Saturday, August 24, 2002

UC needs better defense

Coordinator wants troops to swarm to the ball

By Gary Estwick
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST HARRISON, Ind. - Defensive coordinator A.J. Christoff knows what hurt the University of Cincinnati last season, and he aims to fix it. Christoff didn't see the defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs in his 4-3 scheme swarm to the ball, and that allowed opponents to pile up yards.

        “No, that wasn't to our liking, not to our standard,” he said. “It's still not.”

  A look at some statistics from UC's defense during last year:
  Rushing defense: 176.8 yards (8th in Conference USA)
  Passing defense: 119.4 yards (5th in conference)
  Total yards allowed: 382.0 yards (5th in conference)
  Most rushing yards allowed in a game: 322 yards vs. Toledo (UC lost 23-16)
  Most passing yards allowed: 382 yards vs. Connecticut (UC won 45-28)
  Most total yards allowed in a game: 572 yards vs. Memphis (UC won 36-34)
        Last season, Christoff's defense gave up 382 yards per game, a total that ranked fifth in the 10-team Conference USA. The rushing defense was even worse: 176.8 per game, ranking eighth.

        In an effort to improve on those numbers, Christoff and first-year assistant coaches Mark Criner (linebackers), Dino Dawson (cornerbacks) and Tracy Rocker (defensive line) have pushed the Bearcats to attack the ball en masse during two-a-day practices at Higher Ground Retreat and Conference Center. Christoff hopes that by emphasizing team tackling and pursuit, the problem will be fixed when UC opens its season Sept. 2 against TCU.

        Bearcats head coach Rick Minter hopes so too.

        “Pursuit makes up for a lot of deficiencies on defense,” he said.

        The Bearcats are doing the same practice drills they did last year, but with a greater sense of urgency. After every play, the defense meets at the spot of a tackle or dropped pass and breaks out with a rhythmic hand clap.

        Absent that gang-tackling defense last season, UC had a 7-5 record, but it could have been better. Then-freshman quarterback Gino Guidugli and the Bearcats' offense often were forced to come from behind because the defense couldn't stop opponents.

        UC held the edge in average time of possession (31:37 to 28:23) last season, but the Bearcats lost the clock-control battle against five schools: Miami (loss), UAB (win), Houston (win), Louisville (loss) and Toledo (Motor City Bowl loss).

        “That's horrible in a league that prides itself in mostly being high-powered offenses that throw the ball,” Minter said.

        Seven running backs rushed for 100 yards or more against UC last season, led by Tulane tailback Mewelde Moore,who piled up 249 yards in a 46-33 loss to the Bearcats.

        In a 28-26 loss to East Carolina, defensive tackle DeMarcus Billings said he remembered how UC's defense gave up 305 yards. The Pirates used Leonard Henry's running to build a 21-3 lead in the first quarter, though the Bearcats' offense rallied and almost pulled out the win.

        “They had a lot of explosive plays because we didn't run to the ball,” Billings said. “We had a couple of missed tackles.”

        Billings thought conditioning might have led to a lack of aggressiveness late in games. After battling offensive linemen for three quarters, it's a mental and physical challenge to run 10 yards down the field, he said.

        Despite concerns of depth, Minter believes the defense is getting better. He just wants the Bearcats to execute every game.

        “We need to get better every day,” Minter said. “We have some good practices and bad practices. We need to have good practices all the time.”


Bearcats Stories
- UC needs better defense

Bengals QB should be decided tonight
Bengals Notebook: Dillon's turn tonight
Ravens 13, Eagles 12
Jaguars 24, Bears 16
Patriots 23, Panthers 3
Vikings 14, Titans 10
NFL Notebook: Simmons killed in crash
Astros 6, Reds 4
Reds Box, Runs
Griffey plays LF to ease injured hip
Reds Notebook: Testing day for pitchers
Astros pitcher rewards manager's faith
Hunter finds home with Astros
Phillies 5, Cardinals 4, 14 innings
Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 2
Dodgers 4, Braves 3
Expos 7, Giants 2
Padres 18, Marlins 2
Rockies 10, Mets 4
Athletics 9, Tigers 1
No big news from labor talks
Toledo 7, Louisville 4
Pacers to train at Xavier
Coach's role extends beyond X's and O's
Colerain-Moeller highlight Showdown
Mason upsets Lebanon 14-12
Roger Bacon rallies past Mt. Healthy
Top-ranked Highlands comes up short
Trojans, lightning strike
Weather plays havoc with openers
Another Smith lifts Thoroughbreds
Beechwood's Yeagle leaves coaching job
CovCath controls tempo, blanks Boone County
Kings batters 'Boro
Lexington Henry Clay 18, Highlands 13
McNick's Denton throws 4 TD passes vs. Turpin
Carroll County 27, Ludlow 0
Carroll County 27, Ludlow 0
CCD 34, Madeira 22
CHCA 56, Williamsburg 12
Conner 20, Corbin 6
Conner 20, Corbin 6
Glen Este 20, Goshen 9
Harmony Community 42, Lockland 0
Harmony Community 42, Lockland 0
Holmes 28, Simon Kenton 17
Lakota East 17, Wayne 7
Lou. Holy Cross 21, Holy Cross 0
Loveland 28, Northwest 14
Mariemont 27, Western Brown 0
Mercer Co. 35, Scott 14
Mercer Co. 35, Scott 14
Middletown 28, Withrow 0
Middletown 28, Withrow 0
Milford 33, Amelia 7
Norwood 28, Taylor 12
Purcell Marian 12, Walnut Hills 6
Reading 21, Clinton-Massie 20
Ross 33, Lemon-Monroe 8
Western Hills 29, Dayton Belmont 6
How Enquirer poll teams fared
Local Football Scores
Ohio prep football scores
Indiana prep football scores
Kentucky prep football scores
Boys golf results
Girls tennis results
Girls volleyball preview
Kentucky volleyball preview
PETA objects to Massillon Washington's mascot
Buckeyes plan to hit the ground running
No. 25 Wisconsin 23, Fresno St. 21
C-J's Peavy commits to Miami
MLS Crew play Riverhawks tonight
Louisville Little Leaguers create frenzy

Mail This Story (Click here) Send this story to a friend.

vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700


Paterno Won't Coach Penn St.-Temple Game

Paterno Won't Go to Penn St.-Temple Game

Spurrier Shadow Looms Large in Florida

No. 15 Rutgers Bracing for Historic Game

Hurricanes Stunned by Teammate's Murder

Big East logo
UC joins Big East
• A special section of complete coverage, as the UC Bearcats join one of the nation's elite sports conferences.


Terps Sign Gary Williams Through 2010-11

Bob Knight Approaches Winning Milestone

Buckeyes' Oden Content to Wait for NBA

Larranaga Enjoy Spoils of Final Four Run

Hansbrough Leads AP's All-America Team

AP's Preseason All-America Team

Gators Runaway Preseason No. 1 in Poll

Gators Return Starters to Defend Title

Texas Tech's Jackson Returns to Practice

Sutton Released From Hospital in Okla.


Paris Headlines AP's All-America Team

ACC New Powerhouse in Women's Basketball

Maryland Tops AP Women's Basketball Poll