With a record of 4-1, the University of Cincinnati football team returns home following a two-game road trip and begins preparation for Big East play. How has the team handled the early season, and what awaits them once conference play begins?
The Bearcats are currently in a position where many saw them being before the season started, with a loss at Oklahoma being the only blemish on their schedule. With the way the Sooners have been playing en route to being ranked number one in the national polls, this shouldn’t upset Cincinnati fans too greatly. The team has picked up four big wins to go along with their lone loss, blowing out Eastern Kentucky and Miami (OH), handedly beating Marshall, and surviving a close one at Akron.
While many could have predicted the team’s current record, no one could have imagined the road they took to get here. Dustin Grutza came out hot out of the gate in the season opener against Eastern Kentucky, but wishes his outing in Oklahoma could have turned out a little differently. Backup Tony Pike looked flustered in his action against the Sooners, but came out swinging (and impressing) against the RedHawks of Miami (OH). Pike continued to play well against Akron until he suffered a broken left arm. Zach Collaros and Jake Rogers were able to salvage the effort against the Zips, and then the mystery and the great debate began.
Which red shirt freshman would start in the team’s next game, Collaros or Chazz Anderson?
After a week of keeping us in the dark, head coach Brian Kelly announced just before game time that Anderson would get the starting nod. In the first playing time of his collegiate career, the Pickerington, Ohio native delivered against the Thundering Herd of Marshall, during a “White Out” in Joan C. Edwards Stadium no less.
With Pike not expected to return until at least the team’s October 25th match up against UConn in Connecticut, Anderson will see at least one more start before Pike can play again. The Bearcats kick off their Big East season welcoming Rutgers to town. The Scarlett Knights have struggled thus far this season, and will be looking to pick up a conference road win to try and get their season back on track.
Anderson should do fine in his second career start, his first in Nippert Stadium. Pressure will be on him to follow up nicely on his performance against Marshall, but being able to play a struggling Rutgers team at home for his first sample of Big East play should help.
Coach Kelly said that the Marshall game was his team’s best overall game of the season, and if you look solely at the running game it’s hard to argue with the coach. Jacob Ramsey ran for a career high 99 yards against the Herd, while John Goebel broke out a 21-yard run (his career long) for a touchdown. Freshman Isaiah Pead made his way into the game late and looked as speedy and impressive as advertised. Could that experience be readying him for the Big East season, where coach Kelly may be planning on using the fast running back more often??? Only time will tell, but until then look for Ramsey and Goebel to continue their improvement throughout the season.
While it may not be the early season fans expected, with injuries and instability plaguing the quarterback position, fans should be happy the team still made it to 4-1. In what is being looked at as a weak Big East this season, if Cincinnati can remain successful at QB they should have a real chance at grabbing the conference title and making their way to a BCS bowl.