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Tuesday Lunch: Special Place Edition

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Butch Jones almost made it through his Tuesday press conference (watch full presser here) without answering any questions about rumors circulating of other schools expressing interest in him. UCLA, North Carolina and Illinois have been among those where his name popped up.

Jones slapped the podium and joked he thought he'd get out of here without being asked about it. Not so. Not with a fan base that has been under the watchful eye of three coaches in the last five years.

Don't think Jones was uninterested in broaching the topic, though. Quite the opposite. He came with his answer locked and loaded.

"I will always be up front and honest with you," he said. "There will be no beating around the bush. I think it's very flattering. I think it shows the progress people see around the country we have made in a very short period of time. I think it's a reaction to the efforts of so many people in this football program. It's our players. It's our coaching staff, it's our administration.

"I've said it and I'll continue to say it. I love being here, I think we have a great direction in where we are going."

The first reaction of UC fans will be predictable. We've heard these words before, they'll say. And they'd be right. And at this point in time, nobody knows anything about what will happen this offseason or in any offseason in the future.

All that is known for now is Jones will be involved in speculation because of the job he's done with this year's team. It comes with the territory. All he can do is be honest about how he feels about UC and prepare his team to win Saturday and in the bowl game. 

The rest will bounce around the interwebs and nobody can control it.   

"You know, it's that time of year," he said. "Rumors come and go. All it takes is one person to throw a name out there and Twitter it and it's across the country. That's why I don't get caught up in that stuff. I've continued to say praise and blame it's all the same. Our focus is on UConn and our football team. You can read everything, but I've said it: This is a very special place."

--- A few other interesting quotes from Jones during the press conference. He continued his ongoing push to sell tickets for Saturday's game. Nippert is not sold out yet. It's been 71 days since the Cats played there, they will be honoring 21 seniors and playing for at least a share of the Big East title. 

Plus, it's Fan Appreciation Day and tickets are only $20. 

"This is a football program, a football team that everybody in this community should be extremely proud of," Jones said. "Say, hey, this is our hometown football team. That's why coming out and supporting our team is critical. It's critical for our football program. It's critical for the bowl selection process." 

--- Not shockingly, Jones confirmed there will be a utilization of two quarterbacks during Saturday's game against UConn. The unknown element will be removed against Paul Pasqualoni, but there will be no reigning in the philosophy that worked so well against Syracuse. 

"You'll see both individuals play on Saturday," Jones said. "It's all about being in a rhythm on offense and picking your spots and playing to the strengths of each individual. I was pleased to see Jordan Luallen really step up, now he has to learn how to pick his feet up and finish runs."

--- Ah, yes, the dreaded turf monster. 

One of my favorite parts of the day today was catching up with Luallen and asking him about his faceplant inches from the goal line.

Jordan is a pretty outgoing, funny guy. I found that out interviewing during training camp and he brought some of the better one-liners from the football team this year. In the same light, he's taken the trip heard 'round Clifton in stride. 

It ended up on ESPN Sportsnation's Two Jeers, but Luallen wasn't embarrassed at all. The opposite, actually.

"I can take a negative approach at that, but I think it is pretty cool," Luallen said. "I mean, at least people are seeing it."

Yes, they are seeing it. The bottom line is it was a funny footnote to a difference-making performance from the Georgia Tech transfer.

"It was a nice run, wish I would have finished it off the right way. Felt like I helped the team gain a little momentum when I was in there, so it was nice."

Luallen certainly sparked the offense that sat stagnant against Rutgers. He sees that as a big part of his role Saturday.  

"Just kind of adding that extra dimension for the team, bring that spark and some excitement," he said. "I just really love being out on the field. I just want to bring the team some extra excitement."

The problem early Saturday for Luallen was he brought a little bit too much excitment.

"When I got out there, I guess I was a little too excited," he said."My heart was thumping pretty fast. (Alex) Hoffman and Randy (Martinez) had to tell me to calm down. It was just nice to be able to get out there. That first play I was a little shocked I gained about 15 on it. Then, the one that I fell on, I was, obviously, very shocked." 

--- Sunday will be a special day for the 21 seniors (I'll have more on them later this week), but for a few who grew up in Cincinnati and played for the Bearcats, it takes on a little extra. Chief among those is JK Schaffer. The guy has been a symbol of football in Cincinnati for the past 6-8 years dating back to his time as a standout at LaSalle.

This will be his last game in this city. When asked to reflect on his career you could hear the emotion start to flow through his voice a little bit. I think everyone remembers their final days at college and pretty much none of us did anything near as memorable or special as what Schaffer and the Bearcats have done and still hope to do.

He summed up the feelings on his career well.   

"I am happy," he said. "I am not satisfied yet, but I am happy. I am proud of it. To play for my hometown and my city is special to me and I wouldn't give it up for the world."

To play for his city and hometown with a shot at the Orange Bowl, however, would create the dream final chapter. For that, he'll need USF to pull the upset on WVU on Thursday night. Schaffer admitted, he will be watching.

"It will be tough to watch," he said. "I might have to send B.J. Daniels a text and tell him I need him."

--- Isaiah Pead said Butch Jones told the team he might not even watch the game on Thursday night and started to convince Pead that he shouldn't watch it either. The goal is to keep all focus on Saturday's game against UConn.

"It's absolutely zero distractions," Jones said. "The only game that matters is Saturday. We can only control what we can control, that is sharing a title saying we are Big East conference champions."  

Pead didn't waste much time to flash his standard smile and finish his thoughts, "I'll probably take a peek, though."

--- Much, much more coming from Isaiah. I sat down and watched the top 10 Pead moments that I collected and it was great to hear his perspective on some of his most memorable UC runs.

I made him pick a top three and I will only say that there are some suprises in there.

Thanks to all of you who did your homework and sent in your favorite Pead moments. I'll be sure to include a few in the final blog post this week. If you still want to tell me your favorite few Pead plays at UC, just send me an email (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com) or hit me up on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr).  

--- Quote of the day: Butch Jones, joking when asked about how he's approaching his team about Thursday's game between WVU and USF:

"There's a game Thursday?"

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