I have to go to the defensive side of the football for the 3rd best moment of the 2010 football/basketball seasons. UC's defense didn't live up to anyone's expectations last season. Actually, they were downright awful, ranking 7th in the conference just in front of Rutgers who somehow managed to finish last. There were few bright spots for a defense that gave up so many big plays game after game. The tons of sacks against Syracuse come to mind. But saying there isn't any talent back there would be ignorant and guys like Derek Wolfe or J.K. Schaffer would be happy to prove you wrong if asked. That brings me to this slot in the Down the Drive countdown, J.K. Schaffer's incredibly athletic pick against Oklahoma. J.K.'s an incredibly talented football player and will join the ranks of other great Cincinnati linebackers that have worn red and black throughout the years. He's compiled over 100+ tackles the past two seasons, has over two-dozen starts under his belt, and is the bona fide leader of the Bearcats defense. He commands a ton of respect in the locker room and it's plays like these that allow him to easily fire up his teammates.
Let's take a look at the play, one of the best I have ever seen out of any football player. Ever. Ever:
J.K. Schaffer Interception vs Oklahoma (via cinbinsportsfan)
Cincinnati was beginning to crawl back into the game at this point. While they hadn't done much on offense, the defense had allowed only a single touchdown to the Sooners since opening up the second half. Since the Isaiah Pead run, the Bearcats' sideline and the thousands of fans in the stadium were energized but waiting for that defining moment to get Cincinnati back in the game. Schaffer delivered. It was early in the 4th quarter and Oklahoma had a 2nd and long just outside of the 35-yard line. You have to figure if the Sooners at the least got into field goal range around the 25-yard line, the game would have pretty much been over as they would have been up 27 - 15. If they scored a touchdown, they would have iced it. But pressure came off of Landry Jones's right side from Dan Giordano and forced him to step up and throw errant across the middle of the field. He was staring at his receiver sitting at the first down marker but didn't see Schaffer in zone just to the right of the football's path.
It was incredible. I can barely even describe how his body contorted to make the catch. He was rolling with Jones to his left and all in one second stopped and reached to his right for a one handed pick. I don't think the camera man, the crowd, or the viewers at home knew what was going on. I definitely had no clue what happened and just thought he knocked it to the ground. When he stood up the Bearcats sidelines, the fans in Paul Brown Stadium, and myself started going nuts that he actually pulled it off. Landry Jones and the Oklahoma fans, on the other hand, were pissed. But it was more than just a great play. The sequence of events afterwards were just as good.
Cincinnati's defensive shutdown vs. Oklahoma (via cinbinsportsfan)
The next drive Cincinnati scored on D.J. Wood's touchdown. The crowd was so fired up it caused one of the commentators to proclaim, "this is an SEC environment right now" - Love that line. Now I'm not an advocate of a permanent move by the Bearcats to Paul Brown Stadium sharing it with the Bengals downtown, but at that moment UC fans got a taste of what it might be like to have 55,000+ screaming fans packed into a stadium at once cheering them on to victory (like the fight song!). It was a great moment for the program and really looked like the Bearcats were taking over downtown Cincinnati.