Bearcats Report

Content partner The Sports XChange has the following on the Cincinnati Bearcats.

INSIDE SLANT

Bearcats toughening up on both sides

While it's difficult to quantify "physicality" and "toughness", there is statistical evidence the Bearcats football program is beginning to make strides in those areas.

Through five games, UC's defense has forced 12 fumbles and recovered nine. They have 18 sacks and nine interceptions. On offense, the Bearcats are averaging 221 yards rushing, two more yards per game than their vaunted spread passing attack has produced.

This isn't a statistical anomaly as much as an identity in the development stages, says head coach Butch Jones.

"It's just the fundamental philosophy of our football program," Jones said. "On defense you are attacking the football, that's what you play for. To win in college football you have to stop the run and establish the run."

The Bearcats have done well at both, ranking second in the Big East Conference in rushing while allowing just 71.4 yards on the ground. The improvements on defense and in the running game have helped UC produce a three-game winning streak including an important victory over North Carolina State.

The Bearcats have a bye this week before beginning Big East Conference play on Oct. 15 against Louisville at Paul Brown Stadium.

In the aftermath of an embarrassing 45-23 loss at Tennessee, the Bearcats defense has responded with three solid performances, including a 27-0 win at rival Miami of Ohio, UC's first shutout since 2006. Since losing in Knoxville, the Bearcats have outscored their opponents 130-28.

"You can come back and learn from your mistakes or you can wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for yourself," Jones said. "It's been a point of emphasis for us to play with a hard edge."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Cincinnati allowed minus-3 yards rushing in its last game at Miami of Ohio. In its past eight quarters, UC has given up minus-29 yards on the ground.

--The Bearcats are coming off their first shutout victory since 2006, a 27-0 win at Miami of Ohio. It was their first shutout of the Redhawks in Oxford since 1898.

--UC has held its opponents scoreless in the first quarter in four of five games this season, outscoring them 62-14.

BYE WEEK MISSION: Coach Butch Jones said the Bearcats will use the bye week to get healthy, and clean up some fine details. Jones' biggest concern is losing any of the momentum created by the three-game winning streak in which they've outscored opponents 130-28.

LOOKING AHEAD: The bye week signifies the end of the non-conference portion of the schedule for UC, which opens Big East Conference play on Sat. Oct. 15 vs. Louisville at Paul Brown Stadium. Following the game against U of L, four of the Bearcats' next five games are on the road.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've come a long way. But (a bye week) is a double-edged sword. This team has great momentum. It'll be part of the maturation process, to take advantage of this time, to get healthy and clean up some things." -- Head coach Butch Jones.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The pass-first spread offense of Brian Kelly's tenure is long gone. The Bearcats are averaging two more yards rushing than they are passing. While Zach Collaros still has a multitude of weapons in the passing game, it's clear through five games that UC's offense will be centered around senior RB Isaiah Pead, who has rushed for 476 yards and seven touchdowns. Improvements in the offensive line have bolstered the running game and helped protect Zach Collaros, who's been sacked just five times.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Cincinnati, coming off its first shutout since 2006, is establishing an identity as a physical and opportunistic unit. The Bearcats have nine fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. Attacking the football and creating turnovers has been a point of emphasis in practice since the preseason. Although the Bearcats are allowing 277.8 yards passing per game, they have owned the line of scrimmage giving up just 71.4 rushing yards and recording 18 sacks.

ROSTER REPORT

--P Pat O'Donnell, who earned Big East Conference special teams honors last week, averaged 42.4 yards on seven punts including three placed inside the 20-yard line.

--Junior LB Greg Blair. Blair, a junior college transfer who practiced in the preseason but was not immediately eligible due to academic issues, made his first appearance for the Bearcats last week.

--DB Arryn Chenault made his first career start at strong safety last week.

--Junior DB Malcom Murray tore his ACL in practice earlier this month and will miss the remainder of the season.


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