Posted: 11/14/2008 1:56:43 AM
Cincinnati Team Report
Cincinnati has flown beneath the national radar for much of this season. But, following two consecutive victories over top-25 teams, the Bearcats are ranked in both major polls. The endgame is known—win out, and the reward in a BCS bid.
After using four quarterbacks this season, including two redshirt freshmen, the Bearcats are nearly at full strength.
Senior starter Dustin Grutza, out since fracturing his fibula Sept. 6 at Oklahoma, is physically ready to play.
But junior Tony Pike, who returned three weeks ago after missing time with a broken non-throwing arm, will start at Louisville.
The Bearcats are back to business following their euphoric victory in Morgantown, and focusing on the Cardinals.
Kelly doesn’t need to remind the Bearcats that, if they don’t progress one step at a time, someone will trip them up along the way.
“Everybody understands what it takes to win,” said Kelly. “But what it takes to win a championship is mental toughness. Now that we’re into November and we’re a contender, we’ll be able to test our team to see if we have what it takes.”
Scouting The Offense:
The Bearcats were shut out in the second half at West Virginia, but did score the winning touchdown on their first possession in overtime on a two-yard touchdown pass from Tony Pike to Kazeem Alli.
Head coach Brian Kelly gave credit to WVU’s defense for taking the air out of the Bearcats’ offense.
But their struggles on third downs continue, ranking last in the Big East in converting just 30 percent.
Penalties continue to haunt them, but UC still leads the conference in passing offense and ranks fourth in total offense.
Scouting The Defense:
Cincinnati’s defense has found its swagger in recent weeks.
The Bearcats held WVU to just 98 yards rushing, becoming the first team since Virginia Tech in 2001 to limit the Mountaineers to fewer than 100 yards.
The Bearcats also sacked Pat White four times, giving them 13 sacks in the past five games after having just four in the first three games this season.
Cincinnati ranks third in the Big East in rushing defense.
Quote To Note: “If you could’ve told me we were going to let them score three times and get an onside kick, probably not. At the time, you’re making decisions based on what you’re trying to eliminate. We were trying to eliminate the worst-case scenario, which was a blocked punt. We didn’t have the benefit of hindsight.”—Head coach Brian Kelly on having punter Kevin Huber take an intentional safety, which preceded West Virginia’s 11-point rally in the final 1:11 to tie the score.
Strategy And Personnel
None of UC’s seniors have experienced a victory over Louisville.
Despite leading the all-time series 26-20-1, the Bearcats have dropped five straight to the Cardinals.
“It’s not much of a rivalry if you don’t beat the other team,” said UC head coach Brian Kelly.
“Our seniors know that. This is a rivalry game, but more importantly it’s for the Big East championship.” Louisville won 28-24 last year at Nippert Stadium.
Players To Watch:
Junior SS Aaron Webster—Earned Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording a career-high 13 tackles, including two tackles for loss at West Virginia.
Junior WR Mardy Gilyard—Ran the opening kickoff at WVU back 100 yards for a touchdown, tying him for the longest in school history. It was Gilyard’s second kickoff return for a touchdown this season, setting a UC record. He is the eighth player in Big East history to return two kicks for touchdowns in a season.
Sophomore K Jake Rogers—A semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, Rogers missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt, ending a streak of 13 consecutive made dating back to last season. After being benched earlier this season, the much-maligned kicker has reinvented himself in recent weeks. He’s 11-of-12 this season, tied for first in the Big East.
• Junior C Chris Jurek, who sprained his ankle Oct. 30 against South Florida, did not start at West Virginia. Sophomore Jason Kelce was at center, and redshirt freshman Alex Hoffman moved to left guard.
• Sophomore WR Armon Binns made his first career start against the Mountaineers.
• If healthy, senior QB Dustin Grutza will move to No. 2 behind Tony Pike on the depth chart this week at Louisville.
Grutza hasn’t played since Sept. 6 at Oklahoma, when he fractured his fibula and suffered a residual high-ankle sprain.