Opportunistic defense comes up big

For nine months the Cincinnati Bearcats defense had to hear everyone dissect its effort and results from the 2010 season, Saturday was the first step in showing they are a year older, wiser and more importantly, better.

In the season opener at Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats were able to record a 72-10 victory over Austin Peay.

We know Austin Peay doesn't provide the type of competiveness that they will face in the BIG EAST or even next week when they travel to Rocky Top. However, it's a step forward. Last season after one game, the Bearcats were 0-1 and this season, they are 1-0.

The first team defense limited the Governors to 108 yards in the first half before calling it a night. Most of those yards were accumulated on the first and last drive of the half. In those aforementioned possessions, Austin Peay racked up 59 yards. In between the Bearcats had a stretch in which there forced three consecutive three-and-outs.

"I thought we played fundamentally sound," said defensive tackle John Hughes. "We tried to use the techniques we learned in camp."

Of those 108 yards, running back Ryan White recorded 50 on 11 carries for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Definitely not a prescription for long term success, but there is plenty of time to correct it.

"We had a couple little break downs where the offense did some split flow plays where we got out of whack," said senior linebacker J.K. Schaffer. "Learning how to fit those play and get it corrected, but besides that we were pretty solid."

A pass rush that was much maligned got to APSU quarterback Jake Ryan for two sacks and harassed him all half. In addition, the big-play defense that was absence for most of the 2010 season forced two turnovers in the initial 30 minutes of the game.

The first-team defense also did an excellent job of getting off the field on third down as the Governors was just 1-for-6 on third down in the first half.

"Fist up defense, that is what we have been preaching all off season and in camp," said Schaffer. "Getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers."

Even after the first team exited the game, Austin Peay continued to hemorrhage turnovers. Cincinnati finished with five turnovers, including one on special teams. More importantly for the Bearcats, the offense stayed away from the turnover bug that plagued them for most of last year.

"We were opportunistic tonight," said head coach Butch Jones. "That is probably one of the things that pleased me the most, we were able to take the ball away and we protected the football."

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