Condolences for the death of young offensive linemen Ben Flick in the car crash from a month ago. How has the team responded to that?
As well as you can expect I guess. It has been very hard thing for a lot of the younger guys on this team to deal with. He seems to be on the mind of everyone constantly. I am no expert on this kind of thing, but it seems that the athletic department has done a great job of providing support to the team, but also the to the families of Flick and Mark Barr who remains in stable condition at the UC medical center.
What have been the pitfalls in your two embarrassing losses to Illinois and USF?
Turnover's, UC is -4 in the two losses, and +2 in the four wins. But even that doesn't explain it fully, the turnovers in the Illinois game were aided and abetted by a defensive collapse that put the Bearcats in a 21 point hole before the even got a second quarter possession. The Bearcats were the better team in the second half of that game and were robbed of TD from Munchie, and a forced fumble by the Big 10 refs. Then Munchie Legaux got hurt, and the steel went out of the team. USF got the Bearcats in a hole courtesy of two non-offensive touchdowns and maintained their lead by forcing four Bearcat turnovers which never allowed the offense to get into any sort of rhythm and doomed any comeback chances long before they got started.
Is there significant improvement in the play of Brendon Kay now that he's operating in a more spread offense?
That could have something to do with it. It’s equally likely that he got over whatever mental block was hampering him against Miami and for most of the first half against South Florida. His footwork, mentality and accuracy are all improved noticeably from the second half of USF onward. It has also helped that his receivers have starting winning on the outside for him, which hasn't been a given for most of this season. Kay is still hurt, probably on only Kay really knows where he is at physically, but he is a tough guy who seems to have found a way to manage his various issues and perform at a reasonably high level.
Talk about the defense. Some national statistics indicate it's stifling, but quality of opponents thus far has to be kept in mind.
The defense has generally exceeded expectations. Before the season everyone knew that the Bearcats linebackers would be the strength of the team. That has certainly been the case, but the defensive line and secondary have been better than expected. It’s not a suffocating defense at all times, they do have lapses and a smart offensive coordinator can exploit the aggressiveness of this team, the linebackers in particular. Is this defense one of the top 10 in the country, I would say probably not, but it is still pretty damn good. I wouldn't be shocked to see UC end the year as a top 20 to 30 defense.
What have things been like under first-year coach Tommy Tuberville?
Hit and miss. The lunatic fringe of Bearcat fans was ready to throw Tuberville and his offensive coordinator Eddie Gran under the bus after five games. It’s safe to say that the transition hasn't been smooth, and this staff took a while to adjust to the personnel, at least on offense. But that is the kind of stuff that tends to happen with coaching transitions, none of this is unheard of. In 2010 the team collapsed in the first year of Butch Jones, and that was a fear of some for this year after September. I think those fears are unfounded though, that team looked lost from start to finish. This team is capable of more, and they know it, and they have shown it in flashes. It’s the consistency they need to work on.
Did you guys have any opinion on TJ Weist from his brief stint as your WR coach?
I like Weist, even though I often found the UC wide receivers to be underwhelming during his time here, though that’s not his fault entirely. The offense in general was underwhelming in the Jones era. I did like the game that Weist called in the Belk Bowl, but that was just one game.
35-17 Cincinnati. For the simple reason that this game is at Nippert and UC always plays well at home. Though now that I have said it the Bearcats are going to play their first truly terrible home game of the year. It’s been that kind of season.