getting the right schedule is important. You want to get a couple of big-name games, obviously. Having Oklahoma on national TV, Xavier on national TV, Dayton is a neutral site game for us, not part of season ticket package."
Personally, I will continue to back the MAC as an Ohio U. alum, and going to play on the road in the MAC is no easy task. There is a reason the conference continually wins games in the Big Dance. UC twice goes into MAC arenas to play at Miami and at Toledo. They are obviously games the Bearcats should win and can be nice RPI point boosters, but they can be trap games much like traveling to UAB was last year.
"You have to try to play a couple of road games," Cronin said. "You don't want to wait until conference play to play a couple road games.
"With Toledo and Miami, obviously, it is dangerous playing MAC schools. We havegreat rivalry with Miami. Toledo is a result of Memphis dropping us from the schedule when they had the coaching change. We were able to have a home and home series with them. You accomplish a couple of goals there. You and I know the MAC is tough, but hopefully we can steal a couple road wins and get some RPI points. But those games are dangerous."
Last year UC made a splash playing in the Maui Invitational and earned some huge out of conference wins against Vanderbilt and Maryland that nearly pushed them over the top into the NCAA tournament. The big names like that aren't on this year's schedule. Outside of Xavier, Oklahoma will be the biggest name game and they are down after a rough year where they lost thier final nine games in going 13-18.
Luckily, when you play in the Big East, a year where there are no Vandys or Marylands isn't a big deal. It's not like they won't have opportunities for Top 25 victories.
"We play 18 Big East games," Cronin said. "Our fate is going to be decided in the conference. When you have 18 games in this league, imagine playing 12 SEC games. It's crazy. And then go play the tournament. Like last year we played 21 Big East games. We get all we want in our conference. Preconference is important to get your team on the road. You got to get them on the road at some point and get in some nationally televised games."
Last year, UC played Xavier in early December and for the first time in a long time it was booted back to ESPNU. Neither side was about to let that happen again this year -- unfortunately it meant moving the game into conference play. UC worked with the Big East, however, to get an open week prior to meet all the obligations with Skyline.
It was well worth it to assure the game is on ESPN or ESPN2.
"We just wanted to get it on a national stage," Cronin said. "That's where it belongs. Unfrotuatnely with the whole ESPNU situation there are just too many local people not being able to watch the games."
The Big East schedule is a monster. There will be few stretches of five games more difficult for any team in the country than when UC goes @Villanova, vs. USF, @Syracuse, @Notre Dame, @St. John's over the course of 13 days.
"It's like that every year," Cronin said. "That's why you need a veteran team."
Cronin believes he has that more than any previous year in his tenure.
"This is best we have been equipped from a mental standpoint to go through it," he said. "Defintiely from a maturity standpoint. Guys that understand the grind. The biggest for us is going to be Cashmere Wright and Jaquon Parker because they are still only sophomores."
Cronin talked about the encouraging aspects of the team's trip to Canada. But most notably was the business-like attitude with which the team traveled and handled the games. They never let anybody back into games. It's a sign of the maturity needed to manuever through a Big East schedule.
"Our togetherness has to be real because adversity comes in our league," Cronin said. "You are not going undefeated -- nobody is. You lose a game, you need to turnaround bounce back and win the next one. Everyone has to stay together an grind it out. That is what Big East basketball is all about. It's a grind. It tests your togetherness and toughness. We have a more veteran team. Hopefully those are things we'll be able to pass the test on all that stuff."
I hope everybody used the weekend to take their minds off the tough loss to NC State. I'm sure it was easy to forget about football with games on every channel outside of Oxygen and Fuse for two straight days, but you got to try.
But, it's Monday, so back to reality in a number of different ways.
Let's remember all the great things going on right now: The League is back on the air again, the BP oil well was officially declared dead (if you had 206 million gallons in the office pool, you're a winner!) and an elementary school district in Virginia finally banned that horrific gateway drug: chocolate milk.
That should make for a great atmosphere at PBS and not too late of a night for the folks who try to keep the activity to a minimum after 10 p.m.
--- UC could use an easier bounceback game than the No. 8 Sooners, but very little has come easy this year. Although, Oklahoma has twice struggled in games it was a heavy favorite, including last week in a 27-24 victory over Air Force. They beat Utath State 31-24 in their opener.
The jury is still out on the OU defense, according to the Oklahoman. Though, it's difficult to judge a team by a game against the triple option Air Force attack and certainly difficult to judge how they will look against UC's spread.
--- As talented as Oklahoma is, this week isn't about Oklahoma. This week this team needs to focus on improving Cincinnati. If they do that, the road to recovery will have the speed limit increased.
Dan Hoard made a great point -- among many great points, of course -- in his blog. Butch Jones took over for Brian Kelly in 2007 and opened 1-3 averaging 14.3 points a game in the losses, then went on to win the MAC averaging 39.2 points a game the rest of the way out.
Many people want to judge Jones after three games, but no matter how bad it seems, it is far too early to make any rash analysis on his performance.
--- More from the land of optimism comes Scott Springer pointing out that 11 years ago, UC lost to Troy State at Nippert then turned around to top No. 9 Wisconsin and Ron Dayne 17-12 the next week.
--- Bill Koch pointed out that all is not lost yet for the Bearcats. Bottom line: the Big East is wide open. As poorly as UC has played, if they can find a way to put some consistency together on offense, they will be in the mix.
LAST TIME: Sooners won at home 52-26
on September 6, 2008
Well, here it is.
The one game you've had circled on your
schedule and the one where you weren't sure where your seats were
based on the change of venue. The UC Bearcats entertain their
second perennial powerhouse at the Bengals stadium this century (Ohio
State was the first in 2002) when Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners
visit the pro field downtown with it's 65,535 seats Saturday.
(That's roughly 30,000 and change
more than Nippert--thus the move to Bengalville.)
While attendance is surely to be
more than your typical Nippert sellout, it remains to be seen as to
whether PBS will sellout for this one like the Buckeye game eight
years ago did. Obviously, Norman, Oklahoma is considerably farther
than Columbus for the Sooners fans.
That, and the Bearcats didn't do
themselves any attendance favors by losing on the road at Fresno
State and North Carolina State. Sure, both games were tough and
involved worthy opposition, but a 3-0 Bearcat team against the 3-0
Sooners would've resulted in a packed house (and probably been the main Saturday night
game for the ESPN/ABC #1 tandem of Brent Musberger and Kirk
Instead, the Bearcats are on "The
Deuce" and ESPN3.com if you're sitting with a laptop in a service
area that's not squabbling over fees to have ESPN3.com in your
At 1-2, make no mistake, NO ONE
on "Gameday" will pick the Bearcats for fear of extreme ridicule.
Actually, you can probably figure Fowler, Howard, Herbie and Corso
to choose Oklahoma in a whipping that might actually cause the
legendary "Sooner Schooner" to blow out an axle.
Why so negative Scott?
If you think that, you've
obviously not followed my allegiance to UC over the years. I've
always done my best to support Bearcat football and believed in it
when many didn't. However, people can see right through a "phony"
and I've always felt it was my duty to speak or write truthfully.
Just as a win over Ohio State in
2002 would've been epic, a victory over the Sooners in 2010 would put
the Bearcats back into at least some national discussion. Sadly, at
1-2, they're now looked at as an afterthought with their only hope
being to run the table in the Big East again.
Losing at NC State in the main
Thursday game did them no favors. While they were the underdog
before, many will assume this Oklahoma game to be over by the half--just in time
to turn the eight o'clock game on.
There lies the scenario of Coach
He needs to pull out his best "us
against the world speech" and come up with a way to stop a squad
that lost the #1 pick in the NFL draft (QB Sam Bradford) and is still
racking up points.
It seems statistically
impossible, but sometimes you never know until you line up.
Eight years ago, a late catch in
the endzone and the Bearcats ruin Ohio State's perfect season and
national title hopes. That UC team finished 7-7.
Eleven years ago, UC lost at
Nippert 31-24 to unheralded (and unheard of in these parts) Troy
State. One week later, the Bearcats knocked off #9 Wisconsin 17-12
with future Heisman winner Ron Dayne.
Sometimes Buster Douglas beats
Mike Tyson. Sometimes an NC State knocks off Phi Slamma Jamma or a
Villanova beats Georgetown in the NCAA hoops final. Sometimes David
Pack all of those stories and
dreams with you Saturday night and hope for the best. In the
meantime, here's some scoops on the troops of Stoops....
UC OFFENSE VS. OKLAHOMA DEFENSE
What is the UC offense?
Are they a running team who likes
to pass? Or, a passing team forced to run? Thus far, the only
thing identical to last year's spread offense is, that it is a spread
offense. At times, Zach Collaros looks smooth throwing to D.J.
Woods and Armon Binns. Other times, he's being rushed by either a
lack of protection or a lack of concentration. While Zach's putting
up decent numbers and is a weapon any time he has the ball, he
appears to not being playing as confident as he did last season.
Naturally, confidence builds with success and if Collaros can lead UC
on a couple early fast-paced drives, this could be a game. One of
the problems thus far with UC's "hurry up" is that it's not
gaining momentum because of penalties and lack of playmaking.
Outside of Darrin Williams and John Goebel in the Indiana State game,
there's been no real rush threat to open up any opportunity to
The health and effectiveness of Isaiah
Pead could be the key in this game. That, and if the lack of
hook-ups involving the tight end can be resolved.
Leading the Sooners defense is
junior linebacker Travis Lewis and a couple of defensive backs,
junior Jamell Fleming and senior Jonathan Nelson. Two years ago, UC
was able to score on Oklahoma and hang pretty much until then-QB
Dustin Grutza broke his leg. One key in that game was the pacing of
the offense that kept Oklahoma off balance.
NOD: UC should see early momentum
based on high emotions playing at PBS. The offense has clearly
underperformed and wants to win some fans back. However, despite
the fan-friendliness of the passing game, the deciding point could
come down to how the ball is run again. If blitz pick-ups haven't
been improved on in the past week, this might be another long game
for Bearcat fans. Keep in mind, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops was a
defensive coordinator prior to becoming a head coach.
OKLAHOMA OFFENSE VS. UC DEFENSE
While I thought UC's defense was
improving, they're still young and very susceptible to being burned
on the long route. Oklahoma features no scrambling Russell Wilson
like NC State, but they do have Landry Jones who can see over the
defense and pick you apart if you let him (just ask Florida
State--30-40, 380 yards and 4 TDs). The Sooners also feature two
familiar players from 2008's game in RB DeMarco Murray, who had 88
yards and scored in Norman, and WR Ryan Broyles. Broyles is a 5-11,
183-lb., 22-year-old senior who typically racks up 100-plus yards
receiving. He had 141 on seven catches in '08, and in three games
has had 142, 124 and 116 yards. Obviously, hold Broyles under 100 yards
receiving and you're in a better position to win. The other weapon
of the Sooners in '08 was TE Jermaine Gresham. While he does have
some experience at Paul Brown Stadium, he'll thankfully be on the
road this coming weekend with the Bengals.
NOD: Oklahoma's had no problem
scoring. They've had to hang onto some leads in games against Utah
State and Air Force, but they've scored 31, 47 and 27 points so
far--considerably more than UC. While you'd love to see the defense
step up and make a name for itself, it's probably not going to be
this week and UC's best bet here is to just outscore
Oklahoma and hope to have the ball last.
Jake Rogers has not had easy
kicks, but he still needs to take advantage of his attempts,
especially with the offense struggling. He also clearly kicks
better at home than on the road. However, this is not "The Nipp"
and this is another venue for him to get used to.
Oklahoma's used two kickers,
Patrick O'Hara and Jimmy Stevens. Stevens kicked against Air Force.
Neither has a "bombs away" leg, but sometimes at Oklahoma you're
just kicking extra points.
The Sooners do have a booming
punter and kickoff specialist in Tress Way who's consistently
averaging over 46 yards per kick the last two seasons. UC's Patrick
O'Donnell has been adequate, but continues his "baptism under fire"
with yet another tough opponent that'll be bringing speedsters into
block his efforts.
In the return game, it's pretty
much Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray from the Sooners offense. For
UC, D.J. Woods has had some near missed on punt returns, while
Darrin Williams is struggling to get to the 20 on kickoffs. Without question,
Mardy Gilyard (St. Louis Rams) is missed as his Vidal Hazelton
NOD: Because it's at PBS and not
Nippert, the kicking game's even at best. Punting goes to Tress Way
and Oklahoma and here's hoping you see a lot of him. For UC to have
a chance, they'll need a big special teams play in this one.
Again, a loss here would not
totally smear UC's season as they would still have the Big East
schedule ahead. However, the inevitable would be the Bearcats'
removal from the local and national discussion in terms of exciting
football. You hope that doesn't occur, but that's the way things go
when you're battling for fans in a marketplace with a postseason
baseball team and an NFL squad.
On the other hand, an upset and
seemingly everyone's your friend again. It's tough crowd.
Right now, virtually no one
expects UC to win this game. To pull it off, they have to hope that
Oklahoma's in that category. They need a lethargic, arrogant team
to come in and assume that UC's going to back off because their
uniforms read, "Oklahoma". If that takes place and UC can
strike early and hang on, C-Paws will come out of every crack and
crevice in town.
If I were Butch Jones, I'd call
Rick Minter and ask him about that Wisconsin game in '99, or the
near-miss of Ohio State in '02; I'd call Mark Dantonio (health
permitting--and best wishes to a speedy recovery) and ask about
beating #7 Rutgers here in '06; and I'd call Brian Kelly and get the
flavor of the West Virginia game in '08 and last year's Pitt contest.
What buttons did they push to
bring their teams together?
Right now, there's a lot of
pushing but no combination that's consistently "locking in".
The UC women's basketball program full season schedule was released this past week, and it certainly offers fans a little bit of everything this coming year. Second-year coach Jamelle Elliott will be facing her former team and mentor, Geno Auriemma, for the first time on her home court. But there are several intriguing matchups ahead.
The highlights: Ten teams that made it to the 2010 NCAA Tournament will be facing the Bearcats, and that doesn't count the Northern Kentucky Norse, which made it to the NCAA Division II tournament for the fifth straight time last season and will play the 'Cats in an exhibition.
In December, UC renews its rivalry with regional foe Dayton on the road before returning to Fifth Third Arena for the annual rivalry game against Xavier on Dec. 5. UC has won two of the last three games against the Musketeers, who are coming off a trip to the 2010 NCAA Elite Eight.
BIG EAST play starts early against Louisville in mid-December, before a couple of pre-Christmas break games at home against Wright State and Marshall, then a road trip to San Diego for the Maggie Dixon holiday tournament. Back home for another back yard rival, Miami, before diving into the conference.
And the game everyone will have circled will be Saturday, January 29. The Bearcats will entertain defending national champion Connecticut in Coach Elliott's first home contest against her former team. She spent 12 years as an assistant coach at UConn after her four-year playing career with the Huskies, with six National Championship rings to show for it.
If you were to ask Coach Elliott about the game, she'd probably say it's just another BIG EAST contest that the Bearcats want to win. But let's face it, it's bigger than that, even if you took out her personal connection to the Huskies. It's the defending national champions who will be playing here. Husky connections run deep among the alumni, and even casual fans know who UConn is and what they represent.
It'll be an exciting season, and year two of the rebuilding project Coach Elliott has been handed. Sit back and watch this young team grow up.
Is Butch Jones going to be successful at Cincinnati?
I don't know yet.And either do you.
But I would hope that people don't ignore what he accomplished in three years at Central Michigan after three games at UC.
I'll admit it - I expected the Bearcats to be one of the best offensive teams in the Big East this year.Since Coach Jones and Brian Kelly both run no-huddle, spread offenses, I thought the transition to a new coaching staff would be seamless and expected "Collaros and Company" to light up the scoreboard right away.
That hasn't happened, and it was probably unrealistic to expect.
"I think we have some good players on offense, but it's still a different team," senior center Jason Kelce told me after the NC State loss."It's a different coaching staff and a different team and we're still not clicking on all cylinders like we were last year.It's a long season and we're going to get this corrected."
The problems begin on the offensive line where the Bearcats only have one player (right guard Alex Hoffman) starting in the same spot as last season.After UC allowed eight sacks in the opener at Fresno State, the 'Cats made a change in the starting lineup as Randy Martinez replaced Evan Davis at left guard.Last night, UC tried sophomore Sean Hooey at right tackle in place of senior C.J. Cobb for a few plays in the second half.
NC State was in attack mode on defense all night, blitzing at least one extra pass rusher on nearly every snap.Collaros was sacked five times, including three times in a seven-play stretch.
"They like to bring a lot of guys and play Cover 3 behind the fire zone," Kelce said."We knew that coming into the game and just shot ourselves in the foot a little bit too much.It's very disappointing."
The flipside of facing teams that frequently blitz is that it creates the opportunity for big plays.When Collaros had time to throw, he completed four passes of 20-or-more yards, although three came in the 4th quarter.
"We knew what they were going to do," Collaros told me."They brought a lot of pressure and deserve credit for playing well, but we didn't execute.I take my hat off to them, but we can play a lot better than this."
They are going to have to.
Losing on the road at FresnoState and NC State should not be shocking - the Bearcats were underdogs in both games.But to see them fall behind by at least two touchdowns in each of those games is disconcerting.
"We really don't have any excuses," said junior linebacker J.K. Schaffer after making a career-high 16 tackles against the Wolfpack."We still have a lot of football left and can still put together a really good season.I'm still looking forward to it."
"We have to fight through it," said junior defensive tackle John Hughes."We've got to put this behind us, because you can't play this game over again."
"It's really going to test our character and our togetherness as a team and a football family," said Collaros."We're really going to see what we're made of over the next couple of weeks."
Here's a little history to consider.
When Butch Jones replaced Brian Kelly at Central Michigan in 2007, the Chippewas opened the season 1-3 and averaged 14.3 points in the three losses.
Over the next 10 games, Central Michigan went 7-3 by averaging 39.2 points and won a MAC Championship.
Butch Jones was able to make the necessary adjustments and his players responded.
Let's see if he -and they - can do it again.
I'd love to hear from you.Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you're from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at email@example.com.
I'm not too sure where to start today. Even outside of an Internet breakdown at my house and all the lovely frustrations that come from dealing with the fine folks at Dell: India, it hasn't been the best of mornings.
It was another disappointing night for the Bearcats. I want to thank all the folks who showed up at the live blog. It wasn't the happiest of chat rooms I have ever been a part of, but we made the best of it at the expense of Jenn Brown and the WNBA.
Rather than offering too many thoughts at this time, since I wasn't there to talk to any of the parties involved, I will withold opinion until I do.
The facts are, however, the Bearcats are 1-2 and have to face No. 7 Oklahoma on Saturday. The team has now given up as many sacks (15) in three games as it did all of last season.
Russell Wilson threw for 252 yards in the first half and the Bearcats had no answer outside of one 68-yard TD strike to DJ Woods.
In two games against FBS opponents, UC has scored 19 and 14 points. The Bearcats never scored less than 24 in any game last season and had eight games with more than 30 points.
Those are the facts of the case, and they are indisputible. UC returned to campus to today and will work on getting those problems corrected.
Let's check out the links...
--- Here is the game story with quotes from Bill Koch at the Enquirer. It has all the details of the game, but here are some of the comments from Butch Jones and Zach Collaros:
"There were way too many mistakes tonight," said Jones. "It's inexcusable. Our players have got to play better. Our coaches have got to coach better. Everything in our program this week is going to be critical. It starts with me."
Here is Collaros:
"Obviously we weren't expecting these results," Collaros said. "Nobody hopes for this. We're going to see what this team is made of the next couple of weeks. This adversity is going to test our character and it's going to test our togetherness."
Here is JK Schaffer:
"It's always tough when you get a little bit of momentum from a touchdown and then they drive the ball on you," said linebacker JK Schaffer. "But they missed that extra point and we were still in the game. We for sure weren't going to give up."
--- Here was the take from the Charlotte Observer. It was a lot of praise for N.C. State. Say whatever you want to about this game, Russell Wilson has an absolute cannon. His raw ability alone might be enough to put them in the upper half of the ACC.
--- Some cold, hard reality from Brian Bennett, as the Big East moves to 0-7 on the year against teams from BCS conferences, the WAC and MWC.
--- To be honest, there's not much more out there of relevance on last night's game that isn't already talked about above. Of course, last night's game did include one of the wildest plays I've seen in a long time.
The Bearcats fight for a win and national respect for its new coaching staff on Thursday night on ESPN at N.C. State.
CINCINNATI -- Few stages compare to Thursday night football.
When playing on Saturday, a team falls into the shuffle of hundreds of college football highlights and wild plays. Even when displayed no a primetime ESPN stage, three or more other channels allow football options.
The rare Friday night game the Big East fancies find the league competing against the millions of fans heading out for high school football or any other social event.
Thursday is different.
For the Bearcats, this Thursday is very different.
For three hours, every fan in search of football will find its only option on ESPN. They will find a Bearcats team under new management and yet to make the overwhelming impression the old regime was noted for.
Thursday, the nation is watching Butch Jones and the new Bearcats. Reputation, respect and two cents will get UC a bowl of steam and cup of nothing once the ball kicks into the air tonight. But in the world of college football, in the world of persuading 17-year-olds that your school is cool, reputation and respect go a long way. In fact, it can go all the way to a national title.
The disappointment that occurred in the overnight hours in Fresno didn't reach the prime demographic. Yet, on ESPN, competing against Jeopardy! sure will. You better believe it.
"It's all about first impressions," Butch Jones said. "Perception is reality."
Whether right or wrong, the reality is the Bearcats are viewed through a different lens than the those that wore red, white and black to a perfect regular season last year. The high-profile departure of the previous coach assured those headlines.
Thus far, these Bearcats aren't thrilled with their new reputation.
"I feel like it's a big opportunity for the team," safety Drew Frey said. "First week of the season we didn't' showcase what we felt we had inside. It is a great night to display what the Cincinnati Bearcats are all about, offensively, defensively and on special teams."
With this unique stage comes a unique opportunity. In order to make those lasting impressions, though, this team can't focus on them.
"We just have to take care of business," Jones said. "Our players have played in big games before. When you are playing with a number of newcomers, everything is new to them. Just because our jersey says Cincinnati doesn't guarantee anything. You get what you earn, you deserve victory."
Inside the iron gates of the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex the Bearcats focused on oiling up the wheels of an offensive machine still grinding through rust during the first two games of the season.
Zach Collaros is one of two Big East quarterbacks without an interception this season, but hasn't equalled the video-game numbers he put up during the four starts of last season that planted promise into the minds of the Bearcats faithful.
An offensive line returning three starters from an offensive line that only allowed 15 sacks last year, opened by letting Collaros hit the ground eight times at Fresno.
An electric set of skill position players look to bounce back from consecutive weeks where starter Vidal Hazelton was lost for the season with a knee injury and D.J. Woods endured two turnovers.
Awaiting in Raleigh and beaming across the country on the ESPN satellites is an N.C.State defense ranked atop the ACC.
Opportunity to bolster respect, reputation flow in from all angles.
"The new coaching staff, the new offense, the new everything; it is kind of a pride thing," OL Alex Hoffman said. "We want to show our fans our intentions are great and we really are very close to being great. I think this is a great opportunity for us to showcase that talent; that our offense is great, our O-line, our skill positions and Zach does a great job and we are excited."
There will be no other stage or opportunity quite like this one all season. The Big East continues to suffer national insults and pundits repeat the league's 0-6 record against BCS, MWC and WAC schools.
But to think any game in the Big East conference would garner the type of respect an out of conference BCS contest does would be wrong. So that leaves tonight and a week from Saturday against Oklahoma.
Cincinnati separated itself from the critics of the conference over recent years and this is a chance to begin that path again.
It's a second chance at a first impression.
"It's a great opportunity to go out and score a lot of points," Hoffman said, "and show our fans we are a legit team."
After the opening miscue at Fresno
State, the Bearcat offensive line rebounded with a forceful
performance against Indiana State (largely thanks to a decisive
28-point third quarter).
Largely responsible for UC's big
third quarter are some of the larger members of the team who blew
enough holes into the Sycamores to rack up 263 rushing yards.
Playing without starting running back Isaiah Pead, the Bearcats
triple attack of Darrin Williams, John Goebel and George Winn
combined for 240 yards on the ground.
One of the massive Bearcats
leading your Bearcat line is redshirt junior Alex Hoffman. Hoffman
still has somewhat of a baby face and is an affable young man to
speak with, but packs 296 pounds on a 6-7 frame and is one of UC's
line veterans now along with Sam Griffin, Jason Kelce and C.J. Cobb
The good thing for the future is,
Hoffman has one more year to go. After starting two games in his
first season on the field, Hoffman now has a streak of 15 straight
under his belt.
That puts his starting record at
14-1 and that one loss still stings the big guy from Indianapolis
Cathedral High School. As sweet as Saturday's win was, Hoffman and
company are still sour over the bitter defeat in Fresno the week
For your "beefier" Bearcats,
Thursday night can't come soon enough.
"It's our second away game and
we're excited," said Hoffman. "We went out to Fresno and we
have a chip on our shoulder (from the loss). We need to score more
points this week. Anytime you play an out-of-conference game, ACC
vs. Big East, you always want to have pride. We're excited to go out
there and play."
The goal is to bottle the offense
that took place early on at Fresno and in the third quarter at
Nippert against Indiana State.
"We have an opportunity to go
out on Thursday night on national television and we want to prove
something," said Hoffman. "We want to prove to the country that
the Cincinnati Bearcats are for real."
While last week, Coach Butch
Jones had to rally the troops at halftime, Hoffman is hoping the
prime time atmosphere in Raleigh Thursday night will be motivation
"The second half of last week's
game we clicked on all cylinders," said Hoffman. "We had a high
paced tempo, we ran the ball very well and passed the ball very well
in the third quarter. It starts up front."
Very simple, but very true.
Without a hole, Isaiah Pead is
tackled, Zach Collaros is sacked and Armon Binns, D.J. Woods, Marcus
Barnett and Ben Guidugli can't get open. Without a hole, you're in
a hole and it's tough to dig out.
This week, the holes won't come
as easy as they did against Indiana State. NC State successfully
threw the ball at home in their first game against Western Carolina,
and successfully ran the ball at Central Florida last Saturday.
"They have a big physical D-line
and a big physical team," said Hoffman. "The offense has a
challenge this week and we're up to it. We're going to play very
well I think."
Playing well probably means
"manning up" and playing a more physical game than the Bearcats
have in the past. That doesn't mean abandoning a spread offense,
but obviously the goal is more geared toward winning the line of
scrimmage than in the Brian Kelly days.
For offensive linemen, such a
game plan is a dream. As silly as it may sound, these guys are
trained to enjoy driving like-sized men in various directions away
from the ball. A good pass block won't bring a Neanderthal yell
from an O-linemen, but a "pancake" on a run will bring about a
high-pitched howl usually only reserved for certain popular concerts.
"It's a pride issue," said
Hoffman. "You want to run the ball very well. If the O-line's
doing very well and rushing the ball, it's always an opportunity for
us to be excited and that opens up the passing game."
Plus, Hoffman is one of the
bigger players on the squad with an ulterior motive in protecting
quarterback Zach Collaros....
He's his roommate. Along with
several other fellows who are considerably larger than Zach.
"He lives with three or four
O-lineman and D-lineman," said a laughing Hoffman. "He loves
us. That's the way it should be, too. He's like our little ring
leader--it's kind of funny. We always take his food and
Despite the apparent loss of
sustenance, it's a wise move by Collaros. Bond with a guy up front
and, as Coach Jones put it in the locker room last Saturday, "I've
got your back!"
Bond with a group of palookas
and your back should never hit the ground.
That's the goal of a lineman it would seem. That,
and maybe secure more interviews that big blockers seem to miss out on.
Not so much with Hoffman. He's
comfortable clearing paths and making the pretty boys look pretty.
"Playing O-line's a humbling
experience," said Hoffman. "We don't really get hung up on the
fact that we don't get interviewed after the games. Games are
usually won or lost up front. Zach got hit nine times against Fresno
State and that's way too many. We want to do a great job of
protecting him this week and every week."
That attitude can only serve
Hoffman (and Collaros) well.
Then, Collaros can serve his
roomate(s) more food.
The Bearcats leave for N.C. State today. Due to other obligations, I won't be in Raleigh, but it's the only road game I will miss this year.
But the live blog lives on! Make sure you swing by here from an hour before the game until it ends as I will be answering questions and moderating discussions about any number of topics, and most assuredly multiple references to a One Man Wolfpack.
Coach Tom O'Brien and assistant Dana Bible also have Cincinnati ties, as graduates of St. Xavier. Bible was also involved with the Bengals for a while, before both went to Boston College then NC State together.
--- In case you wanted to see all of Butch Jones' press conference from Tuesday, here is the full video. I guess you will have to buy the DVD and check out the deleted scenes for the UC SID Ryan Koslen cameo, as his open was unfortunately cut from the final product.
--- I posted a blog yesterday about the Bearcats search for explosive plays and dug relatively deep into the numbers. The Bearcats haven't been able to hit many big chunks this year and it's something Butch Jones hopes to correct on Thursday.
--- The only significant news to come out of the media availability yesterday was the status of RB Isaiah Pead. Jones said Pead will be a gametime decision and will be listed as questionable on the injury report.
Following the Indiana State game Jones made it sound like Pead would be in the starting lineup on Thursday, but reported that this week the swelling in his knee hasn't reacted as expected. Pead has and will continue to practice this week.
"Every day he gets better and better, but we won't make a decision right now," Jones said.
"Some people's body heals faster than others. We are never going to do anything to warrant further injury. Right now he is progressing, but probably not as fast as we would have liked him."
As for the ramifications of the injury, they aren't as severe as we would have imagined a week ago. That's thanks to the performance of Darrin Williams and John Goebel against Indiana State. They led the rushing attack as the Bearcats racked up 263 yards on the ground, one of the highest totals since the beginning of the Brian Kelly era.
Jones had this to say about Williams and Goebel on Tuesday:
"We gained a lot of confidence in Darrin Williams. He really stepped up. We talk about IRU, indisputable role understanding -- however you want to term it, next man in --but everyone understanding their role. Darrin Williams, ever since we walked in here, he had great spring ball. And you could see the fruits of his labor he had a great training camp and he came in and performed well. I was also excited about the performance of John Goebel. He gave us an emotional spark. He was very solid in pass protection and we ask a lot of our running backs. So, I am excited that both Darrin and John were able to step up Saturday and we are going to need great efforts from them Thursday night, along with Isaiah."
One of the important pieces of that quote was the mention of pass protection. One of the most overlooked losses from last season was Jacob Ramsey. Ramsey was excellent in chipping off blocks and picking up blitzes for Tony Pike and Zach Collaros. The RB position needed to be an extension of the offensive line against Fresno, but as can be said for all the parties involved in protecting the QB, didn't have the best night.
Goebel in particular, brings a little more recognition and assurance in protection than Williams and Pead, just by being a fifth-year senior and bigger body. If he can bust through for two touchdowns, that wouldn't be bad, either.
--- Bill Koch talks about the importance of the N.C. State game. Without looking too far into the future and running through countless scenarios, the bottom line is these are the games this team --- and this conference --- needs to win.
The Big East is currently 0-6 against other BCS schools, including the WAC and Mountain West.
Romeus is a potential first-round pick and the playmaker on that defense. It sounds like they expect him back for UC, but if the Panthers can't overcome that loss prior, the game might not mean as much.
--- Today's randomness takes us to Illinois for the state fair hog-calling contest (h/t Extra Mustard). Having been to a state fair in Arkansas (please don't judge me), I would have assumed this was from there. Regardless, be afraid, be very afraid.
Armon Binn is off to a great start and you might be able to say as he goes so goes the offense of the 'Cats. Not that Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, D J Woods, John Goebel or anyone else on the offensive side of the ball aren't needed or talented; it's just that Armon is a target that is gaining confidence and respect while being a go to man with a team we still have yet to assess from top to bottom. After a nice first half in Fresno followed by a poor second half, they come back this past week with a lackluster first half followed by an impressive second half. What I'm sure Coach Butch Jones is looking for now is 2 good halves and Armon Binn will be key. A tall target with range and hops, he is a quarterback on the runs best friend.
With so much talent at the wide receiver position, Armon slid through the ranks to outsiders because of a talented corp or receivers who have made UC a potential "wideout" University for years to come. At the rate the offense is going, wide receivers will get plenty of playing time and plenty of exposure. If you're watching on TV, you can imagine the uniforms and then the action and high powered offense with you in it. So after Goodman, Gilyard and others Binn and this crop can extend the legacy of the position with another bowl bound season and constant TV exposure. Now yes I said the other 3 receivers would be the ones to watch but that's why I'm writing and Butch is coaching. It's not that I didn't think Armon would play and contribute, I thought they had something special with the addition of those 3.
Now that Vidal Hazelton is gone for the season, it becomes more obvious that this team will go as far as Binn's leaping ability and that should be far enough to keep this team in contention for a major bowl bid. It should also keep young, talented wide receivers interested in UC for years to come. One thing they will see and come to know: UC's offense has room for everyone at the skill position so get in where you fit in. If you're good that shouldn't be a problem. Ask Armon, it's his turn now...
One of the few complaints about last year's offense was that the Bearcats would actually score too fast. People cited time of possession and a worn-out defense as the inherit issues with hitting explosive play after explosive play.
This year's Bearcats are hoping to have such problems.
Butch Jones said on Tuesday the biggest area the team needs to improve is in the area of explosive plays on offense. In this morning's Breakfast I pointed out a few numbers concerning the team's struggles in gaining big chunks of yardage.
2010: 6 yards per pass (92nd nationally), 10 yards per catch
vs. Fresno: 5.3 yards per pass, 9.1 yards per catch
2009 UC: 8.5 yards per pass (11th nationally), 12.9 yards per catch
The numerical dropoff is pretty significant.
A deeper look inside the numbers shows that against Fresno State, UC tallied four passing plays of 20 yards or more. Two of those went to D.J. Woods, including the 23-yard TD pass. Isaiah Pead broke a short pass for a long run and Vidal Hazelton caught a 24-yard reception.
Against Indiana State, UC managed a 22-yarder to Woods and the 29-yard TD to Binns.
They are without any passing plays longer than 30 yards thus far.
Last year, 10 different players had at least one reception of longer than 30 yards. Against Fresno State, UC had a 56-yard reception for Mardy Gilyard that set up a score and a 33-yard TD pass to Ben Guidugli.
Though, putting this year's team up against last year's this early is an unfair comparison. Obviously, Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard brought a different dynamic to the big-play aspect of the offense. In fact, the Bearcats'
So, I asked Jones about taking shots downfield. My memory obviously didn't serve me very well because I didn't remember there being many shots taken downfield against Indiana State, but Jones corrected me and said they threw nine deep passes. My bad on that one.
Still, he admits the offense to be more efficient in that area.
"We are always going to take shots," Jones said. "We threw nine deep balls Saturday. So I think that is your fair share. Now, we have to complete them and we completed two of them. The big thing about our offense if you said what's one area we have to have improvement it is our explosive plays. The first game we really didn't have many plays over 30 yards and the same thing Saturday. Being in a spread offense you need explosive plays. So we have to do a great job of when we call those shots we have to execute those."
An even more important aspect of the search for explosive plays is not only how many are being connected, but how the offense reacts when they don't.
Jones explained his philosophy on taking his shots vs. being efficient to ensure higher rate of connection when they do.
"The big thing is when you throw a deep ball, you take a shot, it's second-and-10," Jones said."It's what you do on second-and-10. Now that play has to be successful because offensive football is all about staying on schedule. First down is the only mystery down in football. You can be run or pass, we like to be 50-50, you play the law of percentages second and third down. The big thing for us is when we do pick our shots if we are unsuccessful we need to come back and gain at least five yards on the next play call."
The bottom line is the Bearcats offense hasn't been very explosive in the passing game this year. That's no secret. Like Jones said, the spread offense demands explosive plays. It hasn't happened yet. It will be a statistic well worth watching on Thursday night.
We will have a new pile of information after the Butch Jones press conference and player media availability this afternoon.
I will also have a full report on the moisture level of the City BBQ.
With the short week, we are only about 60 hours from kickoff at N.C. State, so plenty of stuff coming your way packed into the next few days. Then I may take a second to breathe this weekend. Maybe.
By the way, I want to try to squeeze in a mailbag before Thursday's game. So if you have any questions about the Wolfpack, UC, or anything and everything inbetween, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send it to me on Twitter here. Also, feel free to send any questions you have for Butch Jones or any players and I will be sure to ask them at the availability this afternoon.
--- The UC-Oklahoma game has been put into the six-day window by ESPN. That means they are among a select few they are waiting for more information on to decide how big they want to play it up. Typically, this means either 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.
The official gametime will be announced on Sunday and GoBearcats.com will post it as soon as they get word.
Selfishly, I'd like to keep my Saturday night open, so I root for 3:30 p.m., but as a fan, it's hard not to want the primetime night game.
I would say tentatively, yes. It is too soon. But it isn't too soon to start considering some numbers. I mentioned this in the live blog Saturday and, ironically, it came only seconds before Zach Collaros hit Armon Binns on a 29-yard streak down the sideline for a TD.
But to that point, there were very few attempts downfield, if any, that I can remember. All the passes were short screens, or crosses or slants. It seems the Bearcats struggles stretching the field could be for any number of reasons, but it allows defenses to push up their coverages.
The Bearcats are averaging 6 yards per pass and 10 yards per catch this season.
Against Fresno St., those numbers were 5.3 ypp and 9.1 ypc.
Last season UC averaged 8.5 ypp and 12.9 ypc.
There are plenty of games for the offense to find its rhythm and start popping explosive plays, but we haven't seen many of them to this point. Of course, this is also why it is too early to really start worrying. We're only two games in. But, ask me again on Friday and we will likely have a better idea.
--- Some more info on N.C. State, this time from gopack.com. The injury to watch this week will be their RT Mikel Overgaard. Tom O'Brien didn't have much a plan when Overgaard went down against UCF and cycled four players through his spot during the game. It sounds like a matchup Walter Stewart would be perfect for.
Scary stuff. And it's a problem that should be considered as parents decide if they want their kids to play football.
--- As for today's randomness, Spencer Pratt has been banned from Costa Rica. Can we do that, too? And if we can, why has it taken this long? Throw the entire cast of The Hills and a couple Jersey Housewives in there while you're at it.
(Courtesy of Dances with Wolves/Hollywood/Kevin Costner--I met him once and he autographed a baseball for my wife)
WHO: UC and North Carolina State
WHEN: Thursday, September 16th
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh,
SERIES: This would be the first
LAST TIME: (see above)
This is one of those games that
you like and don't like. You like it because your the Thursday
night feature on ESPN and all of the world (that likes football) is
You don't like it because you just
played on Saturday and now you've got a quick turnaround with
essentially two decent practice days to get ready for it.
Both teams are in the same boat
and neither has a great advantage in terms of preparation time. NC
State had a Saturday night game in Orlando against Central Florida
(28-21 Wolfpack to go to 2-0) and arrived back in Raleigh sometime
UC with an early game vs. Indiana
State was able to rest a little Saturday and Sunday, but now
must load up to head southeast of Mayberry Wednesday afternoon.
(Raleigh is southeast of Mount Airy, NC, the hometown of Andy
Griffith and the town the fictional "Mayberry" was based on--for
those of you older and/or familiar with classic TV.)
In terms of local connections to
this game, there are plenty. Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien has played
UC before when he headed up Boston College. He also is a 1967
graduate of St. Xavier High School. His offensive coordinator, Dana
Bible, played and coached at UC, then later coached with the Bengals
before coming back to UC briefly on Rick Minter's first staff.
Defensive line coach Keith Willis was also a Minter staffer in the
'99 and '00 seasons and had a hand in sending former Bearcat Antwan
Peek to the NFL.
Also, just as he did at BC,
O'Brien recruits the Cincinnati area. Currently on the roster is
freshman OL Andy Jomantas from Chaminade-Julienne out of Dayton;
redshirt junior DE Jeff Rieskamp of Elder; and redshirt freshman TE
Anthony Talbert of Winton Woods.
O'Brien led NC State to a 5-7 mark
(2-6 ACC) last season and is out to improve on that early with a 2-0
start thus far. Meantime, Butch Jones notched his first UC win last
week and is hoping the inspired play he saw in the third quarter vs.
Indiana State carries over into Thursday's marquees match-up.
What happens when 'Cats and Wolves
UC OFFENSE VS. NC STATE DEFENSE
Well, the last game was one of the
rare games in recent memory featuring substantially more rushing
yards than passing yards. And, that all came WITHOUT Isaiah Pead
who was nursing a swollen knee. Based on what we've seen so far and
the hard-nosed toughness exhibited after a Butch Jones halftime
motivation/demonstration, you have to feel the Bearcats will continue
to make their presence known on the ground. While Pead will be back
and is the more experienced runner lately, Darrin Williams proved his
worth with117 yards vs. Indiana State and John Goebel showed he's no
afterthought with 75. Even Zach Collaros was able to run more and
frankly looks more comfortable doing so. That said, even with
Vidal Hazelton gone, you can't discount the presence of Armon Binns
and D.J. Woods. Plus, this may be the game Marcus Barnett gets
overlooked by the defense and does some damage. Personally, I'm
looking for Ben Guidugli to introduce himself to the offensive
coaching staff as well.
Meantime, the Wolfpack defense
hopes to repeat the results they had vs. UCF, forcing five turnovers
as they flew out to a 21-0 lead. That lead was later 28-7, but UCF
came back to lose by just a touchdown. Leading tackler LB Terrell
Manning had a key fumble recovery and safety Earl Wolff a big INT to
lead NC State. Audie Cole, a 6-5, 239-pound LB out of Monroe,
Michigan is also a force to deal with as he's the second-leading tackler
behind Manning and has tallied 3.5 TFL with a sac and a
The offense that began early vs. Fresno
State and played in the third quarter vs. Indiana State can score on
most anybody. If NC State jumps out early on turnovers at home, the
UC offense does not yet appear to have the confidence to overcome
NC STATE OFFENSE VS. UC DEFENSE
To counter some of the UC
offensive woes, the defense has made it's presence known. Early on,
you're used to hearing the names of Derek Wolfe, Maalik Bomar and JK
Schaffer. Also, Walter Stewart has yet to have the game he's
capable of. The upside of all of that is all four guys are
returning next year. The Bearcat defense is extremely young with
just three seniors (Collin McCafferty, Robby Armstrong and Obadiah
Cheatham) all playing reserve roles. The downside, in big games like
this, you need all the leadership you can find.
The Wolfpack offense is kind of a
mixed bag as QB Russell Wilson threw for over 300 yards in their
opening win vs. Western Carolina, but was held in check at 10-30 for
just 105 yards at Central Florida. Obviously, defense put NC State
in position to win there. Mustafa Greene, Dean Haynes and Wilson
combined for 139 yards on the ground in that one. When they throw,
Wilson has some tall targets in 6-4 WR Darnell Davis, 6-5 TE George
Bryan and 6-4 WR Jarvis Williams. Here's hoping UC strength and
conditioning coach Dave Lawson has improved the vertical leaps of
UC's defensive backs.
It appears the Wolfpack attack
can be disrupted if you're able to stop their three-headed ground
game (Greene, Haynes and Wilson). Granted Wilson threw successfully
vs. Western Carolina, but he probably should have career numbers in a
game like that. Defensive practices have picked up in intensity
since the Fresno State loss and I would expect that to carry over in
Darrin Williams and D.J. Woods
have successfully filled the need in the kick return game with Vidal
Hazelton's season over. While there's no Mardy Gilyard, Williams
has returned one back in his career and Woods is the closest in style
and attitude to the former #1. Kicker Jake Rogers was good from 48 last
week but needs to carry over that confidence to road games. Neil
O'Donnell's punts aren't "Huber-like" in distance yet, but have
plenty of hang time.
The Wolfpack's second leading kick
return man is Raleigh native T.J. Graham. He's has a 100-yarder on
his resume, so you definitely kick away from him if they send two
guys back. Punter Jeff Ruiz averaged just 33.7 yards last week
which won't help him with the Ray Guy Committee and kicker Josh
Czajkowski kicked only extra points, but does get the edge in having
a "cool kicker name".
I'd rate the return teams even.
Give O'Donnell the punting edge and NC State's Czajkowski the kicking
edge simply because it's his home field and he sounds like maybe he
has some "feisty" relatives (The Battling Czajkowski's?).
SO WHAT THE HECK'S ALL THAT MEAN SCOTT?
Experience tells me it's too early
to call this a "must win", especially since it's a non-conference
game. However, you realistically have to look at the following week
against Oklahoma (who obliterated Florida State of the ACC) and think
that if you struggle with NC State, you're really going to have your
hands full against the Sooners.
Oh yeah, and a 1-3 mark going into
Big East play is not quite the way you'd draw up the season.
Again, it's tough to get a handle
on this team.
Early against Fresno State, it
looked like they hadn't missed a beat and maybe had accelerated
things on defense. Then, from late in the second quarter through the
end of the first half against Indiana State ,there were some puzzling
If it's takes back-patting and
mantras to get a team revved-up like they were in last Saturday's
third quarter, I'm all for it. Whatever Coach Butch Jones came up
with at halftime led to 28 quick and efficient points and it looked
like the machine just needed an oil change and a sparkplug or two.
Assuming THAT attitude is carried
over into Thursday, UC should be able to outplay the Wolfpack. The TV
lights shouldn't be that distracting as UC's had the late night game
in Fresno, plus the multitude of national games last year. Stage
fright as this point is not a justifiable excuse.
While the game mathematically will
have little to do with winning another Big East championship, it will
have a LOT to do with how this team progresses toward that goal and
is perceived nationally.
Every week we'll take a look around the league at how former Bearcats did on Sunday. There are 12 former UC players currently on NFL roster and I'll do my best to keep information flowing on as many of them as possible.
--- CONNOR BARWIN: To say the least, the first week of the season was a tough one to swallow for UC faithful. Maybe the most notable and beloved former Bearcats, Houston Texans DE Connor Barwin, was lost for the season with an ugly dislocated ankle injury.
Celek only had two receptions for 32 yards. Celek is very tight with QB Kevin Kolb, who left the game in the first half with a concussion. Celek's numbers will be better with Kolb at QB, but regardless, he will have plenty of better games than the opener.
--- BRANDON UNDERWOOD: Underwood was among the inactives for the Green Bay Packers
--- RICARDO MATHEWS: Mathews was inactive for Indianapolis
--- JEFF LINKENBACH: There was thought to be a chance the undrafted free agent would start at LT for the Colts, but starter Charlie Johnson was healthy enough to go and played the entire game.
--- MIKE WRIGHT: As the Patriots enjoyed a great day against the Bengals, so did UC grad Mike Wright against the hometown team.
Wright consistently got pressure off the edge as part of a defensive front that gave Carson Palmer fits. He didn't record a tackle, but did have one official QB hit on Palmer.
--- KEVIN HUBER: With a partial assist from Wright, Huber saw plenty of action early for the Bengals.
Huber had three punts for an average of 46.3 yards and a long of 57. One kick nearly went out of bounds inside the 5, but bounced into the end zone.
--- HARUKI NAKAMURA: Keep an eye out for Nakamura tonight when Baltimore plays the Jets in the early MNF game.
Well, the Cincinnati sports scene has enjoyed better weekends. I'm not sure who I would rather be right now, Francisco Cordero or any member of the Bengals defensive line.
Probably Cordero, because at least he will get a chance to redeem himself soon whereas the lineman have to hear Mike Zimmer tell them how bad they are for six long days.
Of the big three locally, the Bearcats were the only team to grab a win. Although, at least for the first half, it felt like a loss. The question was how much did the Bearcats offense really figure out at the open of the second half against Indiana State?
We will learn much better where this team is at Thursday at N.C. State. It's a nice test for a team that endured some odd circumstances through the first two games with the trip to the West Coast and game against lowly ISU.
The Wolfpack are 2-0 for the first time in four years. They have a 48-7 win against Western Carolina and 28-21 victory at UCF under their belt.
UC wasted no time getting into preperations with a full helmets and shells practice on Sunday.
Butch Jones' staff has really been preparing for the Wolfpack for months, though.
"We started the preparation just like most teams do in the summer and spring," Jones said. "When you have a short week, you have an idea. It will change a little bit because when you do the game plans your team has a little bit of identity when you do them in the summer time. We will go back and revisit."
After the first two weeks, it's safe to say some things have changed in the identity of this team.
--- Bill also talked about the return of the running game to the Bearcats. UC decided to line up in the second half and enforce their physical will against the Sycamores. It was no secret if the Bearcats wanted to against the much smaller team, they could run the ball to their heart's content without much resistance.
So, after halftime, they did.
"We wanted to establish the line of scrimmage," Jones said. "A lot of times offensively you can become impatient. We wanted to establish the tempo, establish the line of scrimmage and we were being effective running the football. We are going to run the football when we can."
In the bigger picture, the Bearcats still couldn't find much in the passing game. Zach Collaros only threw 17 passes, completing 11. Outside of the second TD pass to Armon Binns, very few attempts were made to throw it longer than 10-15 yards. I'm not sure if that is a matter of scheme, philosphy, circumstances or chance, but it's much different from what we have seen here the last few years.
It's certainly the sign of a passing game that is a work in progress right now. That's part receivers, part o-line, part backs, and, of course, part QB. And Zach Collaros is still working through some things in this new scheme, according to Jones.
"Zach has to learn he just has to run the offense," Jones said. "He doesn't have to make the plays. He's got to let the plays come."
--- While we are talking about the running game, it should be mentioned Isaiah Pead is expected to play vs. N.C. State. He was held out of Saturday's game because of swelling in his knee, but Jones essentially said he would have been a gametime decision had this been a bigger game.
--- John Goebel and Darrin Williams looked good filling in. And Goebel dominated the interview room after.
When I asked a question to JK Schaffer if any of what coach Jones said at halftime was repeatable here, twice JK wasn't understanding what I was getting at, so Goebel popped in from the other end of the table with, "he wants to know if he cussed us out." It takes little to make us media types laugh, but that one definitely did.
Goebel also was asked about when he carried Armon Binns off the field following Binns' second TD of the game and offered this jewel.
"When Armon scored, I scored twice before that," Goebel said. "And it is very tiring when everyone is jumping on you, you are trying to do chest bumps and stuff, so I kind of faked him out and carried him instead because I know it is very tiring to do all that.
"I carried him off the field because I felt like I wished somebody would have done that to me."
--- It was another unimpressive weekend for the Big East. WVU needed overtime to win at Marshall on Friday. That means all of the top four BE teams have now either lost or been pushed to the brink of defeat in one of thier first two non-conference games.
Scoring a TD and two-point conversion against a mid-pack CUSA team in the final seconds as WVU did would not be considered confidence-enducing.
For the second straight week, the Bearcats were not losing at halftime - but it sure felt like it.
Last week, the 'Cats blew a 14 point lead in the last 2:30 of the first half and went into the locker room tied 14-14 at FresnoState.
Yesterday, after building a 12-0 lead over FCS opponent IndianaState, a pair of fumbles by D.J. Woods helped the Sycamores go into the half within five points of the heavily-favored Bearcats at 12-7.
"We needed to relax," Butch Jones told us on the postgame show."We have some individuals that are extremely competitive and when things don't go our way, they press sometimes.We just need to play."
So Jones did his best to boost their confidence.
"These are strong words," Jones told his players at the half."I believe in you."
"I believe in you," he repeated.
Then the Bearcats head coach told everyone to put a hand on somebody else's back.
"Now repeat after me," Jones instructed them."I've got your back."
"I've got your back," they said in unison.
The Bearcats responded with a near-perfect third quarter, outscoring Indiana State 28-0 en route to a 40-7 win.
"Our kids did a great job," Coach Jones said."They were very disappointed at halftime, and I thought we came out in the second half and established a tempo and the physical style that we want to play.We have to start much faster, but every game that we play, we learn more and more about ourselves."
The standouts included sophomore running back Darrin Williams who subbed for the injured Isaiah Pead (bruised knee) and topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his college career with 117 yards on 13 carries (9.0 avg.).
Senior John Goebel also had an outstanding game, carrying 9 times for 75 yards (8.3 avg.) and two touchdowns.
The 'Cats anticipate having Pead back for Thursday's game at NC State, but Williams and Goebel are certainly capable replacements.
Armon Binns, who was a high school champion in the high jump, long jump, and triple jump, used his leaping ability to go up and over his defender and pull down two TD passes from Zach Collaros.Binns has 13 TD catches in his last 11 games.
"He's got to be a playmaker for us," Coach Jones said."He gave us a spark and we needed it."
Defensively, the Bearcats were led by junior linebacker J.K. Schaffer who finished with 9 tackles, including one in the backfield.
"The defense played great all day," Schaffer said."We were swarming to the ball and everyone was excited to be out there.Coming off a loss is no fun, so we had some passion coming out."
I suspect that the Bearcats didn't do much celebrating after the game since they only have three solid practice days before boarding the plane for NC State on Wednesday.
"Guys have to come out focused and ready to practice," Armon Binns said."We have a really big game against a good opponent and it's going to be a test for us.We'll see what we're made of."
* * * * *
Here are a few random thoughts:
It's obviously too soon to tell how successful the team will be in Butch Jones' first year as head coach, but the players genuinely seem to love him.
More than just about any coach I've been around, Jones is a master at coming up with little things that promote a family atmosphere.
The latest example is the weekly awarding of "Barb's Chip Dip."A couple of days before each game, two players are selected by the coaches to receive chips and dip from Butch's wife Barb (her spicy dip is apparently legendary).The winners can share the prize with the entire team, their position group, or wolf it down by themselves.Last week's winners were Goebel and Woods.
I don't know the ingredients in Mrs. Jones' chip dip, but it's all part of her husband's recipe for team camaraderie.
* * * * *
The Bearcats have good starters at most positions, but there is very little experience among the backups.
One big reason is the number of solid contributors who were eligible to return but are not playing this year due to off-the-field issues.
It's tough enough to replace NFL talent like Mardy Gilyard, Tony Pike, Jeff Linkenbach, and Ricardo Mathews, but when you subtract players with remaining eligibility like Demetrius Jones, Dorian Davis, and Travis Kelce, it compounds the problem.
The most important members of this year's team could be Bob Mangine and training/medical staff.
* * * * *
We're going to have an extra set of eyes in the broadcast booth on Thursday as Pawtucket Red Sox outfielder Aaron Bates will join the radio crew as a spotter.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor)
Aaron attended NC State and expressed interest in joining us in the booth when the Bearcats face his alma mater.
I told him I'd put him to work as long as he doesn't root for the Wolfpack.
We'll see how he does on Thursday night.
* * * * *
If was great to see old friends in the press box at "The Nip" on Saturday including Elise Keeler who reminded me that I haven't included any photos of The Handsome Lad in my recent blog posts.
So there you go.Hard to believe, but Sam Hoard is 4 Â½ years old.
I'd love to hear from you.Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you're from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Soccer-mad Cincinnati has a nationally-ranked team to cheer for this season, and it's not just an overnight success story.
The UC women's soccer team was ranked 15th nationally in Soccer America Women's Top 25 before Saturday's 3-0 loss to Illinois. (Ironically, the only other time these two teams played, in 2002, UC lost, 3-0 on the road to the Ilini.) Despite that loss, the Bearcats are starting to garner national attention.
Head coach Michelle Salmon is 23-18-5 in her three seasons at UC and, in this 30th anniversary year of UC soccer, is quick to credit the foundation that was laid before she came to Clifton.
"(Former women's soccer coach) Meridy Glenn did a terrific job establishing this tradition," said Coach Salmon. "That's one reason I came to UC was the history of this program."
Coach Salmon has seen that history come to life during UC's 5-0-1 record to start the season, the first time in school history that UC had been unbeaten in its first six games of the year. "I've been getting emails and text messages from soccer alumni all over the country, congratulating us on our start." Coach said. "That's what separates Cincinnati from other programs. They care so much about what Cincinnati represents. It's a special place to play."
And with the Greater Cincinnati area such a hotbed for youth soccer programs, Coach Salmon sees that 30 years of tradition as a huge asset in making sure that talent sticks around. "You look at the players we have from Cincinnati. (right now 11 players are from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area) We have a lot of really good Cincinnati players. We don't have to go far. Our job is to keep local talent here."
UC's women's soccer team is getting some vital experience against big-time teams getting ready for BIG EAST play. They play an exciting brand of soccer--and will be making some noise in the conference. Plus, if you've never been to the campus' Gettler Stadium, it's worth it just to see the facility. First class all the way, parking garage next door, couldn't be easier to attend.
Coach Salmon knows that the 30-year history of the program will help pave its future. But the present is pretty exciting as well. Catch the Bearcats the next time they're in town.
CINCINNATI -- Butch Jones doesn't shy away from motivational lines. "Represent the C" is plastered across seemingly every billboard and piece of merchandise at the University. "Hold the rope" covers walls inside the the athletic offices.
One listed inside the Bengals locker room struck Jones and senior John Goebel recently; it read:
"If adversity creates growth, why is everybody so afraid of it?"
The first two games of the Jones era in Cincinnati have been loaded with adversity. A team riding the momentum of an 18-game regular season win streak was sacked back to reality in Fresno - eight times, to be exact. And following two quarters Saturday, the Bearcats led an Indiana State team with three wins in the last 55 games by a mere five points.
Fans arriving at Nippert Stadium expecting to gloat at the expense of the Sycamores were silenced in disbelief. The roars of the crowd were replaced by concerned grumbles at an offense that amassed only 70 passing yards against an FCS bottom-feeder. The pressure filtered throughout the Bearcats sideline as well.
"I think after we got stuffed in the first half and got held to a field goal, I don't want to say people were hanging their heads but, people were frustrated," Zach Collaros said.
The frustration flowed into the Bearcats locker room, yet, in what could be considered one of the most concerning moments for this new coaching staff, an interesting connection occurred.
When asked what he said at halftime with the disappointing 12-7 UC lead, Jones held a pause and easy smirk, before allowing the first half was "inexcusable" and that he "challenged the team." That's a politically correct way of saying they probably need to repaint the slogans on the wall.
But the message rang through clear as day.
"Coach said at halftime, our team has to take on his character," Goebel said. "We weren't playing with his character the first half and last game. We were kind of just moping around."
Jones sprints up and down the sidelines and motivates his players in a different fashion than Brian Kelly did at Nippert Stadium. It takes some time to adjust to. Or in this case, it takes some adversity.
"Coach is very passionate, he likes to try to motivate us," Goebel said. "You will see him on the sideline getting on us very hard. We weren't used to that at first. I think in the second half you kind of saw how a Butch Jones Team is."
If a Butch Jones Team resembles anything near what the Bearcats displayed in the third quarter, this program will be fine.
In the first 12 minutes after the break, the Bearcats scored four touchdowns and didn't allow a first down. The offense struck fast with long runs by Darrin Williams and John Goebel and balanced it with a deep pass to play-making WR Armon Binns for a 29-yard TD. The lightning-fast offensive pace found the rhythm of a sweet symphony.
This may have been IndianaState. This 40-7 runaway probably should have occurred from the opening kickoff. But, while it was an unpredictable, circuitous route to the desired goal, the Bearcats found what they were looking for Saturday.
They found their passion. They found their character.
"It's all about emotion and passion and football is meant to be played with passion," Jones said. "Our players want to do well and they get disappointed when they don't, but they have to understand, it's a 60-minute game. In the second half they came out and played with the energy required of our football program."
Maneuvering through the maze to find the path to success with a new coaching staff takes time. The offensive struggles of this team weren't because of a lack of desire or talent.
So focused on the frustrations of not duplicating the highlight reel of the last two seasons which played on the videoboard before the game, the players weren't enjoying themselves.
Ironically, it took maybe the most stressful moment of the season to remind them of that fact.
"We needed to get our intensity up, our passion up and start having more fun out there," said Zach Collaros, who was 3 for 4 for 60 yards and with one passing and one rushing TD in the third quarter. "It definitely helped coming out the second half as you saw everyone was a little more excited, a little more passionate out there."
They were a little more like their coach.
And in the process, the coach became a little more like his players. He became a winner wearing red and black for the first time in his career.
"This first game was an opportunity for our coach to peel his stripe off and earn his keep," said Armon Binns, turning one of Jones' motivational phrases.
This season, this program, will not be defined by three forgettable hours on an early September afternoon against an FCS opponent.
Thursday night against N.C.State on a national ESPN stage will be a much more telling trial. But in this adverse moment of this afterthought game, they may have gone a long way to figuring out the bigger picture of this program's new direction.
Do you actually know anyone who is the best person in the world at what they do?
I'm pretty sure that I've met at least one individual in my lifetime that fits that description and his name is Mark Wagner.
I got to know "Wags" in 1996 when I started broadcasting some UC basketball games on Fox 19.His title was statistician, but that doesn't do justice to what Wags contributed to a broadcast.
Before every event that he worked on, Wags provided the announcers, the producer, and the graphics people with a thick packet of info that he had discovered through his own exhaustive research, including stats, historical anecdotes, trivia, and anything else that he found interesting.
Once the event began, Mark had the uncanny ability to answer your questions before you had even thought of them.For example, if a player started to approach a historical milestone during a game, he handed you an index card with all of the pertinent details before being asked to look it up.
Mark was so good at what he did, that Thom Brennaman convinced him to leave his normal 9-to-5 job and become a full-time stats guy.For the last several years, when Thom was doing a national event on Fox Sports, Wags was almost always by his side slipping him great nuggets on little pieces of paper.He also worked on Xavier basketball broadcasts on the radio, Cincinnati Reds and High School Football telecasts on Fox Sports Ohio, and just about any other televised sporting event in the Cincinnati area.
When I was anchoring at Fox 19, I frequently called Wags and asked for his assistance on researching obscure stats.In retrospect, I was probably a pain in the butt, but I could tell that he loved to help and it seemed like the harder the information was to find, the more Mark enjoyed trying to find it.
And he always came through.
Last week I was scheduled to work with Wags on the Bengals/Colts preseason telecast.On his way to Indy he began feeling ill, and after informing the crew, he turned around and returned to Cincinnati.On Sunday, Mark died of pneumonia at his home in Westwood.He was 54 years old.
His work will be missed by sports fans in Cincinnati who had no idea who he was.His warmth and cheerfulness will be missed by all of us who were lucky to call him our friend.
On the all-time list of greatest stat guys, there is only one.
* * * * *
Before taking the Notre Dame job, Brian Kelly confided to some people that he was hopeful that the Bearcats could pay a buyout and avoid making the road trip to FresnoState.
That obviously didn't work out, and the Butch Jones era began with a very difficult test.
For 27 minutes, the Bearcats played brilliantly.Not only did they build a 14-0 lead, but the 'Cats forced three punts with that lead and could have easily gone up by 21 or more points.
Unfortunately, the momentum completely changed near the end of the first half and the Bearcats simply could not protect Zach Collaros in the second half.
The season-ending knee injury to Vidal Hazelton is extremely costly because the Bearcats are thin at wide receiver.Two of UC's most talented receivers - Kenbrell Thompkins and Dyjuan Lewis - are ineligible, and after the starting trio of Armon Binns, DJ Woods, and Marcus Barnett, there isn't much experience.Look for true freshman Anthony McClung to see the field for the first time on Saturday vs. IndianaState.I would expect tight end Ben Guidugli to be more prominently featured as well.
I'm excited that "Bones" Barnett is going to get an opportunity to play a meaningful role again.In 2007, he caught a school-record 13 touchdown passes and was probably the second-best freshman receiver in the country behind Michael Crabtree.Butch Jones says that nobody on the team had a better preseason camp than Barnett.
Dominique Battle played sparingly last week due to a hamstring injury and was badly missed in the secondary.He should be close to full strength this week.
Cincinnati's game captains were named on Thursday, and this week's trio is Zach Collaros, JK Schaffer, and John Goebel.
One player I'm hoping to see for IndianaState is kicker Brett Sheldon.Sheldon was born with extremely short arms and three fingers on each hand, but it didn't stop him from chasing his dream of being a college football player.He was featured on the Dr. Phil Show this summer and you can see some of the video here.If the score becomes lopsided, I'm told that Sheldon could get his first-ever opportunity to kick.New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton - a former IndianaState assistant - has invited Sheldon to watch the game from the sidelines when the Saints host the Cowboys this year.
Saturday's game begins at noon.If you can't make it out to Nippert Stadium, I hope you'll join Jim Kelly Jr, Tom Gelehrter, Mo Egger, and me for radio coverage beginning at 11:30 on 700 WLW, Sirius 130, or 700wlw.com.
I'd love to hear from you.Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you're from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, the mood is a little serious around the UC football program after the disappointing opener last week. Fortunately, that's not the case for this week's mailbag. Many of you have questions, but thankfully, my inbox wasn't full of hate and rage.
It was more of confusion and general frustration. Sounds like every day of my life.
But the mood should improve after Saturday's game against Indiana State. The Sycamores are 2-22 under current coach Trent Miles. They just beat proud NAIA member St. Joseph's 57-7 for their first opening week victory since 1996.
Last year, SE Missouri State beat NAIA Quincy 72-3 the week before coming to play the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium. SE Mizzou then lost 70-3 to UC.
I would expect a similar score flip for Indiana State this year.
But, I know outside of those employed or enrolled at UC, nobody here is concerned about Indiana State. The state of the Bearcats offense, however, is an entirely different matter.
That's where most of the mailbag was focused this week, so let's get to the questions.
From Chaz in Troy,
Coach Jones spoke about the possibility of some position changes along the offensive line for the ISU game. We've also heard that many of the line's issues from the Fresno game stemmed from a lack of communication/missed line calls/not being mentally prepared. What changes will be made and was the Fresno game enough of a wakeup call to the line regarding focus? If they play that way in a few weeks against Oklahoma, oh boy...
Oh boy, indeed. If any of the Bearcats play the way they did against Fresno against Oklahoma, it will feel like 2002 all over again inside Paul Brown Stadium. I'll put an APB out for a disgruntled Corey Dillon.
To put all the onus on the offensive line for what occured last game is unfair. They deserve quite a bit of criticism, particularly up the middle where Logan Harrell broke through for 3 1/2 of Fresno's eight sacks. You can tolerate pressure from star end Chris Carter, but Harrell? A nobody who apparently isn't the ripest apple in the orchard according to this column?
Oh by the way, the Bulldogs recorded 11 sacks...all of last season.
As for your question(s), I wouldn't say the line wasn't mentally prepared, that is a bit strong. I think they looked like a unit with two new starters overwhelmed by multiple sets of circumstances occuring around them.
I can't tell you if this was enough of a wakeup call to change them around. You won't know until they hit the field first against Indiana State, but more importantly at N.C. State. I am not in the head of these kids, nor do I recommend that to anybody.
Changes? Well, Butch Jones put every offensive line position up for grabs and said he would announce the starters at the end of the week. As of this moment Friday afternoon, it appears only one change has been made and that is Randy Martinez taking the starting role of Evan Davis, according to Bill Koch.
Davis spent most of his night on Harrell.
But Jones needs to develop depth. In his preview interview with Tommy Gelehrter, he stated that there are probably some guys playing too many snaps right now. Indiana State gives an opportunity for some offensive lineman to rotate in. I look at this game as more of an audition for a number of guys to line up in front of Zach Collaros at N.C. State on Thursday.
More from Chaz:
The defense also played pretty well for most of the game, at least against the run. Will we see any changes in either the depth chart or plays called on the field for our defensive secondary? I know we're young back there, but man, the phrase "deeper than the deepest" is still burned into my head from my high school football coach.
I don't anticipate many changes on the defense. The young secondary fared relatively well. There was one blown coverage on the wheel route to Robbie Rouse, but they made a number of nice plays, including the interception by Pat Lambert.
Again, much like the offensive line, you may see some more players involved if/when the game gets out of hand, particularly some of the freshmen. But I wouldn't anticipate any significant changes. Chaz, really piling it on now,
With the recent and very unfortunate injury to Vidal Hazelton, how does the depth chart at WR look now? Who will be seeing more playing time, even if it's in a backup/limited role?
The depth chart now has Marcus Barnett in a staring role. Barnett's story has been pretty well-documented this week and will continue to be as the year progresses. He was a star as a freshman and spent the last two seasons not seeing many snaps, including a move to defense last season.
He's undersized in comparison to Hazelton, but brings some quickness to the outside.
Behind him, O.J. Woodard will be his immediate backup. On the depth chart, soph. WR Danny Milligan, who had a great prep career at St. Xavier and shared the 2007 AP Ohio Offensive Player of the Year award, is listed as the backup in the slot. This injury could mean many more snaps than anticipated this year for him.
I can't find any mention of Jamar Howard, a 4-start JC recruit originally out of Withrow.I know he got hurt in the spring, but I've heard nothing since.Hurt?Not good enough? Redshirting?
UC only signed two offensive lineman last year, Kevin Schloemer and Clint Shepherd.I see that Schloemer is playing, but now I don't even see Clint's name on the Bearcat roster.Both were good 3-start recruits.What happened to Clint Shepherd?
Starting with Howard, he is healthy and on the roster. You will probably see some of him on Saturday. But he's not on the two-deep anywhere. Considering the lack of depth at that position, that is saying something. It's a sure signal his progress is not where it needs to be right now if he is going to be a contributor.
As for Shepherd, he has suspended his enrollment until January. The word from the folks at UC is an injury was a part of his decision.
There will be a tailgate for the UC/NCSU game on Sept 16 in Raleigh. Go to www.alumni.uc.edu/events to register or call 1-877-482-2586.
Good to know for all of you blowing off work or school for some Thursday night football. (Which neither myself nor anybody associated with GoBearcats.com condones)
We do condone school pride, of which I am sure there will be plenty of on Thursday in Raleigh. From what I have heard, it is a great town. And home of my cousin Joe Dehner Jr. Good people.
Just wanted to say the blog has become part of my daily morning routine of putting off work so I can read my favorite sites. Great, great stuff. I also joined the live blog last weekend while watching the beating and that was fun too.
Just a note to folks who may want to watch the game this weekend but live out of town like myself (NYC)....I happen to get Verizon Fios, which carries ESPN3, the online channel. It will be airing there, I believe. So this is another possible option for out of towners to see the game.
Thanks for the kind words and pass forth my apologies to your boss. And thanks for coming to the live blog, I can't say enough how much I enjoyed it and I thought it was a great side chat to be a part of while watching the game.
Ah yes, lovely ESPN3. Well, Time Warner just signed a deal so all those with TW should have access to it. It is supposed to have a channel, but I haven't see it yet, so you will have to check with them. If you go to ESPN3.com and put in your local TV provider you should be able to get the stream of the game, assuming your subscriber supports it. If not, it will pop up a box where you can petition your provider to do so. Which is a nice way of saying your SOL.
Of course, if you live in the area, Fox19 will have the game. It was originally scheduled to air on FoxSportsOhio, but a national FoxSports Big XII broadcast is pre-empting it.
I can't believe you said "It was a who's who of the coaching world headed by current NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan. It was honestly hard to believe all the great coaches that were a part of that team. Probably even harder to figure out how they didn't win more often."
Maybe you are forgetting the Super Bowl-winning Mike Tomlin. What has Rex Ryan done?
As a local Cincinnatian, I find it hard to give any credit to the Steelers. Or recognize their existence. But, for the sake of argument, I will give you the nod. He owns the ring. But, there are quite a list of credentials if you go back and look at that staff.
Here are some of the names of assistants under Rick Minter:
Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Super Bowl champion
Jon Harbaugh: Baltimore Ravens head coach
Rex Ryan: NY Jets head coach
Jimbo Fisher: Florida State head coach
Joker Phillips: Kentucky head coach
And, for the record, I love bologna. I think it's delicious and provides a lovely lunch.
--- Well, thanks again to everybody for all the well wishes and I hope everyone enjoys the home opener on Saturday. If you see me, I always accept High-5s, forearm bashes, Kid N'Play-style foot-locks, DAP (no explosion!) and handshakes (but only with a left arm shoulder grab).
Of you could just do what most women do and keep walking without noticing me.
Have a good weekend and see you at 11 a.m. at the live blog!
Just a reminder to everyone, last call to sneak a question into the mailbag. I will post it this afternoon. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions so far, but if anybody else seeks my wisdom -- or at least the wisdom of the people I will call for an answer -- you need to act fast.
Also, if you aren't coming to the game, remember to check in to the live blog on the site. I will put it up an hour before the game and the discussion/questions/answers will run throughout. It was pretty enjoyable last week, I'm looking forward to this go-round.
Alright, with gameday nearly 24 hours away, on to the news...
--- Scott Springer talks in-depth to Maalik Bomar. Bomar was one of the stars in the silver lining of the loss at Fresno. He was physical, quick, aggressive and made plays. For a guy in his first career start, he didn't appear overwhelmed in the least.
There's a lot of pressure on Bomar to be a great player this year at the depleted linebacker position, but he appeared up to the challenge on Saturday.
Springer also sends a little love across GoBearcats.com back to me and found a creepy photo of a guy getting a photo with Trent Dilfer. I shouldn't say anything, though, I am pretty sure my reaction would have been pretty similiar. Good stuff and sweet chain, Trent.
Out at Fresno, I was among a group talking with Artrell Hawkins and he pointed out how incredible the UC staff was under Minter when Hawkins was a Bearcat.
It was a who's who of the coaching world headed by current NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan. It was honestly hard to believe all the great coaches that were a part of that team. Probably even harder to figure out how they didn't win more often.
--- As was mentioned here yesterday, Indiana State isn't good. Even by FCS standards. Bill Koch has this. If this game is closer than three or four touchdowns at halftime it would be a letdown for the Bearcats.
--- For those still reeling from the Fresno loss, I offered up this By the Numbers this week especially for you. I researched a list of teams that lost their first game of the season but went on to make a BCS bowl game.
It should just be called "The Virginia Tech Syndrome," since they have done it three times in the last five years (and may be on their way to a fourth), but there are plenty of other teams to take the route the Bearcats embark on.
Last year, two teams lost their openers and went on to the BCS, Oregon and Iowa. Oregon only scored eight points to open the year at WAC opponent Boise State, but never scored less than 24 in a game the rest of the regular season.
--- Football won't be the only sporting event going on around campus this weekend. The men's soccer team hosts Appalachian State for a game tonight at 7 p.m. and then Fordham Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bearcats are hoping to stay unbeaten on the season.
--- The Big East didn't fare well last week on the national stage, but am I crazy to think the best shot they have may be USF vs. Florida this weekend? After what I saw last week against Miami, I'd say there's a chance. Not a great chance, but a chance.
--- Jeff Linkenbach may start at OT for the Indianapolis Colts Sunday vs. Houston. Some it depends on health of the starter Charlie Johnson, but it is a very real possibility. Undrafted rookie free agent starting for the defending AFC champs on opening day. Well done.
Contrary to what you might read scrolling through message boards, the sky has continued to hold in place above Nippert Stadium.
For all those casting the mold for the Brian Kelly statue outside the stadium at Notre Dame, they should probably take their time. The same should be said for those casting dispersions on Butch Jones.
Everybody associated with the UC program would have liked to see a better performance on Saturday at Fresno. It didn't happen. It doesn't define the season.
If I told you last Friday that the Bearcats would again make a BCS Bowl game, let's say play in the Orange Bowl against the ACC champion, you would be pretty thrilled.
And Jones' first season would be deemed a success.
I am in no way saying that is going to happen here, but the result of Saturday's game means little when analyzing whether or not it will. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?
Here is a list of all the teams in the last five years that lost their first game of the season (with a few exceptions I consider the honorable mention category) but rebounded to find themselves in a BCS bowl game:
Opener: Lost, 19-8, at BoiseState (of the WAC conference, incedentally)
Finish: 10-2, PAC-10 champ
Bowl: Rose Bowl, lost 26-17 to OhioState
Opener: Won, 17-16, at home vs. Northern Iowa (yeah, they won, but this was a disastrous start in a game they undeniably should have lost)
Finish: 10-2, at large selection
Bowl: Orange Bowl, beat Georgia Tech, 24-14
Opener: Loss at East Carolina, 27-22
Finish: 9-4, ACC champ
Bowl: Orange Bowl, beat Cincinnati, 20-7
Opener: Loss at Missouri, 40-34
Finish: 9-3, at large
Bowl: Rose Bowl, lost 49-17 vs. USC
Opener: Loss, 49-7 at LSU (Technically, this was Week 2, but it was so lopsided, it serves the purpose of this analysis)
Finish: 11-2, ACC champ
Bowl: Orange Bowl, loss, 24-21 vs. Kansas
Opener: Loss, 24-13 vs. No. 1 USC
Finish: 10-2, ACC champ
Bowl: Sugar Bowl, loss vs. Auburn, 16-13
Coming back from a disappointing opening week has been done before. The fact that it was done twice last season should be enough imperical evidence on its own.
If not, Virginia Tech's very existence as a college football power should be proof considering three times in the last five years they lost thier opener but went on to make a BCS bowl.
There is a chance they will go four of the last six after losing to Boise State in the opener on Monday.
What does all this mean?
Well, Saturday was not good, but it wasn't a disaster. Teams come back from an opening week loss every year. It's not crazy to think UC could be the team to do it this season.
One of the few silver linings of
UC's Fresno State loss was the early play of the defense. Despite a
change in scheme and some different personnel, the Bearcats came out
in attack mode and dominated the Bulldogs early.
Sadly, for a variety of reasons,
we all know that domination didn't last.
But, it did give us a peak of the
future and a big part of that future is sophomore linebacker Maalik
Bomar out of Winton Woods High School. Bomar has gone from a
special teams "gunner" to the starting line-up in a year's time.
Heck, in August of '09, I remember
watching Bomar at Camp Higher Ground participate in a kickoff drill
called, "Last Man On The Bus". That drill was to decide which
players might be put on the travel team.
In the end, Bomar appeared in nine
games last season and had nothing handed to him. Now, after a long
off-season of lifting and conditioning, Bomar's in line to be UC's
next noteworthy linebacker.
"I helped the team in special
teams," said Bomar of his initial season. "Whatever they asked
me I executed. It did make me feel battle-tested on the field,
getting the experience of the game. I think this year, I was given
an opportunity and I played fast and I learned well, JK (Schaffer)
took me in and I went from there."
Schaffer and Bomar are now the
mainstays of UC's linebacking crew which has become thinner early on
thanks to injuries to junior Alex Delisi and freshman Solomon
Tentman. Schaffer himself has recommended Bomar as a "player to
"I appreciate that from JK,"
said Bomar. "I look up to him every day. We get in, we watch film
together. As a corps on the field, we're talking, we're
communicating, we get along, everything's going well."
Everything except the losing.
Not only did a lot of fans not
expect the opening loss, the Bearcat defense didn't either.
Shutting a run game down that shredded them last year was not enough,
Fresno State still found a way to make adjustments and win through
"Obviously, that's what it
appeared to look like," said Bomar. "In the long run, we're a
team. I don't know what was going on, but Fresno State showed that
they wanted it more and were tough for the rest of that night."
Needless to say, a four-hour
flight full of optimism turned into a disappointing departure for the
trip back home. No matter how it's prepared, the food on the
charter flight home always tastes better after a win and bitter after
a defeat. Talk of UC not being physical enough was addressed early
in the week in practice.
"We paid the price," said
Bomar. "We're out here practicing and getting ready for the next
game. We're out here executing, getting some balls, going to the
For Indiana State, the timing
couldn't be worse. The Sycamores were probably hoping to catch an
overconfident team with its guard down. Now, they're going to see a
determined Bearcat squad looking to prove they still belong in the
"I believe we have time to look
at ourselves," said Bomar. "This is a bounceback game. That
(Fresno State) was a reality check for us. As far as going out there
and thinking wins are going to be handed to us--that's not
acceptable. We have to fight, we have to expect everybody's best
Bomar appears ready to do that and
speaks of leadership even though this is only his second year on the
team. Considering his youth and that JK Schaffer and Derek Wolfe
are juniors and Walter Stewart's just a sophomore, UC's defense is
only going to get better. The determination is there.
"We've got to be tough," said
Bomar. "We call ourselves 'The Black 'Cats'. We're tough to the
end, to the whistle."
While that may sound a little
corny, in football, sometimes corny works. Whatever gets a
collection of young men to fight for one another is the best idea in
the world, regardless of what an outsider thinks. As a UC defender,
you've got to develop "thick skin" as the public accolades for
their side of the ball have been few and far between.
"All we have is each other,"
said Bomar of the defense's critics. "When we're out there on the
field, that's all we have is one another. We don't are about what
anyone else out there has to say. It's all about us. As far as the
articles, the magazines, that doesn't mean anything. What matters is
how we feel and how we believe in ourselves."
Like his personal journey, Bomar
hopes the 2010 Bearcats grow stronger from the early adversity.
Early returns from practice this week
show renewed determination to do so.
"Like everyone says, hard work
pays off in the long run," said Bomar. "I wasn't looking for
anything. All I did was go out everyday and have fun and work. I
was rewarded for it, but now I need to step up and take this role
ahead of me. I want to help this team win."
By the way, Paul Dehner Jr. has been kind enough to plug my articles in his posts, so we return the favor here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.
You could even follow him home after the Indiana State game, but that would be kind of creepy wouldn't it? As always, just one autograph or picture per fan....
(We can't confirm nor deny the celebrity likeness above other than to say--we don't know who the dude in the pink polo is)
I spoke with Collaros a little bit about scrambling in the pocket. It's something we haven't seen him do a lot. When he does scramble, it has always been very under control and with purprose. Against Fresno, there were some plays where I thought I was watching B.J. Daniels.
His athleticism produced some big plays, but he admitted it was far from something he was trying to add to his game this year. It was more out of necessity of the situation.
"You never want to go into a game or any sitaution with improv. You want to be able to go through your progressions. Chris Carter did a great job coming off the edge and flushed me sometimes. They had some guys that played really well, but you never want to go into a game and improv."
Collaros can be a scrambling quarterback, but he knows as well as anybody, this team will only win consistently if he has time to make it though his reads within the timing of the offense.
The program has come so far in the past three years, perhaps this week as much as any it is good to look back at where it was at even 10 years ago to appreciate why it's a good thing to be seriously disappointed by a loss at Fresno State.
--- Brian Bennett ranks Indiana State the worst of the four FCS opponents Big East teams are playing this week. He points out last week's win for the Sycamores came against an NAIA team. Also, the Sycamores only have won two games against division opponents since mid-2004.
It's hard to believe, but I realized this morning that it's been nine years today (9/8) since I watched one of the all-time great games in Bearcat football history. The scene was West Point, where UC played Army. Starting QB Adam Hoover (who nearly led the Bearcats to an upset of Purdue at Nippert in the opening game) went down on a play against the Cadets and didn't get up. The back-up QB was a true freshman from Highlands High School in Kentucky, Gino Guidugli. What happened next was one of the greatest performances I've witnessed at a UC football game (I witnessed 166 straight first hand as a member of the radio team and I've seen them all in one form or another since 1994). For the record, the first play signaled in by QB coach Jeff Filkovski with Rick Minter watching, was a QB run. From there, Gino's rushing day was over but he put up numbers in his debut that most quarterbacks would dream of: 31-41 for 311 yards and three touchdowns. And that, was in just a hair over three quarters. The winning touchdown, with UC down 21-17 with :07 on the clock was a 12-yard strike right into the gut of Tye Keith that won the game and sent the handful of Bearcat fans sitting in the stands near the Hudson River into a frenzy. The call, from Dan Hoard was one of his best, "Gino Guidugli is a miracle worker!!" It still rings in my ears today. From there, Guidugli was the quarterback and was a four-year starter that led the Bearcats to three bowls in his four years which ended with a win and an MVP trophy at the Fort Worth Bowl. As for the winning touchdown to Tye Keith? It's in the Top 10 of the best Bearcat plays of the last decade. (At least, according to this site I used to write for. Yeah, I know, there's two #3s, someone didn't transcribe it right. You get the drift.) So, I started this day out with the intention of writing about someone on the Bearcat defense, but I couldn't get the date out of my mind. The other story of this game is that I was in charge of retrieving our rented van to pull up to Michie Stadium to load the radio gear back in after the game. If you're not familiar with West Point, they obviously have a lot of security in force on game day. You essentially come in one way up a hill and depart the other. There is no "gray" in this directive. When I was leaving the lot where we had parked the van, I noticed some "daylight" and saw that if I could go the other direction for about 100 yards, we'd have the van in place and could make for a quick getaway. Quick getaways were necessary in those days as the van was part of a caravan of buses and local law enforcement that would escort you to the nearby airport to depart. If you missed departure time, it wasn't unusual for the then-Assistant AD Paul Klaczak to depart without you. Knowing this, I tried to make the maneuver to "go upstream" if you will in a short cut. Well, let me tell you this, when an armed guard comes at you with a stern look and an order that you "cease moving and redirect your vehicle", you don't take it as a suggestion. With a hovering deadline to get loaded up (and thank the Lord UC won, as losses often moved that deadline ahead) my duty at that point was to depart the mountain that is West Point and then re-enter by heading directly up the hill on the opposite road. Then, I had to rely on my gift of persuasion for the MP to allow me access back to retrieve our gear and the crew of Jim Kelly and Chuck Ingram (Dan Hoard traveled separately). Thankfully, we logistically made it happen and made the trip successfully to the Newburgh airport to return to Cincinnati. We thought THAT security was tight. Well, as the history books show, three days later our country came under attack on 9/11 and New York City is only some 45 minutes to an hour away. West Point was on lockdown. It kind of put it all in perspective for us as we talked about it later. Those brave and polite Cadets that were greeting us non-stop with "yessirs and nosirs" were on heightened alert. A safe guess says that many of those young men and women were deployed in the ensuing conflict. Sadly, you know someone at that football game was lost. Hopefully, many of them are back or maybe still serving, but can remember innocent things like football games and forget the destruction that 9/11 represents in so many lives. As we prepare for Saturday's game on the 11th against Indiana State, I'll be thinking of both occasions that remain vivid in my memory.
He asks some good questions and gets some good answers in regards to the lack of depth.
Mainly, why is there a lack of depth on an offensive line that won back-to-back Big East championships?
--- Jones talked after the game on Saturday about his team's lack of physicality. He's made it abundantly clear while that may have been an image of this program in the past, it will not be under his watch.
Teams in the past at the University of Cincinnati have been called given many different descriptions.
Upstarts. Underdogs. Champions.
It's still too early to pass judgment on how Butch Jones' team will be described, but at least for one game, "physical" was not a fitting term.
"We are going to be a physical football team," Jones said following Tuesday's practice. "We are not a physical football team right now. If people say we are soft, I take that personally. If that goes back to the Mark Dantonio days, whatever it is, we are not going to be a finesse football team."
Jones took steps toward revamping the image this week as he increased the live drill situations and re-opened all positions back up to competition. In the wake of a Saturday night where the Bearcats weren't fighting nearly enough, Jones returned to what he is calling a "Higher Ground mentality" where every day is a battle. A battle not only to get better, but a battle for playing time.
Zach Collaros, who was sacked eight times and a victim of the lack of physicality in front of him, observed a change at Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex this week.
"Today we went a little bit longer in practice," he said. "We hit a lot more than we are accustomed to or did last week. (Jones) is trying to bring toughness to this team we think we lost over the last couple months and I think it's good for us. I think people will really respond to it."
If they don't, then starting positions will change hands. Jones made that possiblity clear. Those who watched Collaros run for his life and heard the words of Jones on Tuesday would infer this came as a direct reflection of the play of the offensive line. That is not necessarily the case. While many problems began up front, the lack of protection was as much a team problem as the final score.
Running backs need to do a better job chipping off defenders. Wideouts ran incorrect routes. Collaros would hold onto the ball to long. Nobody was innocent.
"It's a combination of little things," Jones said.
But at the end of the day, fair or unfair, the unit under the highest scrutiny from Saturday's effort is the offensive line. They were unable to contain the likes of Chris Carter and Logan Harrell on the Fresno front.
The reasons for the sluggish offense were all visible on film. They were reviewed and corrected, at least in theory. All parties involved must execute over the course of the coming weeks before they escape the critical eye of the coaching staff.
"It can happen to anyone," OL Alex Hoffman said. "It's the way we prepare and the way we come out to practice today, our preparation. We need to step it up another notch. Come out every day and prepare like it's the first game."
But the root of all evil within the Bearcats program right now is physicality. It's an image Jones worked to start changing on Tuesday. For now, the journey from "soft" to "scary" will continue to be a work in progress.
"Our young players are going to understand, football is a physical game," Jones said. "You saw that today as everyday we are going to be physical in practice. To be physical you have to live physical on the field each and every day. That's something we take great pride in."
QUICK HITS: WR Marcus Barnett was not available to the media after Tuesday's practice, but Jones did have this to say in comparing the senior WR with injured starter Vidal Hazelton (who was absent from practice).
"They are both very talented players, each has his own different strengths," Jones said. "Marcus has worked himself into great shape. He was starting at every special team for us. He's a very savvy, a very intelligent player. He has played a lot of games here and made some big plays for us in the past."
Barnett was spending much of his time working in the slot during camp, but Jones said he has always been the next man in at both the outside and slot WR position since Higher Ground broke.
JONESON HAZELTON: I thought this was an interesting quote on the future of Vidal Hazelton from Jones:
"Obviously, it's very disappointing, anytime you lose a family member, especially an individual who has paid his dues, sat out, worked extremely hard and had his career at Cincinnati probably come to an end."
OK, I can't take it anymore; UC football get rid of those white uniforms ASAP! This is the second time I've seen those uniforms and I don't like the results or the implication, wrong as I may be. They're too clean, nice looking even choir boy like and that doesn't work for football.
I am still reminded of my trip to New Orleans and at first sight, the section I was in was disappointed the black, kick you butt, move out of our way swag outfit was absent. We were playing Florida and Tim Tebow so we knew who the favorite was outside Ohio. Something about football and white; it's hard rooting for Penn State for that very reason, they look too nice. I want the all or nothing look; the we aren't scared look, the try me I dare you look and yes the WE belong look. White doesn't do it for me with a Bearcat and I guess it didn't do it against Fresno State (we know the uniform doesn't really tackle, throw or block, etc.) but please for the rest of the season wear black, red or nothing.
About the game; I hope you understand now why schools schedule hyphenated opponents so they can work the kinks out of their game for the tougher opponents. Playing Fresno State on the road early begs to question why we're playing Indiana State second? I guess we and Boise State had the lets get the party started early mentality; and there will always be arguments pro and con for either but in this BCS, biased rating system, going undefeated is the only way teams not named Texas, Florida...etc. will ever get close to playing for the title until a playoff comes along. So now that we're probably out of the title race I presume UC fans are still on board knowing running the table from here will be a tall order. Most people that know football or have kept an eye on this program knew from game one it was going to be a roll of the dice how this season would end up. There was a lot of positives and yes some negatives but first games reveal what no other game can and that's the immediacy of your shortcomings and your attributes.
So lets see what happens now, not only on the field but in the stands. This team needs its fans more than ever and as the Gap Band would say..."All aboard..."
That's one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (A Few Good Men, I would tell you to go watch it if you haven't, but if you haven't seen it, just stop reading my blog.) The line pretty much tells the story about Monday.
UC found out Vidal Hazelton suffered a torn ACL against Fresno and will miss the season. He could gain a year back with a redshirt, but that is up to the NCAA. We shall see after the season what they say.
For now, it's a pretty significant blow.
I will be out at UC practice today and talk a little further with all the parties involved, especially new outside WR Marcus Barnett who has been granted an opportuinty for redemption. Here's hoping he got a new tattoo to signifiy the opportunity.
--- B-twice also has his Big East power rankings up for the week. UC lands where it deserves and sorry 'Cuse, we know beating Akron was the closest thing to real football since Sporty Spice was relevant, but you still have some work to do.
--- Boise State won its only difficult game of the season last night in thrilling fashion over Virginia Tech. The fact that you can pretty much slot them into the national title game before the hangover subsides from Labor Day weekend makes me want to stab myself with a spork.
Or, you know, keep reading about Alyssa Milano's lunch.
--- Today's randomness from the intertubes comes from the Detroit Lions, who continue to deliver comedy into the NFL. Louis Delmas was really excited about his preseason finale. So, excited he wiped out a couple of kids. (Good stuff starts at 1:10)
SHOE ON BALL: High Noon (or thereabout
depending on preplanned pageantry)
WHERE: The Friendly Confines of
THE SERIES: UC leads 3-1
LAST TIME: Bearcats 40-21, Nov. 12,
First things first, any UC fan who
was not disappointed with the opening loss at Fresno State had best
call 911 and check for a pulse. If you watched it, you know that
the Bearcats looked to be on the verge of domination when suddenly
the Bulldogs appeared and the Bearcats disappeared.
I don't have the answers. If I
did, I would've phoned Butch Jones at halftime.
What can't be overlooked is the
possibility that Fresno State might be pretty good and that playing
in that time zone and in that environment is extremely
difficult--particularly in an opener. Previous Bearcat games on
the west coast and beyond have come later in the season when the team
was able to gel and find an identity. Taking a new staff and new
system that far away for game one might have been more ambitious than
UC would like to admit.
Keep in mind too, this series
predated Butch Jones. Also, television has a way of matching teams
up and the demand for athletic dollars causes you to compromise
sometimes in order to keep a program going.
That said (or written) it is one
game, with 11 more on the schedule and hopefully a bowl game. True,
the Bearcats will really need to get their act together to pull that
off, but the Coach Jones track record indicates that will take place.
If you're into numbers, Butch
Jones lost two of three of his openers at Central Michigan. The
Chippewas also had some challenging games in his three years.
In 2007, CMU lost at Kansas 52-7,
but rebounded and were 8-6 in his initial year. In 2008, they won
31-12 over Eastern Illinois on their way to a 9-4 mark. And, last
season the Chippewas lost at Arizona 16-9, but only lost one more the
rest of the way. In each of his three seasons, Central Michigan
went to a bowl game.
So, yes it's CMU and the MAC, but
Jones has been in these situations before and still has the talent on
board to right the ship. This even despite the loss of Vidal
Hazelton to a torn ACL after the Fresno State loss. Marcus Barnett
is slated to step up for Vidal and it may be just what the doctor
ordered for "Bones"who slipped to a back-up role after starring
for Brian Kelly as a true freshman with 13 touchdown receptions.
The truth of the matter is Bearcat
fans have been spoiled with back-to-back amazing seasons and BCS
bowls. Those of us that were in attendance in Boise in 1997 for
UC's first bowl in nearly 50 years know that "major bowls" don't
just appear on your doorstep every year. Those of you that just
jumped onboard because it was "trendy" might not.
While we want you "trendy
folks" to stay and enjoy the ride, you kind of remind me of people
who go see Jimmy Buffett every year at Riverbend and know,
"Margaritaville" and "Fins". Beyond that, it's a chance to
wear a flowery shirt and enjoy tropical beverages. The real
appreciation comes from those that may know a tune or two from, "A
White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean".
Anyway, I really do appreciate
the fact you're sitting here (or at "The Nipp") and I hope you
open up your book of "corporese" and study the "it's a
marathon, not a sprint" quote. You really will sleep better.
Now, as the legendary Bobby
Knight once said at an eventful NCAA newsconference, onto the
A lot of local ties in this one
and this could be another game where Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
stands on the OPPOSITE sideline again. (He did it last year with
Fresno State as he's friends with Pat Hill.) This time, Marvin's
son Marcus (Jr.-Indian Hill) is on the Indiana State Sycamores.
The connections don't stop there.
The Sycamores linebacker coach is none other than Rick Minter who
makes his return to Nippert Stadium coaching for another team. The
key to Minter's involvement with Indiana State is that his youngest
son Jesse is the Recruiting Coordinator and defensive backs coach.
Also, coaching corners is P.J. Volker from Mount St. Joseph and
former Bearcat corner Jeff Burrow is a defensive assistant.
In addition to Marcus Lewis,
local Indiana State players include: Evan Borchers (Jr.-OL-Colerain)
Jordan Bright (Soph.-DL-Wyoming) Brad Hasdorff (RS
Fresh.-OL-Colerain) Leonard Rister (RS Fresh.-Withrow) and Tyler
Williams (Jr.-RB-Oxford Talawanda).
To the matchups we go....
UC OFFENSE VS. INDIANA STATE DEFENSE
Honestly, this shouldn't be pretty.
Probably the worst thing that happened for Indiana State last weekend
was UC had a down game out west. Butch Jones is not used to
losing, QB Zach Collaros is not used to losing and the Bearcats will
be in full "face-saving" mode Saturday afternoon. The offensive
line took its lumps and the run game stalled, so you can bet Isaiah
Pead is anxious to rectify that. In the passing game, despite the
unfortunate loss of Hazelton, D.J. Woods was outstanding in the
opener and Armon Binns still has big play capability. Going back to
Marcus Barnett's freshman year, his QB was Ben Mauk. Mauk and
Collaros are very similar in style, so perhaps this benefits "Bones".
Also, Ben Guidugli has got to be
more involved than just one pass and I would suspect his options
The Sycamores have no Chris Carter
(Fresno State DL) but do have Rod Hardy who recorded three sacks in
their 57-7 blowout of St. Joseph's (Indiana) in week one. Larry
King, a freshman defensive back led ISU in that game with eight
tackles, a sac and 1.5 TFL. Rick Minter will want to make a good
showing, but I'm afraid the timing of this puts him in a bad
NOD: Wouldn't be shocked to see UC
hang 50 on the board and they should at least have 30 on talent
alone. Not being arrogant, just saying.
INDIANA STATE OFFENSE VS. UC DEFENSE
UC's defense was on the cusp of a great
game against Fresno State, until some wise adjustments were made by
the Bulldog coaching staff. Derek Wolfe was very active, as was
Maalik Bomar. Pat Lambert had the big interception, but there were
some disappointing coverages by other members of the secondary.
That shouldn't be a huge issue this game as the Sycamores don't fling
the ball around too much. Indiana State had two 100-yard rushers
with Sr. Darrius Gates (160) and Fresh. Shakir Bell (133), so it
doesn't appear the UC secondary will be busy unless Gates and Bell
are busting through big holes.
NOD: Assuming UC can stop Indiana
State's run game, there could be some turnovers to be had if the
Sycamores are forced to throw.
Jake Rogers missed a 48-yarder at
Fresno State, which could have been a momentum changer swinging
things back to the Bearcats. Again, you can blame it on the road,
but Rogers should be used to that by now. Honestly though, a
48-yarder in any league is no "gimme". Back at home, Jake should
be back in gear. For Patrick O'Donnell, it's more game experience
and he's going to get better and better. Indiana State's punter is
Santonio Davis who averaged 48 yards last week. You can hope that
you see a lot of him in this game.
As for the UC return game, minus
Hazelton on kickoffs, it would appear Darrin Williams will get a
chance, or perhaps Marcus Barnett. Your punt return man is D.J.
Woods and maybe this is the game he returns one to the house (as I've
diligently predicted since his freshman year).
NOD: Here's hoping we don't see much
of any of UC's kickers. Hazelton's a loss on the kick returns, but
a door is now open for someone else to come forward and be
Again, no one would ever come out and
use the words, but you have to feel UC is somewhat embarrassed over
what happened last Saturday night. This is now the chance for
everyone to take out their frustrations and win a game that ought to
be a cakewalk. The Bearcat team that jumped to the early 14-0 lead
in Fresno is more what we had hoped to see, the uncertainty of the
second half is what you hope to never see again. Regardless of what
happens, it's a work in progress and you'd rather be in disarray
earlier in the year, than later. I suspect Bearcat fans will leave
Saturday afternoon in better spirits.
Saturday night's loss to Fresno State just got worse on Monday when an MRI revealed a torn ACL for WR Vidal Hazelton.
After almost any injury, you feel for the player who deals with the loss of so many hopes and expectations, but this one stings particularly deep. It's hard not to feel for a guy like Hazelton who endured a trying final year at USC where he only played in four games and managed six receptions. He sat out for a season and transferred to UC. He'd been waiting two years for Saturday's game against Fresno.
Just talking to him you could feel the excitement to prove himself and how much he wanted to show off his skills.
Then, his season ended with little more than one half of football and six receptions.
Nobody knows right now what the future holds for the UC receiver. There is a chance he could be given another year of eligiblity by the NCAA or if they deny it his college football career would be over.
Well, the Beacats faithful have seen better weekends than this past one, but such is life in college football.
As J.K. Schaffer said after the game, "it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get back up."
To expect another perfect season at UC was unrealistic. You could say that about all but about five programs in the country. Nobody expected what happened Saturday night,but that's what first games are for.
On the good side, the defense didn't look bad and the Bearcats are still without a Big East loss.
The No. 1 goal is to win a Big East championship and this team has about a month to straighten out the problems of Saturday night's loss. The play of Maalik Bomar and Derek Wolfe, in particular, were signs of the maturation of this defense.
--- UC's loss on the field, wasn't the only defeat suffered in Fresno on Saturday, my quest for a picture with Trent Dilfer fell short. An odd pregame setup where Dilfer was on a second level of the press box and there wasn't any food served, so a late scramble had to be made to the concession stands, allowed the twins not to cross paths.
It was frustrating, but I am going to go back to work, learn from this, and be better next time.
--- I again wanted to thank all the people who showed up for the live chat during the game. I thought it was fun and informative and made for a great little in-game discussion board. I honestly thought before the game there was a good chance it would be me and two people sitting around chatting, but we hit double figures fast and the numbers grew pretty high by the second half.
I think I will do that for all of the games this year, so be sure to check back in and join the fun. If you want to read the replay it is up. I will warn, it's perfect for fans who enjoy calling ex-girlfriends to double check they still hate them.
--- I have to give a big shout out to Katie Coomes, who had the unfortunate assignment of sitting next to me for eight hours of round-trip flight on the UC charter. Everybody needs to follow her on Twitter, but don't send too many messages, she's in the early stages of learning how to respond. Just know, in case you didn't by the spelling, she is not related to Kerry Coombs and her dad does look like Matt Lauer. I look like Trent Dilfer. Life is unfair sometimes.
--- Bill Koch, who smartly avoided walking to close to myself in my Bearcats shirt as we waded through a sea of Bulldogs fans to the UC locker room, has a follow on UC's trip to Fresno.
--- Another piece of what hopefully will be good news is Vidal Hazelton was walking around on his own power after the game after being carted off with knee injury in the second half. It is being called a knee sprain right now and an MRI is being done today. I should know more after tomorrow press conference.
--- The Bearcats loss was a piece of an ugly Big East puzzle this weekend, this column from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Syracuse win over Akron accounts for the lone BE win over an FBS school.
Pitt loses at Utah. UC loses at Fresno. UConn get stomped at Michigan. Even WVU and Rutgers struggled early with their FCS opponents.
In a weekend where the conference could have made a statement to earn respect on a constantly disrespecting national scene, it fell far short. That will likely hurt whoever the BE champ ends up being when BCS selection time arises.
--- There was a roast of Bob Huggins this past weekend. It's not exactly Greg Giraldo or Jeff Ross, but here's a highlight package. It does include a bit from UC's Chuck Machock, which is always entertaining.
The Bearcats return home with a surprising set of concerns after a 28-14 loss at Fresno State.
FRESNO, Calif. -- Unacceptable. Disappointing. Should have played better.
Those were the words coming out of the mouths of Bearcats players and coaches as the final sentences were penned on the first chapter of the Butch Jones era at the University of Cincinnati.
By any stretch of the imagination, the 28-14 defeat at Fresno State lived far from the reality this team expected to habitate when stepping foot on the plane en route to the San Joaquin Valley.
But, as with every college football team in the country, the Bearcats learned lessons about themselves during the opening game of the year. Some left a painful mark like the bruises on QB Zach Collaros after suffering eight sacks. Others were mental scars like those left on a contingent of players digesting their first regular-season loss at UC in nearly two years.
Regardless, as the Bearcats stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac set against the rising sun early Sunday morning, they walked into a new reality with all new challenges.
"Ever since I have been at Cincinnati we have won," defensive tackle John Hughes said. "We just have to take it under the chin and keep moving on. We have Indiana State next. We have to start preparing tomorrow. That's what it is."
This new reality feels more like a bizarro world for the Bearcats. It's one where the questions surround the offense and optimism engulfs the defense. It's a far cry from 45-44 at Heinz Field.
The team with the potent weapons were unable to fire bullets for the final three quarters Saturday night. Collaros went down eight times for a total of 64 yards in the wrong direction. The Bearcats were sacked 15 times all of last year. They scored their lowest point total since a 13-10 win at Rutgers on Oct. 11, 2008. UC ran for 15 yards on 32 carries.
The problems were as surprising as they are serious. But this is the new reality. This is the new challenge for this team.
Teams have recovered from worse. In fact, the shining Brian Kelly era involved losses much more lopsided than this: 40-16 at UConn and 52-26 at Oklahoma in 2008. That team won the Big East and played in the Orange Bowl.
It's been done before.
The Bearcats aren't bailing on the season after Saturday's defeat. They may be a bit dazed, but they know where the problems lie and Jones is determined to fix them.
"All I know is it is just disappointing," Jones said. "We expect to win. We have very high expectations and standards. We didn't meet those standards and expectations today, but we will get those corrected."
Collaros plans on correcting those as well. He finished 24-of-41 for 241 yards with one TD passing and another rushing.
Too many times he held on to the ball instead of throwing it away. And too many times he found himself running for his life. And for the first time in his career, he finds himself dealing with a loss.
Collaros was perfect in his two years as the starting QB at Steubenville High, owning two state championshp rings as a reminder. He went 4-0 as a starter last season.
He wore disappointment as clearly as his sweat-drenched undershirt outside of Bulldog Stadium, but you don't win 34 consecutive games without mental resolve and leadership. Collaros knows it will be tested now more than ever.
"We got a good group of guys and we have to bounce back from this," Collaros said. "Give a lot of credit to Fresno, they played really great. We just got to clean up the mistakes. I think we can bounce back from this and make it a positive."
Sure, the list of ways to describe Saturday night's loss are as lengthy as a Thesaurus, but this team refuses to be defined by one game. They may have little choice, but accepting the challenge of this new reality begins the next chapter in a book that most certainly can still contain a happy ending.
It appears likely to be a sell out tonight at Bulldog Stadium. The local sports report said so. They talked to one freshman girl waiting for tickets and the guy who paints the lines inside the stadium. So you know it must be true.
Outside of that, it's hard to tell how much buzz exists for this game in Fresno. Of course, I've only been to a mexican restaraunt with some form of nicotine on their chips, the hotel pool and a convenience store that sells single cigarettes.
We will head over to the stadium around midday on the west coast and I will be making an appearance on the pregame show on 700WLW to talk a little Bearcats. Make sure you turn the duece down tonight and turn up Tommy G, Jim Kelly and Artrell Hawkins. Oh, and the screaming cheers of Mo Egger in the background.
The game kicks off at 10 p.m. EDT and will be on ESPN2. This shoudl be my last post before launching CoverItLive to open up the Bearcats discussion on the site about an hour before kickoff.
I won't be doing any predictions here. Setting myself up for that kind of scrutiny and disappointment is really unappealling, but I do want to deliver five things to watch tonight that will ultimately decide the game.
1. Fresno O-line vs. UC D-line:
No bigger battle exists in this game. The Bearcats must find a way to hold their ground against the massive road-graders the Bulldogs run out there. In particular, Derek Wolfe and John Hughes in the middle need to be disruptive and provide push.
If they don't, Fresno will shove the running game down the Bearcats' throat as they did last season when they held the ball for nearly 45 minutes. When adding in the home-field advantage, I don't know that the Bearcats can afford that type of differential again.
But if Fresno can't win and the Bearcats force the ball into the hands of Ryan Colburn, he's likely to make a couple mistakes.
2. Vidal Hazelton:
The enitre offense will be fun to watch in the first game of the Butch Jones area, but Hazelton is particularly intriguing. He's been waiting two years to take the field and by all accounts will be one of the breakout stars of this offense. If Fresno chooses to focus its senior CB Desia Dunn on Armon Binns, then sohpomore first-year starter Jermaine Thomas would be matched up on Hazelton. The Bearcats love their odds in that matchup.
3. Kevin Goessling vs. Jake Rogers:
In a game that should go down to the final minutes, the ability of the team's two accomplished kickers may end up the difference. I have a hunch at some point, one of these two will have to make a kick that will provide a lead change in the fourth quarter.
Butch Jones called Rogers one of the best kickers in the country and has had plenty of big kicks in his career. However, Goessling is 22 for his last 24 FGs, including 15 in a row.
He has three FGs of 50 or longer in his career, topping out at 58.
4. Zach Collaros:
How good can he be? Bearcats fans received a taste of Collaros ability last year. But with an offseason entrenched as the starter and fall camp developing into the undeniable leader of the offense and team, how much better is he? How will his timing be under the lights in the new offense. He's been on point in practices, but will the machine run smooth in a hostile enviornment? My guess is Collaros will be fantastic, but we shall see.
5. Chris Carter:
The largest reason for concern among the Bearcats offense. Carter was first-team all WAC last year and a beast flying off the defensive edge at 6-2, 240. He recorded two sacks against Wisconsin last year...with a broken hand. He'll test Sr. OT Sam Griffin off the edge. If Carter jumps into the backfield all night, he could cause serious disruption for the Bearcats attack.
That's all from here, we will see you again at game time where I will hopefully be posting my Doublemint Gum photo with Trent Dilfer before the CoverItLive discussion.
Feeling sleepy after two breakfast sandwiches, banana nut muffin and full chicken tortellini lunch on the plane ride out. I officially can never ride commerical again after experience the ease of the charter production.
Although, I may or may not be stuck at a hotel in middle of nowhere. There are palm trees, but without the happiness.
Or as C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out in a text after my post this morning: Anyone who types the phrase "lovely California" when heading to Fresno has obviously never been to Fresno before.
His comments have been confirmed upon arrival, however, I plan on taking advantage of the Churrasco Grill with the media types later.
Anyway, I want to thank everybody for sending in questions and the kind words in the emails. I've been doing my best to keep you guys informed and entertained in my first couple months on the job and am glad to hear you enjoy it. And we've only just begun. Consider the fact we really haven't had anything to talk about and apparently I've completed 69 posts.
I won't delay any longer, let's get to the mailbag.
Throughout this camp, we have heard about the lack of depth beyond the offensive and defensive starters. My question is: Why does this lack of depth exist? Is it players that are not talented enough? Is it physical or mental maturity? Is it from off season defections? How did this team go from "next man in" to "I'm excited about our 22" so quickly?
I've heard this question quite a bit and it's pretty complex. But to simplify, I would start by saying it is a product of the coaching change. When you bring in a new coach, he is inheriting players he didn't recruit. That's not saying anything was particularly wrong with those that Brian Kelly brought in over the past three seasons -- he obviously had little problem winning with them -- but every coach is different. The qualities Butch Jones desires out of some players aren't the same as Kelly did. The specific talents necessary to perform in Kelly's version of the spread or defensive scheme can be different than those in the Jones' spread or 4-3 base.
That's the surface explanation. Beyond that, and probably more precisely, this team is young. There are only two seniors on the defensive two-deep. There are 13 seniors on the team and 63 who are sophomores or younger. The Bearcats lost half the starters from last year's team. Young players are filling into those spots. Behind those are unproven freshman and sophomores.
Last year, depth was an issue as well at this point in the season. Were you comfortable when Zach Collaros came in at USF? Did you expect Walter Stewart to become a freshman sensation?
If you did, you should be running Miss Cleo's psychic line. Players need to emerge. They are unproven. Three or four games in, the depth should look much different than it does now.
A couple of times you've alluded to Derek Wolfe as if this was his last year at UC, most recently in this sentence in Bearcat Breakfast 9.1.10 (Both Wolfe and Jackson will be in NFL camps next year, the battle between the two of them will go a long to determining who'll have bragging rights).
Derek graduated from Beaver Local HS in 2007, and has played 2 years at UC, making him a true Junior this year.
So, do you know something we don't? Is Derek leaving early for the NFL? Can he?
OK, you busted me. Sort of. I jumped the gun a little bit on the Wolfe comment. He is a junior with two letters. In theory, he will return back next year to Clifton.
However, there is a chance he could end up in an NFL camp next year. Mel Kiper recently named Derek Wolfe his most NFL-ready prospect at UC. That selection comes over the top of offensive stars Armon Binns, Zach Collaros and Vidal Hazelton.
Now, just because Mel Kiper says you're good, doesn't mean you are. But he's probably the closest we have to that not employed by an NFL franchise. Wolfe is 6-6, 295 pounds with a powerful burst. His body is NFL size. Last year he started all 13 games and finished with 8 TFL and 5 sacks. A more disruptive season at the center of the UC 4-3 could make jumping to the league an option. I'm not saying he should or that it will happen, I'm only saying that it will be an option.
Any updates on Dyjuan Lewis? We've been hearing some updates regarding the NCAA's review of other athletes but have yet to hear anything about our star wide receiver recruit (unsurprisingly, as Bearcat fans are used to long delays from the NCAA).
How far away are we from seeing Roney Lozano on the field? He was named as one of the freshmen Butch Jones expects to see play sometime this year, and we know how thin we are depth-wise on the defensive line.
Have a great trip to the west coast, and go Bearcats!
The news on Dyjuan Lewis remains unchanged as we speak. He was cleared to practice earlier in the fall, but UC is still waiting to hear on his eligiblity to play.
As for Roney Lozano, Jones spoke about him at his press conference this week. Lozano was given plenty of opportunties to see if he could handle playing consistent reps on the line. His body is college-ready, but he isn't there with his comprehension of the defense yet. Jones inferred it could be until midseason before we see Lozano. That could change should injuries occur in front of him, but for now he's going to watch for the most part.
How much will this team run the ball this year? I hear lots of talk about Butch Jones being more committed to the running game, but what should we expect out of this spread?
We can't really know until Saturday night's game against Fresno, however, we can certainly guesstimate. Jones has been very clear about a dedication to running the football effectively. It shouldn't be considered lip service if you look at his history. Last year at Central Michigan the Chips threw it 479 times and ran 515. That was with Dan LeFevour at QB, who is currently with the Chicago Bears.
I would expect a similar balance this year. Collaros will likely lead the team in attempts with, obviously, Isaiah Pead coming in second. I fully expect Collaros to top 175 carries and Pead to top 130.
The best news about a renewed running game is what it could mean for saving the defense down the stretch. Some defensive players suggested that was a reason for some of the issues at the end of the season last year. They had spent so much time on the field every game it eventually wore them down.
Time of possession should generally be an ignored stat, but it might be worth watching this season.
There are quite of few of us out here who can't fathom adding another tech "have to" to their lives... Twitter is such the case for me (and many others). Is there any chance you could start a facebook and link the two so that your twitter updates come though on our facebook accounts?
First off, thanks for reading. Second, probably not. It's not that I couldn't do it. I most certainly could, but I don't want to overwhelm FB users with the constant Twittering, especially during games when it comes through quite often.
However, you can subscribe to the UC blogs RSS feeds right here. That way any blogs written here will show up on your phone or whatever interweb device you prefer. You will not only get all my blogs, but also all the great blogs written by the other bloggers here at GoBearcats.
Also, if you don't use Twitter feel free to head over to my blog before and during the Fresno game to jump on the discussion on CoverItLive. I should have it up and running from an hour before kickoff through the final minutes of the game.
Well, thanks to everybody for the questions and emails and keep them coming. I'm hoping to do it every Friday. So, don't let me down.
I am about to head out to the Lindner Center to begin departure for Fresno. One four-hour flight later and I will be in beautiful California.
So, that's going to be my excuse for no standard Bearcats Breakfast this morning. But don't worry loyal readers, mailbag and other posts will be streaming in heavy quantity this weekend from out West.
I have one goal on this trip outside of providing the best Bearcats coverage on the interwebs. My goal is to get my picture taken with Trent Dilfer. Ever since my hairline started running scared from my face, I have been a dead ringer for Dilfer. It's uncanny, reallly. And it has become a running joke for a while with my friends. Anyway, he will be at the game doing the broadcast for ESPN2 and I can't wait to get my picture taken with him and post it for the world to see an unnattractive Doublemint gum commercial.
Anyway, like I said, check back here all weekend for all things UC and Dilfer and follow me on Twitter here. Also, email any more questions for the mailbag to email@example.com. If you do it this morning, I can sneak them in.
My buddy Jamie Broooks said the kids at the high school he used to go to said this phrase before they stole books from the bookstore (who steals books?), which always made me laugh because it is one of my favorite sayings, but...
Every week during the season I will talk to a media member who covers that week's opponent for an inside view of what to expect.
This week we start with Paul Loeffler, the play-by-play man for Fresno State. Loeffler has a distinguished first name, is a Syracuse grad and friends with our own Tommy Gelehrter, which puts him under the category "good people."
He gives great insight about what could be the Bulldogs' secret weapon, their biggest matchup advantage, the loss of Ryan Mathews and, most importantly, where I should go to eat in Fresno.
Paul Dehner Jr.: How much will the departure of Ryan Mathews change the dynamic of this offense? Can they be as potent?
Paul Loeffler: Mathews' departure, coupled with the increased experience at QB, will lead to more balance in 2010. These Bulldogs have the potential to be even more potent than the 2009 version. Robbie Rouse is nearly as explosive as Mathews, but won't touch it 40 times in a game the way Ryan did against the Bearcats last year. The passing game should be much improved. Hamler was the most dependable receiver by the end of last year, Wylie is the fastest player in program history, and Evans showed plenty of promise as a true freshman in 2008 before redshirting last year. There are some true freshmen WRs who will see the field against UC who are also capable of producing.
PDJ: A lot of the hopes offensively seem to be pinned on Ryan Colburn. Is he
the real deal? Do you anticipate him being able to take the next step and put up conference-best type numbers?
PL: Conference-best is asking a lot, given what BoiseState's Kellen Moore has done, but Colburn is capable of leading this team to victories, that's the bottom line. He is a leader. He has the team's respect. Perhaps most importantly, he has that rare drive to make himself better every day, and he has a toughness you don't see too often under center. His skills have improved, and his leadership will make a big difference for this squad.
PDJ: Fresno has hosted Wisconsin and Oregon among others in non-conference
play in recent years, they have been close but unable to pull off the victory in those games. Do you get the feeling they believe they figured out how to get over that hump?
PL: We'll find out Saturday night. They always believe. Pat Hill makes schedules like this because he believes he can win these games. Take a stroll inside the football complex and you'll see the helmets of the BCS schools he's beaten lining the walls. The Bulldogs would be delighted to add a black Bearcats helmet to that display.
PDJ: Defensively, Fresno had its ups and downs last year, particularly rushing
the passer. Is there reason to believe that unit will be improved or is it
still the major residing question mark?
PL: No question that's the question mark, and a big one at that. The defensive line is faster and deeper, and the best pass-rusher, Chris Carter, will once again have two hands to work with. After hurting his hand against Wisconsin last year in week two, he had to wear a club on it and play one-handed the rest of the season. He is a beast, and improved speed in the linebacking corps and secondary should help too. Cincinnati's incredible offense will be the perfect trial by fire, so we'll have an early answer to the questions about the defense.
PDJ: The big question for any team playing Cincinnati will be the defense and
in particular, the cornerbacks. How are the corners and do they have the depth to stand up to UC's prolific trio of Binns, Hazelton and Woods?
PL: I think the corners are key on both sides of this matchup, with FresnoState's receiving corps posing a challenge to the Bearcats DBs as well. Desia Dunn is a three-year starter at one corner, but will give up size and strength to guys like Hazelton and Binns. Jermaine Thomas has the best ball skills on the team, and is slated to start at the other corner. It will be his first career start. Behind those two, Isaiah Green and L.J. Jones both have great speed, but can they avoid mistakes in a matchup where just one mistake could really cost you? We shall see.
PDJ: At what position there a feeling that Fresno would have an advantage on
just about anyone they play this year and in particular on UC?
PL: The strength of this football team is the offensive line. All five starters return, and clearly they did a pretty decent job of controlling time of possession against the Bearcats last year at Nippert. If this quintet stays healthy, FresnoState will enjoy great success enforcing its will on the offensive side of the ball.
PDJ: Pat Hill got another extension, what has made him such a great fit for
PL: He'll tell you his program gets more respect around the country than it does in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley, but I think the quality that most mirrors the culture here is his tenacity. He is as hard-working as they come, and this part of California is known for that. In general, people in the Valley are not afraid to get their hands dirty and do it themselves, and Pat Hill epitomizes that mentality.
PDJ: What would you consider to be realistic expectations for the Bulldogs?
PL: History would indicate that BoiseState will be nearly impossible to beat on the blue turf, but the next-best WAC opponent, Nevada, comes to Bulldog stadium this year. I think it's realistic to predict a 7-1 conference mark, and 3-1 non-conference record. That would put FresnoState at 10-2 and give the Bulldogs a quality bowl opponent, in theory. If you want an optimistic projection, I'm convinced football is all about momentum - within a game and throughout a season - if the Bulldogs beat the Bearcats in the opener, I could easily see them getting off to a 3-0 start, garnering some national attention, and having a shot to ride that wave to something magical.
PDJ: Vegas has the game at a Pick 'em, and they always win -- I have receipts
and broken dreams to prove it -- what would the line be if you were handicapping the game?
PL: It's hard to say with so many unknowns. No one has seen Butch Jones coach a down with the Bearcats, and both defenses have a lot to prove. The lines I've seen are all within a 3-point margin, and if it's that close, FresnoState's accomplished kicker, Kevin Goessling, could be the difference. I don't know about the line, but I would feel fairly comfortable setting the over/under at about 65.
PDJ: Now for the important question -- where should I go to eat when I come out to Fresno?
PL: The Fresno Grizzlies (AAA affiliate of the S.F. Giants) are home Friday night at Chukchansi Park and fighting for a playoff spot, so that would be a pretty good fit for a sports fan. Restaurants? They're everywhere, but I'd go for something you might not get in Cincinnati. We don't have Skyline Chili, but Fresno has dozens of authentic Mexican restaurants, including spots like Fajita Fiesta and Casa Corona near the FresnoState campus. A few of the other local favorites you wouldn't find in Ohio include Tahoe Joe's (steak), Luna's (Italian), North India Bar & Grill, The Elbow Room, and Me & Ed's (pizza). Now you've made me hungry...
I always loved that line from Jerry Maguire. Not quite as much as "shoplifting the pooty," but I certainliy use it more often. And I will again today. I received a few questions this week from you guys regarding Saturday's game at Fresno, but want to help you even more.
So, send me any questions you want answered about the team, Fresno, Butch Jones, this season, the Big East, mustache updates or why Outkast is the greatest hip-hop act of all time -- anything on your mind, really.
With today opening the football season, let's clear the air. I'll put it all together in a mailbag and post it tomorrow. So, help me, help you.
I also wanted to remind you that during the UC-Fresno game on Saturday night, I will be on Twitter (follow me here) answering questions and leading a discussion and doing the same at this blog spot here with CoverItLive. So, be sure join in with the other Bearcats fans to talk about the game.
On to the Breakfast...
--- There is a load of fresh content from Bill Koch over at Cincinnati.com with the release of their college football preview. Be sure to take a look through if you haven't already.
Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for the UC WR. Binns grew up in Pasadena and said he is still trying to scrounge up extra tickets for all his friends and family making the 3-hour drive to Fresno.
He guesstimated about 25 folks will be there. The last time he played this close to home was his freshman year against San Diego State, but of course he wasn't playing anywhere near the role he is now.
--- Koch also has a story on Vidal Hazelton. This Saturday you will all have the priviledge of seeing what I have seen in UC practices all spring and fall. Hazelton is the real deal and with an improved Binns and D.J. Woods, combined with Hazleton's size-speed combo, I think this trio is better than last year's with Mardy Gilyard.
Bennett talks about what I, too, believe will be the difference in this game -- and tends to be the difference in almost every football game. The battle of the trenches will decide it. UC's defensive front must find a way to slow down the Fresno running game. If they can't, it will be a another time of possession debacle as it was last season when the Bulldogs held the the ball for nearly 3/4 of the game.
--- Mitch Vingle at the Charleston (WV) Gazette believes the Big East needs to produce this weekend. The better the league image,the better for UC. So as much as it may pain to root for Dave Wannstedt, you probably should for the betterment of the Bearcats.
Although, I have a feeling it won't be hard for most of you to root for UConn at Michigan on Saturday.
With my jeans and button-up flipped backward like the Daddy Mac I wish I was, it's time for the season's first edition of By The Numbers with a look at the Western Athletic Conference (RIP).
Over the last five years, the WAC established itself as one of the top non-BCS conferences in college football. Boise State grabbed the majority of the headlines -- and deservedly so -- but teams like Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii grabbed their fair share of big wins in the process.
As UC readies to travel across the country to play at Bulldog Stadium in front of an anticipated 41,000 fans, I felt like looking at the history of the upper echelon of the WAC at home against BCS opponents.
Fresno will almost certainly finish in the top tier of the WAC this year and has consistently over the last 5-10 years. In fact, under coach Pat Hill the Bulldogs suffered only one losing season since 1998.
Under the predicated hypothesis of Fresno being an upper-tier team, let's look at how the teams that finished the year in the top four of the WAC fared each season against BCS conference opponents.
Boise State (14-0, 8-0, BCS overall 1-0, Home 1-0, Road 0-0): vs. Oregon, W, 19-8
Nevada (8-5, 7-1, BCS overall 0-3, Home 0-1, Road 0-1): @ Notre Dame, L, 35-0, vs. Mizzou, L, 31-21)
Fresno State (8-5, 6-2, BCS overall 0-2, Home 0-0, Road 0-2): @ Oregon, L, 37-34, @USC, L, 50-42.
FRESNO STATE: 5-7 overall vs. BCS opponents, 1-1 at home, 3-6 on the road, 1-1 in bowls
TOTAL: 16-34 overall vs. BCS opponents, 10-7 at home, 5-22 on road, 1-5 in bowl games
Well, that may be a little bit of overanalysis by the numbers, but I got nothing but time. Here's what stands out to me about this.
--- Fresno and Boise State are the only of the top WAC teams to beat BCS opponents on the road in the last five years. They have four wins away from Bulldog Stadium against BCS foes. Boise only has two.
The Bulldogs are akin to playing top teams and playing them well, no matter the location. Anybody who watched UC survive last year's 28-20 thriller at Nippert can attest to that.
The Bulldogs nearly won at Wisconsin last year and also barely lost at home, 13-10 in 2008.
--- If you are a BCS opponent at Bulldog Stadium, expect a battle. They beat Kansas State by 16 and nearly beat Wisconsin.
--- Going into the WAC stadiums against the upper echelon is not a fun proposition. There is a reason why 34 percent of these games are played away from the WAC homes. Winning there is one of those lose-lose propositions in college football.
To the untrained eye -- which many voters, etc., in college football are -- a loss there is a black eye on the season despite the fact it is a less than 50 percent proposition by recent history. However, a win there is what was supposed to happen with a bigger school playing in the WAC.
--- UC has done this before with a talented team. The Bearcats had to travel to play a quality Hawaii team in 2008 and barely survived, 29-24.
--- Here are some more Fresno vs. BCS stats from the Bulldogs game notes:
Fresno St. is 5-2 in its last seven games against BCS schools.
Fresno is 4-1 against BCS teams in bowl games during Pat Hill's tenure.
I guess all of these stats and numbers are a completely unnecessary way of saying this is one of the more difficult, most underrated openers in college football this weekend.
In fact, it would only be fitting to leave you with one final number (while entering a disclaimer that I in no way endorse gambling on athletics), but the Bearcats are currently 3-point underdogs at Fresno. And Vegas doesn't lie.
I'll say it right here...for all
the credit ex-UC coach Brian Kelly received as an offensive guru, his
biggest mistake may have been not redshirting Armon Binns early in
his tenure. Despite looking good in spring drills, etc. Binns went
his first two years in the Kelly era hardly ever being, "Next Man
He caught one pass in '07 and one
pass in '08, then exploded with 61 grabs and 11 touchdowns last
season (including the most memorable catch in Bearcat history at
Pittsburgh). Had Kelly not burned the redshirt year on Binns, we
could be talking about #80 coming back for another year after this
Instead, the beginning of the
Binns swan song begins this Saturday night in California against
Fresno State (some three hours from his hometown of Pasadena).
This is Armon's final chance to
play within reasonable distance of his friends and family, unless UC
were to make the Rose Bowl, which isn't likely due to conference
affiliations. As things are planned, numerous #80 jerseys are
headed north to Fresno. Binns estimates the number to be around 30.
"I am looking forward to it,"
said Binns. "I've been waiting for an opportunity to play in front
of my home crowd for a long time. I'm real excited about it."
Who wouldn't be?
When you're scoring in droves
and you've spent New Year's Eve in Miami and New Orleans in
consecutive years, you walk with a little "pep" in your step.
There's some changes on the line and Mardy Gilyard's gone, but USC
transfer Vidal Hazelton's in the fold and Binns, D.J. Woods. Ben
Guidugli, Isaiah Pead and Zach Collaros all bring significant playing
experience to the table for the offense.
"We are very confident as an
offense," said Binns. "We feel like we can score, put up points
on any defense in America. We're just going to go in there and do
what we do."
If the game goes like last
year's, UC will score early and often, while Fresno State will try
to "grind it out" and eat up valuable time of the clock. On the
other hand, Binns thinks Head Coach Butch Jones might try to do some
"I think it will be mixed up
a little bit more, but I think at the same time, the pace of the game
is going to be so fast that every drive's going to have different
elements to it," said Binns.
What UC would like to avoid
is the possession time debacle that ensued last season with the
Bulldogs and Ryan Mathews holding the ball for over 43 minutes
compared to UC's 16.
"They're a very physical
team," said Binns. "They're going to run the ball at us all
game. They're a clock-control team and they'll try to keep our
offense off the field as much as possible. Our defense is going to
have to 'bow up' and make stops and our offense is going to have to
put points on the board."
Sounds simple enough.
Especially, since Ryan Mathews is a San Diego Charger now.
But, you can never count the
pesky Bulldogs out as Coach Pat Hill puts out a winner year after
year and gets the most out of his guys. He also tries to get the
most from the local media by throwing out lines for them to buy and
spread to the city of the opponent.
Hill's latest endeavor is to
claim Bulldogs Stadium will be sunny and hot and the hometown
Bearcats might just completely wilt. Hill says, "No fans are
permitted in" (unless of course, you have two legs and a ticket).
"We've been practicing right
under the sun all summer and Coach has been really on us about not
complaining about the heat because it's going to be hot this first
game," said Binns. "You've got to just bear through it. We've
been practicing all summer, so it shouldn't be any different in
Having seen Fresno State
numerous times on tape, Jones and the Bearcats know the defense is aggressive and
opportunistic, heat or no heat.
"They have a real good
defensive end (Chris Carter) and I think they have one of their
corners coming back and a linebacker coming back too," said Binns.
"I think they got some licks in on us, but we came out with the
win so that's really what matters. We're going to have to get that
done this year (again)."
One thing the Bearcats don't
lack in, is confidence. While Binns is far from Mardy Gilyard or
Vidal Hazelton in the vocal department, he still understands the
importance of getting out to an early stage.
"This game is like every
game," said Binns. "It's important like every game. We feel
like this game--it's another opportunity on a big stage to show the
world that we are the real deal."
Whatever the "real deal"
is, many have boasted that it's faster than the "old deal". If
that's the case, the Bearcats would be fortunate to pounce on their
opponent early as they did opening up last season at Rutgers.
"That's the goal,"
admitted Binns. "Just come in there and play fast and with a lot
of confidence. We're going in to take care of business."
That approach will win you a
lot of games,fans and accolades from the so-called "pundits".
Thus far, various internet experts say the Bearcats will fizzle.
Same story. Different year.
These are the same folks
that this time next year, will be boasting about how they took the
rookie Armon "Mercedes" Binns from the powerhouse UC offense in
their fantasy draft.
The Bearcats move down to the practice fields outside Paul Brown Stadium this afternoon to get used to playing on grass. They spent the week thus far back inside Nippert Stadium, despite the completion of the practice field at the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex.
The J is complete but Jones said the process of moving all the equipment and everything up there was more of a hassle than the team needed to be dealing with game week. So, they will begin practicing there when they get back from Fresno State.
I have been practicing on carpet all week to get prepared for press box in Fresno. Dealing with the static electricity challenges your focus.
--- Myself and Brian Bennett both ended up touching on similar topics yesterday. Bennett wrote a story on the Bearcats fighting for respect and I have a piece on the lingering residue from the Sugar Bowl still remaining not only for some UC players, but certainly on the national landscape.
--- Butch Jones held his first game week press conference of the year. If you would like to hear the entire thing, here you go, including the performance of the opening act, football SID Ryan Koslen. Jones was great, but I think he bombs without Kos warming the room up for him.
Without doubt, the battle to watch here will be in the trenches. Derek Wolfe and John Hughes in the middle cannot lose ground on a massive Fresno front. That includes the NFL special between Wolfe and Fresno star G Andrew Jackson.
Jackson is on the Lombardi Watch List (FWIW) and considered one of the most NFL-ready O-lineman in the country.
Pat Hill compares Jackson to former Bulldog guard Logan Mankins, of the New England Patriots. Jackson's the real deal, here's a story on him from gobulldogs.com. The fact he's surrounded by four other 280-350 pound manimals doesn't hurt either.
Both Wolfe and Jackson will be in NFL camps next year, the battle between the two of them will go a long to determining who'll have bragging rights.
--- ESPN's Pat Forde placed Nippert Stadium among his top five favorites to visit on gameday in college football in his online chat yesterday.
As for games at Nippert, season tickets are the only way to guarantee a seat. You can order them for as low as $180 for the season. Just call 1-877-CATS-TIX and they lovely staff will get you taken care of.
--- The Bearcat is taking a run at repeat Mascot of the Year champion. He's been working hard at his fist-pumps and hand claps all offseason and is better than ever.