Anybody else's head still spinning from a wild weekend of sports? Oregon, Kansas State, more realignment rumors, Rutgers, SK, record-setting basketball at Fifth Third. Hard to keep up, but I'll try.
Tough loss to swallow against Rutgers. Starting with anything but a tip of the cap would be wrong because that Rutgers team brings the hammer up front -- both offensively and defensively. The physicality with which they play on the lines was startling to see.
The frustrating element for the Bearcats was they made so many plays that typically offset a team imposing their will at the line. Between the two red zone interceptions and blocked field goal, they set themselves up to be one breakout play away from pulling off the win.
Can't remember a game where a team was nearly shutout but able to gain momentum on almost every drive. The beginning first down of any series tends to be the most difficult and once the drive gets going the playbook opens up for the coordinator. Mike Bajakian has done a great job this year utilizing different options. Somehow Rutgers found a way to stop drive after drive backed into their own territory.
Nine of 10 drives were in the Rutgers end? That is crazy.
Nonetheless, we move on. The sun rose again and UC will move the goals toward another 10-win season. Would be the fifth time in the last six seasons. That journey begins Friday for Senior night on ESPN against South Florida. Many great seniors deserving of the ovations they'll receive Friday. None more than Walter Stewart, still the most remarkable story of this season.
Here's the list of seniors on the roster playing their last game at Nippert (Blair and/or Kay could receive medical redshirts):
Dominique Battle, Maalik Bomar, Greg Blair, Cam Cheatham, Adam Dempsey, Adam Fearing, Drew Frey, Dan Giordano, Sean Hooey, Damon Julian, Brendon Kay, Travis Kelce, Pat Lambert, Colin Lozier, Danny Milligan, Brandon Mills, Malcolm Murray, Demetrius Richardson, Aaron Roberson, Stewart, Kenbrell Thompkins, Chris Williams, John Williams, George Winn.
They deserve to hear from you: 7 p.m., Friday, Nippert Stadium, ESPN.
Let's eat ...
--- These conference realignment rumors sap all the energy out of college football for me. The latest involve a scenario where Rutgers and Maryland could bolt for the B1G. We could know more later today as Maryland takes a vote on the possibility and where the heck they are going to come up with the $50 million exit fee. The types of dollars being thrown around in college football are mind-blowing.
Until we know anything more, it's unfair to discuss any possible fallout. It's exhausting.
Want to get a grip on the money in college football, check out this 60 Minutes piece from last night on the college football arms race. Staggering.
--- Very cool to see the role Battle continues to play for this team. He came back against all odds and has utilized his football intelligence and instincts to make big plays. He played almost the entire second half and had the big pick in the end zone just before halftime. The interception was all a matter of anticipating throws, what he does best.
Battle sets a great example for the 65 first- and second-year players on the roster.
--- Butch Jones name will come up in head-coaching rumors. The same way they did last year. At the current state of the program, it comes with the territory. You want your coach on other team's lists. Just because he's rumored doesn't mean he's going anywhere.
Similar rumors floated around last offseason in regards to Illinois, UNC and a few others. He's still here.
--- As I mentioned in my story Saturday, Jones made sure he thanked the fans for what he viewed as a fantastic atmosphere at Nippert. Have to agree with him. Sold out student section and 34k-plus for a near overall sellout made for a rowdy Nipp on a gorgeous day. He was literally apologizing for not bringing home a win for them. Obvious he wants to deliver for this program in a way he hasn't yet.
"We'll get it done," he said.
--- All signs point to a trip to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27. Absolutely love Charlotte. Great city. Highly recommend the Cajun Queen if you are into cajun food at all. Incredible.
--- USF comes in here struggling and with BJ Daniels injured and now back up Bobby Eveld injured, they could be sporting a third-string QB while coming off a 40-9 loss to Miami. Not pretty in Tampa right now.
--- UC posted a 54-point victory over North Carolina A&T on Sunday. Sean Kilpatrick outscored them for a half. He finished with a career high 29 points on 8 of 12 shooting from 3-point range. He's now averaging 21 points per game.
Unfortunately, some other obligations kept me from being there, but Ashley Davis was there and wrote about the slew of records falling at 5/3.
--- A big number to point out for me was the 12 blocks. Blocked shots are a staple of playing against bad teams. Teams like NCA&T aren't used to that type of ability guarding the rim. That said, the combination of David Nyarsuk and Cheikh Mbodj have shown as good an ability to block shots as any in recent memory.
Last year, UC blocked double-digit shots twice all season. They've now done it twice in three games. They had 10 against UT-Martin and 12 Sunday. Mick Cronin talked about not putting his centers in the position to constantly have to make up for mistakes, but having that type of protection will be essential.
What was the biggest difference last season for Louisville? Gorgui Dieng guarding the rim made scoring a nightmare against those guys. When a team like UC can garner so many points from their perimeter players, they don't need a huge offensive output from the 5 position, but do need them to be a force defensively. With 29 blocks through three games, so far, so good.
We will see how much that continues when the team heads to Vegas this week.
--- First, the Campbell Camels come to town Tuesday. Yes, the Camels. Some may joke, but camels can be a quite ornery animal. I don't know about you, but when I see a camel, the last thing I want to do is fight it.
--- On a serious note, this storyline about UC's schedule has popped up at a few press conferences and interview sessions. Can't stand this. You look at the Bearcats schedule as a whole this year and it will probably end up as the most difficult in the history of the school. Everybody plays cupcake teams early. Every-Body. UC is about to head to a tournament featuring a great UNLV team in their backyard.
To play them they have to get through a 3-0 Iowa State team that won 22 games and was an 8 seed beating UConn in last year's Big Dance.
They have non-con games against Alabama (4-0 with a 22-point win against Villanova), New Mexico (3-0, plays UConn tonight, 5 seed last year, nearly beat Louisville in tournament) and Xavier (pummeled Butler, no need to discuss intensity of that game more), all who will finish near the top of their major conference. Not to mention Marshall in Charleston.
Oh yeah, then they play the Big East. Shelve the schedule talk.
--- Talked to Titus Rubles late last week about his pump fake. Everybody compares it to Sam Young from Pittsburgh who would repeatedly draw defenders into the air. The Pittsburgh Tribune even wrote this story about Young's fake. Here's a YouTube example.
Rubles is in the same category. Haven't seen anything like it at UC where every single defender that comes at him ends up airborne with Rubles driving around them.
It's a deadly weapon. It's even evolved since his senior year of high school.
"My pump fake used to be even crazier, I used to almost leave the ground," he said. "Sometimes the referre would call a travel so much coach was like, you got to stop doing that."
Kilpatrick is among the players attempting to stop it in practice. Himself, Justin Jackson and JaQuon Parker mainly draw the assignment.
"The slowest pump fake in America," Kilpatrick said, but then gives the proper suffix. "But it works."
Kilpatrick compares his offensive pace to Boston's Paul Pierce. The methodical rhythm of his game throws off defenders, especially those dying to get a piece of his jumper.
"It's like my shot, my shot is so slow, people got to go for it," Rubles said. "You either are going to go for it or I am going to shoot it in your face. One of the two."
Kilpatrick says he's gotten better where he doesn't always fall for the fake. But even the experienced Rubles defender forgets what's coming periodically.
"Closeout situations, where you got to run and get him," Kilpatrick said, "He'll catch you."
So, what's the secret, Titus?!?
"It's just a talent," he said. "I can't be telling people about that."
--- Andy Katz at ESPN asks if Cincinnati is a contender or pretender, then points out we will learn plenty this weekend in Vegas.
--- Reminder about Vegas games, the first game vs. Iowa State will be on CBS-College Sports. Then the championship game will also be on CBS-College Sports. A possible consolation game on Day 2 will not be televised. Props to Tommy G on the info.
--- On to some randomness ...
--- Sometimes a police officer needs to fight a clown in public. Whatever it takes to serve the community and feed those thirsty ofr viral video.
--- PETA may be interested in this video of Lee Corso essentially strangling a duck during his headgear statement. Let the feathers fly!
--- The restaurant review skewering to end all restaurant review skewerings has turned into and out-and-out feud between NYT and Guy Fieri.
--- You may have noticed I've railed quite regularly against Gangnam Style (which I understand isn't going anywhere, unfortunately), however, you will not find me railing against MC Hammer, who joined the guy who does that song (you mean he's not a robot?) on stage at the American Music Awards last night.
Please, Hammer, don't hurt 'em.
--- With all this Hammer talk and the tough loss on Saturday, it only seems fitting we roll with 2 Legit 2 Quit today.