I wrote more about that concept after the game Saturday night. Here it is.
There is no way to call Saturday night anything but a success. There were a few areas that needed to be cleaned up, kickoff coverage and tackling chief among them. But for the most part, the team was crisp. ZC wasn't perfect, but he made some nice throws while leading TD drives.
Last week, I stated four goals UC needed to accomplish to make the night a success. Here's how they turned out:
1. Five scores in the first half? Check. They actually had six and scored touchdowns on six of seven drives. That includes back-to-back drives that went for double-digit plays (14 and 10). My guess is you will see more and more of these long, calculated drives as the season goes along.
2. No sacks allowed? Check. Zach scrambled a few times and managed to make plays, but was never sacked. The offensive line did a nice job keeping the pressure off. On a few throws (especially TD to Kenbrell Thompkins), he had a country mile to step up in the pocket and pass.
3. No TDs allowed? Nope. Peay managed to push one in against UC's third/fourth string defense late in the game. But 41-0 halftime score with Peay only sniffing the Bearcats end of the field once was a quality effort.
4. Plus-3 turnover margin? Check. UC ended up plus-5. Most importantly, they didn't commit a turnover themselves. And outside of a few passes Peay could have snagged, there weren't any close calls. UC recovered three fumbles and had two interceptions. JK Schaffer dropped two more picks on top of the one he corralled. Schaffer couldn't believe he dropped those two after the game and pledged to put a Juggs machine in his living room. If he does, I'll go to his roommates for their unhappy comments.
--- Miss the game? Shame on you. But here are the highlights. The intro video (Fantastic). And the kickoff video (Also fantastic).
Don't say I never did anything for you.
Actually, go ahead and say I never did anything for you. Those last two videos are courtesy of Tommy G, who not only called a great game on FoxSportsOhio on Saturday, but did so after becoming a father earlier that morning with the birth of his son, Sawyer.
Big congrats to Tommy G and his wife Marissa.
--- All the reviews I've heard from the UC fans are that The Grid tailgating area was a huge success. They said there was plenty of space for grilling and cornhole all the other tailgating activities. There were dollar drafts and centrally located restrooms. Sounds like the team walking through the tailgate area was an exciting experience, as well.
Can't wait to stop by on my way in and check it out in a few weeks.
--- I talked with Munchie Legaux a little bit after the game. In his first college game at quarterback, he did relatively well. He was 2 of 3 passing for 40 yards, while running five times for 36. He showed the different dimension he brings and had a nice handle on the offense.
The reality is, Legaux is one snap away from possibly having to lead this offense in front 100k+ at Tennessee. It's a challenge he takes seriously.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself," he said. "At the same time, you got to be ready. You are one snap away. You got to prepare yourself like you are the starter just in case. If that goes down, you have to be there. You don't want the offense to slow down because the two-quarterback is in there. It's a big thing."
By my unscientific estimation, his 5-yard TD run was the first touchdown by a guy named Munchie in the history of college football. A truly historic evening.
The moment was so overwhelming, Legaux forgot what happens next.
"I didn't even know what to do after," he said. "I just stood up there and gave the ball to the ref."
--- Also spoke with Ralph David Abernathy IV. This was the first time I'd had the pleasure of speaking with him since the freshman arrived. Really nice kid. And apparently well-suited to return kicks.
RDAIV took the opening kickoff of the season 60 yards.
You know how many games it took last year for a return longer than 40? 10.
You know how many games it took last year for a return longer than 50? Never happened.
One kickoff into the season, and both of those were broken. Not a bad start at all. But it wasn't a mind-blowing number for him.
"It's not to me because all through camp all the work we put in on kick return and all special teams as big importance. I wasn't surprised at all. I mean, it was what we were planning on doing anyway."
They should go ahead and plan on doing that next week against Tennessee as well.
Hard to imagine what must be going through the head of a freshman about to be the first one to touch the ball for the Bearcats' new season. Turns out, RDAIV wasn't thinking about much.
"My mind was clear," he said. "I was sitting there just focusing on the ball. I wasn't thinking anything. I was just thinking when I caught the ball just run like hell."
--- Give some credit to Tony Miliano. In what could have been a disastrous night when he missed the first PAT of his career, he came back to knock nine in a row through the uprights. He also nailed a 39-yard field goal.
The ability to forget about the first kick shows he can forget about a mistake and move forward. That's half the battle at the kicker position.
--- For the record, Isaiah Pead called that the first play of the season would be a touchdown. You really have to love his confidence.
"I told the team that," Pead said. "During the week the coach showed us the first 10 plays we would run. The first one I said, 'We are scoring on that play, so you might as well start gameplanning for after.'"
--- How about some game coverage. Joe Kay had the AP's gamer here. Bill Koch's game story here. Some game notes. And a quick preview of Tennessee.
Tennessee beat Montana 42-16 on Saturday in Knoxville. Montana was 7-4 last season, but never played an opponent from a BCS conference.
Meanwhile, the Vols hardly resembled an SEC powerhouse. They fumbled six times (remarkably didn't lose one) and had two picks nullified by penalties.
--- An inability to run the ball doomed UT last year and it appears to have rolled over as they only managed about three yards per carry against FCS Montana.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press explores the concern over rushing the football.
--- Every year, Tennessee plays a non-SEC, BCS conference opponent. UC fills that spot this year. Yet, over the last four years where the program has taken a relative downturn, they have not been victorious once.
Here are the results:
2007 @California L 45-31
2008 @UCLA L 27-24 OT
2009 vsUCLA L 19-15
2010 vs No. 7 Oregon L 48-13
Also, keep in mind, Tennessee needed overtime to beat UAB at home last year. In 2009, my Bobcats of OU only trailed by one possession in the fourth quarter in an eventual 34-23 defeat.
Of course, Oregon went on to play for the national title, but the 48-13 whooping is among the worst in Vols history. That 2009 UCLA team wasn't exactly a world-beater, they went 3-6 in Pac-10 play and finished 7-6 on the year.
The intimidation of playing at Neyland Stadium is a thing of the past. Too many teams recently have gone in there and experienced success.
I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
--- Tennessee also has its rivalry game with Florida the week after UC. Could they be looking past the Cats? Maybe a little bit.
Just know UC has its focus solely on Knoxville. This game is circled as a chance to erase all the negativity and bad taste of 2010. It has the potential to catapult the program back to the elite Big East level it was at prior to last year.
you play for," Pead said. "You play for the fans screaming at you the players talking the
trash. Then you walk out the stadium and its silent because we have done walked
out with a win. It is something you dream about. I may not be able to get to
sleep the night before, I am going to be so excited. This is a great opportunity;
we are ready to embrace it. We know how close we were with Oklahoma last year, we are ready to bring
that same fire."
--- Austin Peay game photo gallery via BearcatLair.
--- Say what you will about the aesthetic appeal of some Big East wins, but the conference went 8-0 this week.
That includes victories against a Top 25 team, the ACC and CUSA. The next few weeks will mean much more, but a nice start.
--- Brutal weekend for UC players in the pros. Cutdown day meant bad news for a number of former Cats.
Armon Binns (Jacksonville), Brandon Underwood (Green Bay), Trevor Canfield (Jets), DeAngelo Smith (Browns) and Ricardo Mathews (Colts) were all let go.
Mardy Gilyard was also cut by St. Louis. Yet, Rex Ryan and the Jets decided to pick him up Sunday. While I am was a little surprised the Rams cut Mardy simply because of how extensively they had been using him on kick and punt returns this preseason, NY will be a nice fit for him.
Hopefully a change of scenery changes his luck.
--- As for good news, TE Ben Guidugli made the Rams as an undrafted free agent. Congrats to Ben who always saw himself as a pro even when people started to doubt him last season.
Hopefully his position holds and the Rams don't try to pick somebody else up to take his place. Here was some Rams analysis on both Gilyard and Guidugli from insideSTL.com.
--- Butch Jones will speak on the weekly teleconference at 12:10 p.m. today. If anything interesting comes out of it you can find it on my Twitter feed (@pauldehnerjr) and then the media luncheon will be tomorrow and I'll have plenty from there on the blog and Twitter.
On to some randomness...
--- My extreme jealousy hit a tipping point when I saw this happened at the Pearl Jam 20th anniversary weekend concerts in Alpine Valley, Wisc.
Chris Cornell showed up and sang Hunger Strike with the crew. Must have been an awesome moment if you were there.