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:
University of Cincinnati Associate AD/External Relations and Media Communications Doug Mosley has several other titles that many might not be aware of. As I learned from a recent restaurant review, Mr. Mosley is "The Grand Potentate of Pork", "The Sultan of Smoked Meat", "The Big Kahuna of Brisket", "Ruler of Ribs", and "Swami of Sauce".
There may be others, but that's all we can divulge at this point.
Suffice it to say, as most sports information offices do, the boys find some "good eats" on the road. Back when I traveled more sports-wise, I was always interested in finding the hole-in-the-wall places with big smokers out front that lured you in.
Even now, when I'm out of state, the family knows there's a strong likelihood I'll be stopping if I see an appealing barbecue billboard.
They all have a story. Some have decent food. One that I recall vividly was on a trip to Southern Miss when we were escorted to some backwoods, dirt road in rural Mississippi (not there's much of an urban Mississippi) until we came on a house that didn't have much lighting and had towels serving as drapes in the windows.
If anyone of you have seen the opening scene of the old Steve Martin movie, "The Jerk", then that's what the front porch looked like.
That's what barbecue joints are all about--atmosphere, stories, and carnivorous exploration.
So, this has little to do with football, but if you need a little advice on where to find various forms of chopped or sliced meat cooked over an open fire; Doug's your guy. I defer to anyone who has spent time on an official "barbecue eating team".
OK, things are a little out of sequence here, but I defer to the players in terms of news.
This is something I did with UC defensive back Chris Williams and I did it after briefly interviewing UC's Doug Mosley who heads up the Sports Information efforts. Turns out Mosley's a barbecue expert and I like barbecue and I like interviewing folks I have something in common with (it's my camera and all).
Anyway, Williams patiently waited while I talked about the glories of smoked pork with Mosley and then he chimed in with his two cents worth. In addition to laying a hit on opponents in the secondary, young Williams knows his way around the kitchen and grill.
When he's not in your grill, he's on the grill and at some point, he'd like to open his own.
Here he is, the man that flies, fries and filets....
Well, I made it through two speed traps on I-75 and I-74 to get to Camp Higher Ground in West Harrison, Indiana today.
As strange as it sounds, I really enjoy getting a chance to watch football practice this time of year so I can get a preview of what's to come.
Plus, the hospitality of the dining hall is always top notch and I was able to witness a veteran reporter devour a number of cookies and another threaten to drive out for the evening practice just for the rolls.
The food is top notch.
So, were the kids I talked to today. The one I'll post first here is George Winn, senior running back.
Though we all remember Isaiah Pead having a standout game in the Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt, the longest run of the game came from No. 32 out of Detroit.
Winn had been a solid back-up all year to Pead and he proved his worth when Pead came out with a helmet issue and Winn answered with a 69-yard touchdown run.
That's called effective substitution!
Winn is now battling for the top job in the backfield with the likes of Ralph David Abernathy, sophomore Jameel Poteat and freshman Tion Green among others. At least early, they'll all likely play.
He's also sporting a pretty respectable beard as you can see from my little video chat:
As you grow older, you do grow somewhat wiser, which is why I often
try to accomplish multiple things at once.
Since my youngest son is attending Mick Cronin's Basketball Camp at UC
this week (and in full disclosure, I paid the going price) I thought I
might as well talk to one of the players that assists in coaching the
Players that are assisting include JaQuon Parker, Ge'Lawn Guyn, Shaq
Thomas and Cheikh Mbodj. In the Olympic spirit of international
relations, I chose Mbodj, the recently slimmed down center out of Dakar,
Q: Tell me how you dropped all of the weight....
A: I just managed to change my diet and stuff. Since my ankle is
healthy, I did some extra running and conditioning. That's how I ended
up dropping 25 pounds.
Q: Do you feel faster?
A: Dropping the weight really helped my ankle and my mobility out. I can
tell I run faster and jump higher.
Q: You guys are going to play fast, right?
A: Yep, yep. We're going to play faster this year. A lot of high motion
stuff. We're going to be like a pretty good fastbreak team.
Q: You're helping the kids out here in the camp. Is that fun for you?
What kind of things did you do when you were small?
A: I really love helping the kids out and being around them. Years ago, I
was one of those kids back in Senegal. I can't imagine how they feel
being around us.
Q: And you didn't play basketball until you were older?
A: I was around 14. I can just imagine--I never had the chance of doing
this (going to camps).
Q: In Senegal, your sport was soccer?
A: In Senegal it was soccer.
Q; What position did you play?
A: I used to play the right back on the defensive side. I was like those
players trying to stop the forwards and stuff. A defensive guy.
Q: Were you tough to get around?
A: It wasn't easy to get around me in soccer.
Q: Did you get to do any of the goal kicks?
A: Yeah, I used to do the free kicks a lot. I was heavy-footed.
Q: Could you kick it to midfield and beyond?
A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Do you miss playing it at all?
A: Sometimes I just play around with it. I grab a ball and dribble with
my legs and stuff and do some tricks.
Q: Can your teammates do that?
A: My teammates probably can't.
Q: Do you watch the Olympics and keep up with the World Cup and things
A: Yeah, I watch the Olympics, like USA basketball. I watch basketball
most of the time. It's really fun watching it.
Q: Do you watch Olympic soccer also?
A: Olympic soccer, yeah. Senegal was in it, but sadly we lost. We lost
to Mexico the other day.
Q: Are they pretty decent?
A: Yeah, they made it to the quarterfinals so that's pretty decent.
Q: When was the last soccer game that you played?
A: It was a while ago, when I was a kid.
Q: Do they need more scoring?
A: It's really different than basketball. The game is longer. It's 90
minutes long without counting the additional time they can add to it. I
just miss it.
Q: Do you ever see the soccer team here and think about running out
A: I have a couple friends that play soccer over here. They're really
cool people. Sometimes we play around.
Q: In football, could you try to placekick?
A: Football, the only thing I do with them is running. I don't play
Q: Have you ever kicked a football?
A: I never tried. That would be interesting.
Lining up a 6'10" kicker would be interesting. Lining up a 6'10"
lineman to rush the kicker might really be interesting.
(This story will also appear in an upcoming edition of the Tri County Press/cincinnati.com as my day (and night) job entails covering high school and community sports. David Payne is a former Wyoming High School Cowboy.)
WYOMING Like his former University of Cincinnati and 2008 Olympic
teammate Mary Wineberg, David Payne is making another run at a medal.
former Wyoming Cowboy turns 30 in July, but is
training in the Orlando area at Disney's Wide World of Sports where
"Mickey" brings out the youth in all.
"I'm a little bit older,
but I'm more mentally strong," Payne said.
Payne already owns a
proclamation from Cincinnati, the key to Wyoming, UC track records, a
Conference USA (2004) athlete of the year award and a silver in Beijing
(13.17), but still thirsts to drink from the proverbial "fountain of
youth". (Courtesy of iaaf.org--David Payne, far right, wins silver in Beijing)
Four years after his last Olympic taste, he feels his
chances are as good as any.
"I think it's always tough because
you have the top athletes in the U.S.," Payne said. "I don't think it's
any more competitive than it was in '08. I think guys are running really
well right now, but it'll still be the exact same as it was in '08,
which is don't get in my own way and just handle my business."
first preliminary race in Eugene, Oregon, is June 29. The
altitude and conditions are a little different than Florida, but Payne
is a veteran of such changes.
"It's not that bad, but a lot of
people go out about four days before the race so they can get on the
track and get used to the weather," Payne said.
With a medal in
hand already and countless trips over numerous hurdles on and off the
track, Payne still has the swagger of a younger man.
don't really hit their peak 'til about 28 to 30," Payne said. "Every
time you run them (the hurdles) you learn new things and you run better
every year. Some of the best hurdlers didn't finish running 'til they
were 35-36 like Allen Johnson, Renaldo Nehemiah, Gail Devers. We have a
little longer lifespan than the average sprinter."
A lot of
Payne's demeanor and presence comes from his time around UC coach Bill
Schnier. Payne's 2004 marks of 13.42 in the 110 hurdles and 51.16 in the
400 hurdles still stand and are posted on the Gettler Stadium walls.
was a confirmation of what's going on right now," Payne said of his
time as a Bearcat. "I had everything I needed at that place and it
molded me into the person I am now."
Payne's track exploits
started at Wyoming where he ran the 110 hurdles and was in the 4x100 and
4x400 relay. A cautious mother kept him from exploring other athletic
"I played soccer for a short period of time, but I
started to injure my leg so my mom didn't want me to play anymore,"
Payne said. "Who knows what would've happened if I had played football.
They were like, 'Come out for two-a-days and see how you like it. We
could use you for special teams, kickoff returns and wide receiver.' It
was so hot and I couldn't deal with the two-a-days. I just couldn't do
His travels since have extended long beyond Wyoming and
Pendery Avenue and plans to continue as long as he can.
been to like 30 countries more than once," Payne said. "I've been to
Rome like four times, Paris four times, Japan three times, I can't even
name a lot of the countries I've been to more than once. It's a greaty
way to get around the world and I'm very blessed to be more intelligent
internationally since I've been running track."
All of those
places are a long way from Tri-County and from his training digs in
Florida. Still, the former co-feature of the UC Homecoming parade (with
Mary Wineberg) and Oktoberfest Chicken Dance leader (again with
Wineberg) looks forward to a triumphant return to the Queen City.
love Cincinnati," Payne said. "Hopefully, when I do come home, I'll be
bringing back another medal."
I caught up with UC gold medal winner Mary Wineberg at the Gettler Stadium track June 12 before a family training session. With husband and coach, Chris and daughter, Brooklyn, Wineberg took to the track in the midday sun to work on shaving a second off of her 400 meter time.
In 2008, Mary Wineberg qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the 400 and was the opening leg of the women's gold-medal winning 4x400 relay. Now a mother, she hopes to punch her ticket to London at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Here's a clip with the Queen of UC track around lunch time. Me? I took my kids to Five Guys after such a grueling interview....