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Tag:Jawan Jamison
Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:29 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Charlie Strong

In his first year, Charlie Strong was showered with praise for his ability to pull a veteran group together and give the seniors their first bowl win at Louisville. Expectations were tempered heading into 2011, with the Cardinals having to replace departed veterans up and down the depth chart. With the 34-24 win against South Florida on Friday, Louisville wrapped up their best conference record since Bobby Petrino's final season in 2006. But this success carries with it an extra feeling of accomplishment, bouncing back from early season losses to FIU and Marshall. Strong seemed frustrated at times this season, using phrases like "we just need to teach the game of football" to explain the status of his young team. But the Cardinals improved as the season progressed, and delivered their best performance when it counts in league play. With Strong's momentum and this young roster, it would not be surprising to see Louisville in the mix for the Big East title for the foreseeable future.

LOSER: BCS dreams for Rutgers and Pittsburgh

Rutgers and Pittsburgh fell from contention for a share of the Big East title - and thus a shot at a BCS bowl game - with devastating losses in Week 13. Pittsburgh gave up a 20-7 second half lead on West Virginia and Rutgers turned the ball over six times to help Connecticut run away with a 40-22 win. With the Scarlet Knights and Panthers out of the mix, the Big East title race has narrowed to three contenders: Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.

Louisville has finished their season with a 5-2 conference record, while the Mountaineers and Bearcats each have one game remaining. Here are the possible scenarios and outcomes in the hunt for a BCS bowl bid.

SCENARIO I
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Cincinnati earns BCS bid
SCENARIO II
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO III
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO IV
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Three-way tie for Big East title. BCS bid determined by highest ranking in BCS standings.

WINNER: The Rebuilt Cincinnati Offense

Most figured that Zach Collaros' absence from the Cincinnati offense would lead to some struggles, but the Bearcats' Big East title hopes looked dim after the first full game without him resulted in just three points. Backup Munchie Legaux looked out-of-rhythm all afternoon in the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, completing just 12 of 31 passes and picking up only 31 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Earlier this week head coach Butch Jones suggested the possibility of using two quarterbacks against Syracuse, giving more snaps to dual-threat sophomore Jordan Luallen. Luallen ended up being the perfect change of pace for the Bearcats' offense, and finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 77 yards.

The pair made the two-QB rotation work at Cincinnati, finally hitting a rhythm and putting together a five scoring drives in the final 35 minutes of play. But the star of the Bearcats' big conference win was not a new face, but an all-too familiar one for Big East opponents. Senior running back Isaiah Pead picked up 80 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving out of the backfield on the way to 246 all-purpose yard performance to lead the Bearcats. Pead has been a force for Cincinnati, and is just 38 rushing yards away from his second-straight 1,000 yard season. The win has put Cincinnati one win away from claiming a share of the Big East title, and the decisive win should help in the BCS rankings for a potential three-team tiebreaker.

LOSER: Pittsburgh RB Zach Brown

The fact that Pittsburgh has been able to stay in contention for a Big East BCS bid even after losing Ray Graham to a season-ending knee injury is astounding. Graham was the nations second-leading rusher at the time of his injury, averaging over 130 yards per game and contributing over 40% of Pittsburgh's total offense. Quarterback Tino Sunseri and backup running back Zach Brown were able to carry the offensive load in a crucial road win at Louisville last week, and appeared to have the Panthers set up for another in Morgantown. Pitt led 17-7 when Brown was injured on a long run in the final moments of the first half. For the remainder of the game, third-stringer Isaac Bennett carried the running back responsibilities almost exclusively. Bennett did finish with 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but there was a noticeable drop off in pass protection as Sunseri was sacked 10 times - including four times on the final drive. The entire offense struggled throughout the second half, only producing a Kevin Harper field goal in the early third quarter, and Brown's injury was the most noticeable change. Regardless of the fault, the Panthers are out of the Big East title hunt and now need a win over Syracuse to be bowl eligible.

WINNER: Connecticut's bowl hopes

Needing to win out against Rutgers and Cincinnati seemed like a daunting task for an inconsistent Connecticut team to become bowl eligible, but that campaign received new life in a 40-22 beatdown of the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. The Huskies got it done with big plays from their defense, special teams, and a bruising rushing attack led by freshman Lyle McCombs. Quarterbacks Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings were given fantastic field position all day, benefiting from six Rutgers turnovers and a couple of big returns by Nick Williams. Once they got the ball close to the goal line, it was up to McCombs and McCummings to McGet the job done. The duo combined for all four of the Huskies' offensive touchdowns, giving the Huskies a 30-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. It's been a rough first season for head coach Paul Pasqualoni, but a .500 record and a bowl berth would be a great finish considering the 2-4 start in East Hartford.

LOSER: Backyard Brawl as a Big East tradition

With Pittsburgh and West Virginia both on the move out of the Big East, Friday's edition of the Backyard Brawl was possibly the last meeting of rivals as conference foes. As of Saturday Pittsburgh is still planning on an arrival in the ACC in 2014, while Oliver Luck and West Virginia have taken the legal route to try and join the Big 12 by next season. The Big East chapter of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry has been memorable, with the game serving as annual late-season highlight of the conference schedule since the Mountaineers joined in 1995. Four of the last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by one score or less, with the 21-20 West Virginia win being the closest contest since a 31-31 tie in 1989. The rivalry outdates the Big East, so I would guess the two schools will figure a way to keep it going. But Big East football fans have a less certain future when it comes to enjoying this showdown of bitter rivals as part of the conference schedule.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:00 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 1:13 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Jawan Jamison

It may have been Senior Day at High Point Solutions Stadium, but the star of Rutgers' 20-3 win over Cincinnati was freshman running back Jawan Jamison. Jamison ran 34 times for 200 yards (both career highs) and scored both of the Scarlet Knights' touchdowns as Rutgers moved into a tie for first place in the Big East. A 5-2 conference record will earn at least a share of the Big East title this season, and now the Scarlet Knights are one win away from their best conference finish since joining the Big East in 1991. Head coach Greg Schiano made it a point to stress a physical approach to both sides of the ball following last year's 4-8 finish, and the Scarlet Knights dominated Cincinnati thanks to Jamison's relentless running and a gritty performance on defense. Cincinnati dual-threat quarterback Munchie Legaux was held to 31 yards on 12 carries and star running back Isaiah Pead accumulated only 28 yards in 14 attempts. If Rutgers can beat Connecticut on the road, they'll have physical rushing and a physical rush defense to thank for their first share of a Big East conference title.

LOSER: Munchie Legaux

It was a rough day for the talented backup quarterback, getting his first start of the season in place of injured starter Zach Collaros. Legaux has the physical talents to be a real threat for the Bearcats in the future, but this season's offense just doesn't run the same way without Collaros at the helm. As the last undefeated team in conference play, Cincinnati entered November with a target on their back. Legaux looked flustered and frustrated for a majority of the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights shut down the Bearcats' ground attack and forced the sophomore to become a drop back passer. Legaux completed just 12 of his 31 passing attempts, and was held to just 31 yards rushing as Cincinnati failed to reach the end zone for the first time all season. Seeing the offense struggle without their senior quarterback has to sting Bearcats' fans, but Legaux needs a quick revival if Cincinnati is going to stay in contention for the Big East title. Syracuse and Connecticut are both winnable games, but they'll need to win both and get some help to earn a BCS bowl game bid.

WINNER: Charlie Strong

Not only has the Strong led the Cardinals from a disappointing 2-4 start to bowl eligibility for the second straight year, but he's accomplished the feat with two very different teams. Last season's squad was made up mostly of upperclassmen, and anchored by a a bruising rushing attack in the hands of senior Bilal Powell. After some shuffling in the first half of the season, the Cardinals are now led by an efficient Teddy Bridgewater-led attack. The defense has tightened up to Strong's taste, and now Louisville has an inside track towards a share of the Big East title. A win at USF next friday guarantees at least a tie for the conference championship, and key wins over Rutgers and West Virginia give them great odds to win a tie-breaker scenario. After troubling losses to FIU and Marshall early in the season, Strong has done a great job to rally a young team that has gotten better as the season progressed.

LOSER: BJ Daniels

Neither team was able to generate much of an offensive performance in Miami's 6-3 win over USF on Saturday, but the Bulls offense became nonexistent when starting quarterback BJ Daniels left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Head coach Skip Holtz has spoken extensively this season about Daniels' improvement as a quarterback, and he has been the most consistent performer in an otherwise inconsistent season for the Bulls. USF had no information on the extent of Daniels' injury, but the drop off when backup quarterback Bobby Eveld took over was significant. With Eveld under center, the offense generated just 75 yards on 17 plays and converted none of their five third down attempts down the stretch. Despite the disappointing performance in conference play, USF is still one win away from bowl eligibility. Daniels' health is an immediate concern with a short turnaround before hosting Louisville on Friday in Raymond James Stadium. With Louisville and West Virginia both competing for a BCS bowl bid, the Bulls can expect their best shot in the final two games of the season. In order for South Florida to answer with their best, they'll need Daniels out on the field.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even in an off week, the Mountaineers were winners in Week 12 thanks to the latest shake-ups in the conference title race. With Cincinnati's loss to Rutgers, five teams are in title contention with just 2 conference losses. The Mountaineers and Bearcats will fight with Rutgers, Louisville, and Pittsburgh over the final two weeks of the season for the conference's most sought-after prize: a BCS bowl bid. Earning a share of top spot won't be enough to satisfy a team hungry for college football's grand stage, and now the focus turns to the Big East tiebreaker rules. In 3- or 4-team ties, the tiebreaker is decided the record against the other teams involved in the tie. Currently, only one of West Virginia's two conference losses is to a team still in title contention: Louisville. The other two-loss teams have fallen to each other, giving the Mountaineers a slight advantage heading into the season's final weeks.

LOSER: Phillip Thomas

Syracuse was off in Week 12, but the Orange suffered a huge loss with the suspension of star safety Phillip Thomas. Doug Marrone's defense has struggled as of late, and currently ranks last in the Big East giving up nearly 400 yards per game. Thomas has been one of the few bright spots in the lineup, leading the team in tackles and interceptions. But Phillip Thomas' suspension will not just last the rest of the 2011 season, as the school announced a one-year length on the safety's punishment for violation of an Athletic Department policy. No official explanation has been offered by the school or Thomas, though it would not be surprising to see the junior declare for the NFL draft after receiving this mysterious one-year punishment.


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Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:03 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: West Virginia's BCS title hopes

Trailing by 10 at halftime on the road against Rutgers in swirling snow, West Virginia faced the possibility of dropping their second straight conference game. It could have been a repeat of 2010, when back-to-back conference losses caused West Virginia to lose a three-team tie for the conference title. The Mountaineers were denied a trip to a BCS bowl and instead found themselves playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in December.

But the Mountaineers' defense got opportunistic in the second half, and Shawne Alston led a ground attack that seemed to catch the Scarlet Knights off guard. The 20-0 shut out in the final two quarters helped seal the 41-31 victory and keep West Virginia alive in the hunt for the Big East title. Cincinnati is still undefeated, but West Virginia will have an opportunity to claim the tiebreaker over the Bearcats in another road test in two weeks. They'll likely need to win out in order to win the conference, but at least they still control their destiny.

LOSER: Gary Nova

When freshman quarterback Gary Nova replaced Chas Dodd as the starting quarterback at Rutgers, he received praise for his maturity despite being a true freshman. But on Saturday Nova showed his age playing against a tough opponent in hostile conditions. As the snowy mix fell from the sky during Rutgers' 41-31 loss to West Virginia, Nova began to lose his control of the ball as the game progressed. Two fumbles under center halted Scarlet Knights' drives during a frustrating second half for Rutgers. With a 10-point halftime lead, it looked as though the Scarlet Knights were poised to pull the upset in the strange playing conditions. But the inability to sustain a drive led to a disappointing finish, as Rutgers was held scoreless through the entire second half.

WINNER: Louisville's offense

It's hard to tell if Louisville's offensive growth is a credit to the changes on the coaching staff or Teddy Bridgewater's development, but either way things are moving in the right direction for the Cardinals. Louisville put up 343 total yards of offense and a season-high 27 points in the victory over Syracuse on Saturday. Teddy Bridgwater was sharp in the pocket, completing 17 of 24 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and - most importantly - no interceptions.

It was a huge win for Charlie Strong's squad, which despite their early season struggles currently sit just one game out of first place in the Big East. All of the sudden, Louisville is looking at the possibilities of another postseason berth under the second-year coach. The improvements to the offense have helped the team settle on their identity, and Saturday was a moment of arrival for the Cardinals.

LOSER: Connecticut's quarterbacks

While Connecticut's quarterback rotation has narrowed to Johnny McEntee as the starter and Scott McCummings as your change-of-pace running threat, the strength of the position has not improved all season. Johnny McEntee looked like a walk-on against Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, completing just 17 of 33 passes for 193 yards. He threw no interceptions, though probably should have been picked off 3-4 times by packaging misread passes right into the hands of the Panthers' defense. McEntee looks nervous under pressure, and does not avoid sacks well at all.

Unfortunately for first-year head coach Paul Pasqualoni, there just aren't many options offensively other than to tough it out with what he has. Freshman running back Lyle McCombs has been promising, and notched another 100-yard performance (his fifth of the season) with the 124 yard output against Pittsburgh. It is a frustrating moment to realize that "this is the best you are going to do," but that's exactly what Connecticut fans have with their offense right now.

WINNER: Cincinnati 

Even though the Bearcats were off, Butch Jones and Co. were winners in Week 9. As the rest of the league spent the weekend beating each other up and shuffling the conference standings, the Bearcats remain at their position on top. Undefeated in league play, the Bearcats still control their destiny in terms of the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid. Arguably two of the toughest challenges on the schedule await Cincinnati in the next two weeks with a road trip to Pittsburgh and a home game against West Virginia. Getting the extra week to rest and prepare, while Rutgers and Syracuse (both road games in late November) fell an extra game behind in the standings made Week 9 enjoyable for Cincinnati fans with Big East title hopes.

LOSER: Syracuse's momentum 

Syracuse is one of the least-consistent 5-3 teams in the nation right now. The Orange failed to reach bowl eligibility on Saturday with their 27-10 loss at the hands of Louisville. They looked uninspired, lifeless, and completely different from the squad that knocked off West Virginia 49-23 last weekend. Of course, THAT team looked different than the one that squeaked out a 37-34 win over Tulane. There is no continuity or consistency to the play of Syracuse this season, something that makes them wildly unpredictable and still dangerous in Big East play.

With four conference games left, it would take a meltdown for Doug Marrone not to take Syracuse back to the postseason. Unfortunately picking up their second conference loss likely plays them out of the Big East title race. All of the momentum Syracuse had after the big West Virginia win is gone, and now the Orange will try to get it back next week against Connecticut on the road.


WINNER: Eric LeGrand

We've covered this moment extensively today, but I figured it was worth one last post. The inspiring video of Eric LeGrand re-joining his teammates on the field before Rutgers-West Virginia.



LOSER: Ray Graham


Pittsburgh's offense took a hit on Wednesday night, with star running back Ray Graham suffering a knee injury that will require season-ending surgery. In a roller-coaster season for Pittsburgh's offense, Graham has been the only steady component. The junior running back entered the weekend as the nation's second-leading rusher, averaging 135 yards per game. Graham is the perfect back for head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme, providing a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield as well. Heading into the Panthers' 35-20 win over Connecticut, Graham accounted for nearly 40% of the Pittsburgh's offensive yards. The one bit of good news was how the rest of the offense responded to the injury. Quarterback Tino Sunseri played his best game of the season, throwing for 419 yards and leading the Panthers in rushing with 40 yards and a touchdown. Pittsburgh (4-4) will need more of that from Sunseri if they plan to be playing football in late December.


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Posted on: October 29, 2011 7:42 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 7:44 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 25 West Virginia 41, Rutgers 31

Posted by Chip Patterson

WEST VIRGINIA WON. The Mountaineers outscored Rutgers 20-0 in the second half to climb out of a hole in snowy Piscataway and win 41-31. With wind and weather playing a factor in the game, West Virginia leaned on their rushing game to avoid dropping their second straight conference game. The defense tightened up at halftime and forced four Rutgers turnovers, shutting down every attempt at a comeback.

HOW WEST VIRGINIA WON: The Mountaineers entered the game ranked 100th nationally in rushing, but with the wind and snow hampering the air attack West Virginia needed production on the ground. The offense ran the ball 37 times against Rutgers, their second highest total of the season. Shawne Alston and Dustin Garrison led the ground attack, which produced four of the Mountaineers' six touchdowns. Short passes to Tavon Austin added to the ground attack, allowing the talented wide receiver to make plays in space on the snowy surface.

WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: The entire second half belonged to the Mountaineers, but Geno Smith's touchdown run to give them the lead in the fourth quarter was a pivotal moment in the victory. It was a 4th and Goal playcall with West Virginia trailing by three, and Dana Holgorsen knew he had the Rutgers defense on their heels. The touchdown capped off an 11 play, 89 yard drive that ate up almost five minutes of game clock. It was a dominant series for the Mountaineers' offense and set the tone for the rest of the game.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: The Mountaineers avoided their second conference loss in the comeback victory, and remains in the hunt for the Big East title. Two losses in league play will generally make it difficult to finish on top of the standings in the eight team round-robin Big East schedule. Losing two of their first three conference contests would have made making a BCS bowl game extremely difficult. It was also a great test of the Mountaineers' resiliency, which was called into question in the loss to Syracuse.

WHAT RUTGERS LOST: The Scarlet Knights desperately needed a strong showing on Saturday on the heels of the 16-14 loss to Louisville. Leading 31-21 at halftime, it looked like Greg Schiano's squad had the gameplan ready to knock off the Mountaineers. The second half turnovers and inability to sustain a drive gave Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense too many opportunities to take, then extend, the lead.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Not crazy, but certainly special. Eric LeGrand leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field before the game.



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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 3:19 pm
 

Eye On College Football Midseason Report Big East



Posted by Chip Patterson


Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, West Virginia. In Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense, the quarterback's communication with the head coach and on-field decision making is pertinent to the system's success. Smith has been a victim of a few slow starts, but has finished every game with an impressive offensive output. Smith is averaging 359.8 yards per game through the air, and completing 64.0 percent of his passes. His ability to find receivers in space has been crucial for the Mountaineers, who only recently found their running game. With 16 touchdowns and 3 interceptions there have been few mistakes for the talented junior, who's next challenge will be leading this team to a conference title. Also considered: Mohammed Sanu, Rutgers; Ray Graham, Pittsburgh; Tavon Austin, West Virginia.

Defensive Player of the Year: Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have jumped out to a fast start despite only recently finding certain answers at the quarterback and running back position. A huge part of that has been stout play on the defensive side of the ball, led by linebacker Steve Beauhamais. Rutgers' leads the Big East in scoring and total defense, with Beauhamais contributing 32 tackles and ranking 4th in the conference in tackles for loss. Beauhamais also has added 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions to cap off a well-rounded defensive stat line for the leader of one the league's best defensive units. Also considered: JK Schaffer, Cincinnati; Sio Moore, Connecticut; Terence Garvin, West Virginia.

Coach of the Year: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia.
After Bill Stewart's unplanned early exit, Dana Holgorsen deserves credit for stepping in and quickly taking ownership of the program. Much of the staff is still in place, including defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, but there has been no apparent dissension within the program since Holgorsen's promotion. The most conflict Morgantown has seen was the head coach's shot at the fan base after a home game played before a well-below-capacity crowd. Also considered: Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Butch Jones, Cincinnati.

Surprise: Rutgers. With a 5-1 start and two conference victories under their belt, head coach Greg Schiano has all but erased the horrid memories of the 2010 season. While they've shuffled the quarterback and running back positions, arriving on Gary Nova and Jawan Jamison as the apparent starters, the defense ranks 12th nationally only allowing 16.0 points per game. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Scarlet Knights are finding ways to win. Also considered: Cincinnati

Disappointment: Pittsburgh. After promises of "high-octane football," head coach Todd Graham has very little to show from his no-octane Pittsburgh Panthers. There is very little consistency on either side of the ball, with the offense riding running back Ray Graham to stellar performances at times (South Florida) and failing to find the end zone in other contests (Utah). With the talent returning from last season's squad, the Panthers were projected to challenge their backyard rivals for the Big East title. After losing four of their last five, a return to the postseason is even in doubt. Also considered: Louisville.

Game of the Year So Far: Wake Forest at Syracuse. The Orange overcame a 20-7 halftime deficit to knock off Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime on the first night of the college football season. Quarterback Ryan Nassib picked apart a Wake Forest back seven for 15 fourth-quarter points to kick off a "win by any means"-type season for the Orange. Also considered: Maryland at West Virgina.

Game of the Year (To Come): West Virginia at Cincinnati. Three teams poised to race for the Big East title down the stretch seem to be these two teams along with Rutgers. The only way to ensure a championship is to go undefeated in conference play and this is the best chance for someone to knock off the Mountaineers. The Bearcats have an offense that can keep up with West Virginia in a shootout, and their defense is one of the best in the nation at forcing turnovers. Look for Paul Brown Stadium to be lubed up and rocking when West Virginia comes to town on Nov. 12.

CHAMPION: West Virgina. It will take at least one upset or a furious charge from Cincinnati or Rutgers to keep the Mountaineers from claiming the Big East title and returning to a BCS bowl.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:05 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 7


Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Greg Schiano

Rutgers' head coach was struggling with his running back rotation, and not getting enough production out of Chas Dodd as the Scarlet Knights started the season. Contrary to the desires of many Rutgers' fans, Schiano dedicated many of the rushing attempts to sophomore Jawan Jamison instead of highly-touted freshman Savon Huggins. Jamison's early season experience paid off in the 21-20 comeback victory over Navy, as he delivered his first 100+ yard performance of his short career. Schiano also made the right call making a quarterback change, giving freshman Gary Nova his first career start against the Midshipmen. Nova also stepped up to the challenge, completing 23 of 31 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. There is room for improvement with Nova (like the two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown) but it is clear he is the quarterback of the future for the Scarlet Knights.

LOSER: South Florida's Big East title hopes

After starting conference play with two straight losses, South Florida has made the task of claiming their first Big East title much more difficult. It is not impossible, Connecticut accomplished such a feat just a year ago, but it is particularly challenging with USF's schedule. In order to put themselves in a position to finish atop the league standings, they will need to run the table in conference play and get some significant help. After starting the season 4-0, the Bulls were ranked in the top 20 and getting buzz as Big East frontrunners. Now they stare down Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse (on a short week), Louisville, and West Virginia needing five wins and some help in order to reclaim that buzz surrounding the program in September.

WINNER: Mistake-prone Bearcats

Cincinnati started flat against Louisville on Saturday, and some Bearcats fans will even tell you they arguably deserved to lose the game. The only turnover was a Zach Collaros interception returned for a touchdown, but Cincinnati fumbled the ball four times. Thankfully the ball was recovered by a Bearcat in each of the four instances, but Butch Jones' squad had that kind of luck against the Cardinals. After all, it was Louisville penalties and failure to execute that opened the door for the 18-0 second half run to deliver Cincinnati a victory in their Big East opener. At 5-1 the Bearcats have already surpassed the win total from Jones' first season, and find themselves as one of the new favorites in the hunt for the conference title.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's "no-octane" offense

Head coach Todd Graham has tried everything with Pittsburgh's offense, but with the exception of their explosion against South Florida the Panthers have been painfully ineffective with the ball. Starting quarterback Tino Sunseri still looks uneasy trying to push the ball down the field, and even a change of pace quarterback like Trey Anderson hasn't been able to get anything started for Pittsburgh. The 26-14 loss to a visiting Utah squad was embarrassing, but the offense's inability to score a single point against the Utes was downright shameful. Pittsburgh instead had to get their points with defense and special teams, while their no-octane offense definitely sorts them into the "loser" column for Week 7.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even though the Mountaineers had Week 7 off, they emerge as a winner in the Big East. More conference infighting has revealed vulnerability in West Virginia's opponents in the quest for a conference title. South Florida started the season as one of the early candidates to challenge for the crown, but after Skip Holtz's squad dropped their second conference game and Pittsburgh failed to score an offensive touchdown things are looking good in Morgantown. Their stiffest competition will likely either come from Rutgers and/or Cincinnati. Both games will be road tests for the Mountaineers, and now become the unsuspecting "games to circle" in the Big East conference schedule.

LOSER: Louisville and their self-hating ways

Louisville entered the game as the Big East's most penalized team, averaging 8.6 flags per game. On Saturday they lived up to their reputation, committing four penalties on one drive as the Cardinals held a 16-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. While Charlie Strong's squad kept the total number of penalties down, that frustrating possession was enough to swing the momentum away from the inexperienced Cardinals. When Cincinnati got the ball back, it only took two plays for Isaiah Pead to break loose for 50 of his 151 yards rushing and a touchdown to take the lead away from Louisville. For the third week in a row, the Cardinals suffer a close loss. A game that could have easily ended differently if not for some crucial mental errors.


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