CORRYVILLE – Upon arriving in Cincinnati in the early hours of Christmas Day last year, Sanford, Florida, native Tion Green did not go home for the holidays.
Humiliated, he stayed in Cincinnati.
The Bearcats were given the football equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge by the San Diego State Aztecs in the Hawaii Bowl Christmas Eve, 42-7. Just a month earlier, UC had been in Tampa, with friends and family of Green and other Florida residents at Raymond James Stadium to watch the game against South Florida.
It was 27-0 after one quarter and 51-3 at the half. UC outscored the Bulls 24-14 in the second half, but still went home with a 65-27 loss. The sour taste remains as the Bearcats prepare for Saturday night’s rematch (7 p.m. kickoff at Nippert Stadium, ESPNU).
“It was embarrassing,” Green admitted Tuesday. “You don’t want to get beat at all, but that was embarrassing. That wasn’t Cincinnati football. We’ve all got a chip on our shoulder about it.”
Green had an OK game against South Florida with 51 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, most of that came after the Bulls had lit up 51 points on the scoreboard. The loss led to an off-season full of questions. The Bearcats grinded to a 19-16 win over East Carolina the following week with Gunner Kiel, but the quarterback missed the bowl game with San Diego State for “personal reasons”.
“It’s just kind of hard when you’re projected to do so many things; we had expectations of going undefeated,” Green said of 2015. “When it doesn’t happen it’s like, ‘Oh my God, where do we go from here?'”
This year’s rushing leader also mentioned the Temple loss at Nippert was tough to take, but the familiarity with South Florida and proximity to friends and family made the Bulls debacle worse.
“I was looking up in the stands with my family there and everybody there and it was like, ‘This is a nightmare!'” Green said. “We take pride in Cincinnati football and respect the C-Paw. That scoreboard last year wasn’t Cincinnati football.”
Fast forward to Saturday, Green assumes he and fellow Floridian Mike Boone will be getting more touches. The Bearcats will also be under the lights at Nippert, where the atmosphere is typically more festive. However, the fifth-year senior says time is no issue in his case.
“Whether it’s an 11 a.m. game, a 12 game, 3:30 game, 7:30, you’re going to get everything you’ve got from Tion Green,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to push everybody else in the room.”
Green then turned to Associate AD/Sports Communications chief Ryan Koslen and asked when the game kicked off.
Tommy Tuberville would also like to erase last year’s game by defeating the American Athletic Conference-East Division preseason favorite.
“It’s miserable,” he said when asked about coaching on the wrong end of a blow-out. “You feel bad for your kids because you can’t get them in the right spot. In that game, you could see in their eyes, they had no confidence. You lose your confidence, you don’t have a lot when you’re playing college football.”
The likely offensive look will be more running and ball control in order to keep USF off of the field. Against the Miami Redhawks, it worked with more offensive snaps. Against Houston, the Cougars controlled the clock.
The game is UC’s second conference matchup, and it would like to avoid an 0-2 start. USF is a 6-point favoriate, according to ESPN, and will be playing its first AAC game of the season.
BROTHERLY LOVE – UC junior receiver Tshumbi Johnson and USF junior running back D’Ernest Johnson are brothers. Both played in last year’s game, and D’Ernest Johnson was the Bulls Co-Offensive MVP last year. Tshumbi Johnson admits he’s always wanted to tackle his sibling and “talk trash” but never has since both are offensive players. Last year’s meeting after the game was also difficult for the Bearcat from Immokalee, Florida.
University of Cincinnati receiver Tshumbi Johnson has a brother (D’Ernest Johnson) that is a runnng back for South Florida.
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“It was kind of rough because they beat us very bad,” Johnson said. “It was still the same type of brotherly love that we have. At the same time, it was his team against my team and there wasn’t really much to talk about. I never got beat like that in my life. I thought it was a dream the whole time. Things happen.”
BULLISH CONNECTIONS – USF associate head coach/tight ends David Reaves was born in Cincinnati and is the son of former Florida Gator and Cincinnati Bengal quarterback John Reaves. Three other Bulls assistants coached at UC. Darren Hiller was offensive line coach the first three seasons under Tommy Tuberville; T.J. Weist coached wide receivers under Butch Jones and John Jancek served as co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach for two seasons and defensive coordinator for one season under Jones.
Sixteen Bearcats are from Florida, with the closest being reserve defensive back Christian Angulo from Gibsonton. In addition to Green, Johnson, Boone and Angulo, Khalil Lewis, Alex Thomas, Avery Johnson, Tyler Cogswell, Davin Pierce, Carter Jacobs, Jerron Rollins, James Wiggins, Reed Armagost, Thomas Geddis, Tyrin Summers and Marcus Brown hail from the Sunshine State.
COINCIDENCE? – The free Bearcats Music Festival for Saturday’s game features the band, “Zack Attack”. One of the more famous plays in UC/USF history came in 2009, when then-reserve quarterback Zach Collaros was inserted for Tony Pike after an injury. On 3rd and 11, Collaros rambled 75 yards for a touchdown on his first play as the No. 8 Bearcats of Brian Kelly won 34-17. UC’s offensive coordinator this season is Zac Taylor. Taylor also has Florida ties having coached for the Miami Dolphins last season.