Aug. 28, 2008
So, apparently, there's a college football game today. Make sure to check out the katzonthecats.com blog today and see how your favorite football team (if your favorite team is UC) is faring in its season opener against Eastern Kentucky.
On to the pregame analysis.
When UC is on offense:
I'm interested to see how this Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel "1-2 punch" at running back is going to work. I'm also intrigued on what other running backs are going to play tonight.
Mostly, though, I'm interested in watching QB Dustin Grutza take control of this system for the first time. He needs to have an impressive game - just to prove he's the starter BK wants him to be and to keep Tony Pike entrenched in that backup role.
Grutza isn't feeling any extra pressure.
"No, I don't think so," he said. "If you're terrible and you don't play and perform, you can't expect to have your spot back. That's why we have to consistently perform. That's part of being an NCAA player. You have to be able to do that."
Looks Ben Mauk isn't going to play. I see him on the field in jeans and a T-shirt hugging Grutza while he's warming up with Pike.
When UC is on defense:
The Bearcats secondary will have to contend with EKU senior quarterback Allan Holland, the reigning OVC player of the year who threw for nearly 2,000 yards and only four interceptions last season. DeAngelo Smith knows to beware.
"He's a good pocket passer," said Smith, who will make his free safety debut tonight. "He's a good player. We're just going to have to prepare like we prepare for Oklahoma or any other team."
Last year, EKU led Division I-AA in turnover margin at plus-18, and the Colonels only allowed 20 points off their own turnovers. I'm interested to see how that clashes with defensive coordinator's Joe Tresey unit who seemingly horde interceptions and fumbles by the dozen.
Other important stuff:
This is the first game for Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood, formerly the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest. Which means the Bearcats aren't exactly sure what the Colonels are going to run.
"We don't know exactly what they're plans are for their offense and defensive schemes, we just know we have to do whatever it takes to win the game," Grutza said. "It's a little tougher to prepare because you can't watch game film to know that these are the athletes and here's what they're doing and here's their scheme. But we have a basic idea of what they're doing, and we've worked all camp on getting better and improving and getting better for everything. The key part of it is being prepared enough to know that we can handle whatever they give us and make adjustments."
It shouldn't make a lick of difference, but I'm wondering how Jake Rogers will fare today. Remember last year in his first career game, he missed a 47-yard field goal in the first quarter and then blew two PATs before he was replaced. He probably would like a better start tonight.
Prediction: This game likely will be a little tighter than last year's romp against another OVC team, Southeast Missouri State, 58-3. But the Colonels haven't beaten a Division I program since 1985, and even though Hood showed his team highlights of the Appalachian State triumph against Michigan from last year, I don't expect his team to accomplish the same.
EKU - ranked No. 20 in the FCS Sports Network poll - has some nice players. Just not as many as UC.
Let's say, UC 38, EKU 13
PRE FIRST QUARTER
D.J. Woods officially has been cleared to play. He's listed as the backup punt returner behind DeAngelo Smith.
Big welcome to C. Trent, who will be tuning on the live blog. He's got a live blog of his own going from the Bengals-Colts game. Check it out here.
A couple Army parachuters came flying into the stadium, but the real disaster occured when a 'chuter dressed as the Bearcat mascot got hung up on a wire in the north end zone. Then, he fell maybe 20-25 feet to the turf. But he looks OK, walking off on his own power. But, as the AP's Joe Kay said, he looks a little woozy.
FYI, Khalil El-Amin will not play due to illness. Sam Griffin will start at right tackle, with Alex Hoffman as his backup.
On the kickoff return, Colin McCafferty lights up Kody Tuupo. That's the way to start a season. John Hughes makes a nice tackle for no gain on Aaron Bradley. On 3rd and 5, Allan Holland on the swing pass to Bradley, Brandon Underwood comes up and makes a nice hit for a 4-yard loss. EKU to punt.
First big play of the year. Grutza to Barnett for 24 yards over the middle. Be interested to see how Griffin performs at right tackle. That's the second swing pass from Grutza to Barnett that goes for a first down. 1st and 10 from the EKU 13. Grutza scrambles for the first down. 1st and G from the 3. I formation with Barwin at the TE spot, Robby Armstrong as the lead blocker and Delbert Ferguson as the one behind him. And a false start penalty on Barwin. Then, a hold on Trevor Canfield makes it 1st and goal from the 15. Then, Grutza hits Gilyard on the right sideline, makes a spin move and dives into the end zone for the TD. Yep, play is under review. And it's upheld. And Rogers' PAT is blocked. Unreal.
UC 6, EKU 0 (6:53 to play)
Rogers' kick-off goes out of bounds. Hmm. Hoppel is now in the game. Andre Revels also in the game now. On 3rd and 1 from the UC 40, Bearcats get good pressure on Holland and force the incomplete. EKU to punt.
Goebel has a nice run, but it's brought back because of a hold. First, it was Grutza to Barnett. Now, his new favorite target is Gilyard. Three passes in a row to Mardy with a 'D'. Goebel with the first down. Grutza should have been INT'd there, but he gets a break. And Goodman is on the board with a nice catch. That's good for 18 yards. Shovel pass to Goebel for another first down. Grutza, so far, is looking pretty good.
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Grutza, so far, is 10 for 14 for 121 yards and a TD. And he's leading the team in rushing as well. 1st and goal from the 2. Two tight end set with Goebel in the backfield. Nice pass from Grutza to Goodman for the TD, but Goodman is called for pass interference. Yeah, probably the right call. 1st and goal from the 17. Grutza sacked by Chris Harris, and Harris has some things to say to Grutza. Canfield didn't like it much. Doesn't matter. After the timeout, Grutza hits Goodman for the 21-yard TD pass as Goodman bullies his way into the end zone. Nice pass, nice catch. And Rogers misses the PAT wide right. Ugh.
UC 12, EKU 0 (12:48 to go)
Barwin with the first sack of his career, as he pulls down Holland for the 11-yard loss. Shovel pass doesn't work, and that's why UC can be dangerous on defense. Good amount of speed out there.
D.J. Woods out there to return the punt. He makes the first guy miss and goes for a 25-yard gain. UC with 1st and goal on the EKU 34. Grutza might have waited too long, considering there were at least two guys wide open, but he eventually finds Goodman for the 26-yard gain to the 8-yard line. Goebel runs over a guy and gets down to the 1. Goebel in for the 1-yard TD. And he's excited hopping and skipping off the field. Yingling in for the PAT. It's good.
UC 19, EKU 0 (8:57 to go)
Long kick-off return gets EKU into UC territory for the first time. Now, the Colonels are moving it. 3rd and 2 from the UC 24. C.J. Walker gains 1. And Taylor Long's 40-yard field goal attempt is no good. Didn't look good from the start.
Three and out for UC. First time we've seen Huber. 38 yards on the punt.
Stands are starting to fill up a little bit, which is good. Before, it was kind of embarrassing. Craig Carey tips a pass at the line of scrimmage to bring up 4th down.
Wow, Goebel looks really strong so far. I wonder how much longer Ramsey can hold him off for the starting spot. A 19-yard gain there. And I was about to say the same thing about Scott Johnson, who gained closed to 10 yards, but former UC player Tyjuan Jones forces a fumble and EKU recovers.
But almost immediately, Holland completes a pass to Stephen Sizemore, and DeAngelo Smith strips the ball and Ricardo Matthews recovers, giving the ball back to UC. And on the next play, Grutza is hit but wobbles a 47-yard TD pass to Gilyard. Exciting sequence of events. Yingling in for the PAT. Good.
UC 26, EKU 0 (1:49 to go)
Looks like EKU just wants to run out the clock and get this half over. Can't say I blame the Colonels. It has not been a good half for them. But UC gets the ball with 33 seconds to go. Another impressive run by Goebel. 1st and 10 from the UC 44 with 23 seconds to play. Question: if the Bearcats get it into FG territory, are they going to run Jake Rogers back out there? Not going to matter. Short completion to Gilyard and that's the first half.
Some stats for your enjoyment:
Grutza is 15-20 for 226 yards, 3 TD
Gilyard 6 catches for 101
Goodman 4 catches for 71
Goebel 5 rushes for 45
Ramsey 6 rushes for 29
EKU with 4 first downs; UC has 15
UC has 339 total yards; EKU has 84
UC has 5 penalties for 46 yards
Had a big long blog post on this drive, but I lost it all. Highlights: UC had 4th on 7 from EKU 30. The Bearcats did not bring in the field goal unit. Grutza to Goodman for the first down. Later, Goodman streeeeeeeetches for another first down. 4th and 1 from the 12. Give it to Goebel and first down. 3rd and goal from the 2. Attendance, by the way, is 26,913. Not too bad for a season-opener on a Thursday night while playing a Division I-AA school. And Grutza in for the 2-yard TD. His stats will look awfully good from today. Yingling's PAT is good.
UC 33, EKU 0 (5:37 to go)
Alex Daniels is in at DE now. I don't think he's been in there until now. Manalac breaks up a pass. Barwin with a tackle for a loss. Three and out.
D.J. Woods back for the punt again. A hard-fought 8-yard gain. Tony Pike now in the game. Grutza finishes 21-for-28 for career highs with 296 yards and 3 TDs. He also rushed for 33 yards and a score on 10 carries. Pike's first pass: eh, a little over Gilyard's head. 4th and 1 from EKU 42, going for it. Ramsey gains the first down. Really nice job by Pike to elude the sack and get the ball to Kazeem Alli for the first down. Next play, 15-yard pass from Pike to Goodman for the TD. Yingling's PAT is good.
UC 40, EKU 0 (1:38 to go)
Well, that's just a straight-up burn job. Cody Watts finds a ton of open room, and Holland finds him for the 61-yard TD. Aaron Webster was the closest to Watts, but Tolbert and DeAngelo Smith also give chase. To no avail.
UC 40, EKU 7 (0:58 to go)
Scott Johnson gets another carry. He doesn't fumble, but he loses two yards. Got some second-string offensive linemen in there - Frank Becker, Alex Hoffman, Randy Martinez all in.
Mostly second-teamers on defense now. Thought Underwood made a nice play, but he's going to get caught for pass interference. Hard to tell on the replay. EKU moving the ball a little bit now. 1st and 10 from UC's 15. True freshman DL Derek Wolfe is in there, I just noticed. Tolbert with the sack on Holland to force 4th down. An ill-advised pass by Holland on 4th and 27, and Justin Moore gets his first career INT.
Adrien Robinson is finally in there. Freshman Evan Davis in there at center. Three and out.
OK, gonna head to the field in a sec. Make sure to check back later for my post-game analysis. It's going to be legendary.