The Bearcat defense currently ranks #10 in the country in scoring defense, but some fans are questioning the unit after it has given up back-to-back 400+ yard games in losses to Louisville and Pittsburgh. Bearcat Insider spoke with Cincinnati defensive coordinator Joe Tresey about his crew after Wednesday's practice.
Although the Cincinnati defense is still tied nationally with Michigan for the #2 spot in turnovers gained with 26, the Bearcats have only one takeaway in the two recent losses. Coach Tresey spoke to that issue. "I think in the Louisville game we dropped a couple. You can't drop many. We can't afford to do that. In the Pitt game, they ran a lot more two back than we expected, and we didn't step up to the challenge. Basically, we have to find a way to create them (turnovers). We've always worked on those things in practice, but it was one of those games where it just didn't happen for us. We've gone back to the drawing board and have emphasized that so we're trying to do it."
South Florida will present the Bearcat defense with some problems this weekend led by its star quarterback Matt Grothe. Coach Tresey talked about the Bulls' offensive leader. "I think you have to contain him, but he's going to make some plays. He's a heck of a playmaker. If he makes an 8 yard play, we have to make sure it doesn't turn into an 18 yard gain. If he makes someone miss, we have to make sure the next guy gets him and keeps it from turning it into a bigger play. If you look at the UConn game, they contained him pretty well, but then he hit them for a 40 yarder and a 20 yard scramble. You have to contain him, keep him from scrambling as much as you can and keep his big plays non-existent or minimal."
The Bearcats have played well against the run this season except for the Pittsburgh game where they were hit with two players reaching or exceeding the 100 yard mark. Coach Tresey gave his take on that situation. "We probably did not emphasis our two back plan enough. They caught us off guard. To be honest with you, we should have had a better two back plan. We thought we had a good one, but they were off for ten days, and their tendencies were completely different from what we anticipated. It was just one of those days where things didn't work out for us, and we just have to try and get better."
After giving up 447 yards to Louisville and 427 yards to Pittsburgh, Coach Tresey does not feel the need to make wholesale changes to a system that worked so well earlier in the season. "We'll have some wrinkles like we do every week, but it comes down to playing fast, keeping the ball inside and playing good fundamental football. I don't know when that has changed. We probably emphasize too much scheme at times instead of the fundamental stuff like tackling and meeting and defeating blocks-just playing sound football."
Tresey knows Saturday's game in Tampa will likely eliminate the loser from the league race. "It's a big game. Coach Kelly has talked about it being an elimination game, but every game in college football is big these days. It's unbelievable who is beating who. You have to be ready no matter who you're playing. More than ever in 2007, every game is big."
Both South Florida and the Bearcats will be trying to break two game losing streaks after having big wins earlier in the season. The Bearcats would like to regain some national attention by beating another ranked opponent on the road, and ABC recognizes the magnitude of this game by making it part of its regional games Saturday afternoon. The outcome of this game may well hinge on the Bearcats' ability to once again create turnovers with its defense.
BCI Talks with Coach Tresey
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