People will knock Cincinnati's 72-10 victory by questioning the opponent. Those criticisms will be fair, but there is something to be said for the Bearcats handling their business.
CINCINNATI - Austin Peay won't be winning many beauty contests this season. They won't be winning many football games, either.
Beating the Governors 72-10 won't cause much conversation across college football. Well, except for, "Austin Peay has a football program?"
Realistically, UC should have beat the Governors by 62 points on Saturday night. Zach Collaros should have been wearing a headset instead of a helmet in the second half. Isaiah Pead should have been telling jokes on the sideline after only seven carries. The UC ROTC should have topped out their push-up count after the last few touchdowns at 25.
You can argue what happened Saturday night should have. The vast talent differential stretching longer than the distance from Clarksville, Tenn. to Cincinnati insists as much.
All those facts don't diminish the encouragement gained from the fact that they did. Anybody who watched UC scrap to a 12-7 lead with Indiana State for a half last year can attest.
Sure, beating Austin Peay handily is what the Bearcats should have done, but following a year when UC didn't do what it should have done, 72-10 represents a refreshing plot twist.
"We handled our business," Butch Jones said, not once but twice. "That's the biggest thing we talked about. We had great focus and preparation throughout the week. It showed tonight."
UC racked up the third-most points in program history and most since Warren G. Harding was in office. The most post-Prohibition points won't make the difference when the Bearcats cross the orange checkered end zone at Neyland Stadium next week. But Saturday night's result certainly didn't do anything to diminish the team's confidence.
UC couldn't earn the ability to beat Tennessee with this Saturday's performance, but they could've lost it. Not handling their business could have carried over to next week. There's no reason to worry about that fate now.
Instead, Pead looked like a player prepared for one of the great seasons by a running back in program history. It only took one cutback and 40-yard run on the first offensive play of the game to make that obvious.
Ralph David Abernarthy IV looked like a valuable special teams weapon on kick returns. UC waited until the 10th game of the 2010 season to return a kickoff longer than 40 yards and never ran one longer than 50. Abernathy did so on the first play on 2011.
Collaros looked like, well, like the defending first team All-Big East quarterback in tossing four touchdowns to three different receivers. He wasn't perfect, but far from rusty.
The business-like focus and chip on the shoulder preached throughout the offseason showed up in the form of results at the first opportunity. It all comes as part of handling business. Bringing suit and tie to the stadium is all part of the refreshed attitude in this group.
"We had this toughness about us that is you scratch us we won't bleed," Pead said. "That's what you got to carry on for the rest of the season. It could be Austin Peay, but it will be there against Tennessee next week, too."
will resemble Austin Peay in the same way Nippert Stadium resembles Neyland
Stadium. Peay has now lost 142-13 in two games against BCS teams the last two
Still, results are results.
UC didn't beat itself. It committed only three penalties and none of the personal four variety. A team that spent last season working its way down to 119th in the country in turnover margin never gave the ball away.
It created three turnovers. Linebacker JK Schaffer, who had one interception and dropped two more, knows what he will take from tonight into Tennessee.
"I learned that I need to catch the ball," he said. "I am probably going to get a Juggs machine for my apartment."
Tackling and special teams coverage (Peay took 10 kickoffs back for a 196 yards) were concerns, but holding the Governors to 2 of 10 on third-down conversions provided results on a point of emphasis.
Yes, you can argue all of things should have happened, but the fact they did showed the Bearcats are on the right track.
The train could derail once it reaches Knoxville, but it hasn't yet. And there's reason to believe it might not at all.
"It gives you confidence," Jones said.What we learned Saturday can only be considered encouraging. What we learn next Saturday will be considered substantial.
"When we go
to Tennessee," Schaffer said, "and there's
110,000 that hate you, it is a little different story."