Bearcats Breakfast 9.9.11

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Hopefully some of you are reading this from the road on your trip down to Knoxville. Should be a strong contingent of Bearcats fans down there from what I've seen and heard.

If you are looking for some information on where to go and what to do on gameday, here is a link to what they say on the UT athletics page. It's got the campus parking map and all that other jazz. All I can say is this won't be Kentucky Speedway, but preparing like it could be will save you major headaches Saturday afternoon.

Last week, I gave you the goals to make the opening game against Austin Peay a success. UC hit three of four and for the only one missed came on a garbage time TD against the third string.

The goals that would make this a success aren't as complicated this week. Win. Find a way to do so. Playing well and keeping it close may be a nice consolation, but this team has moved past that. This is a game that is winnable and the one step the program needs to take is finding a way to win in hostile environments. Here's the chance. Find a way.

But, simplicity doesn't lend itself to the blogging world. We must make everything more complex. So, let's dive into the four goals UC must accomplish if they are going to beat UT.

1. Hold UT to less than three yards per rush.
UC needs to exploit the Vols weakness. Without doubt, for more than a year now Tennessee has struggled mightily to run the football. It puts enormous pressure on their sophomore QB Tyler Bray.

Take a look at the Vols numbers in wins and losses last year in the run game:
Wins Rushes  Yds    Yds/Car Att/Gm Yds/Gm
6        190        826     4.35      31.7     137.8
7        218        594     2.72      31.1     84.9

Tennessee will attempt to run the ball and stick to the gameplan whether it is working or not, evidenced by the same number of attempts in wins and losses despite the dramatic drop in yards per carry. Of course, their run struggles continued last week when they averaged 2.78 yards per rush against FCS Montana. Spending the day stuffing Tauren Poole will force third-and-long situations where the young QB could make costly turnover mistakes.

2. Record more than three sacks.
UC's pass rush must get to Tyler Bray. Believe it or not, Montana came away with three sacks last week. If UC is stuffing the run and every time Bray drops back he's harassed by Derek Wolfe, Walter Stewart and company, any advantages on the perimeter are all but wiped out.

Opponents averaged 3.15 sacks per game last year against the Vols and had 15 more sacks than Tennessee during the season (41-26).

If reaching Bray means bringing blitzes from the outside, which was successful against Austin Peay, than so be it. Making Bray think fast and avoid finding rhythm with his tall, athletic receivers will be a must.

3. No more than one turnover. Allowing for a mistake or lucky bounce, UC must take care of the football. Being sloppy with ball security (Butch Jones said despite being turnover-free against AP, the team wasn't always securing the ball correctly), and forcing throws into traffic doomed UC last year. It can't be afraid to play conservative at times. Utilize the punting weapon it owns in Pat O'Donnell.

Far too often last week Collaros ran away from traffic and made wild throws in attempts to make plays. Many worked out. That won't happen against the SEC speed and instincts in orange.

You don't need me to show you splits of turnover margin in wins vs losses to know the importance of it, but I will anyway.

Tennessee in wins: +10
Tennessee in losses: -6
Cincinnati in wins: -3
Cincinnati in losses: -12

On top of being a reminder of just how poor UC was in this category last year, it's a reminder of what wins and loses games. Not wild scrambling gains of 12 yards. No, it's knowing when to throw it away. ZC says he's worked on that decision-making this offseason. Jones sees a difference in him. We shall see.

4. Isaiah Pead accumulates more than 150 yards. Pead is the most explosive weapon the Bearcats own. What he did against Oklahoma last year almost single-handedly kept UC in the game. He averages 6.6 yards per rush. This is his senior year. He thrives on the big stage. This has the feel of a statement game for @Ipead.

If UC can establish a running game with him it opens everything else. He can be the grinder which keeps the Tennessee offense off the field. Drives like the 14-play, 95 yard jaunt against AP would be the perfect pill to drop the Vols. Find open field for Pead, whether it be through screens or straight runs, he needs to be the most involved Bearcat.

I will return to the Win/Loss splits of 2010. In games the Bearcats won last year Pead touched the ball an average of 21 times per. In losses? 12.

If the Cats can capture three of these four categories they will be right there and it will come down to one or two plays. If they capture all four, they will win. Mark it down.

Let's eat...

--- Love all the SEC arrogance emanating from Knoxville, but the bottom line is Tennessee has not been very good since Phil Fulmer was fired. As Bill Koch points out in his preview, UT is 19-20 since the start of 2008 and haven't been in the Top 25 in three years.

--- Andrea Adelson with a
video blog post about the UC-Tennessee game.

(Sidenote: How about the fan base cuts out the hate mail to AA? I have seen an angry, bitter, spiteful email in her mailblog each of the last two weeks. Is this what this fan base is all about? Think what you will about her coverage, but spitting vitriol toward a reporter is ugly and unnecessary)

--- Down the Drive held a Q&A with RockyTopTalk about the Vols. Be an informed fan on Saturday.

--- VolQuest says
Tennessee was awful at nearly every aspect of running the football last week.

--- In case you missed it,
yesterday I posted a column on whether or not a win would erase 4-8. Here it is.

--- If UC can't pressure Bray, it could be a long day in the secondary. Kerry Coombs knows this and spoke with Bill about it. He talks about the practice of facing the UC offense every day. "I'd like to tell you win out here every day, but we don't because they are very good."

I've been there the days when they don't win. I wouldn't say Coombs takes it lying down...or quietly. Of course, he doesn't take it quietly when they win, either.

--- DJ Woods talked about this in my column yesterday, but Bill had it up in his blog so I want to toss up the link. Woods has been open about the fact he thinks people are making too big of a deal of this game. He's treating it as just another contest. His calm attitude can only help entering a less than calm situation.

Here is more of what DJ told me that I left out of yesterday's piece.

"It's not about pressure. I like pressure. If it is fourth and five, I want the ball. If it is the last second of the game, I want the ball. The other receivers feel the same way. It is just fun, people are making out football to be this big, huge thing, you know, at the same time, we just got to have fun. It is supposed to be fun, go out there and make plays and score touchdowns, that's just what we do.

"You should be excited to have an opportunity to play senior year. I am focused, I am zoned in, I know what I got to do and I am going to have fun down there."

---  Some randomness...

--- Rolling Stone has an excerpt from the new Pearl Jam book.

--- Who does Neil Diamond get to play HIS wedding? Talk about a tough gig.

--- This is why you
need to be careful who you chose to be in a relationship with. Moral of the Story: Don't date the Dutch.

--- Underrated 90s tunes week concludes with a classic that also stands as hopeful wishing for this weekend in Knoxville. Happy Traveling this weekend, everybody, and enjoy Rocky Top.

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