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August 8, 2011

Turning the page: 2011 UC Football

Experience means everything in football. Youthful programs rarely produce and Cincinnati was amongst the nation's youngest in 2010.

"It was kind of a punch in the face," said Pead. "A big one. We are out there to fix that. And get a BIG EAST Championship. The third in four years."

Pead had an outstanding season and might just earn All-BIG EAST honors this year. His adjustment was particularly promising for Head Coach Butch Jones and Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian.

As UC looks to replace several offensive starters the offense will lean heavily upon players like Pead, Zach Collaros, and D.J. Woods. They know what to expect and performed spectacularly Monday.

"Last year we were all freshmen," said Pead. "We were learning it on the run. We would have to mess up a couple of times in the game and watch it on the film to notice not to do that. And now we have messed up. We have seen the mess ups. We know where not to mess up. I feel like this whole season is going to be real good for us."

Many of the mess ups were turnovers.

Coach Jones is rightfully proud of his team's total offense and scoring offense. Unforunately it was not enough. He touts a personal legacy of ball control, a legacy he hopes to instill deeper this fall.

Cincinnati moved the ball better than anyone else in conference, but spilled the pigskin too often.

Collectively they were second-worst in fumbles lost and second-worst in interceptions thrown.

A -15 turnover margin must be addressed. It all starts with veteran QB Collaros. If he can become a steadying force the passing game should resume its prolific nature hinted at in 2010.

That Cincinnati finished second to last in the BIG EAST does not sit well with the returning starters.

"You are not a competitor if you are not anxious to get out after a 4-8 season," said Pead. "None of us on this team have ever been a part of a losing team coming up. Little league, high school, college."

Pead's urgency to reclaim the success, expand that glimmer of spring promise into a glaring stream of eye-opening wins is shared by Collaros.

For him to leave college a satisfied athlete the mandate is simple.

"We have to win," said Collaros. "That is what it comes down to. That is what college football is about. It is a business. That is how you have to look at. Obviously we want to improve everyday but we want to win games."

Monday afternoon media members kept force feeding the spiteful angle. 'Nobody believes you (UC) can win,' they said. Does that bother you?'

Uh, yeah. Collaros and Pead handled it more adeptly, but D1 athletes rarely need inspiration to work harder. And the players on UC have spent plenty of months ruminating about the failures of 2010.

"I think you should have a chip on your shoulder all the time," said Collaros. "You have to find things to motivate you. After coming off a season of 4-8 you have a lot of doubters."

Though Collaros humored the persistent theme he has shown an eagerness to put the past behind him. He knows what he and this team is capable of and looks to prove it on the field. Pead wants to show the same level of prowess not only to doubters but to uneasy teammates.

"But we are looking to, for one, prove to ourselves that we are Cincinnati Bearcats," said Pead. "We are contenders and we are looking to prove we can play with anybody in the nation. That is the mentality. You have to play with a chip on your shoulder. You have to play with a swagger."

No longer can Cincinnati Bearcat players or coaches focus on the team's youth. Fans are ready to win again. Expecting to even. Believe that Coach Jones is not planning another 4-8 campaign. He sees an upward mobility.

"There are no excuses now," said Derek Wolfe.


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