Heard it From Hoard: Column 68
I signed a dude's head.
When Bud Westendorf asked me to autograph the top of his lid at the big Bearcat pep rally before the Orange Bowl, I figured it was the strangest thing I'd witness in Miami.
I think the last 58 minutes of the game topped it.
I still find it hard to believe that the Bearcats marched right down the field in less than two minutes to score a touchdown on their first possession and never found the end zone again.
Do you suppose Virginia Tech's defense had a little something to do with that? Victor "Macho" Harris gets the hype, but I thought Hokies safety Kam Chancellor was the best performer on the field on Thursday night (and that includes any of the geriatric Doobie Brothers).
Cincinnati's play-calling was the hot topic of conversation among the fans I talked to after the game. Did I second-guess a few calls? Of course - that's part of the fun of being a fan, and we all consider ourselves to be the second coming of Bill Walsh even if our play-calling experience is limited to Madden NFL.
But if you like Brian Kelly's thrill-a-minute approach when it's working, it seems to me that you have to accept it on those rare occasions when it doesn't.
I wouldn't mind "accepting it" for another 20 years or so.
After two seasons, Brian Kelly is 22-6 at Cincinnati. He's won a BIG EAST championship, back-to-back coach of the year awards, and he's taken the Bearcats to their first-ever BCS bowl game.
Furthermore, before the Orange Bowl loss to Virginia Tech, he had won his last eight postseason games going back to the Division II level at Grand Valley State.
I think he's pretty freaking good at what he does.
He'll have to be next year when the Bearcats lose an incredible group of seniors, including All-Americans Kevin Huber, Mike Mickens, and Trevor Canfield along with All-BIG EAST studs like Dominick Goodman, Terrill Byrd, Brandon Underwood, and Connor Barwin.
Perhaps we should look to Virginia Tech for inspiration. The Hokies lost seven starters on defense from last year and still had one of the best units in the country. They won an ACC title and the Orange Bowl with a sophomore quarterback, a freshman running back, and three freshman wide receivers.
The cupboard isn't exactly bare at UC. Tony Pike will enter a season knowing he's the starting quarterback for the first time in six years. He'll have spring ball and preseason camp to refine his skills, and I believe he'll benefit from the tough lessons learned against the Hokies. With Pike distributing the ball to weapons like Mardy Gilyard, Marcus Barnett, D.J. Woods, Isaiah Pead, Jacob Ramsey, and John Goebel, I predict the 'Cats will have the highest-scoring offense in the conference next year.
On defense, Aaron Webster, Andre Revels, Curtis Young, Drew Frey, Dominique Battle and John Hughes have done well when given the opportunity and the coaches say they have budding stars that we haven't seen yet in freshman safety Quincy Quetant and linebacker Dorian Davis, a transfer from Tennessee.
And who knows what true freshman will emerge next year. As they commiserated in a hotel suite in the wee hours of Friday morning, I listened to Bearcat coaches discuss recruiting as much as what went wrong against Virginia Tech.
Broadcasting the Orange Bowl could be described as an once-in-a-lifetime thrill, but if I've fortunate to remain the "Voice of the Bearcats" for years to come, I suspect I'll get to call more BCS bowl games in the future. Maybe even the near future.
I'll be sure to bring a sharpie in case anyone anybody has an unusual autograph request.
I'd love to hear from you. The address is: email@example.com.
Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad, lounging by the pool at the famed Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami.