|A wet ball drill last week helped prepare Louisville players for the monsoon they encountered Saturday at Southern Miss. (AP)|
In a weekend when points and yards in college football were compiled at an historic rate, four teams from the Big East had byes to prepare for the start of conference play.
All four teams -- Rutgers, Temple, Syracuse and Pittsburgh -- used the week off to address a variety of team-specific needs. Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood evaluated several untested, younger players. At Pitt, the Panthers had three straight days of practice before ending the week with weight training. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone focused on eliminating turnovers and penalties, while Temple coach Steve Addazio livened up the sessions with a series of competitive periods.
The Owls rank 99th in FBS in third down conversion percentage on offense (32.5 percent) and 93rd in limiting third down conversions on defense (44.4 percent). In an effort to improve in both areas, Addazio ran a litany of third-down drills throughout the week. The Owls' competed in a number of third-and-long and third-and-medium situations with the first-team offense against the first-team defense. The losing team was punished with sprints.
“We went ones against ones to bring tremendous focus and attention and bring some juice to the down and distances,” Addazio said. “I see improvements on both sides of the ball.”
Syracuse ranks seventh in the Big East in turnover margin (minus-6) and fifth in penalties yards per game (67.8). The Orange, though, lead the conference in passing offense with 341.8 yards per game. On Friday night, Syracuse will face a Pitt defense ranked third against the pass (185.5 yards per game). Pitt's rushing offense is second in the league (187.5 yards per game), while Syracuse ranks seventh against the run (176.2 yards per game).
On Saturday, Rutgers will face a Connecticut team ranked sixth in the nation in total defense. Flood described UConn defensive end Trevardo Williams on Monday “as the most disruptive defensive lineman in our league.”
Owls make Big East debut: When Temple hosts South Florida on Saturday it will be the Owls' first conference game since re-entering the Big East in football this season. Temple was forced out of the league in football after the 2004 season due to its poor on-field performance. From 1991-2004, Temple went 14-80 (14.9 percent) in conference play.
“It's not like any other game, there is excitement for sure,” Addazio said. “We're starting conference play, there's great anticipation. We want to focus on the things we're not doing well and get them corrected.”
The Owls will face a Bulls' team ranked fourth in the conference in total offense (404.8 yards per game).
“They're a really, really talented team,” Addazio said. “You watch the film and press play and its really easy to see.”
Wet Ball Wednesdays at Louisville: The Cardinals played Saturday's game at Southern Mississippi in monsoon-like conditions, escaping with a 21-17 win. Unable to grip the ball effectively, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater attempted just 13 passes.
The Cardinals prepared for the game with a drill coaches call “Wet Ball Wednesdays.” The coaches and trainers sprayed center Mario Benavides in the face and doused the ball in water to help prepare the team for the conditions.
“It's a drill we work on if rain is in the forecast,” Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said. “You use a wet ball to throw to the receivers. The people who are handling the ball will be the ones who handle the ball in different conditions.”
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