Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don't overlook Cincinnati's defense Thursday night

When you think of Cincinnati football, you tend to think of offense. That high-octane ability to score carried Brian Kelly’s team last year and landed Kelly at Notre Dame. As for defense, well, the Bearcats ended the 2009 season by coughing up points, especially in a 51-24 loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

The 2009 Bearcats defense gave 23.1 points per game and 3.6 yards per rush – nothing spectacular for a 12-1 team.

This year, though, the rush defense is ranked 10th in the country, allowing only 71.0 yards per game and 2.3 yards per carry. Granted, Cincinnati is 1-1 after a 28-14 loss at Fresno State and 40-7 win over Indiana State, so this isn’t exactly the Pittsburgh Steelers. But given N.C. State’s inexperience at running back and along the offensive line, it adds an interesting element to Thursday’s game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

“They are very aggressive and they run very well,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said of the Cincinnati defense. “There are always a lot of black helmets around the football when the play is over. They have experience at the linebacker position and in the secondary.”

O’Brien said Cincinnati has switched schemes some in recent years and has now settled on a 4-3 that includes some hefty players in the middle of the defensive line.

State will throw a young pair of running backs at that front. Redshirt freshman Dean Haynes and true freshman Mustafa Greene will continue to share carries, and O’Brien said what he’s really looking for is for them to cut upfield hard and not fumble.
“We’re just trying to get one good back out of two guys playing hard,” he said.

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