|Cincinnati catches Stoops' attention|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 September 2008 10:58|
In Youngstown, he was caught between Cleveland and Pittsburgh and his mind seldom wandered to the opposite end of the state.
``Youngstown's a long way from Cincinnati,'' said Stoops, who is Oklahoma's head coach. ``It's a good 4 1/2 to five hours. I'm up in the northeast corner and they're down in the south edge.''
sn't figure to be 50-0 with 4 minutes to play before halftime.
Cincinnati has caught the Sooners' attention with a ball-hawking defense that led the nation with 26 interceptions and tied for the most takeaways with 42 last season. This year's unit has nine seniors and two fourth-year juniors.
Combine that with a high-powered offense and the nation's best punter in net yardage and there's plenty of reason for Stoops to take a second look at the Bearcats.
``You win 10 games and win your bowl game and are ranked 17th in the country, and everybody takes notice,'' Stoops said.
A win against Oklahoma would make even more people realize what Kelly is building. It would be the Bearcats' first victory against a top five opponent, and Kelly knows it won't be easy.
``It's a Big East all star team. Take the best players from the Big East on both sides of the ball and put them together,'' Kelly said. ``There's no weaknesses, but you've got to get 11 players playing together all at once.
``That's the great thing about this game: You don't have to play them 10 times, you've got to play them once.''
The Bearcats have been emerging on a national stage since the second week of last season, when they pulled off a 34-3 win against Oregon State - a team that was receiving votes to be in the Top 25. That made Cincinnati believe it belonged in the rankings, and three wins against Top 25 opponents followed.
A year later, the Bearcats feel like they belong.
``I think there's a couple of differences. Oklahoma is No. 4 in the country, and we're going to Oklahoma. I think this team is a little more confident than the team was last year overall,'' said Connor Barwin, who has moved from tight end to defensive end. ``We thought Oregon State was a landmark game for us to start to get some respect, and we still feel the same way about this year going down and beating Oklahoma.''
The Bearcats had a shot at a top five team last season when they lost 28-23 to fifth-ranked West Virginia - a team that eventually went on to rout Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Sooners come in as three-touchdown favorites, to which Kelly says, ``Oklahoma has proved it a lot longer than the University of Cincinnati has, so that doesn't surprise me.''
But Oklahoma coaches want their players to remember all the unranked teams that knocked off top five teams last season - a list that includes the Sooners losing at Colorado.
``There's proof if these guys have just any kind of recall that you better come to play if you want to win,'' Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
There should be more resistance on the opposite end this week for the Sooners, who let Chattanooga gain only two first downs and 36 yards - the least allowed last week by any Bowl Subdivision team, even as nine other Top 25 teams played FCS opponents. They also scored on their first seven possessions of the season before downshifting following a halftime rain storm.
``They're going to give us their best shot and we're going to give them our best shot,'' Sooners defensive tackle Cory Bennett said. That's all we've been working on, and that's all we're looking forward to.''
Kelly said a big key will be protecting quarterback Dustin Grutza from an Oklahoma front line that recorded five sacks last week, including 2 1/2 by Big 12 preseason defender of the year Auston English. Grutza has taken over as the starter as Ben Mauk's repeated appeals to gain another year of eligibility keep getting rejected.
``We're going to have a lot of veterans on the field, let's make no mistake about it,'' Kelly said. ``We're not going in there with a team that's inexperienced and has never been in this environment before. We're playing the best team that we're going to see on our schedule up to this point, but I like our chances.''