As he went across the middle of the endzone in Louisville last week, D.J. Woods may have been thinking of the fumble on a sure touchdown against Oklahoma at Paul Brown Stadium, or the fumbled punt later that set up the game-winning score for the Sooners. Take away either and the UC Bearcats have a win over the team considered #1 in the BCS.
Fortunately, D.J. Woods had neither play on his mind and was focused on securing the ball as Zach Collaros zipped his second touchdown toss of the game toward Woods. Woods went up and became the middle of a Louisville Cardinal sandwich, but the ball stayed right in his gut.
"We were just doing a thing called ball rule," said Woods. "Ball rule is--as soon as we score we tuck it. If you watch it, I'm on the ground actually bringing the ball up to my chest and I tuck it. I knew I was going to get hit. As soon as it left Zach's hands, I'm like, 'this is going to hurt' and soon as I hit the ground I made sure I held onto the ball. I knew if I took a big hit like that and didn't hold onto the ball, things would be a lot different."
It was another big play by Woods in a year of big plays between himself and Armon Binns. Binns caught three touchdowns that night and went on to be named Big East Offensive Player of the Week.
"It was a good game," acknowledged Woods. "I give all my thanks to Armon Binns. Armon Binns did his thing and he deserved that. He's a great player and a great leader for us. Me and him are close. I'm happy he was able to have a big game and show what he's made of."
Binns and Woods have more than made up for the unfortunate injury of Vidal Hazelton in the Fresno State game by combing for 63 catches and 13 touchdowns through six games. (Binns has 32 grabs for 525 yards and seven scores; Woods 31 for 550 yards and six.)
Against Louisville, while Binns became the "go to" guy, Woods was Mr. Efficiency. Two catches, two touchdowns. As it is for most teams, the Cardinals had to "pick their poison" as usually leaving one in single coverage can prove painful for a defense.
"Actually, it's kind of everybody," said Woods. "They were playing a lot of man coverage in the beginning, but soon as we scored they got out of it and went 'Cover 2' for mostly the whole game. Everything worked out well, we can't really complain about it."
After six games, Woods is just 20 receptions away from the total he had last season in 12 games and he's already surpassed his season touchdown total by two. No one will ever know, but he may have been able to reach paydirt again last week if it wasn't for the precautionary measures taken by Head Trainer Bob Mangine and Dr. Angelo Colosimo and the UC medical staff. Coach Butch Jones said in his Tuesday press briefing that Woods, "could've played."
"I feel fine," said Woods. "I wanted to go back in, but trainers and coaches were taking precautions. Everything's fine."
Perhaps tougher than getting his lid knocked off in the game, was watching without contributing. Especially in a tight game with his "touchdown /reception ratio" perfect.
"Oh, it's hard when you see your team playing a close game," admitted Woods. "But, I have all the confidence in the world in Anthony McClung, Armon Binns and 'Bones' (Marcus Barnett) to step up and make the plays and that's what they did."
While the "Next Man In" philosophy was thrown about last year, there's no greater evidence of it than in this year's wide receiver corps. Hazelton was expected to be the #1 and he's out for the year (though making tremendous rehab strides). Tennessee transfer Kenbrell Thompkins easily would've played but is not eligible according to the NCAA 'til next year. Also, true freshman Dyjuan Lewis surely would've received looks but is not academically eligible.
Suddenly, what was the deepest spot on the team has became short-handed. Freshman quarterback Munchie Legaux is now lining his 6-5 frame up at wideout in practice and has already made game appearances.
But, don't worry. D.J. Woods is alright.
I could tell from speaking with him and by his actions during the Tuesday media gathering at the Lindner Center. He's been cleared by what Coach Jones calls, "the best training staff I've ever been around."
The sure sign, was Woods sneaking in TWICE to the Bob Goin team meeting room during the Coach Jones press conference to throw down some of City BBQ's sweet tea. The young man enjoys a refreshing class of sweet tea every now and then for those of you that may follow him closely.
Matter of fact, a couple tall glasses of sweet tea in Louisville and I think Woods would've blown past the Cardinal defenders for two more scores.
Perhaps the staff will have a Gatorade sipper full of D.J.'s "special mix" come Friday night against USF?
"They're very fast," said Woods. "They've got a very fast defense. We need to come with tempo and speed. We've got to match everything they do. They're a very good defense, they've got very good athletes on their team. At the same time, if we just do what we do and play with confidence, we're going to be OK."
And maybe a Woods kick return rests in the tea leaves?
"Oh man, I feel it," said Woods. "I feel it. Everybody's doing a great job of blocking, I just need to find the holes and explode through them. I feel one's coming up soon."
I'll drink to that. I prefer the Luzianne brand myself.