A View From Shank "Legion Field" Pavilion

The only bowl game I've missed in recent times was the New Orleans Bowl, and I thought the Papajohns.com Bowl was one of the better bowl experiences I've had.

I've attended the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, the 2000 and 2001 Motor City Bowls, the 2004 PlainsCapital Forth Worth Bowl, the 2007 International Bowl and now the 2007 PapaJohn's.com Bowl. All were fun, but I've decided it's a lot more fun when the Bearcats win.

Tim Adams holding court at his Shank "Legion Field" Pavilion

The Wynfrey Hotel was very nice, but the ballroom used for the pregame pep rally was WAY too small to accommodate all the Bearcat football fans. It was amazing to see hundreds of Cincinnati fans milling around the hotel lobby, hallway and ballroom for well over an hour waiting to hear Brian Kelly give his speech. Coach Kelly had a bad cold and had to cut his speech pretty short, but the crowd wasn't leaving until it heard from Cincinnati's head man.

I purchased a Paul "Bear" Bryant houndstooth hat so I could wear it to Legion Field for the game. As I walked around the hotel lobby, I asked a few of our players if they knew who made the hat famous. I got a few answers like, "That Dallas guy." But eventually one of them would identify the hat being a trademark of the legendary Alabama football coach.

While wearing the hat at the bowl game, I even had a few people ask for my autograph. Of course, I signed-Paul "Bearcat" Bryant.

As the team's buses entered Legion Field, fans pounded on the sides of those buses to show their support. It was an impressive sight.

The mini-Bearcat Village at Legion Field was amazing. There were so many Bearcat fans, and everyone was clad in red and black. It was one of the better tailgate parties I can remember.

Legion Field is really a dump of a place and in a bad part of Birmingham. Bearcat fans complain about having no room on the concourse level at Nippert Satdium, but Legion Field has even less. The old stadium does have plenty of bathrooms and urinals, and they needed them too since they sold beer throughout the entire game. I'm willing to bet some Bearcat fans have bigger televisions in their dens than the replay board at Legion Field. It was worthless.

I wandered over to the pressbox side of the field at halftime so I could get a better view of the size of the Cincinnati crowd compared to Southern Mississippi's. There were several thousand more Bearcat fans in attendance by my estimation.

On Friday, the Bearcats had a walk through practice. The hit of the practice seemed to be Mike Elston's work with the special teams. He and his guys are pretty animated, and one fan ever suggested that he thought the "big guy (Elston) was crazy." But I really thought the special teams delivered the plays of the game. Play #1-It was early in the second half, and the UC defense held the Golden Eagles for a 4th and one. Southern Mississippi faked the punt at its own 28 yard line, but Connor Barwin did a good job defending before Bradley Glatthaar made the tackle just short of the first down marker. Ben Mauk immediately hit Earnest Jackson for a touchdown pass putting UC on top by a 21-7 score. Play #2-Southern Mississippi was down ten points late in the game and attempted an onside kick. If they would have recovered the ball, that game would have gotten pretty scary, but Connor Barwin recovered the ball among several Golden Eagles.

I was surprised that Ben Mauk was named the MVP. I thought Ben played well, but I would have given the award to either Dominick Goodman or DeAngelo Smith. Goodman was his usual amazing self with 7 catches in traffic for 95 yards. DeAngelo Smith picked off three balls shattering the UC record for interceptions in a season. The record was six and was shared by a number of Bearcats including Mike Mickens this season, but DeLo pushed the record to eight.

If you're looking for a sleeper pick to challenge for playing time next season on defense, keep an eye on walk-on Collin McCafferty. Bearcat defensive coordinator, Joe Tresey really likes the 2005 FAVC Player of the Year at linebacker, and Mike Elston, special teams' coordinator, raves about Collin's play on special teams.

One Bearcat that probably didn't get enough credit this season is Anthony Hoke. With his tackle for loss and sack in the bowl game, Hoke ended the year with 16.5 TFL, .5 behind team leader Terrill Byrd, and Anthony easily led the team in sacks as he set a Bearcat season record with 13, edging out Antwan Peek's 12.5 in 2001.

Brian Kelly's older brother (eleven months older) looks, walks and talks like Coach Kelly. I think his name is Mike. He lives in Connecticut but has been a season ticket holder at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and now Cincinnati. The two brothers have a standing date to all the Patriots' Super Bowls and are expecting to be traveling together again on February 3rd to Arizona.

I think it says something for the Bearcat football program when the staff can take 101 players on the road for five days and have no incidents. I hope a lot of the UC fans got the chance to meet and talk to the players.

To the two religious knuckleheads who were condemning all the fans to hell as they entered Legion Field, I hope they realize they did more harm than good to their cause. They're actually lucky they didn't get the hell beat out of them.

Congratulations to Mike Thomas and his staff. Getting all those Bearcat fans on the road only days before Xmas was very impressive.

What a year to remember! Ten wins overall, several All Americans, three sellouts at Nippert Stadium, a national Top 25 ranking, two wins on the road against ranked opponents and our football staff returning. Merry Christmas to all!


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