Thursday, September 23, 1999

A step up in class

Buckeyes' speed worries Bearcats

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When they visit Ohio State for some football Saturday, the Cincinnati Bearcats will not be able to rely on the same sort of magic they employed to conjure their upset of Wisconsin.

UC players will see almost a season's worth of spectators Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The largest crowd ever to watch UC play football was 96,597 at Tennessee in 1992. The biggest crowds — all on the road — the Bearcats have seen in the past three years:

• 10/10/98, Syracuse, 47,251, 63-21 loss

• 9/14/96, Kansas State, 43,119, 35-0 loss

• 9/27/97, Boston College, 40,564, 24-6 victory

• 9/26/96, Louisville, 36,242, 10-7 victory

• 10/3/98, Louisville, 35,479, 62-19 loss

        UC (2-1) played at home in defeating Wisconsin, but they will face the Buckeyes (2-1) at Ohio Stadium in front of a crowd larger than the attendance at its past four home games combined.

        UC played a Wisconsin team that previously had not been tested or humbled, but Ohio State already felt the sting of defeat against the Miami Hurricanes and was embarrassed by its first-half performance in last week's too-tough win over Ohio U.

        Most important, Ohio State will attack.

        “I think they're more athletic. There's more skill and speed,” Bearcats coach Rick Minter said. “I think that separates the two teams.

        “The way our schedule has worked out, each team was more difficult than the one before. I do believe Ohio State is better than Wisconsin. I don't want to infuriate the Wisconsin supporters, because we have to play them next year. But Ohio State has more speed.”

        UC's principal advantage against Wisconsin resulted from the Badgers' stagnant defensive scheme, which failed to produce a sack against quarterback Deontey Kenner.

        The Bearcats spread their offense with four- and five-receiver sets, and Wisconsin never dared to attack with a blitz. That permitted Kenner time to find the proper receivers, most notably wideout Tony Smikle on four streaks along the hashmarks that produced drive-sustaining receptions.

        Ohio State will not stand back and let UC decide what it wishes to do on offense. The Buckeyes frequently employ a “46” defense — also known as the “Bear” defense — the attacking, blitzing scheme devised by former Philadelphia and Phoenix coach Buddy Ryan.

        “Ohio State is much more aggressive than Wisconsin,”

        Kenner said. “No matter what formation we get in, Ohio State is going to blitz. Whether you've got one back, two backs, three backs, four wides, one wide ... they're going to bring more than we have to block. That's something we have to prepare for.”

        The basics of the gameplan for UC are the same as a week ago:

        • No turnovers. UC lost one interception against Wisconsin, but the Badgers picked that off in their own end zone with only seconds to play in the first half. The Bearcats did not give up points as a result. The only other miscue was a muffed punt. “We can't put our defense out there on a short field,” Minter said.

        • No big plays. Wisconsin completed no pass longer than 33 yards and had no run longer than 29 yards. Speed makes Ohio State much more dangerous in this regard.

        Whereas Wisconsin generated only 85 yards with its passing game, Ohio State flanker Ken-Yon Rambo is nearly averaging that himself.

        “If it happens that one of their guys breaks the line of scrimmage,” Minter said, “we won't be dragging him down from behind.”

        • Superior play on special teams. With the disparity in talent, the phase of the game UC has the best opportunity to gain an edge is kicking.

        “They present a major challenge for us,” Minter said. “I mean major. But also a more threatening challenge when you look at style of play, when you look at the type of players they have.

        “We're doing a good job of hanging onto the football. We've got to keep that up,” Minter said. “If we go up there and not beat ourselves, all we hope to do is try to hang in there through four quarters, try to be the Rocky Balboa who just keeps standing.”


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