Tuberville eager for first bowl game with Bearcats
Tommy Tuberville and Cincinnati are back in the Belk Bowl – and
this time he’ll actually get to coach the Bearcats.
Tuberville was hired on Dec. 8, 2012, by the Bearcats, but
didn’t coach in last year’s Belk Bowl. Instead, Steve Stripling
served as the interim coach after Butch Jones resigned weeks before
to take a job at Tennessee.
However, Tuberville was on hand for the practices leading up to
the game and said that experience gave him a jump start on this
”I’m not as stressed as I was this time last year,” Tuberville
said Friday with a laugh. ”But it was good to come in last year
and get to know a lot of these players, watch practice and watch
the game and figure out, hey, we might need to do this or that in
recruiting. So I got a head start.”
On Saturday, the Bearcats (9-3) will try to become the first
team to win back-to-back Belk Bowl titles when they face North
Carolina. The Tar Heels (6-6) became bowl eligible despite starting
the season 1-5 in their second year under coach Larry Fedora.
Tuberville said he never thought the Bearcats would win nine
games, especially in a year in which offensive lineman Ben Flick
died in a car accident in September and 16 other players sustained
”These kids persevered,” Tuberville said. ”I’m proud of them.
It’s been a hard year on them.”
Fedora, in his second season as coach, is looking for his first
bowl win with the Tar Heels. His team overcame some adversity as
well, battling back from a 1-5 start to become bowl eligible.
”I don’t want anybody to think we’re just happy to be here,”
Fedora said. ”We’re not. We want to win a football game. We want
to end this season the right way. Getting back to being bowl
eligible was a big accomplishment. Now let’s go out there and
finish the job.”
Five things to watch between North Carolina and Cincinnati.
STOPPING EBRON: Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron is being billed
as a likely first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft. It’s easy to
see why. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior is the team’s leading
receiver in what he said will be his final game with the Tar Heels
before turning pro. He caught 55 passes this season for 895 yards
and three touchdowns.
”He’s the prototype tight end that a lot of NFL teams will be
looking for,” Fedora said. ”He’s a big guy who can run like a
wideout and catches balls like a wideout. He can be a huge factor
at the next level.”
Said Ebron: ”This is my last game as a Tar Heel and I just want
to go out and do what I’ve been doing all season.”
KAY LOOKS TO REPEAT: Brendon Kay gets a chance to pull off a
rare feat and become the first player in Belk Bowl history to earn
MVP honors in back-to-back seasons. Kay threw for 332 yards and
four touchdowns and ran for 76 yards to lead the Bearcats to a
victory last season over Duke.
”It was a lot of fun last year,” Kay said. ”For me, as far as
the MVP thing, as long as we win the game then great. If it takes
me getting that trophy then great. I don’t care who gets it. I just
want the W.”
MARTIN’S RUSH: Senior defensive end Kareem Martin is the latest
in a long line of top-notch North Carolina pass rushers. Martin,
who has 11 sacks on the season, said the key will be pressuring
”We have to make him uncomfortable,” Martin said. ”I’ve
watched a few games and if we can get him off the spot we can make
him force throws. If we can get him forcing throws into tight
coverages our defensive backs will be able to pick it off.”
WILLIAMS’ RETURN: Tar Heels quarterback Marquis Williams returns
to Charlotte, where he excelled as a high school athlete. He is the
focal point of North Carolina’s offense throwing for 14 touchdown
passes, while also leading the team in rushing in 490 yards and six
BOUNCING BACK: Both teams have endured a long layoff since
falling to their rivals in the final regular-season game. North
Carolina lost to Duke, while Cincinnati was beat by Louisville.
”I think both teams will have to pick themselves up,”
Tuberville said. ”It’s tough losing to your rivals. It takes
something out of you. I think that’s the key, which team is able to
get the mojo back. And the one that finds it the quickest is going
to have the advantage.”