(courtesy Trophy Awards)
WHO: UC and Pitt
WHAT: Senior Day
WHERE: The Grand Finale at Nippert
WHEN: Saturday, December 4th
SERIES: Pitt leads 7-2
LAST TIME: On 12/5/09, UC won 45-44 at
Heinz Field to win the Big East.
So much for the best laid plans.
This was originally set up by
ABC/ESPN family to wrap up the year much like it did last year won
Tony Pike dramatically found Armon Binns in the endzone at Heinz
Field to catapult the Bearcats to the improbable 45-44 win and the
BCS bowl berth to the Sugar festivities in New Orleans.
Sadly, Pitt is fighting for a
respectable bowl, but out of the BCS running. Even sadder is the
fact that UC won't be bowling at all over the holidays unless it's
indoors with rental shoes involved.
The Bearcats needed to shock UConn
on their home field last week and beat Pitt for that possibility.
Even then, they would've been a mediocre 6-6 and in line with many
schools just looking to go anywhere to gain the extra practices a
bowl game brings.
As long a fall from the Orange
and Sugar Bowls that it seems, that would've been a major
accomplishment in this season of youth, injuries and inexperience.
As has been well documented,
transfers were not granted faster eligibility, some recruits couldn't
qualify, starters were injured, players that would start were
injured, some couldn't follow the agreed upon rules and players were
lost on both sides that have either been in NFL camps or are playing.
Add to that, a new staff had to
come in and coach guys who were being instructed by guys in
compromising positions a year ago. Shortly after UC's dramatic win
over Pitt, the ink was drying on Brian Kelly's contract to Notre
Dame. While a group of coaches hung around to see the team through
their bowl, the bottom line is the staff in question didn't finish
(Such is the way college football
operates. Regime changes are quick and immediate. Allegiances are
lost upon donning the freshly-laundered logo of someone else.)
In the personal opinion
department, it's my contention that once coaches were declared for
Notre Dame or Buffalo (where interim Jeff Quinn went) their
priorities were compromised by their obligations to their new teams.
At some point, players being
recruited for Cincinnati "might" have been swayed to consider
"Option A" or "Option B".
Not really, but that's kind of
how the food chain works.
So, Butch Jones comes in and
keeps the loyal Kerry Coombs, but then must assemble a new staff and
assess the talent left. To the outsider, there was a talented
offense. Many forget that a starting Senior center and tackle were
lost though (Chris Jurek and Jeff Linkenbach--now starting for the
Colts). If you want to keep anyone on your offense, it's your
On defense, it was a mess already
in terms of statistics. From a depth standpoint, it was
unrealistic to think this unit would up and improve overnight. A
group largely made up of sophomores with even more inexperience
behind them takes time.
As noted before, these struggling
players will be good, but there honestly wasn't much to work with
this season. The best you could hope for was young players to play
above their expectations.
At 4-7, that obviously didn't
Now, you hope they've learned
from their unfortunate mistakes and will be back with a vengeance to
make fans forget what pray was a "bridge" season to the next
years of success. Those you may have cursed this year, might well
be fan favorites in the coming years that they celebrate THEIR
As for this week, it is Senior
Day and it's only fitting that fans see some of these guys out right.
Regardless of how this campaign
went, these guys were part of the infrastructure that allowed many of
you to make unforgettable bowl trips that you previously never
With that, I leave you with some
brief thoughts on the guys you'll be waving goodbye to Saturday at
Linebacker Robby Armstrong came
in with a lot of defensive potential, but perpetual injuries kept him
as a back-up for the bulk of his career. He should be commended for
sticking his career out.
Receiver Marcus Barnett came on
strong in his freshman year, but never regained the position as the
"go to" guy again as other talented receivers were recruited.
Still, Barnett was a pretty unselfish player who even volunteered to
play defense a few games. Based on recent results, I'm not so sure
UC would've been better served if Barnett stayed on defense.
Armon Binns somehow was ignored
early in his career but had excellent Junior and Senior seasons and
should make a fine NFL player. His catch last year against Pitt is
clearly UC's most famous reception ever.
Obadiah Cheatham spent most of
his career as a walk-on linebacker, but earned a scholarship this
season. If you've watched the defense this year, he's had his
number called several times making key tackles.
Offensive lineman C.J. Cobb is
another guy who was plagued by injuries and probably never realized
his potential. However, Cobb came back brace after brace and has
made it through pretty much unscathed this year.
Sam Griffin is an under-sized
offensive lineman who suffered from changing styles of play. He's
gone from Mark Dantonio's bulky run game, to Brian Kelly's shifty
pass game to the combination game of Coach Butch Jones. Coaching
turnover affects things more than most imagine.
Ben Guidugli will leave without a
bowl game this year, but has had a pretty awesome college career and
has caught touchdowns each season he's played. He'll go down as one
of the smaller tight ends to ever play here, but you can't argue with
the numbers he put up.
Vidal Hazelton's story will
finish with an incomplete as Bearcat fans (barring an appearance in
this Pitt game) never saw what he could do. After a year of
sitting out, his injury in the Fresno State game pretty much was the
beginning of the avalanche for this season. On the other hand, when
you get talent from USC that's wants to come, you open the door.
Many of us will wonder what could've been if Hazelton could've lined
up all year long next to Binns and D.J. Woods.
Jamar Howard was recruited
initially here by Mark Dantonio but didn't qualify. Then, he
returned after his junior college career but the injury bug bit him
too. Unfortunately, it might've zapped his desire to play as too
much bad news can often allow others to pass you by.
Offensive lineman Jason Kelce is
the "scary guy" every team needs. He wears his heart on his
sleeve and regardless of his methods, he's got your back. He went
on Twitter after the UConn loss and tried to take blame for
everything. Truth is, a line full of Jason Kelces would've made for
a more exciting and effective offense.
Collin McCafferty has largely
been a special teams guy, but he's been VERY good at it. If you pay
attention on kickoff coverage, McCafferty's often right in the middle
Finally, Jake Rogers leaves as
UC's all-time leading scorer. It's almost hard to imagine with
some of the quality kickers that have been here (Rich Karlis,
Jonathan Ruffin, Kevin Lovell). That's what longevity will do,
Rogers kicked four years and actually punted for one. He's got a
monster leg so he may get a shot at playing for pay somewhere. His
best kick in my estimation was his 55-yarder against Oregon State in
2007 that let the Beavers know, "Wow, we're really in a game!"
OK, seeing as I've taken a lot of
space in my opening statements and descriptions of the Seniors, I'll
keep my preview segments short and to the point. As many of you
know, I don't sugarcoat much.
To the River City Rivalry:
UC OFFENSE VS. PITT DEFENSE
As tough as it will be, Isaiah
Pead MUST rush for more than 23 yards. Look at the games--when
Pead hits triple figures, UC does well. Also, Zach Collaros must
not try to do too much as he has sometimes in this frustrating year.
It's been proven time and time again, when your QB throws to guys
wearing the same color jersey, results are often enhanced.
If Jarred Holley catches a
Collaros pass, that won't be good (5 INT) and Pitt DL Brandon Lindsey
will be looking to grab at #12's jersey as he has 10 sacks and 16
As with every game, UC has the
potential to score 30 points on anyone. It all boils down to
whether or not they hand the ball over to the opposition.
UC DEFENSE VS. PITT OFFENSE
Dave Wannstedt is a defensive
coach and therefore likes to run the ball as all hard-nosed, stubborn
defensive coaches do. The Bearcats will get a steady diet of a
couple small backs in Dion Lewis (5-8, 195) and Ray Graham (5-9,
195). If either run rampant like Jordan Todman did last week in
Hartford, then the Bearcats will be in rough shape. You can't bank
on a dramatic comeback like the one the 'Cats pulled off last year.
If QB Tino Sunseri goes to the air, the likely candidate is Jon
Baldwin who has burned the Bearcats before.
UC must play spirited defense to
stop the run and somehow get some turnovers. Problem is, Pitt's
goal will be to keep it on the ground and not turn it over. Fumbles
are welcome, but not always predictable.
Clearly, Pitt has the talent to
score with anyone. What UC must bank on is Wannstedt going
ultra-conservative and not getting into a track meet.. Sometimes
conservative turns risky when you're playing too tentatively.
It's the last game for Jake
Rogers and I hope he gets the chance to split the uprights after
missing a pair at UConn. UC is still suffering from a lack of a
return game and it would be nice to see someone break it to daylight.
Defensively, I mentioned Collin McCafferty with the Seniors, I'd
guess you'd hear his name again Saturday as he's often the first
helmet on someone on kick coverage.
Pitt has a very accurate kicker
in Dan Hutchens. He doesn't have the leg of Rogers, but sometimes
reliability is more important than explosiveness.
WHAT'S THAT MEAN?
I hope Rogers gets his points, but
I wouldn't want this to come down to a field goal kicking contest.
WRAP IT UP FOR 2010 SCOTT
I think UC has a good chance to
win this game to build momentum for the future. The Seniors have
nothing left to play for OTHER THAN THIS FINAL GAME. In essence,
THIS IS their bowl game. Couple that with Pitt's tendency to fold
down the stretch and I wouldn't be surprised to see UC upend the
Panthers to further muddy up the Big East's reputation (soon to rise
courtesy of TCU).
Naturally, if the Panthers get
their runners going and UC goes into "Swiss cheese" mode on
defense, you can scrap all of that.
Regardless of the result, happier
days WILL be ahead for UC football AND the Big East once 2010's in
the rearview mirror.