The 110th edition of the oldest rivalry west of the Alleghenies is now a statistic, but many Bearcat football fans are still struggling with the lopsided loss. Fingers of blame are being pointed in almost every direction, and some are predicting the Bearcats will not win another game all year.
There's probably plenty of blame to go around, but for the Bearcats it starts at quarterback. Dustin Grutza has simply not been the same quarterback since his second game. He reportedly took a hit late in the Penn State game that left him dazed and aggravated the injury in the Western Carolina game. I know for a fact that Grutza was held out of practice prior to the Miami game. Head injuries can be very mysterious and very serious, and based upon Dustin's recent performances, he has not fully recovered from his. Dustin has played his absolute worst football the last couple weeks. This is not the same young man that played so well in the spring and all summer. He's struggling to find the open receivers and is forcing the ball into coverages. Coach Dantonio said Dustin played well last night until his three interceptions in the fourth quarter, but I saw a quarterback that should have been intercepted a couple more times in the first half, and who badly overthrew a wide-open receiver in the end zone. Dustin Grutza is not playing like Dustin Grutza.
True freshman Mike Mickens has also been criticized, but Mickens has had to cover some outstanding receivers that will likely be playing on Sundays in the next few years. Derrick Williams and Justin King of Penn State are two of the very best freshmen receivers in the country, and Martin Nance and Ryne Robinson are almost certain NFL draft picks. Mickens has shown he has the speed and toughness to play cornerback. As he continues to mature, he will become one of UC's best at that position.
This team continues to struggle with its offensive line. The Bearcats have played four different players at right guard, and the other starters have all struggled at times during the season. This problem continues to show itself in the Bearcat running game. Other than the Eastern Michigan game, the Bearcats have been unable to run the football effectively.
Maybe the biggest problem this year has been the offense's inability to make the big play. Some blame play calling; others blame the lack of team speed at the skill positions; still others blame the quarterback's arm strength. I think it's probably a combination of all, but this squad needs to find someone capable of scoring from further than 10 yards out. Since the Eastern Michigan game, the Bearcats have scored only one touchdown from further than 10 yards out. That was a 27 yard TD pass to Derick Ross in the Penn State game.
The Bearcat offense needs to improve dramatically, and the Bearcat defense needs to continue to grow. Act V will be played at Pittsburgh on October 8th and I'm not ready to walkout on this show.