Bearcat Bowl II Breakdown

The University of Cincinnati football squad brought an end to its 2008 spring season on a beautiful night in Clifton while a crowd of over 10,000 watched on as Bearcat Bowl II lived up to its exciting billing.

The red team, led by such offensive players as Dustin Grutza, Dominick Goodman and John Goebel, held a 14-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, but the black team would fight back.  Led at the quarterback position by red shirt freshman Zach Collaros and Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones, the black team would go on to score 20 unanswered points en route to a 23-14 victory.  The black team took their first lead of the game with 1:17 remaining in the final quarter, thanks to a 57-yard touchdown strike from Jones to wide receiver Marshwan Gilyard, making it 17-14 black team.  A Brandon Underwood 67 yard interception return for a touchdown with time expired allotted for the final score.


“They had thrown the same play a couple of times early on and I just read the play and I just broke on it,” said Underwood of his pick-six.  “I didn’t even think; I just broke.  I trusted what my eyes saw and I just kept going.”


The quarterbacking duo of Collaros and Jones looked impressive the entire night, throwing a combined 11-of-20 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  A 33-yard touchdown pass from Collaros to Gilyard with 11:35 remaining in the game pulled the black team to within four.


Gilyard stole the show from the rest of the Bearcat wide outs, bringing in eight grabs for 171 yards and two touchdowns.


Dustin Grutza however, wasted little time in reminding Cincinnati fans why he’s being called the frontrunner for the starting quarterback job by head coach Brian Kelly.  Grutza opened up the spring game by leading his red team 70 yards down the field on an 18-play drive, capped off by a 6-yard touchdown toss to a wide open Armon Binns.


“Well I think it’s still Dustin Grutza,” said Kelly when asked who’s emerged from the spring as the frontrunner for the quarterback position.  “He manages the game well.  I think we all know he may not dazzle you with arm strength or some of the things that everyone looks for in evaluating quarterbacks, but he manages us well.  An 18-play drive to open up a spring game says a lot because everything’s got to be working in the right direction.  We had a pretty good unit out there defensively to balance off against our offensive line and our first group of guys, so I was pleased with his steadiness.”


Grutza finished Bearcat Bowl II going 13-of-18 passing for 100 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  His second touchdown of the evening came with 8:24 remaining in the third quarter, as a 15-yard pass to Marcus Barnett capped off an 11-play, 70-yard drive.


“I thought we were able to get a good flow at certain times in the offense,” said Grutza following the game.  “The offensive line was doing a great job for me.  I thought we did pretty good today.”


Chazz Anderson also saw quarterbacking action for the red team.  The red shirt freshman, who looked more than impressive throughout the spring, ended the game throwing 9-of-20 for 97 yards with no touchdowns while being intercepted twice.  While showing flashes of greatness and potential throughout the night, Anderson also showed he has areas where continued improvement is needed.


“We started off well, but we just couldn’t seem to put it in the end zone,” said the Pickerington, Ohio native.  “We’ve just got to continue to be consistent.  I have a lot of things that I need to work on to make sure that I’m getting the play makers the ball.”


“They did an unbelievable job,” added Anderson of the Cincinnati defense.  “But again, you have to be consistent.  You have to make good reads and make good decisions, and that just shows that you have a lot to work on.”


Anderson was also able to show his impressive footwork abilities, running the ball nine times for 47 yards.


“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” said Anderson afterwards.  “I don’t try to run; you try to go to your progression reads and make the best decision that you can, but sometimes the best decision is running the ball.”


An impressive Cincinnati defense picked up this spring right where it left off last season.  Ryan Manalac led a stout black team defense with two interceptions, one each off of Grutza and Anderson.  In addition to his interception for a touchdown, Underwood was able to impressively brake up another two red team passing plays.  Nick DeFillipo, Alex Delisi, and Thomas Claggett each recorded a sack for the red team.  However, one of the most impressive defensive plays came from a player that was lined up with the offense this time last year.


The first play of the second quarter saw former tight end Connor Barwin running down Chazz Anderson from his new defensive end position to record a seven-yard sack and force a fumble which was recovered by black team teammate Lamonte Nelms.


“That’s what we’re looking for, athleticism on the field off the edge,” said Kelly of the play by Barwin.


Former Bearcat quarterback Craig Carey also impressed at the defensive end position, recording seven tackles, one and half for losses.  His numbers were game-highs, tied in both categories with black team teammate and linebacker Robby Armstrong.


“You know you’ve got Terrill Byrd, Adam Hopple didn’t play today obviously, he’s a guy that’s going to come back.  We feel like we’ve got great strength inside, the questions we had defensively were, ‘Could we hold the point on the edge?” and I think those two kids (Barwin and Carey) will really help us,” said Kelly of his new defensive ends.


In the running game Goebel led the charge for the red team, totaling 51 yards on his 12 carries for a 4.2 yards per carry average.  The team’s top returning running back from last season, junior Jacob Ramsey, ran for just four yards on nine carries due to a lingering ankle injury.


“I don’t know that we felt like Jake was 100 percent coming in,” said Kelly. We kind of protected him a little bit.  We wanted to be really careful, so we cut back on a lot of his reps, and I think John (Goebel) knew he had to carry a lot of the load today and I think he did.”


Running the ball was not as popular over on the black team, but red shirt freshman Scott Johnson used his four carries as an opportunity to show what he can do.  Johnson piled up 26 yards on those four carries for an impressive 6.5 yards per carry average.


In the kicking game senior Brandon Yingling was perfect on the night, connecting on a 38-yard field goal and all four of his extra point attempts.  Punter Kevin Huber averaged 47 yards on his four punts of the night, putting three of them inside the 20 yard line.  Red shirt freshman Michael Cooke averaged just 28 yards on his three attempts on the night, putting one of them inside the 20 yard line.


All things considered, coach Kelly was happy with the way his teams played as well as the atmosphere created by the game.


“I really liked the way our kids competed,” said the coach.  “It was a great atmosphere.  We’re building.  Was it sold out?  No, it wasn’t Alabama, it wasn’t 90,000.  But as I’ve said before we’re making strides in the right direction.  We had an exciting atmosphere tonight for a spring game.”


Unfortunately for Bearcat fans, 122 days lay ahead before an atmosphere of excitement will be created in Nippert Stadium again.  But until the August 28th season opener against Eastern Kentucky, Bearcat Insider will be sure to bring you all of the off-season team and recruiting news you could want.  Enjoy the summer, football fans!


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