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Now That's More Like It

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"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 Indiana State 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 Florida State 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 dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

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

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3 Comments

I couldn't agree more. Great information. Our kicker deserves some love too. He performed well and his touchback kickoffs are helpful.
Looking back at the NCstate loss is much easier to take now and the fact that UC is beginning to work as a team has them primed for conference play. It will be a better season that first exhibited.

I commented earlier and complimented Rogers' kicking but failed to remember that we missed a PAT. But his field goals and kickoffs look good.

That place was rocking and I loved the atmosphere but my favorite moment is when the team ran out and realized that the students weren't on the side they were running to, so they stop turned around and ran to the student section. Being a student and seeing this just makes me even more proud of that team