Thursday night's victory was resounding and impressive. It was only worth one win. But it sure felt like more than that.
CINCINNATI -- At the end of the season, Thursday night's 44-14 drubbing will count for little more than one victory. It won't deliver any of the Bearcats' goals. It won't bring them any closer to a Big East championship. It won't place them into a high-profile bowl game. In fact, as far as games providing a tangible impact on the success of the season, it probably won't rank in the top three.
It was only one win.
But it sure did feel like more, didn't it?
For a program which spent too much time over the last 13 months being kicked around and enduring teachable moments on very public stages, Thursday offered a reprieve. It offered a physical reality of all the words and rhetoric about progress and building a culture. And it did so emphatically.
The words of Butch Jones came to life. His signature swooped through every run, pass and kick. The Bearcats played with passion, physicality and pride. The blueprint was laid for the type of football Jones preached about since arriving Day One.
Thursday was a night Jones can point to and proclaim: This is Cincinnati football. This is my philosophy. And it works. Even in 3D.
"I think it was just great for the program," Zach Collaros said. "I think it's great for the city. And have people come out and notice us that we are winning games and that we are going to continue to win games."
Collaros stopped shy of calling it a turning point victory. As the season unfolds and UC football becomes a topic around Christmas parties, perhaps people will point to this Thursday and say it turned the tide. Perhaps they'll claim it was the moment they knew Cincinnati would be just fine.
At least temporarily, it certainly changes the conversation.
"I think that this was definitely a statement game that we are the real thing," DL Derek Wolfe said. "That we are not going to go to sleep on anybody. Just because we lost to Tennessee, doesn't mean anything. OK, we beat Akron, people want to say, well, (the Zips) are not that good. I am sure people will say the same thing about NC State. They are not that good. You can just keep saying that. At the end of the season when we are..."
Unlike all evening during a game the Bearcats registered six sacks, Wolfe stopped his momentum before reaching the point of impact.
"...Well, we are going to be just fine - we'll be just fine," Wolfe said. "I am not going to go out and say anything crazy, but we will be just fine."
In one of the offseason promos, an exclusive video of Butch Jones before a game catches him motivating his team with this phrase: "They are going to feel our program, tonight!"
They felt a team run the ball as well, if not better than it passed it out of the spread. They felt a team wear down an opponent tired of chasing the back of No. 23 all night.
"We wanted to take their will away," Isaiah Pead said. "I think we did that."
They left an N.C. State team questioning itself while standing in the shadows of a scoreboard beaming 44-14.
"It is an embarrassing loss," N.C. State senior LB Audi Cole said. "It is not what we are out here for. Good game for them, but we didn't perform. And we haven't performed yet if you ask me. We better figure something out."
Cole admitted to viewing this one as a win prior to the season. He looked shell-shocked after the game. He sounded disbelieving. Overall, he was...He was...Can somebody help with the perfect word here?
"After last year," Wolfe said, "we want to demoralize our opponents."
Yep, demoralized. That's the one. A term reminiscent of what could be called the recent yesteryear of the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
"We showed Flashes of (2009)," Pead said. "But it's 2011. We are on to bigger and better things now."
Before Thursday night, few would have believed that last sentence. Much like many words spoken by UC players and coaches, they own credibility now. All because of one win. But it sure does feel like more than that.