Heard it From Hoard: Column 50
Is it me, or does it seem like a thousand years since Cincinnati struggled to beat teams like Western Carolina by 4 and Rhode Island by 7?
Both of those games were actually played in the last five years.
I didn't think the Bearcats played great to begin the year 2008 BK, and yet they thumped Eastern Kentucky 40-to-7.
Want a SOTD (stat of the day) that will wow a stat geek like my pal Lance McAlister? In non-conference games under Brian Kelly, the 'Cats are 8-0 and have outscored their opponents 330-105. That's an average score of 41 to 13.
That perfect non-conference record faces a serious test next week at Oklahoma.
Here's one man's game one report card.
Quarterbacks - A-minus
Dustin Grutza's numbers were terrific: 21-28, 296 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT. He also ran for 33 yards and a touchdown. Oh yea, and he left the game midway through the third quarter.
I dock him a bit for throwing one pass over the middle that should have been intercepted, and under throwing a wide-open Mardy Gilyard on what should have been a touchdown. Still, an outstanding performance overall.
Here's something to keep in mind. Last year, Ben Mauk threw for 3.121 yards and a school-record 31 touchdowns in his first year under Brian Kelly. Meanwhile, Dan LeFevour, the QB that Coach Kelly recruited and trained at Central Michigan, threw for 3,652 yards and ran for 1,122 yards to join Vince Young as the only quarterbacks in college football history to pull off the 3000/1000 combo in a single season.
In other words, it's such a quarterback-friendly offense that Akili Smith could probably thrive in it. And I mean Akili Smith right now.
Mark it down - Dustin Grutza is going to have a great year.
Running backs - B
It wasn't a great night for Jacob Ramsey (9 carries, 34 yards) and Scott Johnson's 50-yard run was tainted by a fumble on his first carry. But how about John Goebel (9 carries, 62 yards)! I can't remember the last Bearcat back who hit the hole that quickly. Baring injury, that trio could be good enough to allow Isaiah Pead and Darrin Williams to redshirt.
Wide Receivers - A-plus
The big three - Goodman, Gilyard, and Barnett - were sensational, led by Goodman's 10 catches for 144 yards. Goody needs to average about 6 catches a game to become the leading receiver in UC history (and that's not including a bowl game).
And kudos to whomever performed Mardy Gilyard's lasik surgery. Who knew that seeing the ball would make it easier to catch.
Finally, WR Armon Binns made the block of the night on Johnson's 50-yard run, pancaking EKU's Kody Tuupo and allowing him to enjoy the WEBN fireworks a few nights early.
Offensive Line - C-plus
Certainly a passing grade - especially since the 'Cats were without RT Khalil El-Amin who will probably miss a few games with mono. Still, the 'Cats allowed 3 sacks and committed several penalties up front against a FCS opponent.
Defensive Line - A
Considering that the Bearcats were Lynyrd Skynyrd in reverse - Byrd free - it was a great start, highlighted by the performance of Connor Barwin. I think he might be the first player in NCAA history with the following career stat line: 52 receptions, 5 TD grabs, 45 points in basketball, 72 rebounds, 1 sack, and 3 tackles-for-loss. Can he kick extra points?
Linebackers - B
I thought the starters were good, but the backups were a little shaky. With 4 seniors that see abundant playing time, it's going to be critical to get youngsters like Robby Armstrong and J.K. Schaffer on the field this year so the 'Cats will have a few experienced players at the position to line up alongside Andre Revels next season.
Defensive Backs - B-plus
They only gave up one big play, Justin Moore had an interception, and DeAngelo Smith forced a fumble - not too shabby. But this group is so good that I expected even more. That's probably unfair, but DB's coach Kerry Coombs is free to use it for motivation.
Special Teams - F
There were plenty of good things. Kevin Huber was great (as usual), and D.J. Woods had a 25-yard punt return the first time he touched the ball in a college game. But when you miss 2 extra points it's a flunking grade.
If you want to look at the bright side, the Bearcats missed 3 PATs in their opener last year, so they're getting better.
So now we're off to Oklahoma which will be a thrill for yours truly. I've called games at such legendary venues as Ohio State, Penn State, Florida, Virginia Tech, and Army, and I look forward to seeing what game day is like in Norman, Oklahoma.
I won't be there for long. The Pawtucket Red Sox have clinched a playoff berth, so I will call Game 3 of a playoff series on Friday before flying to Oklahoma the morning of the game. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies and no flight delays!
Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad enjoying his morning oatmeal.
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