So when Mardy (or is Marty?) Gilyard caught a 15-yard pass from Tony Pike for the game's opening touchdown, I was pumped. Did you see it? The right foot that dug into the turf as he was falling out of bounds, five yards inside the endzone? Before Thursday's Orange Bowl, I was happy that the Cincinnati Bearcats made such strides; like first BCS appearance, first Orange Bowl, first 11-game winning season, first out-right conference championship since 1964. I was telling myself, win or lose, the Bearcats had a great season. Damn near close to being their best ever.
When the Bearcats went up 7-0, on their first possession, going 72 yards on six plays under two minutes, I felt this team wouldn't just win, they were going to win big, impress the nation, and bring home a winner. Then the Bearcats went punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, interception, interception, punt, interception, turnover on downs, interceptions, game over. In exactly half of Cincinnati's 12 possessions, the offense didn't record more than seven yards, and after the touchdown, recorded 40 yards-or-more in three. I went from convinced of a winner, to "uh oh", to "this shouldn't take anything away from their great season." Topics, conversion, BCS, Orange Bowl. See ya next year!
In the end, the way the Bearcats lost was all too similar as to how the Bengals lost many of their games this year. Offensive shuts down, save for one or two sustaining drives. Defense wears out. Bearcats defense was on the field for 39:39. Tony Pike's four interceptions is a career high. Only twice in his career did he recorded more than one interception. Rushing the ball against the Virginia Tech defense was futile, only because we stopped rushing. Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel combined for 60 yards rushing on 13 attempts -- a 4.6 yard-per-rush average.
The major difference, from comparing this loss like most of the Bengals losses, is that the overall body of work doesn't compare. The Bearcats are the princes of Cincinnati football. They absorbed Bengals fans that supplimented their desire for a winner, without actually betraying the Bengals by rooting for another NFL team.
The thing about the Bearcats is this. While they're still building, still acquiring players that fits the Brian Kelly mold, they're letting go a lot of defensive players, while the offense requires some work. In the end, the Bearcats are just a fraction of what we could see Kelly bring together. This very well could be the low point of his tenure; there's a lot of Bearcats football to be cheering. Good job Bearcats. Making Cincinnati proud, with a football team that rivals the Bengals for in-town cheer, is something to build upon. And already, I can't wait to see what their 2009 season will be. This time, mostly with Kelly's players.
Watching Virginia Tech is like watching someone build a barrel [Dr. Saturday]
Mistakes killed the Bearcats [Enquirer]
So did the Hokie defense [ESPN Big East Blog]
Sour end to a sweet season [Paul Daugherty]
Post Game quotes and reaction [C Trent]
Brian Kelly was worried about Tyrod Taylor all week [Miami Herald]
Hokies CB Stephan Virgil turned the tide [Miami Herald]
Vindication for both teams [Miami Herald]