By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
In August, this game loomed as a breather for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats as they geared up for their stretch run against TCU, Memphis and Louisville.
But as the Bearcats proved two weeks ago when they squeaked out a four-point victory over winless Army, there's no such thing as an easy game for this team.
UC (4-4) plays Division I-AA Rhode Island (3-6) at 2 p.m. today at Nippert Stadium in a game that is only the second-most anticipated of the day at UC, behind the Moeller-Colerain playoff game that will follow a few hours later.
UC coach Rick Minter said his team, which has lost four of its last five games, will not take it lightly.
"I don't think it'll be hard for us to get motivated," Minter said. "Any time you have setbacks, you'd better be determined and practice hard and get ready to roll."
If there's an interesting aspect to this game, it's to see how well UC's defense does against Rhode Island's potent option rushing attack.
The Bearcats rank 16th nationally in total yards surrendered, allowing 304 a game, and have been even more stingy against the run, giving up only 88 per game, which ranks them 11th nationally.
The Rams, who use the option to equalize their deficit in overall athleticism, average 317 rushing yards a game, which ranks them third in Division I-AA.
To prepare for Rhode Island, which has lost four straight, the Bearcats have spent a lot of time this week practicing without a football. The idea is to keep the defensive players from focusing on where the ball's going and concentrate instead on carrying out their assignments.
"Playing against the option is a discipline," free safety Franklin Callicott said. "I think it's helped us a lot. But you've got to think about the pass too. They can just run option, run option and then, boom, pass, so you've got to stay on your toes. You can't get rocked asleep."
A second straight conference title is out of the question for UC, and although the Bearcats technically remain in the running for a fourth straight bowl game, that, too, appears unlikely.
Rhode Island's defense allows 456 yards a game, including 209 rushing, so the Bearcats should be able to solve some of their offensive woes today. The danger is that if they fall behind early, the Rams will be able to consume time with long drives.
"We need to get them out of their game plan," Minter said, "get them out of their comfort zone. If you don't do that, you've got a war on your hands."
Cincinnati vs. Rhode Island
Kickoff: 2 p.m. today, Nippert Stadium (35,000).
Records: UC 4-4, Rhode Island 3-6.
Radio: WLW-AM (700).
What to watch: Division I-AA Rhode Island could make UC sweat a little if it can grab an early lead and eat up the clock with an option running game that averages 317 yards a game. But UC should have a big day rushing, too, against the Rams' porous defense.
|UC|| Team stats|| URI|
|368|| Offense avg.|| 407|
|179|| Avg. by rush|| 317|
|190|| Avg. by pass|| 90|
|304|| Defense avg.|| 456|
|88|| Avg. by rush|| 209|
|216|| Avg. by pass|| 247|
|26|| Avg. points for|| 27|
|23|| Avg. pts. against|| 35|
Kings 38, Jackson 14
Edgewood 28, Dayton Carroll 10
Valley View 34, Wyoming 26
Louisville Trinity 49, Boone County 0
Shelby 20, Conner 15
Ballard 28, Dixie Heights 14
East Central 56, Columbus East 7
East Carter 45, Newport 6
Roundup of other Ky. playoff games
Playoff results, schedule
OTHER PREP SPORTS PLAYOFFS
46th straight victory good for state crown
Volleyball final has familiar ring to it
Pushed to brink, Bulldogs' hopes for title stay alive
Lions one step from repeat
Friends ponder Stenson death
Fame ballot awaiting Rose
Etherton waived, is free agent
Mazzilli is named Orioles manager
Team USA fails to qualify for Athens
QB Carr still standing
Dillon doubtful; Johnson gets ready
Isolation Booth: Rudi vs. Sharper
Bengals' keys to victory
Chargers hope Flutie's their quarterback fix
UC can't look past Rhode Island
DBs' play is Buckeyes' key
Top 25 previews
SEC to use BCS rankings as tiebreaker
COLLEGE HOOPS NOTEBOOK
NKU men stop No. 22 Kennesaw
ON THE AIR
Weekend sports on TV, radio