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.
Here's a crucial game for both teams before we hit October pumpkin season. This is the odd "home game" we've known about for a number of years that has finally arrived.
Not meaning to step on any toes, but speaking as a long-time UC fan and alum, this game was sold. UC gave up the right to play at Nippert (or likely Paul Brown Stadium) for cash. The school needed cash, they got it and what's done is done.
Hopefully, the cash was used wisely as it's certainly hard to come by these days.
This is all pre-Butch Jones, so it's been a known factor for years and I'm sure Coach will have his men prepared. (Perhaps more so than the last time UC met Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.)
For the record, approximate driving distance from your normal tailgate spots in Corryville to Landover, Maryland is nine hours and 15 minutes for the "home" Bearcats. The "visiting" Hokies will travel four hours and 55 minutes from the hills of Blacksburg.
Still, Virginia Tech typically travels well and geographically Virginia is in much closer proximity to D.C. and the surrounding Maryland area than the Queen City.
Should the Bearcats ride the Dan Hoard win streak at FedEx Field (announced the Bengals win over the Redskins Sunday) then everything should be OK.
One more pivotal question....
If Ohio is indeed the "swing state" for the presidential election, will we see President Obama or Governor Romney on hand in a Bearcat jersey?
To the match-up now:
WHEN: Saturday at 3:30 WHERE: The aforementioned FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. SERIES: Virginia Tech leads 5-4 LAST TIME: Hokies beat UC in the Orange Bowl 20-7 January 1, 2009. RECORDS: Virginia Tech (3-1) Cincinnati (2-0) WHERE DO I WATCH IT: Anywhere that brings you ESPNU in living color.
UC offense vs. Virginia Tech defense
The Hokies shut out Bowling Green last week, allowed Austin Peay seven, Georgia Tech 17 and then had the mysterious 35-17 loss to Pitt. The logical thinking is UC will score somewhere between what Pitt and Georgia Tech did. If they have miscues like they did against Delaware State, things might not go so well. Pitt won with Rushel Shell gaining 157 yards. While in a spread, UC's bread and butter has been running the ball. If George Winn can hover around or over the 100-yard mark again, UC should get enough yards from Munchie Legaux and Ralph David Abernathy IV to be successful. Passing-wise, Leguax's overall numbers were good, but he'll not be able to have the turnovers he did last game.
Linebacker Jack Tyler will be eying the Bearcat runners as he's the Hokies top tackler. Trying to chase down Legaux will be Virginia Tech sack leaders Tyrel Wilson and James Gayle. Munchie's elusiveness will be crucial in this one.
UC will also have to be consistent. While the teams are different, Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard marched down the field in UC's first possession in the 2009 Orange Bowl then never scored again. Virginia Tech will not sweat a deficit.
The pick: Bearcats should move the ball. If they regain their confidence in the redzone, all will be well.
UC defense vs. Virginia Tech offense
Stop. The. Run. Stop the run. I repeat, stop the run. In particular, the 6-foot-6 260-pound, Dante Culpepper-like quarterback Logan Thomas. He throws OK, but that's not his game. He is a threat running the football. Think Travis Kelce at quarterback (by the way, remember his Wildcat touchdowns?). Thomas' completion percentage is just a tad over 50 percent, so he's not going to pick you apart throwing. When he does, the Hokies have good-sized receivers in Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts. However, an "old school" coach like Frank Beamer will also emphasize the run and Virginia Tech is 6-0 recently when gaining 200 or more yards on the ground.
Walter Stewart, Dan Giordano, Greg Blair, Malik Bomar and company have to play some "smashmouth" football. Getting a taller Drew Frey back at safety will also be a plus. Of that group I just named, Virginia Tech's Thomas outweighs Blair, Bomar, Frey and Stewart and is equal to Giordano. Of UC's usual defensive lineman, only Adam Dempsey, Jordan Stepp and John Williams carry more poundage than Thomas.
The lowdown: If UC can tackle Thomas on the lowdown and get a little help from the mythical "Fumblelina" the game could be controlled. Obviously, if the Hokies control the line of scrimmage, they'll likely control the game. Special Teams
For years, "Beamer Ball" at Virginia Tech has been based on special teams success. Punt returner Kyshoen Jarrett has already had a 94-yard return for a score. The Virginia Tech force is also pretty good at blocking kicks, so snaps, holds and loft are going to be crucial to the UC kicking game. Virginia Tech's Cody Journell's long field goal this season has just been 41 yards,so that's something that could be a factor if it's a close game. Tony Miliano is 3-3 for UC with a long of 46.
Nod: It's a foreign field for both, but the Hokies played there last year with Boise State and will have the advantage of more familiarity and more physical fan support. Best bet for UC? Score touchdowns.
As just mentioned, Virginia Tech played at FedEx Field a year ago and their fans are more likely to make the pilgrimage since it's a more manageable drive. Plus, a Saturday in Blacksburg WITHOUT a football game? What do you do? UC and their fans also have to get over the Hokies loss to Pitt. While UC dominated Pitt, they stumbled and were not as efficient against a lesser Delaware State team. They actually need to take the attitude Pitt had when they stormed over the Hokies. The Bearcats need to play as spirited as an 0-2 team looking to prove people wrong instead of a 2-0 team that could let it's guard down. That's where the coaches come in and I'm sure Butch Jones and staff will be in their face the rest of the week. Their is no home field advantage in this "home" game, so UC must seize the moment and take over the neutral site.
Next up: A REAL home game as UC protects the Victory Bell against the Miami Redhawks Oct. 6.
Game one for the Bearcats may have everyone resting comfortably, but
that's something any good college coach worries about. Though UC
systematically dismantled Pitt 34-10 in a game that never felt close,
Butch Jones will likely build up Delaware State as a
Louisiana-Monroe-type that came to Arkansas's home field and sent the
Hogs back to the trough weeping.
Just as Nick Saban scowled at
the media this past week when someone belittled Western Kentucky playing
Alabama, someone will likely tread on the topic this week of, "why play
It will not be me.
Numerous seasons of
sideline reporting has seen me shot down like a "Call of Duty" figure
more times than I can recall. I still have the "verbal shrapnel".
it basically amounts to is you can schedule a few appetizers before
your conference season to give your team confidence, or you can load up
on Top 25 teams. Usually, the weaker teams load up because it all comes
down to revenue. If you're team has a shot, you might take the old
Kansas State method to bowl games with "cupcakes" served before the main
Somewhere in the middle is the right answer. You do
need to schedule some "lighter" opponents, but you also need to be
tested. With what UC has this year, plus the Virginia Tech game
qualifies as "somewhere in the middle" with me. Here's the skinny
WHERE: Back at "The Nipp". Fill'er up. KICKOFF:
7 p.m. Pull down the tent and shut down the grill in time to watch UC's
special teams either boot it or return it. THE SERIES: Likely a
first, wouldn't you think? No trophy involved. NICKNAME CHALLENGE:
Delaware State is the Hornets. Win yourself a pre-game bet. UC
offense vs. Delaware State defense
The big question is can George
Winn rip through the line for a first play score "Isaiah Pead-style"
again? And, if he does, will he be disciplined for hurling the ball
into the student section again? I put the first question at 70 percent.
The second, I would say 0 percent. He likely got chewed out for
chucking the ball, but it did have Chapman-like velocity, didn't it?
State has a defensive back named Terrick Colston who had 12 tackles and
won some honor for his play in the Hornets' win over VMI. I would
venture to say if Colston has 12 tackles against UC, that's a good sign
as the Bearcats would have penetrated the secondary in one form or
another. It's usually not a good sign when a DB is the team tackling
leader. Plus, the Hornets were stung by the in-state rival power that
is the Delaware Blue Hens last week. If the Hens put 38 on the
toteboard, realistic minds have to think that UC could put a 50-spot up
if they wanted to.
This looks like a game where you'll see
multiple backs and receivers and I would think Brendon Kay might come in
for more than the "victory formation". That's why these games are
good, because you need to develop your bench and no one learns a thing
from watching. Kids play sports to play, there's plenty of time as an
adult to watch all you want.
Obvious advantage: UC
defense vs. Delaware State offense
The pleasant surprise for me
against Pitt was the play of the defense. I worried about the losses of
Derek Wolfe and JK Schaffer. After watching Walter Stewart dominate,
John Williams contribute and Greg Blair show no love for his home city,
I'm feeling a lot better. Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills and Nick Temple
all were near the ball also. In this contest, the secondary will likely
get a workout and scouts might get a better handle on what Drew Frey
can do. Delaware State quarterback Nick Elko threw the ball 50 times
last week and 38 the week before. Don't look for the Hornets to
"establish the run". Their best runner is Malcolm Williams, but he's
not in the same category of Pitt's Ray Graham or even Isaac Bennett.
Elko's "go to" receiver is Justin Wilson who caught nine passes for 93
yards against Delaware. Again, he's not in the category of Pitt's Mike
Shanahan or Devin Street or Cameron Saddler.
The pick: UC
Tony Miliano made his field goals and Patrick O'Donnell's
punting average was good vs. Pitt. In this game, Miliano could be
limited to extra points and if it goes well, a back-up kicker might get
in the scorebook. Likewise, for O'Donnell-if it's a good game, he'll be
holding for extra points more than anything. Delaware State has a
German punter who's 6-foot-6 and weighs 220 pounds. His name is Marco
Kano and I would expect to hear his name repeatedly Saturday night.
This is the equivalent of an NFL preseason
game. That's not meant as a shot, it's simply the truth. Delaware
State's home opener was played in front of less than 3,000 fans. UC's
student section alone should cover that. It's chance for them to play a
big opponent and UC to get their back-ups in. While that might sound
like boasting, this program is only about 20 years removed from being in
that same position. Worse off for Delaware State, their next game is
against Florida A&M and it's Band Day. I don't know how well the
Hornets race onto the field with their instruments and perform, but have
you ever seen Florida A&M's band? They're probably the most
athletic and entertaining in the college game today.
outcome is not in question. The bigger question might be what quarter
the Bearcats reach the half-century mark.
Pitt's jumped ship to the ACC along with Syracuse so their programs can experience March Madness in the historic venue known as the Greensboro Coliseum (not quite the goose bumps of Madison Square Garden).
I overheard Whit Babcock tell Bill Koch that he's not opposed to playing Pitt again due to the proximity, but you never know what can transpire in the world of college athletics.
Honestly, it'll be hard to top the Pike to Binns catch from 2008, so I won't personally lose a lot of sleep over not playing the Panthers. If they think they're serving their audience by playing in a southern conference, so be it. Ditto for West Virginia sending the Mountaineer folks out west in Conestoga wagons and such for their Big 12 games.
Trust me, both Panther and Mountaineer fans will miss the ol' Nipp. Somehow, the world will continue to spin on it's axis.
Now, in the words of the immortal Bobby Knight, back to THE GAME:
WHERE: Come on! SERIES: Panthers up 8-3 LAST GAME: Good guys won 26-23 on a Tony Miliano field goal. KICKOFF: 8 p.m. on ESPN or whenever Holtz and the always unbiased Mark May and company toss it to Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and former Bengal David Pollack. USELESS STAT OF THE NIGHT: Pitt is 7-10 on Thursday nights. I bet Johnny Majors never played on Thursday night.
UC offense vs. Pitt defense
The obvious knee-jerk reaction is that Pitt's defense gave up 31 to Youngstown State. However, six Panthers were suspended for that one and I'm told at least one of those youngsters would easily have helped the defensive effort. On the other hand, the Penguins aren't exactly mentioned in the same breath with the Alabama, USC, Oregon, Boise State, etc. The Pitt "D" also has the reality of playing two games in six days which is not real good in terms of recovery time.
The other question mark is UC's offense. Does Munchie Legaux pick up where he left off or has he improved his game management skills? Also, is Munchie "managing the game" or will he be allowed to freelance in a bind? At running back, who steps forward? George Winn? Jameel Poteat? Ralph David Abernathy IV? Or, will it be someone less publicized? What I do know is the receivers are solid with Kenbrell Thompkins, Anthony McClung and Alex Chisum. So are the back-ups and so is future NFL player Travis Kelce at tight end. If Munchie can get some throws off, UC has guys that can catch it and that will then open up whatever runner steps up.
What does Scott think?
I know. Who cares. But, these things are good for debate and firing people up, so I give you my unscientific opinion of having watched every football contest here since 1994 and a good many before that. UC has some new lineman, but tempo has been practiced so much that I expect the offense to not be far off of where it was at the end of last year. Keep in mind, it's the first game as colleges have no exhibitions. Temper your expectations. EDGE: UC
Pitt offense vs. UC defense
Regardless of not being able to foil the Penguins, Pitt still has a senior quarterback in Tino Sunseri, two lanky receivers in 6-foot-5 Mike Shanahan and 6-foot-4 Devin Street, a senior tight end in Hubie Graham and senior running back Ray Graham. Graham can run. How he runs a year after his injury is another thing. Often times the player is better the second year after an injury. As for Shanahan and Street, they are a concern as beyond Drew Frey, most of the Bearcat DBs are 6-foot or under.
UC also has a new mix of defensive linemen and linebackers. I'm interested to watch Walter Stewart at defensive end and Greg Blair at linebacker. Others, like Dan Giordano, Jordan Stepp and Maalik Bomar will be solid. On the other hand, the losses of Derek Wolfe and JK Schaffer are significant.
Where you going Scott? Since it's game one, I think the Pitt offense has something to prove and the UC defense will be a work in progress. Hopefully, it progresses quickly. EDGE: Pitt
Pitt returner Cameron Saddler is related to Greg Blair. I don't know if Greg is on the coverage teams, but that could be an interesting encounter on the turf. Kevin Harper has a leg as he nailed a 52-yarder in last year's game. But, he also missed a 50-yarder. Tony Miliano booted four treys at Heinz Field in 2011 and I think he'll improve as UC's recent kickers have with time. In the punt game, it's hard not to go with Patrick O'Donnell. The Bearcats' key returner is obviously Ralph David Abernathy IV who last hit paydirt in the Liberty Bowl. Anthony McClung is no slouch either. EDGE: UC
(No that's not a lunchbox product or Super Hero movie.) Pitt is unlikely to follow up the Youngstown State game with a dud. Put that out of your mind. UC needs to treat it as it is--a key league game. Also, it's an ESPN opener and a team will feed off of it's fans. It used to be the kids weren't in school this early, but now they are. Will the semester system benefit the noisy, closed-end horseshoe section? EDGE: I think it will.
I don't give scores, just gut reactions. Just as Pitt couldn't fall out of the gate at Heinz Field (but did) UC can't and won't keep their fans up late on Thursday without reason to celebrate.
As I often labor on most Labor Days, I stopped by practice Monday
afternoon to get the lowdown on the Bearcats as they prepare for Pitt
My interview request was for Greg Blair, the senior linebacker from
Pittsburgh. It's been documented before, but if you missed it, Greg is
the younger brother of former Pitt basketball center Dejuan Blair, a
"beast in the Big East" in his own right.
I've assured UC's Ryan Koslen that I wouldn't bait Greg Blair for any
bulletin board material for Pitt, but I can tell you there are different
factions of his family that will be on hand pulling for different
teams. Dejuan is now a San Antonio Spur and Greg
tells me his brother will be cheering for him Thursday night.
It's also interesting to know that Greg and Dejuan played on the same
high school basketball team that won state titles. D.J. Kennedy of St.
John's (son of former Bearcat David "Puffy" Kennedy) was also on that
team. Blair is also related to Pitt's Cameron
So, Richard Dawson has long passed, but there could be a little "Family
Feud" action at "The Nipp" on Thursday. Here's Greg: