Well the football season has just completed its 5th week with the Bearcats sitting with a 2-3 record. While all Bearcat fans had hoped for a better start, should we be surprised where this team is in its development? Why have several members of the media now turned against the Bearcats coaching staff and this team? We look at those and more items in this installment of Rants From The Insider...
2-3 Rough Start
Pitt marked the start of the Bearcats venture into the Big East. Coming into the game with a 2-2 mark, staff, players and fans looked for a quick start out of the gate only to see Pitt make a 69 yard return on the opening kickoff. But give these young cats their due. The defense held and forced the Panthers to kick a field goal eleven plays later. This was huge for this young defense and a positive sign the staff can use to get them ready for the tough road ahead.
But while the defense had its moments, the offense is getting the brunt of the talk. Who should be the quarterback? Nick Davila was the fans choice since the clock sounded on the Miami game. But while the fans made this point known on message boards across the net, the staff stayed the course with its young quarterback and by the end of the Pitt game you could see why.
Nick Davila has the tools to be a very good quarterback, but he's still learning the system and when the Panthers brought the pressure, the coolness shown during practice and late in games by the California quarterback blew away like the breeze coming off the river at Heinz Field.
But while Dustin Grutza may have the job in hand now, he knows over the next couple of years he will have competition from Davila along with Craig Carey and any other quarterback the Bearcats may bring into the program.
But while the scoreboard showed an 18 point difference between the young Bearcats and the 2004 Big East Champions, stats show a different game and prove the Bearcats are just a few plays away from breaking the ice and seeing success in the Big East.
Both teams had 73 offensive plays in the game. The Bearcats recorded 2 more first downs then their rival and only trailed the Panthers offense 9 yards in total offense. Both teams ran the ball 41 times in those 73 plays with the Panthers gaining 33 more yards then the Cats. In the air the Bearcats found success and out threw the Panthers by 24 yards. Both teams saw penalties hurt them as the Bearcats saw yellow 7 times and the Panthers 6. But the end results saw 4.3 yards per play for UC and 4.4 for Pitt. Showing what you feel during a game good or bad is not always reality.
Special Teams Shortcomings
As Coach Dantonio told the press after the game, special teams played a big factor in how this game ended.
How bad were special teams? Very bad! Last year you saw kickoffs landing in the end zone. This year they are lucky to reach the 15 yard line. Punts started off poor against Eastern Michigan but the staff soon changed back to last year's punter Chet Ervin and the kicks got better. The problem is with the snaps. They are slow and wobbly and standing on the sideline I called the punt block before it even happen. I also have a witness to this call. The block was not caused by the punter, but the steps leading up to the kick and the protection can't hold forever when the punter has to wait on the ball to arrive.
Coach Dantonio said the team may need to look for another kicker on kickoffs. We'll soon find out if someone else gets the chance as the team takes back to the practice field on Tuesday.
Those who have watched the Bearcats since this spring have seen the ups and downs on the team. They were young in the spring and got younger once preseason camp opened. This has caused many growing pains and put the Bearcats in positions where they will have a better chance to fail then succeed. But as this team grows I keep seeing the potential within the players and know success will follow in the coming weeks and years. This team is made up of players who many have never lost 3 games in a season their entire football career. They will not sit around and feel sorry for themselves in the coming weeks. Having been around many of these young men before they became Bearcats I can tell you this group will win and win big, it's all they've ever done in their life.
Keep the faith Bearcat fans because Coach Dantonio has the shipped in rough waters and he will captain them to safe and higher ground in the year to come.
Cincinnati Media Help Football Shortcomings
I found it funny this past week and weekend when several members of the media put their two cents in about the Bearcats football team. Consider, almost all of these talking mouths have never stopped by for a practice or fail to talk about the Bearcats to help promote what will soon be a team fighting for a Big East title. While it would be easy to excuse these members of the main stream media, I find it just the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong with UC athletics coverage in Cincinnati.
With a newspaper that really doesn't care one way of the other, and other outlets (radio, TV) who give small amounts of coverage, it's no wonder the stands are only half-full on any given weekend.
When newspapers run front page stories on Ohio State and local radio carries Louisville football games, Cincinnati fans who own businesses and advertise in these media formats should unite and pull their advertising dollars. This is Cincinnati and you're a Cincinnati paper with Cincinnati readers. If you want to run stories on OSU fine, just don't place these stories ahead of the local team.
As for those who are saying Coach Dantonio maybe wasn't the best guy for the job, why don't you do the following? Instead of questioning if Coach Dantonio is the right coach, take a chance and go to practice and see how this man and his staff works with these young men who are just starting to understand what college football is about. In fact why not make it a point to show up on Tuesday for a free lunch and listen to Coach Dantonio talk about his team and learn something in the process.
This is one if not the youngest teams in all of college football. That will make for a season that will see up's and down's and growth. But since I've never seen you at practice I know you don't know this. All you do is look at the box score and see if the team won or loss, or if lucky you watch a few minutes when the game is on TV and have made up your mind this staff can't coach and the players can't play.
Then to hear about one radio voice say the Bearcats could have hired Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach instead of Coach Dantonio is crazy.
While Leach has seen success with the Red Raiders since taking over a 6-5 team in 1999, Leach also had a hot shot quarterback in Kliff Kingsbury and an offensive scheme not seen by the Big 12 at the time. Since that time Leach has used the depth of Texas high schools recruiting base and keep the Red Raiders in the mix. Was this just the cool thing to say because Tech beat Nebraska on a fluke? It kind of seems this way since his name has never come up in the past few years or when Coach Minter was released.
Coach Dantonio took over a senior laden team with a senior quarterback and a program were everyone who follows recruiting saw what a terrible job the previous coaching staff had done in the two previous years. Leach may have been listed as a possible head coach, but Texas Tech has shown they are willing to pay big money to their coaches and give Leach the tools needed to have a chance in the Big 12. In fact, Leach wasn't even Texas Tech's first choice for the job. Tech offered Rich Rodriquez (West Virginia) the head job when Coach Rod was at Clemson. They even offered him one million dollars a year and he said no. That is how Leach got the Tech job in 1999 and Rodriquez took the West Virginia job late in 2000.
How Bad is the Cincinnati Media?
Take in to consideration on Saturday on newspaper writer said the football season ended this coming Friday. That is when basketball starts and Bearcat fans will turn their attention there instead of football. While I agree many fans will turn their attention towards basketball, these same fans are capable of following both sports as fans do at many schools across the country. It's time for football to get it's real due in this city. Having followed Big East football for the past seven years I'm amazed by what I've seen and heard. Bearcat fans have a program in a major conference with a BCS tie-in. While the Big East has seen its share of detractors, it will survive and thrive with a team playing for a National Championship in the coming years. The schools that make up the Big East have long standing traditions of winning football. UC will fit right in when this team grows up and uses the talent from its recruiting base to make it better.
Bearcat Fans at Pitt
It's always good to see Bearcat fans when on the road. This past weekend saw many fans make the trip to the steel city and support the team. For those who sat in the misty rain and cool temps I take my hat off to you. For those of you who gave the insider some food and drink, well it's just say your treatment went beyond the call of duty. I also saw many who were former players pointed out to me by former Bearcat Dan Raines (1977). Raines live in the Pittsburgh area and took the field with the captains for the flip. He pointed you guys out and was excited about spending the day with many of his former teammates. And while I won't say their name, The Bearcat Insider made the trip with a member of the Bearcats family this weekend. I want to thank them for making the trip a great one and look forward to doing it again sometime.
Bearcat Insider Magazine
While things have been a little under the radar on this front in the past few months. I'm here to say the next magazine will see the light of day either this weekend for the UConn game or the following week for the Louisville game. We've been given permission to sell the magazine on campus during games and keep a look out for someone (ME) standing with a full color magazine for sell. Casey, Tim and I have been working on some great stories you won't see any other place.
End of Rant
Well Pitt is over and it's time to look at UConn. The Huskies will come into Nippert and be favored to defeat the Bearcats in the universities first home Big East game. Coach Dantonio is looking for the 12th Man to show up in the form of Bearcats fans this week. So I hope to see you there supporting your team the UC Bearcats. If not, maybe you will be part of my next RANT!