(Jason courtesy of sidereel.com and "Halloween")
(Jason courtesy of fogdad.com)
Among the plethora of offensive plays for UC in their disappointing loss to USF was one where a pass deflected off running back Isaiah Pead and into the arms of center Jason Kelce. The ever elusive #60 then galloped downfield like a kid scoring his first bag of Halloween candy.
For those of us familiar with Jason Kelce, it was a joy to watch. Anytime the so-called "big uglies" get the football, it's a real treat. Going back in time, I can recall a game where retired NFL lineman (and ex-Bearcat) Jason Fabini recovered a fumble in the endzone for a touchdown.
Of all the pancake blocks and rushing attacks big Jason led during his Bearcat career, it was that play that brought the biggest smile to Fabini's face. Ditto for his mother whom I instantaneously found in the crowd and interviewed on the radio.
Alas, this Jason was not to have the same fate. Not only was Kelce eventually tackled, he was flagged for "illegal touching" in a game that featured that call enough to warrant ESPN putting a "mature" audience alert on screen.
Not to worry, this "illegal touching" is nothing that might go on in a dark theater or back seat. This is an obscure call that somehow found its way into the UC/USF game twice.
"Two in one game is usually not good," said Kelce. "First one, I don't know what I was thinking. Second one, I thought you're allowed to grab it, so I just went up and tried to get it. Apparently, it has to be tipped by a defensive player, so now I know."
Whatever the rule is, I don't like it. Not just because I'm a UC grad, but because it takes the fun out of watching a guy run with the ball who rarely gets the opportunity. For Kelce, a demonstrative sort in the first place, you can bet his eyes were as big as saucers.
"Let's score on this one!" said a laughing Kelce recalling his brief romp with the pumpkin. "You don't get to touch it too often so you take the little ones you can get."
And the last time Jason Kelce tucked a football and ran was....
"High school--I picked up a fumble recovery," said Kelce. "I did score a rushing touchdown my last season. I've got some good moves. I was telling the coaches during the spring, goal-line package running back--they need someone back there."
While you laugh at the prospect, truth is, Kelce was being a little modest about his running abilities. He did average 9.5 yards per carry at Cleveland Heights High School. Plus, prior to playing offensive line, he was a linebacker and walked-on at UC in the hopes of winning a spot there.
Of course, that was all before packing on the 280 or so pounds he carries now. As a second team All-Big East offensive lineman with experience at guard and center, Kelce has had to make a physical transition that appears to have worked out well.
He is now UC's most notable veteran offensive lineman. He's also been around the program long enough to guide his teammates through difficult losses, such as the South Florida debacle.
"Two years ago at UConn we experienced something similar," said Kelce. "I was starting on that team. We've been through it before and we know if we win out we still win the Big East because South Florida has two Big East losses. Everything's still up in the air for us."
Thus far, only Pitt has an unblemished Big East mark, but the point Kelce was making was that it was still only one league loss. Not that it makes the USF loss any more palatable. You'd like to think your odds are pretty good when you drop 590 yards on an opponent.
"The only issues were the penalties and dropped balls and stuff, killing ourselves," said Kelce. "We did a pretty good job of pushing the ball down the field. You like to win the game when you have that many yards and that many points, but that's why it's a team game."
One thing the team, and in particular, the offensive line hopes to improve on this week is the rushing game. USF pretty much stymied Isaiah Pead and the run game which led to Zach Collaros having to throw more passes.
"That was one thing the last game against USF that we were really disappointed in," said Kelce. "They did a pretty good job of stacking the box and tackling. We always want (Isaiah) Pead to get going because that helps out the passing game."
Some of that was due to Junior Alex Hoffman missing the game. Early on, it appears Hoffman will be back plowing the trenches along side Kelce.
"Yeah, I think we'll be healthy for the first time in a couple weeks," said Kelce. Butch Jones confirmed as much in his Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Getting the "A" game out of Pead in the line is crucial in beating a much-improved Syracuse team for Homecoming. The last time the Orange were here in '08, UC was clinching an Orange Bowl berth and celebrating. Fast forward to 2010 and a Syracuse win Saturday would make them bowl eligible for the first time since 2004.
The league's a virtual crapshoot with it all boiling down to who wants it the most.
"This is as big of a year as I've seen as the league is up for grabs," said Kelce. "There really isn't a weak team this year. All the teams you thought would be good aren't doing as good as they were supposed to do at the beginning of the year. It's really just up for grabs. Each week is going to be a battle. I really don't think the winner of the Big East is going to have zero losses."
Clearly, Kelce and the Bearcats want to win and clearly they NEED to win. Not that mathematicians are huge football fans, but one more loss puts the Bearcats in an extremely unenviable position.
Then, there's the Homecoming factor. Nothing quite spoils a parade and a festive atmosphere like a Homecoming loss. No one's used to those and Kelce wants to make sure it stops right here.
Jason Kelce and many of the Bearcats are not accustomed to losing. Dropping a game at Nippert for the first time since 2007 didn't sit well with many.
"I had to tell the guys after you lose that you have to sing the fight song," said Kelce about the USF defeat. "So many guys haven't experienced a loss. It's something you take pride in. You love to be successful in Nippert and we don't want to lose another one as far as I'm concerned."
Research also shows the Bearcats sing with much more gusto after scoring more points than the opposition.