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 (all seniors).
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 before.
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 enough.
"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 everything."
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.