Ten short days ago the Bearcats unleashed the metaphorical fury on the Pitt Panthers scoring twice, and forcing a turnover in the first five minutes of the game. That sequence effectively stated that the game was already decided. And it was. Tonight the Bearcats step down a couple weight classes for what is, essentially, a sparring fight two weeks in advance of the Bearcats first, biggest, and possibly only test during the non conference schedule against Virginia Tech. So the question is what do the Bearcats have to accomplish tonight?
Crank The Tempo
UC has to play faster on offense tonight. Against Pitt the Bearcats ran just 59 plays. The goal for the first half of the game should be 40 snaps. That puts UC on pace for 80 for the game, and it would almost certainly result in starters sitting after the first snap. Against Pitt, UC snapped the ball, on average, every 24 seconds of game time. That is much too slow.
Munchie Legaux has the ability to pilot this offense like Darron Thomas piloted Oregon's Death Star. But he has to get the pace going. For one it makes the defense work harder, and cover more ground. For another, a faster pace prevents defenses from adequately disguising their coverages and schemes. Not to mentioning limiting substitutions and personnel groupings.
In two weeks the Bearcats will face a typically formidable Virginia Tech defense, and the single greatest weapon the Mike Bajakian will have to negate that defense is the tempo. But UC can't wait until September 29th to flip that switch. To get comfortable with the kind of pace the Bearcats will need against the Hokies* they have to get it game ready, and you can only do that in a game. Tonight is the perfect opportunity.
*I'm thinking something in the range snapping the ball every 15 seconds of game time.
This isn't a key to this game. Its more of a key to my curiosity. The Cincinnati single season record for sacks is 13 set in 2007 by Anthony Hoke. Walt had two against Pitt, and he had another handful of hurries. I think Stewart can not only break Hoke's record, but shatter it. If Walt has another multi sack game, a strong possibility, we could be looking at an all timer of a defensive season.
The Young Bucks
Tomorrow will be the first game action for a lot of the Bearcats younger players, particularly the freshmen and sophomores. Its not so much a key as another thing to keep an eye on tonight