Tag:Dion Lewis
Posted on: January 18, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Headset Reset: the Big East and Mountain West

Posted by Tom Fornelli

"Headset Reset" is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the four new head coaches in the Big East and Mountain West

TODD GRAHAM, Pitt

Why him? Because Mike Haywood got arrested two weeks after he was hired. Also because Graham put together some successful offenses at Tulsa. For 2011, Graham needs to: build a strong offense without the services of Pitt's two best offensive players Jonathan Baldwin and Dion Lewis.  Luckily for Graham, Dave Wannstedt recruited good players to Pitt, but Graham will have to mold them to his offense. By 2014, Graham will need to have: won a Big East title and taken the Panthers to a BCS bowl.  Dave Wannstedt won more games than he lost at Pitt, but it was the lack of a conference championship in a weak conference that ultimately led to his dismissal.  Chances Graham gets what he needs? I'd say they're pretty good. Weak conference or not, Pitt is still in a BCS conference and has the resources to win in college football.  Of course, by the time Graham has his stamp on the program, TCU will be a Big East member, so it won't be easy.

DANA HOLGORSEN, West Virginia

Why him? Have you seen West Virginia's offenses under Bill Stewart the last few seasons?  Nothing like a Mike Leach disciple who helped put together one of the best offenses in the country at Oklahoma State to infuse life into a dormant scoreboard.  For 2011, Holgorsen needs to: bid his time, let Stewart finish his final season, and start getting his offense ready for his ascension in 2012. By 2014, Holgorsen will need to have: won a Big East title and improve the Mountaineers offense enough so that it once again resembles the teams Rich Rodriguez put together.  He'll also need to find a quarterback better suited for his system than Geno Smith. Chances Holgorsen gets what he needs?  They're very good.  Even with the program's struggles under Stewart, they still competed for the Big East title.

PAUL PASQUALONI, UConn

Why him? Well, it came as a bit of a surprise.  Pasqualoni hasn't been a head coach or coached on the college level since 2004, spending the time in between in the NFL.  Still, the last time he was a head coach he was a rather successful one at Syracuse in the Big East.  So he knows what it takes to win in this conference.  For 2011, Pasqualoni needs to: silence the doubters.  We know that Pasqualoni can coach, but will the lay off and his age (he'll be 62 when UConn kicks off its season) prove to be too much for him?  By 2014, Pasqualoni will need to have: maintained what Randy Edsall started at UConn.  I'm not sure he'll have to win a Big East title to keep his job, but at the least he'll have to continue to build the program for his eventual successor.  Chances Pasqualoni gets what he needs?  Not great, but not terrible.  UConn has always been a basketball school first and foremost, but who knows how a trip to the Fiesta Bowl will affect the schools interest in building a winning football team?

ROCKY LONG, San Diego State

Why him?  Because Brady Hoke left, and had built something at SDSU that Long was a part of.  The school didn't want to risk losing any momentum by starting a coaching search. Plus, Long has head coaching experience from his time at New Mexico.  For 2011, Long needs to: continue the rise that Hoke started.  Since Marshall Faulk left for the NFL, the Aztecs weren't exactly a football powerhouse before Hoke came along.  The good news is that Long inherits some talent in Ronnie Hillman and Ryan Lindley. By 2014, Long will need to have: kept San Diego State competing in the Mountain West.  With Utah, BYU and TCU leaving, the conference becomes a lot easier to win.  Chances Long gets what he needs?  Not great.  San Diego State just doesn't have the established history to make me think they'll do whatever it takes to help Long build this team into a powerhouse.  What Long will have working for him, however, is the fertile recruiting base of southern California.
Posted on: January 8, 2011 6:46 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2011 7:01 pm
 

Bowl Grades: BBVA Compass Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh dedicates their 27-10 win to ex-coach Dave Wannstedt as the Panthers rolled over Kentucky.


PITTSBURGH

Offense: Pittsburgh used special teams play in order to build their lead, but it was a relentless rushing attack that protected it; keeping the Kentucky offense off the field and burning up clock. Running back Dion Lewis, likely playing his last game as a Panther, led the way with 22 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. Ray Graham pitched in as well with 17 carries for 90 yards. Credit Pittsburgh's offensive line for winning the battle up front against Seattle's defensive line. GRADE: A-

Defense: Whoever does inherit Pittsburgh's defense is awfully lucky, because they showed great promise for the future against a usually potent Kentucky offense. The Wildcats usually average 33 points per game, but without suspended quarterback Mike Hartline, and against the Panther defense they could not turn production into points. The Panthers defense swarmed to the ball and kept close tabs on all-purpose threat Randall Cobb as Kentucky tried to move him around the field. Cobb was held to just 23 yards rushing and 62 yards receiving, and basically was a non-factor in the game. GRADE: B

Coaching: Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett deserves a lot of credit for preparing Pittsburgh for this game even with all the off-field distractions. The Panthers players dedicated the win to former coach Dave Wannstedt, and Wannstedt also is due some credit for this team's success. Hopefully the Panthers will be able to take this win and use it to jump-start the preparation for next season. GRADE: B+

KENTUCKY

Offense: The Wildcats offense desperately missed suspended quarterback Mike Hartline against the Panthers, falling well short of their average 33.0 points per game. Backup Morgan Newton made the most of his opportunity, complete 21 of 36 passes for 211 yards and did not throw an interception. Unfortunately, the offense was not able to turn their production into points, and the inability to convert on 4th and short ended up costing Kentucky one of their best opportunities to win the game. GRADE: D+

Defense: Kentucky's defense has been known to give up some big days on the ground, but the inability to stop the run ended up being the Wildcats demise on Saturday. When Kentucky really needed to shut down Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, they had no answer. The Wildcats also failed to create a turnover down the stretch, which allowed PIttsburgh to continue burning clock as Kentucky watched their chances at two straight bowl wins slip away. GRADE: F

Coaching: Kentucky's special teams woes ended up creating a deficit that was too large to overcome against the Panthers. With one blocked punt and one failed fake punt, the Wildcats' mistakes left a sour taste with Joker Phillips and the rest of the coaching staff. The loss drops Kentucky to 6-7, the first losing season for Kentucky since 2005. GRADE: C-

FINAL GRADE: The only thing that made this game seem mildly watchable was seeing an inspired Pittsburgh squad win one for Dave Wannstedt. For the most part, the game was pretty uninteresting as Kentucky looked outmatched and unprepared in most aspects of the game. With the storylines off the field overshadowing the action on the field, this wasn't the ideal game to kick off a big day of football for most of the nation. GRADE: D+
Posted on: January 7, 2011 1:09 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: BBVA Compass Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Basics: Pitt (7-5) vs. Kentucky (6-6), 12 p.m. EST, Jan. 8, Birmingham, Ala.

Why You Should Watch: It's your final chance to spend a Saturday afternoon watching college football. Isn't that reason enough? If it's not, well, frankly, a matchup between a unexciting Pitt squad of questionable motivation (following the ouster of Dave Wannstedt) and a .500 Kentucky team that slumped badly down the stretch probably won't get your pulse racing. But the Wildcats' receiver/returner/Wildcat (as in the formation) quarterback Randall Cobb is one of the most underrated and explosive players in the country, and there's also the chance that Pitt preseason All-American running back Dion Lewis could pick up where he left off in his late-season (as in, final game) breakout and go bananas again.

But mostly, as we said, it's the last-chance saloon for weekend college football. Drink up while you can.

Keys to Victory for Pitt: The first -- and probably most important one -- is simply for the Panthers to show up. Pitt has already endured one of the most disappointing seasons in the country, an insanely tumultuous offseason that's featured Wannstedt's firing, Mike Haywood's hiring, then Haywood's firing, and Wannstedt waffling until this week on whether he'd bother to come to Birmingham or not. Pitt's morale and focus probably wasn't great even before the coaching drama; though interim head coach Phil Bennett has head coaching experience and is as respected as anyone on staff, it's still anyone's guess what kind of mindset the Panthers will bring to their (admittedly lower-rent) bowl.

But if the Panthers are locked in, they've got the tools to make life very hard on the Wildcats. Offensively, Lewis appears to be back in form after his early-season struggles, receiver Jonathan Baldwin's size will present some serious matchup problems for the Kentucky corners, and the young (and often inconsistent) offensive line should benefit from the extra practice time. Defensively, though the Panthers will miss injured defensive end Jabaal Sheard, Bennett's charges finished a quiet ninth in the country in total defense, and should have little difficulty stopping a 'Cat passing attack minus starting suspended starting quarterback Mike Hartline. On paper, the Panthers ought to be the favorites.

But emotion regularly makes a hash of what "ought" to happen on paper in football, and what kind of emotion Pitt will play with is very much a question right now.

Keys to Victory for Kentucky: The Wildcat's first problem is obvious: Hartline's absence through suspension for a public intoxication arrest. That leaves sophomore Morgan Newton at the helm of the offense; while he hasn't played this season (only seven passes attempted), Newton's freshman season saw him complete 55.6 percent of his 135 passes for only 5.2 yards per attempt. He's likely to be a little sharper with another year under his belt and the extra bowl practice to prepare, but he'll also have to deal with a Pitt pass rush that's been one of the country's best the past couple of seasons (even without Sheard). Newton must play under control, and the Wildcat offensive line -- in a bit of good news for Kentucky, one that's allowed only 15 sacks all season, second-best in the SEC -- must give him time, or the Wildcat passing attack will be dead-on-arrival.

If Newton is on point and the line does give him time, the Wildcats have the weapons to put plenty of points on the board; Cobb, running back Derrick Locke, and 6'5" receiver Chris Matthews would all start for a lot of teams a lot higher-ranked than Kentucky. They may need them, since aside from revelatory first-team All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan (the conference's leader in tackles), few Wildcats stood out on defense this season either in rush defense -- where the 'Cats gave up 170 yards a game -- or pass defense, where the 'Cats ranked 81st by giving up 7.4 yards an attempt.

Of course, as unthreatening as Pitt's offense has been at times, the game promises to be tight and low-scoring regardless. Which is where Cobb comes in: one big special teams return or huge play out of the backfield could decide the game, and the Panthers don't appear to have a similar weapon.

The BBVA Compass Bowl is like: the small-town gas station off the Interstate that the sign says is your last opportunity to fill up for 73 miles or so. You stop because, hey, better get some gas. But maybe there's also a souvenir inside, a little Randall Cobb or Dion Lewis-shaped figurine, that you'll want to keep and remember during the long Saturday football-less road ahead.


Posted on: January 7, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: January 7, 2011 10:17 am
 

Report: Dion Lewis will declare for NFL draft

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis might be playing his final game as a Panther in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday, according to a local report.  Multiple sources have confirmed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the sophomore will "likely" declare for the NFL Draft, leaving two seasons of eligibility on the table at Pitt.

Lewis, the 2009 Big East Offensive Player of the Year, saw a drastic decline in production from his freshman season - often having to split carries with fellow running back Ray Graham.  According to the Post-Gazette, Lewis filed papers with the NFL earlier this season to get information on his draft status.  He was told last week he would likely be a third round pick.  

Unless there is a last-minute change of heart, Lewis is expected to make the announcement sometime next week.  With Pittsburgh still searching for a coach (and a direction) it might be time for Lewis to make the jump while memories of that breakout 2009 season are still lingering in the mind of scouts.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:11 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 9:00 pm
 

Report: Oklahoma State OC interviews with Pitt

Posted by Chip Patterson

UPDATE: In a blog from the Post-Gazette late Monday afternoon, Paul Zeise writes that "Dana Holgorsen will not be the next head coach of Pitt." He cites a source close to the situation, but does not elaborate. Though he does suggest that Holgorsen might still end up in the Big East, which could hint at possible openings at Connecticut (Edsall leaves) or West Virginia (Stewart leaves/retires).  Regardless, something seems to have developed today to change the coaching search at Pitt.  Stay tuned to CBSSports.com for more as this story develops.

------------------------------

Dave Wannstedt's "resignation" will go down as one of the more awkward departures of the 2010 postseason.  Pittsburgh Athletic director Steve Pederson now must find a new face for the program.  Facial hair or not, Pederson knows that he needs to take action finding his next coach.  The coaching carousel has been spinning as fast as ever, and many of the names at the top of the national wish-list are quickly being employed.  

Near the end of last week, it was believed the two top candidates for the job were Temple's Al Golden and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.  With Golden heading to Miami to lead the Hurricanes, Holgerson appears to be the new favorite for the job in Pittsburgh.  Of course, there are no promises that Holgerson would be interested in leaving Oklahoma State right now.  He has put together an incredibly potent offense with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, and Kendall Hunter as the cornerstones in 2010.  With Weeden and Blackmon possibly returning for 2011, there is a chance that Holgerson could stay for one more successful year and boost his stock significantly.

But according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Holgerson was contacted by Pitt late last week and interviewed with Pederson at an undisclosed location over the weekend.  Holgerson brings a high-energy offense that could energize the fanbase and immediately utilize some of the weapons already in place for the Panthers.  Similar to Blackmon, Panthers' wide receiver Jon Baldwin could return for another season and join Dion Lewis and Tito Sunseri as the playmakers of Pitts offense.  Sunseri and Lewis have both been inconsistent across their young careers, but have shown flashes of their potential (In Lewis' case, his entire freshman season).  There are no notions as to if this will develop into anything further, but it sounds like one of the best potential scenarios for Pittsburgh.
Posted on: December 4, 2010 1:32 pm
 

Dion Lewis, Pitt love the snow

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Pitt needs some help from its Big East brethren if its going to win the Big East and head to the Fiesta Bowl next month, but first the Panthers have to pick up a win on the road against Cincinnati.  So far, so good.

At halftime in Cincinnati, in the snow, the Panthers hold a 21-10 lead, and look like a team that should have been playing in snow all season.  While the offense hasn't been perfect, particularly the passing game, but it has been efficient given the playing conditions.  The one person who seems to be benefitting the most from the snow is running back Dion Lewis.

At halftime Lewis has 164 yards rushing and three touchdowns.  His season high coming into today's game was 130 yards against Rutgers back in October.  It looks like Lewis is taking advantage of his shiftiness in conditions that don't exactly make it easy for defenders to cut and change direction smoothly.

If the kid played in Alaska, he might end up the greatest college football player ever.

As for the help Pitt needs from the rest of the Big East, the Panthers need West Virginia to lose to Rutgers, and at halftime in Morgantown, WVU is up 14-7.  They also need UConn to lose to South Florida, and that game will be played tonight.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 8:35 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2010 8:39 pm
 

Backyard Brawl sets up wild finish in Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

So far in 2010, the Big East conference has lacked many defining or memorable moments in conference play.  Those moments that every team in the conference will remember that game that changed the landscape across the entire league.  It feels fitting then, that one of those performances came in the 103rd Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia.  The Panthers entered the game sitting in the driver's seat on the way to a BCS bowl game.  A win over their rivals on Senior Day in Pittsburgh could put the Panthers just one Connecticut loss away from that coveted automatic bid.

Unfortunately, the Panthers have failed to shake the late-season struggles that crashed their conference championship hopes a season ago.  Pittsburgh entered this same weekend in 2009 undefeated in conference play, only to lose back-to-back games to West Virginia and Cincinnati to finish the season.  On Friday, Pittsburgh started this home stretch just like last year with a 35-10 loss to the Mountaineers in the Backyard Brawl.  With the win, West Virginia has turned around a disappointing middle of the season and set themselves up with a chance to win the conference.  

But the biggest winner in the Big East on Friday was Connecticut.  If the Huskies can pull out a win against Cincinnati at home on Saturday they will be one win away from their first BCS Bowl appearance in program history.  Connecticut just joined the conference in 2004, and nothing would be a higher compliment to Randy Edsall and his staff than to finish 2010 as the Big East Champions.  The best advantage the Huskies have in the race is owning the tie-breaker against both Pittsburgh and West Virginia thanks to their current three-game winnning streak.  

But with Pittsburgh's loss on Friday, it sets up a fantastic finish for the Big East title.  The Huskies control their own destiny, but with one loss could open the door for West Virginia.  West Virginia just needs a win next week and one Connecticut loss to clinch the conference, and Pittsburgh can still finally grasp that conference title with a win over Cincinnati and one loss from both West Virginia and Connecticut.  

Regardless of who your dog is in the fight, all eyes will be turned towards Storrs on Saturday.  The Huskies, the one team who controls their own destiny, will take the field against a Bearcats squad that has the chance to spoil title hopes for two teams.  Critics will argue that this finish is a result of season-long mediocrity, but the football fan in all of us is happy with the added significance to these late-season conference battles.      




Posted on: November 20, 2010 11:55 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2010 12:01 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Nov. 20)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. It doesn't have to be pretty, Pittsburgh just found a way to win - It took almost three quarters, but the Panthers offense finally caught stride in the second half. A touchdown-less game saw back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives across a 12 minute span that put Pittsburgh up for good 17-10. Tito Sunseri efficiently led the way on the scoring drives, completing 8 of 9 passes in the second half. Dion Lewis was undoubtedly the Panthers' feature back, rushing 22 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Avoiding a loss keeps Pittsburgh alone atop the Big East standings, as we creep closer to the end of the season and crowning of a conference champion. With only two other two-loss teams left, all eyes will be on the 103rd Backyard Brawl against West Virginia next week. A Panthers win would eliminate all other contenders except Connecticut, a West Virginia victory blows the race wide open with a week left.

2. At 7-3, West Virginia can thank their defense for success - While many teams fear the power and potential of West Virginia's offense, their success in the 2010 season can be credited mostly to their defense. The Mountaineer defense is among the top five in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 12.9 points per game. No team has scored more than 21 points on West Virginia, Saturday's 17-10 victory over Louisville was another example of Bill Stewart's defensive unit closing out a game, pitching a second half shutout against a Cardinals rushing attack that entered the Saturday averaging 192.3 yards per game -- best in the conference.

3. Connecticut poses the biggest threat as a dark horse - On a three game winning streak, one of the conference's hottest teams is Connecticut. The Huskies have moved from winless and sub-.500 to one of three teams competing for a BCS Bowl birth in late November. The Huskies 3-2 conference record is good enough for second place, and with wins over West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse, they own the tie-breaker against the conference's best teams. If Connecticut wins against Cincinnati and South Florida, all they need is one loss from Pittsburgh and the Huskies will find themselves bowling in January. It would be quite an accomplishment for a program that just joined Division I-A in 2002.

4. Learning the scenarios for the Big East title contenders -
For Pittsburgh to win the Big East - Simply - win both of their remaining games. Can also clinch the division with a win over West Virginia paired with a Connecticut loss. Losing to West Virginia would blow the title hunt wide open with Connecticut taking a slight advantage by owning both tiebreakers.

For West Virginia to win the Big East - West Virginia needs to win the Backyard Brawl and defeat Rutgers in the season finale. They also will need a Connecticut loss in order to avoid losing the conference championship to the Huskies in a tiebreaker.

For Connecticut to win the Big East - The Huskies need a Panthers loss in order to get a shot, but victories over the Panthers and Mountaineers have given Connecticut protection in the event of any ties. However, the Huskies would need to win out as well, and after watching Cincinnati hang 69 points on Rutgers, there are no guarantees in the Big East.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com