It started with the defense last night, how can it not here as well. I assumed that the defense would be improved once again this year, and it is, even though the numbers don't exactly show it. In terms of total yardage UC allowed 415 yards of total offense which sounds bad. That ties UC for 78th in total defense nationally. Not great, but it misses the point. The only stat that really matters is scoring defense. Its the whole point of defense, and UC excelled on that front last night, only three points allowed against the starting defense.
Last year the Bearcats went to an attacking defensive style after the debacle that was the Tennessee game. The bet was simple, we can get to your quarterback before your quarterback can get to us. It worked against anyone not named Geno Smith. With Tim Banks off to Illinois there were some questions about how the defense would change with someone else calling the plays. It didn't. If anything John Jancek walked the Bearcats even further down the scale of attacking basically all the time. UC was on it from the start racking up 10 TFL and 6 sacks. And watching the game you couldn't even tell that UC had just had two multi year starters at DT get drafted in the first 100 picks of the NFL draft.
Tino Sunseri did play well when he could stand up. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 278 yards, that's an average of 7.5 yards per attempt which is a little high for my tastes. Ideally that number would be under 7 or right around 7 at the worst. But that is how it will be with this defense all year. High risk high reward, and I am fine with that because this could wind up being a very good redzone team with Walter Stewart's ability to get presure off the edge.
Walt had a fantastic game on the box score. 9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble that needs to be made into gif form NOW. Anthony Hoke should get ready because Walt is coming for his single season sack record, and it might just fall this year.
Also having a fantastic game in his first ever college game, Greg Blair. He pitched in 10 tackles, 1 INT and one pass defended. He isn't exactly J.K Schaffer but he plays so damn hard and has ridiculous range for a 240 pound linebacker. Its a shame we are only getting Blair for a season.
Those two were the standouts but the defensive line was the best unit of the defense by far. By my count Strip and Jancek played 10 defensive linemen in the first three series of the game. If anything this group is deeper than last year's, and that is scary. You might have heard this before, but Pitt is not a good offensive line. Still the way that the Bearcats can throw wave after wave of fresh bodies up front with little dip in production was deeply impressive.
As for the offense it would be easy to simply extoll the virtues of Munchie Legaux for 500 words but I will resist the temptation. Don't worry though that will come, but I have a separate post in mind for that will come after I rewatch the game this afternoon. Instead lets talk about the sexiest subject of all, Offensive Line play, (cue the music).
The offensive line was simply magnificent last night. Not only did they pave the way for 259 rushing yards (271 pre sack) and an 8.4 yards per carry average. But they gave Munchie days to throw as #4 wasn't hurried all game. The one sack that was allowed was more Munchie's fault than theirs.* There is no drop off at all between this years group and last years. In fact the ceiling is much higher this year. And how about this to given you a warm feeling for the next few years everyone but Sean Hooey will be coming back in 2013.
George Winn was a man on fire last night as well 11 carries, 95 yards, 8.6 yards per carry and a pair of TD's for good measure including possibly the easiest TD ever.
In short the backs were good last night. But its hard to make any definitive statements about them other than they played well last night because Pitt is, at this point, a smoldering pile of ruble where a Football team used to stand. If there are nits to be picked with the offense it would be with the receivers, but again more on that later this afternoon.