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 CINCINNATI (AP) -Scraping the bottom of the depth chart at quarterback, Cincinnati is quite pleased with its record heading into its Big East opener against struggling Rutgers.
Can redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson keep it going?
The Bearcats (4-1) have gone through four quarterbacks in the last four games, a development that few teams could overcome. They've done it with a veteran defense getting better each week, and an offense that has managed to do just enough.
``I think our team is happy where we're at right now,'' defensive end Connor Barwin said. ``If you would have told me we'd be on our fourth quarterback and we'd be 4-1, I'd have said: 'I don't know, maybe not.'''
So far, their season has been all about the quarterbacks.
on coming after a season-opening victory over Eastern Kentucky.
A week later, senior Dustin Grutza broke his leg during a loss at Oklahoma. Two games later, junior Tony Pike broke his forearm, forcing redshirt freshman Zach Collaros to finish a 17-15 win at Akron. Coach Brian Kelly decided to start Anderson last week at Marshall, and the freshman threw for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 33-10 victory.
Anderson kept the job because he didn't play like a freshman.
``Actually, I felt really comfortable,'' he said. ``There wasn't a sense of over-excitement. After that first series coming off to the sideline and having coach Kelly just have that look of confidence in me, that I was going win the game for him and be effective as the quarterback - that's the point that I realized that we're going to win this game and this offense can go places.''
The Scarlet Knights (1-4, 0-1) have gone back to a place they never wanted to be again.
Rutgers was an overnight success story in 2006, when the Scarlet Knights won their first nine games - a streak that ended with a 30-11 loss in Cincinnati - and finished 11-2. They slipped to 8-5 last season, and are off to their worst start since they went 1-11 in 2002.
What things have changed?
to do then. I think our special teams are on the rise back now, but we went from really playing well to dipped, and now we're coming back.
``Yeah, certainly you look back. You have a tough stretch, you look back and say, 'Well, how did we do it then? Were we different?' You evolve. Your players evolve too.''
Their offense has regressed. Last season, Mike Teel led an offense that set a school record with 426 points. The senior quarterback has returned, but the offense is missing. Rutgers has scored 21 or fewer points in each of its losses, and ranks last in the Big East with an average of 19 points per game.
Teel has thrown for three touchdowns and seven interceptions so far. He'll be facing a defense that has given him fits - Cincinnati has intercepted him seven times while winning the last two games.
``They have a very good defensive front, so they apply pressure,'' Schiano said. ``We haven't played particularly well in either of the games. They've intercepted a lot of balls from a lot of people, so I think that's a part of what they're very good at doing. But you're right, we have not played well against them offensively.''
The Bearcats' defense had one of its best games at Marshall, where it played more like the veteran unit that was among the best in the nation at getting turnovers last season. Cincinnati came away feeling a lot better about itself.
``The 2008 team is a different team than last year's team,'' Kelly said. ``I think we're finally understanding who we are, how we need to play, how we need to practice. All of those things are starting to take shape.''

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