You are looking live at the well manicured, dizzyingly striped turf at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Cincinnati Bengals just completed their walk-through before tomorrow’s home game against the Pittsburgh Who knows what today holds, but let’s just hope we all have as much fun as that cat in the middle of the field seems to be having. I don’t know if it’s smiling or growling, but I know it’s having a blast.
9:53 am: In case you’re curious, West Virginia traveled here with 64 players, which is down about 10 from the regular travel squad. And it is exactly 64. I know this because I was there when they rolled into town yesterday.
9:55: Not sure I spotted Robert Sands in Cincinnati’s walk-through, but I definitely did see Pac Jones. You know who else I didn’t see? These guys:
That’s in the team shop at the stadium. I’m serious. Granted, they’re on a buy one, get one rack, but still. I want my friend Brett, a Bengals fan, to see this.
10:04: Last time WVU played at Cincinnati, the Big East office was in attendance as the Bearcats moved over their last major hurdle toward the unbeaten regular season. And you remember a curious call in that game, too. Well, the Big East is here again today, though represented by just one person. That doesn’t bother me at all, but it might be something you want to know.
10:06: The PA in the stadium could not be playing “In the Air Tonight” any louder right now.
10:19: The last time an unranked WVU team played a ranked Big East team? Not that long ago. Tyler Bitancurt remembers it well.
10:34: No Terence Garvin today. He is not on the dress list. Nor is Brad Starks, Trey Johnson, Mike Dorsey, Brantwon Bowser, Coley White, John Bassler, Cole Bowers and Josh Taylor. The Mountaineers have eight defensive linemen, 11 linebackers and seven safeties.
10:39: Trying to figure out the reason for Garvin’s absence and the plan for the lineup. Wes Tonkery is listed as the backup, but I wonder if they don’t juggle in the back end. Eain Smith can play all three safety positions. His backup is Travis Bell, who the coaches do like.
10:45: Both Garvin and Bowser have head injuries. They were day-to-day throughout the week. The decision was made yesterday to leave them home. The Tonkery/Bell thing will be a game time decision.
10:49: Cincinnati’s pregame prayer was fun.
10:54: Garvin injury cuts deep. He’s on all the packages and is the middle linebacker when WVU uses its SWAT personnel. Bowser plays a nickel back position, too.
10:55: Bob Hertzel answers age-old question in the pregame buffet and chooses baked chicken before scrambled eggs.
10:56: Cincinnati wearing red on red with black helmets. I kind of like it. Not a fan of the Ring of Red theme for the game. No way they pull it off. Not with a dispersed crowd and a lot of WVU fans.
11:22: Cincinnati band playing “Seven Nation Army.” Listen, I’ve always liked the White Stripes, from way back in the very beginning. Do not turn this into Cotton Eye Joe for me, I beg you.
11:25: Time killer: Bill Koch has a good look at Cincinnati’s turnaround from 2010.
11:33: Bruce Irvin is ready to go. he just spotted Robert Sands on the sideline, ran up to his 6-foot-5 former teammate and leapfrogged him.
11:35: Travis Bell is working out with the first-team defense.
11:41: Michael Molinari did all the punting in pregame, too.
11:53: Champs Sports Bowl appears again.
12:02: Captains of the 64 today are Don Barclay, Keith Tandy, Najee Goode and Geno Smith.
12:03: UC just fired off a bunch of road flares. Or fireworks. Not sure.
12:05: In the Cincinnati Bengals stadium and I swear the referee sounds like Cleveland Brown.
12:08: John Huges runs through and by Ryan Clarke to get the sack on the first play of the game.
12:10: Just tremendous effort to start. Clarke whiffs, a good defensive play interrupts second down, the offensive line widens and allows a hurry on third down and a delay on fourth down nixes a good-enough punt by Molinari, who follows with a 38-yard kick when it counts.
12:13: Three plays, 54 yards and 51 seconds later and it’s 7-0. Pead goes through Goode’s bad tackle and finishes a 40-yard run by leaping over the goal line.
12:14: Fourth straight game WVU’s defense has allowed a play covering 40 yards or more (Pead today, Louisville’s Dominique Brown had a 55-yard run, Rutgers’ Gary Nova threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Mark Harrison and Syracuse’s Antwon Bailey had a 50-yard run).
12:17: … and a holding penalty wipes out a kickoff return.
12:23: Can’t beat that throw and catch — not even with an obvious hold by Cincinnati’s aptly named safety, Camerron Cheatham. Just like that, a 59-yard touchdown pass ties the score 7-7. And if you have a DVR, rewind it and watch the sideline. Big-time celebration. That’s a good sign, given the conversation this week.
12:24: Today’s over/under: 66.5 points.
12:27: Jared Barber in at MLB already.
12:31: Sheesh. I was just about to say Bell saved WVU four points because he chased Pead and tackled him from behind on the long run and the defense held to force a field goal. But on third-and-goal at the 6, Bell is called for defensive holding.
12:32: Third-and-goal at the 3 and Julian Miller gets a tip. Very surprised Cincinnati isn’t going for it here, especially after the offsides penalty.
12:34: J.B. Lageman jumping offsides either forced UC to burn a timeout or cost his team a touchdown. Let’s find out!
12:36: Flashback, anyone?
12:37: Because I’m keeping an eye on these things today, the sideline again erupted on the stop. Kudos to Keith Tandy to running through that hole to make the tackle.
12:38: Cleveland Brown observation was off. So, too, is the idea to use Alston. This is your slowest running back. Slowest in a race. Slowest to the hole. He’s starting five yards deep.
12:42: Molinari with a big swing early here. The punt moves the ball from WVU’s 1 to the UC 37.
12:45: Bruce Irvin was a bullet on the punt. Sole purpose was to rush it and he ran a long way to get there.
12:52: You have to admit this: The game offers a lot thus far.
1:00: Fifty-minute first quarter and of all the events and surprises of the first quarter, what stands out to me is it’s just 7-7.
1:08: Curious decision by Cincinnati there to turn down the holding penalty. Easy 28-yard field goal for Bitancurt, but why didn’t the Bearcats take the penalty for third-and-24 from the 29? Butch Jones is 0-for-2 today.
1:13: You have to see the sideline in action. Living and dying on every play.
1:16: What a swing here. Collaros goofs up and hold the ball too long and is savaged by Irvin and Goode. I think Irvin popped the ball out and Julian recovered for a touchdown. Collaros hurt his right leg on the play and I’d have to say he’s out for the day. That looked bad and they called for the cart right away. It’s 17-7 and UC looks affected by what just happened.
1:18: Prepare yourself for UC’s backup QB …
1:21: Why does Corey Smith wear gloves?
1:22: Liiiiitle too much swagger from Matt Moro. Munchie Legaux starts at the WVU 48. Real name: Benton Shannon Legaux.
1:24: Voodoo Tatum is a big fan of Munchie Legaux.
1:24: So is Keith Tandy. And Pat Miller tackled Keith Tandy. You saw it.
1:33: Quinton Spain, I believe, has played LG, RG and RT today.
1:35: Holgorsen lined up for a field goal, called a timeout, sent out the field goal team, called the field goal team back and let Molinari punt into the end zone.
1:37: Not going to win with Munchie’s arm. Not when Pead still has two good legs.
1:41: JackBo and I were just agreeing WVU can’t give Cincinnati anything because the Cincinnati offense is going to have a hard time the rest of the way. Geno promptly threw a ball right at linebacker J.K. Schaffer, who couldn’t hold on and get the play the Bearcats needed.
1:45: Halftime and WVU has seven rushing yards and nine penalties.
1:57: I did not notice this, but Cincinnati had 12 snaps and three yards in the second quarter.
2:06: I’m Cincinnati, I’m at home and down by 10 at the half and I’m playing with my backup quarterback. I get the ball and, provided I don’t return it all the way, which is possible against WVU, I’m using a trick play right away.
2:10: Curious what Cincinnati did at halftime because that drive looked just like Munchie’s first two drives.
2:16: A touchdown here really might just do it, but WVU just won’t make it easy. Holding penalty gives WVU 10 penalties for the day. Rutgers had 13 against Syracuse, most by a Big East team this year.
2:22: Julian Miller is heading to the locker room. He was jogging, so I don’t think it’s his legs.
2:24: Speaking of legs …
2:25: Speaking of legs! Legaux takes a bite out of WVU’s defense for 65 yards.
2:26: Bell is down and out on the field, which the Mountaineers just can’t afford to have happen. Meanwhile, let’s look at this. All you have to do if you’re WVU is not screw this up, but all WVU has done is commit penalties, run backward behind the line of scrimmage and fumble, have a field goal blocked and let a fledgling offense free for a 65-yard run. And on Geno’s fumble, Buie recovered the fumble recovery, but Spain flopped on it. He almost killed Buie, but he saved the possession … for the time being.
2:32: Special teams!
2:33: Seriously, Buie gets smoked at least once a game. It is uncanny.
2:35: Hertz and I had a bet on whether or not Molinari would cross mid-field. One of us won. Lost in that is WVU inexplicably has two delay of game penalties on punts.
2:36: The game is a lot easier when the field is only 52 yards long. Sorry, but you can’t let Molinari back on the field.
2:41: Cincinnati is bound to catch one of these passes soon. The odds demand it.
2:43: Eugen Smith is furious WVU’s punt team didn’t snap the ball before the officials stopped to review the play. Furious. I mean, stomping out onto the field to yell at people.
2:46: I’m not kidding. The stadium played Seven Nation Army three times in the review — twice by the PA, once by the band.
2:48: Munchie playing with a lot of confidence and the fans are chanting his name … which I’m surprised doesn’t happen even when Collaros plays.
2:51: That play happened right in front of Dana, so I assume that’s why he challenged it. But I’m serious when I ask this: Is this not entertaining?
2:55: “We are now reviewing to check the down.” That’s it … I’ve seen everything.
3:06: Really fascinating game here and you figure WVU has something to add. It might be good, it might be bad, but this game cannot end without a contribution from WVU.
3:09: Mountaineers look a little deflated. Body language is very different from what it had been.
3:15: Third down and I don’t see Bitancurt. Corey Smith has been kicking into the net.
3:18: And there’s the answer. Two big third-down conversions on a 12-play, 74-yard drive.
3:21: More White Stripes. Ickey Thump!
3:34: big drop by McCartney, not that it would have mattered because he was a yard out of bounds. That’s a new one. WVU punting with 5:30 to go.
3:35: Acceptable, successful 32-yard punt by Molinari. The UC player coming from Molinari’s left slipped as he tried to lay out and block it. It was going to be close.
I’m on the field now and no one can believe the field goal attempt by WVU. So much could go wrong there. And now overtime?
Or not. Can’t believe WVU won that.