Bearcats Breakfast 1.2.12

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Wow, what a weekend for the Bearcats.

I suppose it could have been better, but unless you played the Powerball...

First, UC caps off a breakthrough season under Butch Jones for their 10th victory in one of the more exciting bowls and fourth quarters of the entire bowl season. Zach Collaros takes every snap to change the final view of his career from being carted off the field at Paul Brown Stadium to holding a trophy at the Liberty Bowl. Isaiah Pead goes out the way he spent all his days at UC, breaking off game-changing runs and looking like the best player on the field.

A senior class that reset the expectations at UC left with its first bowl victory.

Second, undermanned and outsized, the Bearcats basketball team goes into a place it hasn't won since 1979 and pulls out a victory against No. 22 Pitt. The Panthers are struggling right now, but this was supposed to be a mismatch. With only 6-7 Justin Jackson manning the middle against the top offensive rebounding team in the country that should have been all that mattered. Instead, grit and hustle forced 17 turnovers and the team that couldn't hit a shot against Oklahoma gave way to the Bearcats from the first four games of the streak.

A team everyone counted out after the Crosstown Shootout went a perfect 6-0 without any bigs.

Happy New Year, indeed.

Let's eat...

--- Posted this on Twitter immediately after the game, stating that not many teams have won 10 games in four of the last five years. At the time it was just a blanket statement I assumed to be true from general knowledge. Yet, when I don't get to do some type of statistical research for a few days, my shoulders and neck start to twitch like a character from Trainspotting.

So, I had to look up how many BCS programs have won 10 games in four of the last five years.

Just six. That's it.

Virginia Tech (the only team to win 10 games in each of the last five years)
Ohio State (who many UC fans point out technically won 0 in 2010, so shouldn't be listed)

That, my friends, is keeping good company.

--- Really, for Liberty Bowl talk,
I'd like to revert all the way back to the Pep Rally on Friday. Both teams and their fans gathered on Beale St. for the festivities. However, an interesting thing happened, when Butch Jones stepped up to the mic. The polite, well-mannered coach couldn't resist himself. As the absurd chant of "S-E-C, S-E-C," came from the Commie faithful... (Zack Morris timeout)

If you win 15 SEC games in 10 years are you still allowed to chant S-E-C? All I kept thinking off was the kid who is 47 inches tall coming up just short of the 48 inches requirement to ride the Vortex. You have to be this high to ride the ride. Shouldn't there be some type of minimum requirement to use that chant? Somebody check the patent.

(And we're back)

So, as Jones heard the S-E-C chant, he cracked off a "that's overrated" toward the Commies base. As he went on, you could almost see him steaming thinking about it. Only a few seconds later, he broke out this gem.

"At UC, we don't get excited for six wins, we win championships."

How about you, coach. Like it. It all starts at the one-minute mark.

--- As for the game, here are the highlights in case you missed it.

--- Isaiah Pead showed off his incredible vision and second-level spurt one last time for NFL scouts to drool over. It wrapped up one great career in Cincinnati.

Pead finishes his career with 545 carries (6th all-time), 3,288 yards (3rd), and 27 TDs (3rd). He averaged 6.03 yards per carry.

His six 100-yard games this season tie for fourth all-time at UC.

By the numbers, he won't go down as the greatest running back in Bearcats history. But he's in the conversation. Reggie Taylor, Allen Harvin and DeMarco McCleskey top the record books as the best running backs in school history, but looking at their best seasons, Pead's this year stacks right up there.

Take a look at their signature seasons in comparison to Pead:

RB               Year   Att    Yds  Yds/Att
Harvin           1978  233  1,283  5.5
Taylor           1986  264  1,325   5.0 
McCleskey   2002  315  1,361   4.3
Pead            2011  237  1,259   5.3

So, Harvin narrowly takes the nod, but this is completely forgetting Pead's contributions in the passing game. Specifically late in the season, so many of those bubble screens were essentially set up as Pead runs.

He also caught 39 passes for 319 yards, taking his season total in offensive yards from scrimmage to 1,578 yards on 276 plays. In Harvin's '78 season, he didn't catch one pass.

While I can't make a fair comparison to Harvin, Taylor or really even McCleskey because I didn't see them play on a regular basis, it's pretty obvious there were few more productive seasons in UC history by a running back. If Pead isn't the best running back to come out of UC he's at least a close second.

For my longtime UC fans that read the blog -- if you saw the other three, let me know. How does Pead compare? Where do you rank him?

--- Since when you talk about Pead, you must talk speed, how about we talk about Ralph David Abernathy IV. We've seen that one coming for a few games now, including when he got run down by the kicker against Syracuse. It didn't happen this time and RDAIV wasn't getting caught from behind. The kid can fly. Putting him back there this season was one of the most underrated great decisions made by Butch Jones this year. He could have placed a veteran back to return kicks. He could have gone with DJ Woods who has plenty of speed and had done it in years past. But he wanted some explosive, fresh energy.

That energy swung the momentum and won him a bowl game.

UC finished 2010 with just one kickoff return of 40+ yards. They had four this year.

Plus, for the grandson of a civil rights leader to do this in Memphis, one of the homes of the civil rights movement, is just a script that Hollywood would throw out for being too unbelievable.

--- Instant game analysis
from the Big East Blog at ESPN.

--- Jones called Zach Collaros the best story of the bowl season a few times this past week. After the game, although ZC showed rust and didn't look as crisp as normal, Jones pointed out in this ESPN society you only see the highlights, but the eight hours per day spent in the training room go unnoticed.

Just him being out there was a minor miracle, him taking every snap serves as the perfect final memory of the warrior and competitor he was for the program the last few years.

--- Adrien Witty. My head still hurts after watching that hit.

--- George Winn. Guy manned up for physical yards in a thankless role all season then (thanks to a busted chin strap on Pead) he earns his highlight moment. Another in a long line of great stories.
--- How about the cops on the UC motorcade sporting the C-Paw on their helmets. Nice touch.

--- All things considered, from the activities during the week, to the game setup pregame to the actual victory in exciting fashion, and I assume there was a bit of NYE revelry on Beale St., the Liberty Bowl ended up being a perfect spot for UC this year. I'm not saying Miami wouldn't have been nice, but this really worked out splendidly.

--- Moving on to the Weekend of the Bearcats, Part II. Cronin called it and we wrote about it on this blog at the very beginning of the season, JaQuon Parker is this year's Dion Dixon. If you didn't know, you'd have assumed watching the first half last night that Parker was the team's leading scorer. And that's not just because he was hitting 3s. Even before he started catching fire from deep, he was the most aggressive UC player offensively, attacking the basket with confidence.

Yes, the offensive change made a difference, but the insertion of Parker did as well.

Here are Parker's numbers since being inserted into the starting lineup: 13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 turnovers.

Parker's sample size is too small to qualify at this time, but his offensive rating from Kenpom is 136.1. The current national leader is Damien Lillard at Weber State with 132.5.

--- I can't remember a UC team scrapping this hard in ages. How many rebounds, loose balls did they win by pure hustle? Whatever number, they were worth more than four points. That's why UC wins this game.

This quote from Mick to Bill Koch at The Enquirer:

"We're playing unbelievable right now," Cronin said. "I'm just proud of my team. Extreme effort at all times. It's very easy to coach my basketball team right now. I can make adjustments. Everybody's locked in, everybody's focused and we're making some shots."

--- After finding 16 deflections
in the final eight minutes against Oklahoma, that energy rolled over to Pitt.

"I told our guys that for us 40 deflections equals victory," Cronin said. "We were going to have to steal rebounds that we can't get because of our lack of size and we're going to get 17 or more turnovers. We got 17 turnovers and 41 deflections and all that was with relentless effort by our guys. When you watch those guys play you wonder how they do it, they are so small. Our center is 6-6 and a half, 215 pounds."

--- There's an uninformed narrative that circulated at a few places today, specifically this story from a usually credible source of The Dagger blog at Yahoo! and then Beyond the Arc at NBC.

Both seem to suggest there are only two options as Yancy Gates and co., return from suspension Wednesday against Notre Dame: keep the same four-guard offense OR return Gates to the lineup.

They don't seem to understand that Gates playing the 5 in the four-guard offense does both. Justin Jackson, while quick and athletic doesn't provide anywhere near the offensive presence or pure rebounding prowess of Gates. Nor does he have the physical ability on screens or ability to hit a jumper.

Now, this transition will be dicey to be sure, but to think that because Gates is reinserted into the lineup, anything about the play of Parker, Cash, SK or Dion will change doesn't hold water. He's only a different piece holding down the middle. A much larger, imposing piece.

"We should be better," Cronin said. "We have more depth. We'll be able to withstand foul trouble. We should be able to press more and be more aggressive. We should be an even better team. The one thing about it, the guys have been in practice. It's different when you don't have guys because they are hurt.  Like Tray Woodall for the last month has been hurt and different guys are out with injuries. For us, it will be different in game situation. We don't put them all the time as the scout team. We try to make the teams different but even every day so they all get used to playing each other."

--- Big East power rankings out from ESPN. UC lands sixth.

As Cronin has said seemingly hundreds of times during the rebuild, winning in the Big East requires quality veteran players. It is as proven as the sun rising in the East. Youth just gets gobbled up and exposed in the intensity and grind of the schedule.

There is a ton of youth at the bottom of the BE this year, specifically at some schools perennially at the top of the conference. Villanova and West Virginia top that list.

The depth of the conference is far from what it was in recent years because of so many young teams. That greatly increases UC's chances of the double-digit conference victories it will likely need to score a second consecutive trip to The Dance.

--- Not much to randomize today since there was so much UC content, but wanted to officially wish everyone a happy new year and post this video of what I think had to be one of the coolest places to be as midnight struck. Phish was playing at Madison Square Garden and dropped thousands of balloons onto the crowd then played a wild up-tempo rendition of Down with Disease while people sprung up and randomly levitating above the balloons and crowd. Hard to explain. Well, just watch.

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