I am never one to mislead or lie to you guys (at least, not on purpose), so I won't deny that I was unable to attend Tuesday's press luncheon. I have been to every one this year, but with another committment I couldn't get out of, so, I didn't get to see Bill Koch take a run at the record for most cornbread eaten before noon or see if SID Ryan Koslen had any new material for his opening act.
I did, however, watch Butch Jones' presser on GoBearcats.com, which I encourage you to do as well. If you don't have 24 minutes, here are the Cliff's Notes. Though, technically, I guess they are Paul's Notes, but you see what I'm driving at.
--- Jones talked quite a bit about Isaiah Pead -- and deservedly so. Considering his 31-carry, 213-yard, 5-TD performance on Saturday, more people should be talking about Pead.
Maybe the one aspect overlooked about that showing was the 31 carries. That's far and away a carry high for Pead (previously 21). But when a guy was running like Pead was, you just keep giving it to him.
One of my favorite exchanges from the postgame on Saturday came with Pead. (This may not completely translate to text, but I'm gonna give it a shot)
Reporters were asking him about his 31 carries and Pead instinctually started answering the question off the top of his head. Pead is a very sharp, quick-witted guy and these postgame sessions with reporters usually entaiil a stock answer that easily rolls off the tongue.
"While 31 carries was taking place I wasn't really paying attention to that," he said. "That's definitely a career high."
At this point, a change came over Pead's face and you could tell he just realized that he carried the ball 31-freakin times.
He paused and almost laughed to himself. "Thirty-one carries is a lot."
As I say at the end of any story that bombs in recount, guess you had to be there.
--- Anyway, Jones talked about Pead's durability really shining through. Few people talk about that with him. Understandable because he's never carried more than 21 times in a game and missed two games with injury this season.
But, he's beginning to show he's more than just a speed guy. He can beat you with quantity as well.
"It just comes back to durability and he was available the entire night," Jones said. "He got into a great rythym. He was in a zone Saturday night."
Indeed. And watching Pead try to carry his zone over to UConn and the second-leading rusher in the country in Jordan Todman should be quite a show in East Hartford, Conn.
--- Jones also talked about the development of Zach Collaros. With two games left in the season, he's nearly completed a full year as a starting quarterback. Judging by what we saw against Rutgers, he appears to have figured this system out. Jones didn't disagree.
"I thought Zach played the best game he's played to date this year," Jones said. "He was in control of the game. When you are in control of the game, the game plays slow to you. He's playing with great confidence."
One of the best throws of the game came right before halftime. Collaros saw DJ Woods running a corner route and lofted a pass up for him -- all while being blasted by a Rutgers rusher.
It landed right on the money for the score.
"He didn't even see the result," Jones said. "He could just hear the crowd."
--- Many noticed that freshman Devan Drane replaced Reuben Johnson at cornerback to open the second half. Unfortunately, Mark Harrison caught a deep ball over top of Drane on the first play to welcome him to the starting lineup.
Jones inferred it wasn't as much for performance as it was injury.
"Reuben has been hampered by injuries the whole season," Jones said. "Saturday night we could really see that being a factor."
Johnson was plain outrun down the sidelines on one of Harrison's deep passes in the second quarter. You just don't normally see that from Johnson, who is one of the faster players on the UC team.
As for Devan Drane...
"You don't want to put a true freshman out there," Jones said. "His eyes are wide. But that's where we are at right now. It is what it is."
--- Also, for anybody who thought Jones was running up the score, he adamantly denied that claim. And for good reason.
To think any lead was safe in that game would be crazy. It was the highest scoring game in the history of the Big East, to think the game couldn't flip in a heartbeat would have been a bit naive.
"I think I have proven throughout my career we would not do that," Jones said. It should be noted against Miami and Indiana State this year Jones took his foot off the accelerator late in the game. "We needed to score and Rutgers had some talented players. It was a game where you never felt comfortable."