On to the next one, and this week it's a challenge. Cincinnati was near flawless against Pitt, sloppy against Delaware State, but they had both contests locked up early. Over the weekend I did some reading on the Bearcats, here's what I learned.
Wham is a play we should see Cincy run a bunch Saturday. A couple of weeks ago I mistakenly identified as the zone read. The concept is straightforward, and it blends well with their inside and outside zone plays. Down the Drive did a fantastic breakdown. Read their entire post, because only a summary follows here.
It is, on the face of it, a really simple play. The offensive line blocks for an inside zone, and the tight end cuts behind them to clean up the backside pursuit. It is simple, but it is simple for the best reason, it works.
The Wham block became a fixture in the offense down the stretch last year. In the Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt the Bearcats used the wham block on Seven of Isaiah Pead's 28 carries, and there is evidence. Any doubt about whether the Bearcats would continue to use the tactic were put to rest on the first offensive snap of the year.
One thing to keep in mind is that Wham blocking isn't a concept in and of itself, like the inside and outside zone are. Its much better to think of it in terms of being a wrinkle that can be easily, and painlessly, tacked onto the end of any existing concept.
The Tech defensive ends, or whoever is responsible for that outside gap in the case of stunts and blitzes, will have to do a good job and protect from getting sealed off by the wham block.
Munchie Legaux, Cincy's athletic, but not quite polished quarterback accounted for four turnovers (2 fumbles, 2 interceptions) against Delaware State.
The disturbing thing about those six turnovers is that four of them – two fumbles and two interceptions – were by quarterback Munchie Legaux. One of the interceptions came on a forced pass to Anthony McClung in the end zone. Another came on a fake handoff as Legaux tried to pull the ball back out. And while Jones chalked the miscues up to the maturation process of a first-year starter at quarterback, it was a little unsettling to see the leader of the offense so careless with the ball.
However, Cincinnati coach Butch Jones seems encouraged by his performance.
Asked Monday on the Big East coaches' call if he considered Legaux's performance a step back in his development, Jones said it was just the opposite. He actually feels better about Legaux as his starter than he did before, having watched him complete 20 of 27 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns against the Hornets.
"You can't take the turnovers away but I thought he improved his accuracy," Jones said. "I thought he was in command of the offense. He hit some big-time throws. I saw improvement from game one. I just think it's another teaching tool. It's another opportunity to get better. I'm not discouraged. I'm actually encouraged from watching the film. Those are all correctable mistakes that he made."
If I am Bud Foster, I scheme to bottle up tailback George Winn (35 carries, 242 yards, 2 TDs) who is emerging as Cincy's featured back, and put it on Legaux to beat Tech.
Cincy's defense (albiet it in just two games) is playing well.
Over two games Cincinnati is yet to allow a touchdown in the first three quarters. The two scores allowed came in the fourth with UC leading by 31 against Pitt and 20 against Delaware State.
The Cats are currently sixth in the country in points allowed per game (8.5). While we are far too early into the year to be making sweeping generalizations about UC as a top 10 defense, the foundation has been set.
"We are not making mistakes, we are not beating ourselves by and large," defensive coordinator Jon Jancek said. "For the most part we've played pretty clean football. We've communicated well playing good, team defense."
Through two games, UC's 8.67 tackles for loss per game still exceeds the pace of last year's 8.62 per game which led the nation.
More than making splash plays in the backfield, the Bearcats kept explosive plays against them to a minimum. They rank in the top third of the country in plays of 10+ and 20+ yards allowed per game.
The Bearcats are a smaller, but faster attacking D who have played a lot of nickel. As Tech fans know, aggressive defense is very risk-reward. Down the Drive broke down what happens when run fits/gap control go wrong.
Logan Thomas and O'Cainspring will have their work cut out for them, but if everything is humming they should be able to move the ball.