This week I talked with Matt from the Cincinnati blog Down The Drive. I learner a lot of things, including that thier team is scary (even though their quarterback's name is Munchie), and...arguably more terrifying...not afraid of the Hokies one bit.
Thanks to Matt for his time, and hopefully I'll see all y'all in DC!
TKP: Well it's been a little while, hasn't it? The last time the Hokies and Bearcats met was in the Orange Bowl, Tony Pike and Brian Kelly lead a Bearcat team to their first BCS bowl. How has Butch Jones handled taking over for Kelly post undefeated regular season, and do you see more BCS bids in the near future?
DTD: I have been pleasantly surprised with Butch Jones. The bar that Kelly set is obviously quite high. The only way that you can possibly eclipse it is to do the damn thing and get to the National Title game. I was weary of going back to the Central Michigan well with his hire, but it has worked out, and will continue to work out IMO. The first year was rough, but the way Kelly and Jones go about building to program is completely different. Kelly was the pied piper, he held the city, the university and the team in the palm of his hand. Jones doesn't have that kind of charisma, and he doesn't think that is the best way to sustain success. He wants the players to take ownership and leadership of the program. Needless to say switching from the Cult of Kelly to Jones's more pragmatic, team oriented approach. The seniors in 2010 never really bought into jones. But he has long since got the level of commitment that he wanted.
TKP: Now, the offense seems to stop and go with quarterback Munchie Legaux (one of the best nicknames in college football). How do you feel about him at quarterback? From the limited action and box scores I've seen, I gather that he is a playmaker, but turnover prone. Do you trust his decision making/ball control?
DTD: There are still Bearcats who are flat out convinced that Munchie Legaux can not, and will not succeed. They look at those who came before him and saw very conventional passers in Ben Mauk, Tony Pike and Zach Collaros, all of whom were wildly successful throwing the ball all over the park. That's the new orthodoxy for the Bearcats, and Munchie is anything but orthodox. I am not one of those people though. I think that Munchie has enough talent, enough inherent ability to carry the torch, even though the way he will carry said torch from point A to point B will not resemble Collaros, or Mauk and certainly not Pike. That's OK from my perspective, but there are still doubters who recoil at the thought of Munchie being the guy, which he already is.
As for his decision making, I think its fine. In two games Munchie has made, by my charting of his passes, 6 bad decisions where he forced the ball into windows that didn't really exist when he threw the ball, or windows that were there but had closed by the time of release. But still 6 bad choices in 55 attempts for a guy who will be making just his 6th start is not bad. Its certainly manageable
TKP: I can't figure out who to be more afraid of, Legaux or running back George Winn. What kind of runner is he? Did you see this kind of start to the season coming from a guy who had only ran for 376 yards before this year?
DTD: Dude goes HAM, as the kids say. Winn has been a revaluation this year. I didn't expect this kind of year from him, not many close to the program did. The go to play for this offense has become the inside zone, and that is a play that compliments Winn perfectly because he is at his best when he can go north/south (and throw the ball into the student section). Winn has been good, but Ralph David Abernathy IV and Jameel Poteat are, if anything, more innately talented. Winn has been fantastic so far, but this running game isn't just him, Poteat and RDA4 are just as capible, given the chance.
TKP: In your opinion, how has the defense played this year? If the Hokies want to attack it, how should they do so?
DTD: The defense has played well. They have been sloppy at times against the run. But effort isn't in question, if anything they play too hard. I know that is blasphemous to some, but its true. The best defenses tend to straddle the control/chaos line in their approach and execution. Far too often this year the Bearcats have been pure chaos.
The biggest plays the Bearcats have allowed this year have all been very fluky They are plays that are a half second from being finished off where the back or QB keeps things alive, and everyone forgets their heads trying to make the big play, and become victimized by a big play themselves. That is not to say that the Bearcats are perfect on defense. There are ways to attack this defense.
If I was Brian Steinspringer I would do a couple of things in particular. 1) Don't be tempted to run right up the middle against this defense. UC is smallish up front, but their movement is constant and running ISO up the gut time and again isn't a healthy diet. The Bearcats have a ton of speed, and they play very fast sideline to sideline, but they can be caught flowing too fast. As Ray Graham showed, the cutback can be there, play for it. 3) Go at Greg Blair in coverage. Blair has been a big surprise for UC fans stepping in for the immortal ginger J.K. Schaffer (that's my nickname for him, and I hope no one else's) but Blair is 6' and weighs in at 240. He is a stellar athlete, with sideline to sideline range, but his short area quickness isn't the best, and he can be had on whips, stutters and other intermediate route variations. Those are the two things that I would scheme to take advantage of
TKP: Obviously, this game is being played at Fed Ex field. How many Bearcat fans do you think will travel to DC? Is the general fan base happy with the game being moved to a neutral location?
DTD: As a fan of the Bearcats I detest any attempts to take home games out of Nippert Stadium. The Nip might be old, over crowded, with amenities that were outdated in the 80's. But it is, in my biased opinion, the best stadium that no one knows about. And the Bearcats generally kick ass and take names at the Nip. So on that front I am pissed. As someone who studied business/economics I get it. UC's athletic department is drowning in dept, and when you are in that postion, its really hard to say no to three million dollars or more, which is what the guarantee is reported to be.
In general Bearcat fans do travel pretty well, even to non conference games. But this DC trip is outside the comfort zone of some, not so much with the location, but with the timing in late September. The last I heard UC had sold a little north of 3,000 of the 10,000 allotted tickets. I would expect more fans to be there though, all the people I know going to the game purchased tickets on the secondary markets. That has to be a pretty sizable group.
TKP: How confident are you going into this game? After what can only be described as the Pitt debacle, I can imagine that it it probably higher than you expected.
DTD: on a scale of 1-10 I'd say about a 6, maybe 6.5. I think that UC is capible of wining the game, but I have no idea if the mistakes from the DSU game will come back to the fore. Its impossible to emphatically declare, with a sample size of two games, that eqalibrium has been reached. But I trust this staff, if not the players, to come up with a performance on a similar level to the Pitt game. But that is more faith than certitude.
TKP: Finally, what is your final score prediction?
DTD: 17-10 UC. Long TD run from Munchie seals the victory late in the 4th.