Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dantonio vows to stand by his seniors


Coach not thinking of building for next year

By Bill Koch
Enquirer staff writer

University of Cincinnati football coach Mark Dantonio is sticking with his seniors.

With a 2-4 record and a second-half schedule against five teams with a combined record of 18-9, it's unlikely the Bearcats will salvage a winning season in Dantonio's first as head coach.

But Dantonio, who will have a young, inexperienced team next season, says he won't start playing younger players in place of his seniors the rest of the season as training for next year.

"I think it's important that you don't say, 'OK, you're a senior. You know what? You no longer matter. Move over. Let's play a freshman,' " Dantonio said. "I don't think that's the right thing to do. We're going to stay with our seniors."

But Dantonio said he will make some personnel changes when the Bearcats play Memphis (5-1, 2-1 Conference USA) Saturday at Nippert Stadium.

"We're going to allow other people to have opportunities," Dantonio said. "We'll see who we're going to start through the remainder of this week. I would not say they're wholesale changes. I would just say we need to tackle better on the perimeter. Offensively, we just need to hang on to the ball."

After losing Oct. 9 to previously winless Army, the Bearcats spent their off week last week examining why they're struggling so badly with a senior-dominated team.

It wasn't hard to pinpoint one major reason: UC has a minus-7 turnover ratio, which is tied with South Florida and Tulane for the worst in the conference.

That and poor special teams have helped negate an offense that averages 407 yards.

"When we've had problems, it's been because of missed tackles or turnovers," Dantonio said. "Those are the two problems that keep popping up that we need to eliminate."

The Bearcats also used the off week to recover from one of the most humiliating losses in the program's recent history.

"It was really hard knowing that a team got their win over us after a 19-game losing streak," defensive end Trent Cole said.

"But we've got some fighting guys. We're not going to let down. We're going to move forward and make the best of it."

NOTES: Cole leads the nation in tackles for loss with 2.5 per game. ... Quarterback Gino Guidugli ranks second among active Division I-A players with 10,200 passing yards and 10,344 total yards. Only Hawaii's Timmy Chang has more.

E-mail: bkoch@enquirer.com




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