Knocking Off The First Marble

As a kid I'm sure many of you played marbles and had some success. Brian Kelly is playing a bigger game of marbles as he looks for his team to knock the first team out of the circle in the game of winning the Big East.

Every team in college football has a team they know they've got to knock off before they can reach the level of success desired by fans, coaches and players. This year the University of Cincinnati has a few of these games with the first one coming on Saturday night in Morgantown, West Virginia.

The Mountaineers have been at the top or near the top of the Big East since 2003 but much has changed. A new head coach as well as several new assistants saw the Mountaineers make a few changes to what they do. But recently fans have seen the Mountaineers of old and it's no surprise to Kelly, his staff, or his players that West Virginia is back to running the football with Pat White at the helm.

But the Bearcats know you have to do more than stop White if you want to win in Morgantown. Mountaineer Field is no easy place to go in and win especially at night. Crowd noise in a full 65,000 seat stadium with some Bearcat Faithful in a small corner will place the Bearcats in a hostile environment but during his press conference Kelly felt his team would be ready having already made this trip once to Oklahoma.

If the Bearcats want to win several things must happen. Tony Pike showed against South Florida he's headed back in the right direction and without a hard cast on his arm this week Kelly feels Pike is just the man to lead his team.

Dustin Grutza returned to full practice on Monday and Kelly was optimistic on using the senior if needed. On Tuesday, Grutza said he was a little sore but took many snaps as the possible number two signal caller.

But while the Bearcats offense will be a key to a victory Saturday the truth is you must stop White & Company if you want a win. A couple of teams did so early in the season but this is when the Mountaineers always seem to be peaking.

While Kelly will look for his defense to continue to apply pressure to White, he also knows assignment football is a must if you want to keep White in-check and the damage he can do to a minimum.

Since joining the Big East the Bearcats have yet to knock off the "Big Three" of West Virginia, Louisville and Pittsburgh. All three are lined up for the month of November before closing out Big East play against Syracuse. If Brian Kelly can knock one marble out each week the Bearcats will be playing for at least a share of the Big East title to close out the month.

The task is at hand for the Bearcats but practice was spirited on Tuesday afternoon. Players set the tone early hitting the field with an upbeat attitude knowing they are on a mission to make another change in Bearcats football. Coaches were sharp making sure the finer details of each aspect was being done by players. Receivers were corrected when they cut routes short and defensive backs where called out when taking shortcuts.

The theme of the day was to play "Championship Football" and Saturday the Bearcats look to bring out their giant marble and knock off the giant of the conference to take the first step towards winning the Big East.


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