Redemption Song

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The Bearcats six takeaways and three defensive touchdowns was as much an effort to repair a fractured reputation as take down Akron.

CINCINNATI - The Bearcats defense spent the past seven days enduring insults and criticism. Writers, broadcasters, even its own fans didn't miss an opportunity to take shots.

Few minced words.

A quick Google search provides the basics: Porous. Frustrating. Horrible.

And that's without diving into the message board cesspool.

In case the defense didn't use the keywords "Bearcats+defense" this week, Butch Jones allowed the Cliff's Notes version.

"Coach Jones makes sure we know," Derek Wolfe said. "He makes sure we know right before practice. I don't know that anything that bad was said --- I knew there was going to be some things. But he made sure we knew."

A week of being battered publicly can build up frustration. Or at least that appeared the case inside Nippert Stadium as the defense spent Saturday taking it out on the Akron Zips, 59-14.

Make no mistake, this was as much a message to Akron as anyone who used a Thesaurus to find synonyms for disappointing.

"I knew it was a redemption game," CB Camerron Cheatham said. "It wasn't a secret what happened to our defense last week. We knew that we had to repair our reputation."


The reputation might not be completely healed, but a tourniquet and band-aid were successfully applied.

UC not only earned its first defensive touchdown since December 2008, but went ahead and made up for lost time with three of them.

It was the first time a Big East team had three defensive touchdowns since Miami in 2000.

In all, the nation's second-best turnover margin entering the day increased by five.

The first Akron possession was a sight for sore Bearcats eyes as Wolfe applied a pass rush fans begged to see last week in Tennessee to force a fumble Maalik Bomar returned 54 yards for a touchdown.

So, the redemption from Knoxville began.

"That was nice," Wolfe said, with wide eyes and an exhale. "It was nice to get in there a couple times. I played limited snaps, but I have been itching to get back on the field after the Tennessee game."

Dominique Battle jumped a route for a pick-6 soon after. Cheatham decided not to wait another three years to repeat the feat and tiptoed the sidelines for a 53-yard interception return of his own as the score skyrocketed to an absurd 49-0 at the break.

Coaches and players credited a renewed emphasis on attacking the ball in the air and, of course, the motivation of changing the conversation.

"I am not going to say that stuff goes in one ear and out the other," Bomar said. "That stuff hurts when you hear it, I feel like that did motivate me to a certain extent. But I just went out there and played today."

The motivation and resolve told a important storyline for Jones.

"We don't play well as a football team it all affects all of us," he said. "This is our livelihood and our players are very prideful. To see them bounce back was great to see."

As far as what it means? Probably not much more than 2-1 for now.

The Zips won't be making any highlight shows anytime soon. In fact, Austin Peay has probably already contacted them about a Homecoming game in 2012.

Nobody will care about three defensive scores or seven points allowed if N.C. State rains yards and points Thursday night. Still, for a defense used as the punchline of every joke this side of the Ohio River this week, it was nice to enjoy a few laughs of their own.

"I thought we played smart, physical defensively," Wolfe said. 'It was good just to get our confidence back where it needs to be with a big game Thursday."

Due to the ease of the victory and this game being little more than a blip on the ticker nationally, the Bearcats theme for Akron week reads quite the same as N.C. State week.

"We know what N.C. State did last year and that's another redemption game," Cheatham said. "So we got to get back to work and in the film room."

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