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Party like it's 2009

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CINCINNATI -- The Butch Jones Bearcats felt the progress being made over the course of the first four games, but no more than a gimmie victory over Indiana State to show for it.

 

After Saturday night, they don't just own the first FBS win, but a spot in the record books.

 

A team buried in a sea of doubt and question only two weeks ago unveiled a glimpse into what it can possibly become. And it looked more explosive than even the best of the Brian Kelly era - if only for one night.

 

The Bearcats retreated to the halftime locker room with pockets overflowing with gaudy stats. The Bearcats scored on seven of eight possessions. They racked up 480 yards of offense, 264 on the ground. Isaiah Pead had 10 carries for 197 yards. They scored three touchdowns on drives lasting less than 33 seconds.

 

At game's end, their 609 total yards ranked fifth in school history. It was the highest margin of victory in the Miami series.  

 

Most importantly, the 45 points scored in the first half marked the most against an FBS opponent in a half since, well, the recent archives couldn't find it. Maybe later in the week, after we sift through the last 120 years of box scores, we'll find a more prolific showing.

 

Point being, it hasn't happened recently. And it sure hasn't happened since the recent UC resurgence.

 

Miami's defense wouldn't be confused for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Heck, even the 2000 Cincinnati Bengals. The RedHawks allowed 51 points to Missouri and 34 to Florida. They were called for a throat-slash gesture while trailing 28-0. The Cradle of Coaches has experienced better seasons.

 

However, the precision and explosion showcased by the UC offense was reminiscent of the good ole' days. Like, 2009.

 

With the 2009 stats returned 2009 swagger - Isaiah Pead carrying the flag.

 

Pead built on the breakout game against Oklahoma with the most dazzling of his career. He rushed 10 times for 197 yards, but those numbers tell half the story. On an 80-yard TD run he blew past Miami safety D.J. Brown down the sidelines, despite Brown having an angle and 5-yard head start.

 

"I was in full throttle," Pead said. "Not to sound cocky, but when I get in full throttle there's not too many people that can catch me - angle or not."

 

And that wasn't his highlight of the night. Pead turned around Demetrius Quarles in Barry Sanders-like fashion while breaking a 69-yard run the opposite direction.

 

"He's electric back there," WR Armon Binns said. 

 

Funny Binns would utter such a comment. The same could be said about the senior receiver. He showed why Mel Kiper ranked him among the top returning senior receivers this year, twice out-jumping a Miami defense back for touchdowns, the second and fourth longest of his UC career at 48 and 32 yards.

 

The combination, along Zach Collaros' precise 14-of-17 passing for 216 yards, has the UC offense cashing in on preseason expectations.

 

"(Pead) keeps our offense balanced and keeps us explosive in all aspects of the game, whether throwing or running the ball," Binns said. "It keeps you on your heels because you don't know what's coming."  

     

Oh, by the way, Saturday marked the first time UC didn't allow a touchdown to a non-Southeast Missouri State opponent since beating UConn 27-3 on Nov. 10, 2007.

 

Suddenly, as the Bearcats open Big East play on Friday at Louisville, the team written off by critics looks like the closest thing to a conference favorite this side of West Virginia.

 

Pitt? Kelly owned them again Saturday. And Kelly isn't owning much more than a path to 7-5 this season.

 

Syracuse? They beat USF 13-9 in a game only a mother could love and I just can't force myself to go there yet.

 

UConn? Did you just lose to Rutgers?

 

Rutgers? Did you just lose to Tulane?  

 

Oh yeah, and there is the issue of the two rings.

 

All that said, Pead still doesn't think the two-time defending conference champs are viewed as the favorites.

 

"Nah, of course not," Pead said. "Of course we are not the favorite. To the world we aren't the favorite. In our eyes we are.

 

"We still feel disrespected. I really feel like nobody is wrong in disrespecting us. We had a 1-3 record, now 2-3. We know what we have. There is no 1-3 in the Big East. We got to go undefeated."

 

The path to preparation for Big East play was circuitous. Some larger goals were lost along the way. But, in the end, the team feels as prepared and confident as could be expected entering the most important seven games of the season.

 

"It's been a journey and it's been a process," Butch Jones said with a slight smirk that told all the story of the roller-coaster non-conference slate.

 

As Big East play begins Friday in Louisville, the Bearcats new journey begins. At least on Saturday, the new journey looked a lot like 2009.

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