middle of all of the conference angst, there still is a football game
to be played Friday.
While going through some facts and
figures for a radio interview, one of the best ones I saw came from The
Weather Channel app I have on my IPad. I was worried about
warmer-than-average temperatures Friday, since Thanksgiving Day features
a high of 65.
However, a tad of our northern weather
returns just in time for Friday night and South Florida. Friday's high
is set for 47. so it goes to reason that by kickoff that figure will
drop into the low 40s and possibly upper 30s.
UC. Big time.
Having witnessed nearly all of the
UC/USF games in person, I have seen games played here as early as late
October where the Bulls would be bundled up in tights, gloves and attire
normally meant for Lambeau Field conditions. As simple as it is, the
Bulls from Tampa don't care for the cold.
matter, neither does anyone who lives in Florida on a regular basis.
Thankfully, UC's abundant Florida recruits have been acclimated to the
ever-changing climate around here.
Now, for those of
you that recall BJ Daniels and company beating the Bearcats 38-30 in
October of 2010, let me remind you that the temperatures had not yet
dropped and it was 56 degrees.
On the other hand, in
2008, it was a pre-Halloween night game that featured a Bearcat-friendly
42 degrees. UC won 24-10. Likewise on Oct. 22, 2006 at 45 degrees, it
was a 23-6 Bearcat victory.
In 2004, it was Nov. 20
and no temperature was reported. UC won 45-23 with Gino Guidugli having
a pretty good day as I recall. Though I remember the sun being out, I
still have to think there was a nip at The Nipp that those from the
Sunshine State might not have appreciated.
point is it's easier for UC to go to Tampa and play in warmth than it is
for South Florida to come north and succeed in temperatures they
associate with winter. Historically, the NFL Buccaneers have
encountered the same problems.
As I've disclosed
before, I also have a degree from USF in addition to my UC degree. I
spent five years in Tampa and am very familiar with the football talent
there and throughout the state. Every DI school of note mines the
interstates and orange groves of Florida.
is great, but their idea of winter and ours are worlds apart. I
remember the weather dropping to the 50s and seeing folks in winter
coats. The lowest I ever came across was 28 one December night and the
power companies had rolling blackouts.
department stores would roll out winter sweaters, I still had my shorts
In addition to seeing USF players dressed for "The
Ice Bowl", I've witnessed Floridian Deion Sanders glued to a heated
bench at Riverfront Stadium for a late December game between the Bengals
and Falcons. I also watched then-freshman Florida quarterback Chad
Plummer hovering on the bench in the last game UC played at Kentucky in
1995. With wind chills dipping into the teens and snow, that was by far
the coldest game I ever did.
So, for those that might
be shivering and cursing the cold Friday night, suck it up and realize
the Bulls across the way are freezing and are likely as bundled up as
Ralphie's brother in "A Christmas Story".
Thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Brendon Kay, more UC fans are familiar with redshirt freshman Chris Moore.
However, those of us that have watched some practices the last couple of years have seen Moore's work and know the story behind him. Right now, Moore is part of a deep receiving crew. Next season (and possibly sooner) No. 15 could be on of your "go-to" guys.
He comes from Jefferson High School in Tampa and was recruited by a number of top programs including Auburn and the local South Florida Bulls. A teammate wound up at USF.
Jefferson High is also known for its great athletes, including baseball greats Fred McGriff, Tino Martinez, Luis Gonzalez, Tony LaRussa, former Tampa mayor and Florida governor Bob Martinez, and the "fight doctor" Ferdie Pacheco (Muhammad Ali's physician). (In the video below, I included Dwight Gooden and Garry Sheffield by mistake who went to neighboring Hillsborough High School. I apologize, I lived in the area 22 years ago. I have interviewed and met all of those listed though.)
Suffice it to say, Chris Moore could reach the same level of success of those I mentioned. Here's the "Jefferson Jet" outside of the Bob Goin team room in the Lindner Center.
I had a chance to speak with Jordan Luallen today shortly after he received treatment from the legendary Bob Mangine in the Bearcat training room.
While all the talk is about Munchie Legaux or Brendon Kay, Butch Jones brought up Luallen's name today as part of that mix.
It's all quite logical, given that the team moved the ball with Luallen running for 32 yards on six carries. He also had some runs called back. Luallen also connected on his one pass and is tied with running back George Winn for the lead in NCAA efficiency (100 percent).
Everyone wants a starter named, but why show your hand? When you think about it, all three guys offer different skills and you realistically could have them ALL on the field at once.
Last week, Bearcat punter/kickoff man Pat O'Donnell identified UC defensive back Malcolm Murray as the instigator/initiator/orchestrator of the "Down the Drive" cheer the kickoff team has been doing with the students and the crowd on kickoffs after touchdowns.
That would be the "Ooooooooooooooooooh...UC!" cheer complete with the hand motions for those not aware.
No. 17 in your program has also been a big part of the secondary as senior Drew Frey has missed some games. Murray spoke about his cheer skills and the upcoming Toledo game inside the Bob Goin team room in the Lindner Center Oct. 16.
At 5-0 and still a game away from reaching the "meat" of the conference schedule, it would be easy for the UC Bearcats to be brimming with confidence.
Some of that is good, too much (of anything) is not.
Just as I had concerns over the Miami University game, this Toledo contest is also perplexing.
First off, the Bearcats are a visitor. The scheduling puzzles me, but again, I'm not invited to those meetings.
Toledo's Glass Bowl has a listed capacity of just over 26,000. However, they list a 2001 game with Navy as having 36,852 there and this year's Bowling Green tilt drew 28,115. Other games with Coastal Carolina and Central Michigan have been 19,000 and change.
None of this should matter as the Bearcats have played bigger opponents in bigger venues. On the other hand, it reminds me of the game in 2008 at Akron that UC barely won, 17-15.
It's the same formula. An opponent you should beat, but a game that realistically would mean far more to the Rockets than it would here.
For those more "experienced" Bearcats, you should want to drill Toledo as they took the second Motor City Bowl from you in 2001 at the old Pontiac Silverdome. The Bearcats blew a 13-3 halftime lead and were unsuccessful in trying to "eat clock" in the second half as running backs DeMarco McCleskey and Ray Jackson were held below 30 yards combined.
Meantime, future NFL back Chester Taylor ran all over UC for 190 yards and the Rockets rallied to sent the Bearcats back to the Marriott in Troy (Michigan) with a second consecutive Motor City "L".
I doubt that sparks the current players who were 7-10 years of age at that point, but some of you paid good money for the drive up and probably pounded your dashboard on the way home.
This game on Oct. 20 is far from a pushover. If you overlook Toledo, you'll find yourself pounding dashboards and anything in sight. The Rockets are 6-1 with their only loss on the road in overtime to Arizona.
The Mid-American Conference would take enormous pride in knocking off a Big East school.
Hopefully, the second half of the Fordham game and the Miami Redhawk rout will be what you see in the Glass Bowl. I do see a lot of points being scored however it does turn out.
WHAT: That would be the UC/Toledo tilt on Oct. 20. WHERE: The aforementioned Glass Bowl (which at one time was an actual bowl game UC won in 1949, 33-13) WHEN: 7 p.m. TUBE: The ever popular ESPN3 coming to a laptop near you. SERIES: UC leads 4-2 LAST TIME: Toledo beat UC 23-16 in the Motor City Bowl Dec. 29, 2001.
UC offense vs. Toledo defense
Well, we know the Bearcat lads can score when they want. I'm still a little concerned over over-thrown and under-thrown passes, but Munchie Legaux still has a knack for hitting a big play when needed. I'm particularly fond of throwing to Travis Kelce whose 78-yard ramble in the last game was nearly Brent Celek-esque. I would like to see Kenbrell Thompkins more involved (unless he's just being taken out by the defense). Running-wise, there's no complaints as George Winn and Ralph David Abernathy IV continue to have big gains when needed. Clearly, UC will score as Toledo's last two wins over Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan involved giving up 35 and 47 points, respectively. As an aside, EMU was 0-6 and rang up that many. The Rockets top tackler is linebacker Dan Molls. Their top sack man is Jayrone Elliott at defensive end.
Whatcha got? I say UC should not have any problem lighting up the scoreboard so long as they "chin the ball".
UC defense vs. Toledo offense
This is an honest concern. The Rockets are averaging about 44 points in their last four contests, including 50 against CMU and 52 against EMU. They will move the football and 6-foot-4 quarterback Terrance Owens out of Cleveland Glenville chucked it for over 400 yards last week. On the other hand, UC's seen back-to-back weeks where the quarterbacks threw for boatloads of yards between the 20s and still lost substantially. On the ground, Toledo's David Fluellen racked up 188 yards in the last game and has nearly 800 for the year. An obvious key would be putting the hammer down on Fluellen to make the Rockets one-dimensional. Their best receiver is 5-foot-9 Bernard Reedy who doubles as a kick/punt returner and is dangerous. 6-foot-4 Alonzo Russell is also a serious target.
Hmmm? I liked some of UC's secondary play last week with Drew Frey out. I don't know his status for this one, but he would definitely help with his size. On the other hand, I'm seeing good things from Cam Cheatham, Devin Drane and I liked what I saw of freshman Kevin Brown. I'm not a fan of some of the "cushions" I see in coverage, but I'll trust the defensive coaches on the how and whys. Toledo will get their points, but anything under 30 will equate to a Bearcat win.
Tony Miliano missed a field goal against Fordham, putting him 6-9. Toledo's Jeremiah Detmer is 13-18. What that means to me is he merely is getting more chances. With UC often scoring touchdowns, Miliano hasn't had the opportunities to improve. However, a kick on the road can be crucial as UC found out in 2008 at Akron with Jake Rogers. Punting-wise, Patrick O'Donnell has been top notch and his kickoffs are rarely returned. The key vs. Toledo is keeping it away from the dangerous Bernard Reedy - just as Toledo probably has their eyes on RDA IV.
Who? At home, I tend to lean toward the folks used to the stadium and atmosphere. Doesn't mean they're any better, just one of those intangibles.
(Speaking of) Intangibles
Again, the Rockets are a high-powered offense with a winning mentality playing at home. That's not a favorable atmosphere. As much as the players and everyone want to focus on Louisville on Oct. 26, this one comes first. The defense has given up chunk yards to Zac Dysert of Miami and Ryan Higgins of Fordham in consecutive weeks. You don't want to make that a trend. There's a fair amount of Cincinnati talent on Toledo's roster, much like Miami's and some of these kids may take great pride in beating a school that might not have recruited them. This is far from a throwaway game and two consistent, complete halves will need to be played. That's where the Coach Butch Jones pep-talk comes in and he's gotten the point across thus far.
Early in the Victory Bell demolishment of Miami, you may have noticed some celebrations among UC's kickoff team.
Specifically, the "OOOOOOOOOH...OOOOOOH...OOOOOOH...U-C!" cheer was done by the kick team, complete with arm choreography. By all accounts, the fans loved it. Whether or not a touchy opponent like a Louisville might like it remains to be seen.
The centerpiece of the kickoff team is Pat O'Donnell, who routinely deposits the ball into the endzone. When not achieving touchbacks, O'Donnell averages 42.6 yards per punt and is on the Ray Guy "watch list".
I caught up with the native Floridian Tuesday on his way to meet the legendary trainer Bob Mangine for pre-practice taping.
A year ago, Alex Hoffman was a 300-plus pound offensive lineman opening massive holes for the likes of future St. Louis Ram, Isaiah Pead.
In a matter of months, an injury led him to shed his "playing pounds" and he currently is working in UC's Lindner Center and is surrounded by Bearcat athletes.
His academic goals are amazing as is his physical transformation.
I recently found the svelte Hoffman outside the Bob Goin team room:
(Hoffman several pounds ago)
Q: You're 24 now, what are you up to?
A: I am in grad school getting my MBA and I'm working upstairs (at the
Lindner Center) as a graduate assistant in Athletic Academic Services.
Q: What was your degree in?
A: My degree was in Biology with a focus on Pre-Med. The plan now is to
get my Masters and hopefully go on to medical school.
Q: An MBA and medical school? That's a little different path.
A: I know. Usually you go right into medical school. I took a class over
at the medical school this summer and they want me to be a
non-traditional applicant. I'm going to get my Masters first and then go
on. That's the plan.
Q: So your grades have never been an issue?
A: I had a 3.4 undergrad and medical school was a little bit above that.
That's another reason to go back and get a Masters and hopefully
Q: If anything, you can start a weight loss clinic. The pounds are just
dropping off of you!
A: After I got hurt in February, I lost about 30 pounds. When I was
finally able to walk around, I lost about 40. I've lost about 75 pounds
Q: What did you top out at?
A: I was 308 when I got hurt. Now, I'm about 235.
Q: So you're like linebacker/safety size?
A: Tight end! I kind of think of myself as an H-back now.
Q: Are your 40 times up?
A: I haven't run. I've done some jogging since I got hurt, but I haven't
done any sprinting yet. I'm physically fit.
Q: Are you a recreational guy now? Is the CFL calling you for a
defensive back tryout?
A: I haven't given any thought to that stuff yet.
Q: From just watching games, are you still fired up when they come out
of the tunnel?
A: The first game I went to, the Pittsburgh game, was an awesome
atmosphere. It's different being up in the stands than on the field. I
definitely enjoyed it and I can't wait for the Homecoming game.
Q: What was your highlight playing?
A: All the bowl games and Big East championships. Probably the most
meaningful was my senior year. I was a senior and a leader and that
team really came together after my junior year when we went 4-8. Going
to the Liberty Bowl my senior year and sharing the Big East were the
Q: How do you keep the weight off?
A: Diet and exercise are the main things that make it come off.
Q: When was the last time you weighed 230? Eighth grade?
A: Sophomore year of high school.
Q: And you were always a lineman?
A: Always a lineman. Even in grade school.
Q: MBA, med school, the Dr. Hoffman takes over the world?
A: We'll see. That's the plan.
OK, it is a little uninspiring, but when your team's coming off a big rivalry win and has just been ranked, you need to flair it up a little bit.
Sure, Fordham's not your ideal opponent when you've just checked into the Top 25. However, this honestly is a replacement game and most schools have similar opponents on their schedules.
In college football, you often eat in reverse. Cupcakes are usually served before the main course.
That's not meant to offend Fordham fans, which I suppose it will. They are 4-2 and perhaps they can make a run in the Patriot League. I'm just saying that losses to Villanova and Lehigh aren't going to put the fear of God in any team playing the Rams.
Villanova's trying to amp up football, so they're not bad. Lehigh, for local sports scholars, is known as the alma mater of former Bengals wide receiver Steve Kreider. Old "Who Dey" fans may appreciate that nugget. Young ones probably don't know more than three players from some of the better teams of the 80s when the Bengals made two Super Bowls.
Back to Fordham (as the nuggets continue). The school in the Bronx actually boasts more notable alums than Lehigh and Kreider.
Giants owner Wellington Mara went to Fordham, as did the legendary Vince Lombardi. I think the offense the Rams run is far from Lombardi's offensive principles, but that's something to be proud of.
Matter of fact, I would propose that Fordham switch their nickname to the Lombardis.
If that wasn't enough, Fordham is also where broadcast legend Vin Scully went to school. There's no bigger fan of Scully than UC voice Dan Hoard, so I give you that.
Why all of the Fordham history?
Quite honestly, I don't know what to tell you about them. I have to admit, when I check college scores on my various devices, the Fordham game is not a priority.
They beat the Georgetown Hoyas last week, although I think the Georgetown (NAIA) Tigers down the road could maybe give them a better game.
Like it or not, this is the NEXT game on the schedule which is why it's important. This is one where the bench should get some reps. It's a night game, so have some fun and realize that if you leave before the fourth quarter, you'll likely miss the "Gangnam Style" song on the PA.
There--that ought to sell some tickets.
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. WHAT TO WEAR? : It's not a Whiteout, a Blackout, or a Ring of Red. I'd bring all three. WHAT IF I'M NOT THERE? : You could miss the the kickoff team doing the "OOOOOOH UC!!" cheer complete with hand motions after a touchdown. WHERE TO WATCH: ESPN3 (It's getting more available now on several nearby planets) SERIES: This is the first meeting. Should be a commemorative t-shirt shouldn't there?
UC OFFENSE VS. FORDHAM DEFENSE
Well, Fordham shut out Lock Haven in week one.... Seriously, they gave up 34 points to Lehigh and 31 to Georgetown. UC scored 52 on Miami which tied for the most ever in that series. The only thing that will prevent the Bearcats from surpassing that is if the second and third-stringers are confined to running plays in the second half. Linebacker Michael Martin had 18 tackles last week, but he's 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds and will be surrounded by bigger, quicker players at Nippert. Personally, I'd like to see Brendon Kay get a chance to throw the ball and some of the back-up receivers have a chance to catch. The downside of a lopsided game, is that back-up quarterbacks can't practice throwing and receivers are decoys. It only pays to be a back-up running back. As for UC's first team, they should be able to rack up a normal game of stats within a half or three quarters.
Obvious nod: Bearcats
UC DEFENSE VS. FORDHAM OFFENSE
Like Miami and Zac Dysert, Fordham's Ryan Higgins can throw and move the ball. He's thrown for 300-yards in two straight games. The downside, like Dysert found, is 300 yards can still result in a 38-point loss, particularly when some of your throws wind up in Bearcat paws. Receiver Brian Wetzel had 123 yards receiving last week and will likely get more. I would suspect UC could shut down Fordham runner Carlton Koonce, leaving Fordham no alternative than to pass. Because of that, I look for Walter Stewart, John Williams, Dan Giordano, Cameron Beard, Jordan Stepp and the defensive line to have several up close and personal encounters with Higgins.
Edge to UC.
Patrick Murray is a double-duty kicker/punter for Fordham. He drilled three through the uprights against the Hoyas last week. Against UC, he'll likely be in punt formation. The Bearcats are due for a returned punt for six. Will this be the game for Anthony McClung to do it? On UC's kicking end, it could be night of extra points for Tony Miliano.
Edge: The home team. INTANGIBLES
Look, it's not the ideal situation, but hopefully the Bearcats will take care of business as they should. The Delaware State game should be a lesson to UC. Letting them hang around, even though it was never in doubt, was like Chuck Wepner going 15 with Muhammad Ali (more history kids!). I hope for plenty of points, no injuries to starters, and some quality playing time for the kids that bust their hump in practice.
Butch Jones did a great job with keeping the proper perspective on the Miami U. game and I would suspect he'll have the guys on their game Saturday night.
While the diehards and long-time UC football historians will savor any win over Miami University of Oxford of former Redskins, newer Bearcat fans may question the existence of this game.
That's the scary part.
You could argue with UC's recent successes and with Miami's struggle for notoriety since the departure of Ben Roethlisberger, that the game has lost it's luster. When the teams were more evenly matched or when Miami would consistently give UC fits, the appeal of the game was greater.
Personally, I'm not too far removed from Big Ben's domination of the Bearcats or watching "Touchdown Travis " Prentice run all over UC at Nippert in a 41-0 thrashing to appreciate a solid win over Miami.
However, when you're trying to generate national attention, there is no upside to the game when the only major story that could result from it is if the Redhawks pull the upset.
Yes, this is getting to be and could be a "sticky" issue in the future. What UC must guard against is complacency. Actually, a few views of the Delaware State video should suffice.
On the "historical connection" level, the last time UC beat Virginia Tech before last Saturday's dramatic Munchie Legaux-to-Damon Julian finish was 1995. The Bearcats had played Kansas, Kansas State and Virginia Tech back-to-back-to-back that year. They had chances to beat the Jayhawks and Wildcats and did knock off the Hokies 16-0.
Despite that confidence and momentum, the next week UC went to Oxford and lost 23-16 to Miami when Ty King ran back a kickoff in the game's final minute.
So, I warn of overconfidence and I warn of overlooking a Miami team that scored 56 points against Terry Bowden's Akron Zips. The Redhawks have some playmakers and they would love to burst UC's bubble and break the current six-game skid they've had in Victory Bell games. WHEN DOES THE BELL TOLL? Usually non-stop once a winner has been determined. VICTORY BELL GAMETIME: Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. WHERE: The glorious and hopefully packed Nippert Stadium THE SERIES: Miami still leads 59-50-7 LAST TIME: Bearcats won 27-0 in Oxford UC offense vs. Miami defense
Miami gave up 56 points to Ohio State, 39 to Boise State and 49 in last week's win over the Akron Zips. UC's offense has the capability to score like that, particularly when there's no turnovers. While his accuracy could improve, Munchie Legaux clearly has the confidence you need to lead big scoring drives and make big plays. A lot of that is having the respect of the huddle and you have to think Legaux does. A game like the one at FedEx Field should give several Bearcats a lot of confidence and comfort. As long as it's kept it check, it's all good.
I think Kenbrell Thompkins and Damon Julian might be a little much for Miami to handle (by the way, how to you not play Julian at this point?). With George Winn, Ralph David Abernathy IV and Travis Kelce, I think UC just has too many weapons to contain.
Safety Pat Hinkel does have three interceptions for Miami, so it may be wise to be knowledgeable of his presence. Their sack leader is Mwanza Wamulumba who sounds like he's right out of "Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory". Considering they played without Sean Hooey against Virginia Tech on the line, I would feel good about UC's protection.
Bottom line: UC's offensive depth should be too much for the Redhawks
UC defense vs. Miami offense
All in all, defensive coordinator John Jancek had a gem of a game plan against Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech. This week, Zac Dysert of Miami presents a more difficult skill set in my opinion. He's 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds and your prototypical big quarterback that scouts are perpetually infatuated with. He was 34-49 for 516 yards and six touchdowns against Akron and ran for 108 yards on the ground. Those are noteworthy stats regardless of the competition. His favorite targets are 6-foot-4 Andy Cruse out of Turpin High School and long threat Dawan Scott. I don't know the status of Drew Frey for this game, but UC's secondary will most certainly get a workout.
Miami's chief runner is Jamire Westbrook out of Kings High School, but Dysert actually leads the team in rushing. Oddly enough, coach Don Treadwell tends to throw it more at Miami, when his offenses here at UC were routinely conservative under low-key Mark Dantonio.
Clearly, the key is stopping Dysert and giving him a steady diet of Walter Stewart, Dan Giordano or whomever can split the Redhawks line to introduce Mr. Dysert to the fine granules of Nippert's field turf. UC's defensive backs will also have to stay with Andy Cruse who often capitalizes on size mismatches.
The Edge: If Dysert gets a rhythm, this could be a long, frustrating game. Underestimating Miami in any form on offense would be a dreadful mistake. Based on the Hokies win, the defense is playing aggressively enough to hold Miami down. On the other hand, don't expect a shutout.
Special note of interest: Former UC coach Brian Kelly passed up on Zac Dysert to take Brendon Kay out of Bay City, Michigan.
Pat O'Donnell is still the key with his punts and kickoffs. However, I would guess the UC "fake" package may be out if the opposition notices No. 11, Brendon Kay trotting out to hold. In placekicking, Tony Miliano's back home where he's more comfortable. Miami's Kaleb Patterson is 6-8 on field goals if you're scoring at home. In the return game, UC gets the edge with Ralph David Abernathy IV and Anthony McClung.
Dan Hoard and Jim Kelly as always. As for the game, I think Miami's going to come out and be a little more of a thorn in UC's side than normal. That said, I don't think they have enough weapons to sustain and I would figure the Bearcats to gradually pull away. Again, discounting Miami would be dangerous. They've recruited a ton of Tri-State local athletes who would take great pleasure in punching the Bearcats in the mouth--especially if they were NOT recruited by UC. They have not won this game since 2005 and I can assure you the worst sound you'll ever hear is that bell ringing on a departing bus heading toward Route 27. If there is such a thing as a "trap game"; this would be one. Just as their coaches will tell them, the Bearcats should play all games as if it the national title was on the line.
Besides,UC is still 10 straight wins away from taking a lead in the series.