Coming into the 2012 season, there were plenty of questions marks surrounding the Cincinnati Bearcats football team, but there was perhaps no area of greater concern than running back.
While there were a lot of seniors to replace, nobody was expected to be missed more than running back Isaiah Pead.
Pead was the Big East offensive player of the year last season, and vaulted to the NFL as a second-round selection.
Before the season began, Cincinnati had a few likely candidates, including fifth-year senior George Winn and speedy sophomore Ralhy David Abernathy IV.
Even the ultimate optimist didn't expect the running back combination to have near the success it has so far.
It was certainly not possible for somebody to exceed the numbers of Pead. At least that was the thinking coming into the season.
But, for as good as Pead was during his four seasons at Cincinnati, Winn and Abernathy are allowing Bearcats fans to forget about him.
So far this season, Winn has proven to be the best running back in the Big East. The senior leads the conference in rushing with 897 yards on only 153 carries. He is averaging nearly six yards a carry and has also rushed for seven touchdowns on the year.
Winn is the perfect north-south runner and he is joined Abernathy, one of the fastest players in the conference.
There are not many players with big play capability like Abernathy. The 5'7" running back can do a little bit of everything with the ball in his hands.
After two consecutive losses at Toledo and Louisville, Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones made it a point that Abernathy would get more touches in the following weeks.
Those touches began during a 35-24 victory over Syracuse on Saturday. Abernathy carried the ball six times and also caught four passes out of the backfield. He is averaging 5.7 yards a carry on the season with three rushing and three receiving touchdowns.
What is so unique about Abernathy is his ability to go the distance every time the ball is in his hands, including on kickoff returns.
These two running backs are the ultimate combination, and no nickname would be more appropriate than "Thunder and Lightning."
While there is still a long way to go in the season, the Big East title is not out of reach. It is very possible for Cincinnati to win its fourth conference crown in five seasons. If that happens, it will likely be on the backs of these two very talented runners.
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