This is a chance to see how much our young Bearcats have matured. How will they handle a road game, a team looking for its first conference win and the dome? They play a 1-6 Syracuse team that sees the Bearcats as possibly their last hope for a win in 2005. The Cuse in addition to the Cats this Saturday face South Florida in the Dome with Notre Dame and Louisville on the road. This is an important game for both teams that could go either way. The Bearcats need to bring their Cattitude.
Syracuse strength vs Cats weakness:
Senior free safety Anthony Smith (#20) will have more than one coach's attention during game preparations. He will be a factor on special teams as well as in pass coverage. Smith set the SU record for career blocked kicks and recorded his 13th career interception, his 5th of the season, last Saturday. He is not the only problem in the secondary as Dowayne Davis (#26) and Steve Gregory (#25) have two INTs each while the team has a combined total of 11.
Senior defensive ends James Wyche (#90) and Ryan LaCasse (#94) will pressure Grutza all day if the OL doesn't provide him time to locate his receivers. LaCasse has 6 sacks to date and with Wyche they have over half of the team's 14. In addition Wyche has forced 3 fumbles and is tied for 11th in the country.
The OL will need a performance equal to or greater than their effort against Connecticut. Pass protection will be the priority.
Cincy strength vs SU weakness:
More, more and more of Moore. UCONN ran for 297 yards against SU with 139 yards from the QB position. The Cats need to be successful running the football with time consuming drives. When Grutza runs out of the pocket he will need to get outside and around the rush of Wyche and LaCasse. The OL needs to gain control of the line of scrimmage and open holes for Bradley Glatthaar, Butler Benton and Greg Moore. If this were a home game we could once again hear the chants for Moore.
The Bearcats cannot abandon the pass and will need the WRs to find space and separation to generate a balanced offensive attack. This brings up the BIG question, should Nick Davila see significant playing time? Should he start? It seems that Grutza should start but at some point early in the game Davila should make an entrance if for no other reason to give SU a different look. With protection Davila can get the job done. No matter who the QB is the Cats need a passing game that avoids turnovers. Anthony Smith will be waiting for his moment to turn the game around.
The kicking game and field position will be important. Chet Ervin has improved his hang time in the last two games but he needs to aim for the corner and pin SU within the 20 yard line. The soccer style and fake kick have presented the opponents with something else to think about. Kevin Lovell may need to hit one of those 50+ yard attempts to give the Cats an edge.
Our young defensive line will need to make further advancements this week. Patrick Mimms another true freshman joined the rotation mix for the first time last week and should provide some additional depth. Stop the SU running game, force the Orange to pass and apply pressure on the QB. Game tasks that can be accomplished if the intensity displayed in the UCONN game is applied.
Our "unofficial count" for Dome games since 1995 is 1-10 with the only win over a poor Houston team. Three of these losses were bowl games. Last year in the Dome the Cats self-destructed with six turnovers in total and three in the red zone. This cannot happen this year. The turnover victory needs to rest with the Bearcats. In recent games they have had numerous chances for INTs but have been unable to hold onto the ball.
The crowd will probably be around 30,000. With SU's 1-6 record the Bearcats could take the crowd out of the game quickly by scoring first.
If the Cats bring their Cattitude, overcome the aspects of playing in the Dome, play their game and stay focused, their first road win in the Big East and a note worthy Dome win will be in the record books.