As of Tuesday the players are still bothered by their overtime loss to Louisville. Competitors like these UC Bearcats hate to lose, especially in a rivalry game.
"The testament of a man is how they come back after a loss," said Camerron Cheatham. "That is the testament of a man's character."
Maalik Bomar failed to hide fury and frustration from his face afterwards. Starting linebacker Greg Blair looked emotionally beat down minutes after the loss.
"You always got to have faith that you are going to make that play to win the game," said Blair. "That was a great game. We should have come out with the win, but sometimes it just happens that way."
Starting for the first time with Cincinnati Blair is a abnormally optimistic guy always seconds from beaming a bright smile. Friday night was tough on everyone within the program though.
"Coach Jones always tells us it is going to come down to a handful of plays," said Blair. "They made their play and we didn't. Back to the drawing board."
Despite his momentary sorrows Blair believes it will be easy for Cincinnati to bounce back. He sees this team as vying for the Big East Championship still.
"We have to get back to the basics," said Cheatham. "We have to get back to what we did to win those first five games. It is back to the basics, back to the things that got me to the place where I am at. Just your press technique, your back-pedalling and all that."
Senior starter Cheatham lowers his eyes recalling the painful loss.
"That was my first time losing to Louisville," said Cheatham. "It was a tough one. We lost the Keg (of Nails) and that is big in our program."
Not quite perfect
Playing cornerback is a dauting task. Playing cornerback against the arm and vision of Teddy Bridgewater remains virtually impossible. And yet Cincinnati held the future pro to 9-22 passing before the break.
The defense faltered
significantly through the final quarter though. Two passing touchdowns in the fourth can't happen. Ever.
"We stop them from scoring, we win the game," said Adrian Witty. "Things happen. Big plays occur. They were a good team. We are a good team. The team that makes the most plays wins the game."
Cheatham acknowledges that it was not his best game.
"I just think that my technique was a little off and I had a bad game," said Cheatham. "I think it was more people that had bad games too, but at the end we had a chance to win and it was a close game. Louisville played a good game. They got the win."
Cheatham was tough on himself and while he was partially to blame for a couple big plays he made an enormous sack in the final minute of regulation.
Louisville was absolutely on the cusp of moving into field goal range when Cam zapped their momentum. Most of the overtime blame needs to be placed upon Munchie Legaux's mindless lofted pass to nobody.
Coming off the field Legaux was dressed down by Coach Jones for not simply throwing the ball away. UC wanted and needed some points in that scenario. Instead Louisville was able to win with a relatively simple field goal.
"We have to put that behind us," said Cheatham. "We have Syracuse on Saturday. We can't let Louisville beat us twice."
No one is more likely to adopt a neutral mindset entering this weekend's contest than Cheatham and the defensive backs. They routinely face adversity and are called upon to discard the negative thoughts immediately.
"DB is just like the quarterback," said Cheatham. "When you make a mistake everybody is going to know it, but you have to snap and clear like Coach Jones taught us. He instills that into us. We know that we have to snap and clear. You can't let one play beat you twice and then you got two bad plays."
In touting the strength of the Big East Conference last week Head Coach Butch Jones called Syracuse a very, very talented team.
In fact Syracuse is 3-1 in the Big East placing them a full game ahead of Cincinnati. They rallied from twenty points down to oust South Florida on the road last weekend.
Through eight games SU has compiled 2,487 yards passing and 17 touchdowns through the air.
"Their receivers, I think three of them are in the top six in the conference in yards and catches," said Cheatham. "They have been throwing the ball a lot more than they usually do, but Syracuse has always been a physical team so you have to come into this game with your hard hat."
It takes very little to motivate Cincinnati this week. They know.
"We are hungry," said Witty. "Two back-to-back losses. We come out with chip on our shoulder. It is a must-win for us. Must win."
It really is an important game for Cincinnati as they obviously intend to win the conference yet again. Rutgers and Louisville have not lost. Syracuse would move to 4-1 by defeating the Bearcats.
"Everybody forgets that last year we had a bumpy road," said Cheatham. "Everybody just remembers that we were 10-3 and won the Liberty Bowl, but a season is a long season and you go through things like this. You got to go through adversity. We are built right so we will come out of this alright."