The Bearcats opened up their season with a 40-7 victory over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. There were many questions that needed to be answered going into the season, and today's contest was the first step toward answering them.
First up were the players. As expected, the questions were mainly directed at quarterback Dustin Grutza who comes into the season with the daunting task of replacing Ben Mauk. He started off by giving his overall impressions of the game and the offense.
"It felt great to be out there," said Grutza. "We prepared well and we didn't know exactly what to expect from them. Coach had us prepared really well. There is definitely room to work. Coach Kelly's emphasis is going out there and playing hard. I think we did that. Our first game out we made some mistakes, and I think we can clean some stuff up and make some improvements for next week."
Grutza finished the game with 21 completions for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 21 completions and 296 yards were both career highs for him. He attributed some of that success to being able to prepare differently going into this season.
Next up was Dominick Goodman. Goodman had a monster day, catching 10 balls for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is now 2nd all time in touchdown catches and 3rd all time in receptions. When he was made aware of these records, he expressed that he was more concerned with the team's success than his own.
"I guess it is a good feeling, but I'm not worried about the records. I am really thinking about this season, and making people believe in us."
He was also asked how different it was having Grutza as his quarterback as opposed to Ben Mauk.
"There is no difference. Dustin Grutza was the quarterback my freshman year so there was really no difference. We were comfortable with him back there."
Connor Barwin also received a lot of attention. He made his first career start at defensive end and recorded his first sack. He was asked what went through his mind on the play.
"I had to do a big stick, which means you have to go all the way to the center. I did that, and I saw (Alex Daniels) flush the quarterback out so I was already in the middle of the field. I ran him down from the side."
He also added with a laugh, "I was kind of surprised, and I didn't know how to celebrate. It was exciting to get my first sack."
Last but not least was John Goebel, who made his debut at running back. Goebel did not say too much, but seemed very humbled by the experience.
"I am so honored to be out there. I was really nervous to go out there. They called a few plays and I was giddy. I haven't played running back since high school. My offensive line did such a great job. It is really different than playing our defense in practice because our defense swarms."
After the payers exited the room, Coach Kelly entered. He summed up what he thought of the performance in his opening statement.
"Good start for us offensively and defensively. I liked the way we started. I thought we took control early, and we left little doubt. When we talk to our football team, Eastern Kentucky has a lot of tradition. One of the things we talked about was not giving them a lot of confidence early on, and we needed to exert ourselves early on. If you give them a spark early on, they will fight you. They fought us, but we really got a foothold early on. Defensively, we really limited their ability to push the ball down the field. Clearly, Dustin Grutza made some plays for us offensively. It was nice to see Dustin execute a lot of things early on to make us a good football team. I thought we played very fast."
The two main questions Coach Kelly had to deal with were the play of Dustin Grutza and the struggles of kicker Jake Rogers.
He was pleased with the way Grutza handled himself in his first start of the season.
"I thought he did some pretty good things. Clearly, his ability to make some plays outside the pocket; we knew was a strength of his. He threw okay in the pocket; he has to get better there. Anytime you have a career best; that is the kind of clean work, high percentage work that we have talked about from day one. If he can stay in that type of rhythm offensively, we will be in good shape."
He seemed to be growing frustrated with Jake Rogers. He cited the mental aspect of things as the main reason for his struggles. When asked what Jake needed to work on, he responded with an obvious sense of frustration.
"He obviously has game day anxiety. I don't know if anyone in here has a medical degree, but that's obviously something he needs to work on. He looks like a million bucks kicking the ball around and then gets in the game and gets anxious. I don't know what else to do. He's got to handle it himself. He can't wait for Monday. You can't wait till Monday to handle these things; you have to work it out during the game. He kicked the ball out of bounds and it all went downhill from there."
And with that, the press conference was over and the preparations can now begin for next Saturday's game against Oklahoma.