Tag:Nick Provo
Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:18 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 10:48 am
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Big East Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Big East.

Awards


OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR


Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia

It's easy for a quarterback's numbers to get inflated in Dana Holgorsen's fast-paced offensive scheme, but Geno Smith was able to generate just enough in the win column to take the Mountaineers back to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2007. Smith is currently just 22 yards shy of 4,000 passing yards and has thrown a league-high 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Holgorsen has repeatedly praised Smith's work ethic, as he has continued to gain a better grasp of the wide-open system that requires the quarterback to make fast reads and distribute the ball to several different playmakers. With the rushing attack disappearing for large stretches of the season, Smith was able to carry the weight of offensive production and while it wasn't always petty - the Mountaineers were able to earn a share of their seventh (and possibly last) Big East title.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Khaseem Greene, linebacker, Rutgers

Rutgers' impressive turnaround from 2010's 4-8 campaign was thanks in large part to the Big East's top-ranked defensive unit. The Scarlet Knights held opponents to just 18.8 points and only 311.5 yards of total offense per game, and undoubtedly the star of the unit was junior Khaseem Greene. The former safety moved into a playmaking linebacker position, and his activity on the field increased the level of play for the whole unit. Greene finished the regular season with a league-leading 127 tackles, and if he and fellow junior Steve Beauharnais return to Rutgers for another season Greg Schiano can expect to be leading the conference with his defense once again in 2012.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Lyle McCombs, running back, Connecticut AND Teddy Bridgwater, quarterback, Louisville

It's the wimpy move for end-of-season awards, but there was too much back and forth to arrive on just one outstanding freshman for the Big East this season. Teddy Bridgewater's improvement across the season ignited enough offense at the right time to earn the Cardinals a share of the Big East title. His ability to evolve from a game-manager to a game-changer elevated Louisville's ceiling and changed the face of the offense. On the other hand, McCombs has been producing at a high level since Day One. Entering the season the biggest concern for the Huskies was how they would replace Big East Player of the Year Jordan Todman in the offensive backfield. The shifty freshman running back answered that question in the season opener with 141 yards rushing and four touchdowns. McCombs went on to log six 100-yard rushing games on his way to 1,151 yards and the Big East rushing crown, narrowly edging out Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Charlie Strong, Louisville

Strong was praised for his ability to take a struggling veteran team and rally them together for their first postseason trip since the 2006 season in 2010. But to turnaround with an inexperienced group and earn a share of the Big East title earns him the nod for Big East Coach of the Year. Early in the season, Strong would speak about having to "teach the game of football" to his young team as the depth chart shuffled on a week-to-week basis. The Cardinals were written off by many after a 2-4 start that included losses to Marshall and FIU, but teaching the game of football paid off as Louisville won 5 of their last 6 games to return to book back-to-back postseason trips for the first time since Bobby Petrino's tenure at the helm.

All-Big East Offense


QUARTERBACK


Geno Smith, West Virginia

My choice for Big East Offensive Player of the Year finds himself on the All-Big East first team. Funny how that works out.

RUNNING BACKS

Lyle McCombs, Connecticut and Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

McCombs and Pead stood out from day one in a down year for running backs in the Big East. Both backs carried the primary rushing load for their team all season, and both delivered with 1,000-yard performances. Pead's numbers dipped a bit when starting quarterback Zach Collaros went down with a season-ending ankle injury, but he made up for it by contributing catches out of the backfield and fielding punts. The senior put up 246 all-purpose yards in a crucial late-season win over Syracuse that helped the Bearcats earn a share of their third Big East title in the last four years.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers and Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

Sanu set a Big East single-season record with 109 receptions this season, and he did it with a revolving door at quarterback. Chas Dodd, Gary Nova; no matter for Sanu. Just toss it up and the 6-foot-2 receiver from South Brunswick, NJ will figure out a way to come down with the ball. Bailey's big plays with his high school teammate Geno Smith helped him finish with a league-leading 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns.

TIGHT END

Nick Provo, Syracuse

this position, but Provo's proficiency inside the red zone made him the best tight end in the league this season. Getting to the red zone was an issue for Syracuse, but when they did Provo was a matchup problem and excelled with seven touchdowns on the season - the most of any Big East tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Mike Ryan, Connecticut; Alex Hoffman, Cincinnati; Justin Pugh, Syracuse; Jeremiah Warren, USF; Don Barclay, West Virginia

There were not many offensive lines that were great this season, but these players were certainly the most reliable pieces of good units. West Virginia's offensive line dealt with a faster pace on offense, occasionally guilty of costly holding penalties late into the game, but Barclay was arguably the strength of that group. Pugh is an NFL-caliber talent, while Ryan and Hoffman provided redshirt senior leadership and experience for their league leading rushing attacks.

All-Big East Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh; Trevardo Williams, Connecticut; Bruce Irvin, West Virginia; Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati

Perhaps the reason offensive lineman struggled in the Big East this season had to do with the wealth of talent along the defensive lines in the conference. Williams and Wolfe caused havoc in the trenches, while Bruce Irvin commanded attention from offensive lines coming off the edge. Sophomore Aaron Donald was a beast for Pittsburgh, and Todd Graham has to be happy knowing his defense will have him next season after losing Brandon Lindsey to graduation.


LINEBACKERS


Khaseem Greene, Rutgers; Dexter Heyman, Louisville, JK Schaffer, Cincinnati

Schaffer played the quarterback role, and took advantage of Wolfe's presence along the line to become the primary playmaker for the Bearcats. Schaffer ranked third in the conference with 105 tackles on the season, but also added 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. Heyman, Schaffer, and Connecticut's Sio Moore (who could have been on this list as well) all recorded three picks this season - the most among linebackers.

SECONDARY

Hakeem Smith, Louisville; Phillip Thomas, Syracuse; Keith Tandy, West Virginia; Logan Ryan, Rutgers

Phillip Thomas was phenomenal for Syracuse before being suspended for a year for violating team rules, likely ending his career with the Orange. Still, his six interceptions and 82 tackles through ten games earn him a spot on this list. Smith and Tandy were both the best defensive backs in conference title units, while sophomore Logan Ryan is just getting started on a promising career for the Scarlet Knights.

SPECIALISTS

PK Dave Teggart, Connecticut; P Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati; KR/PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

The Huskies' red zone woes played to Teggart's advantage as the senior built his NFL resume on a league-high 22 made field goals on 28 attempts. Tavon Austin is a home run threat anytime the ball is in his hands, and his play in the special teams not only earned him All-Big East honors but CBSSports.com All-American honors earlier this week.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 2:10 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 12

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

ORV/23. West Virginia

West Virginia had Week 12 off, but things still went the Mountaineers' way over the weekend. With Cincinnati's loss to Rutgers, it ensures the opportunity for a 2-loss Big East team to earn a share of the title. The next challenge for West Virginia will be winning out and getting one Louisville loss to avoid missing a BCS bowl game based on a tiebreaker. Unfortunately none of the Big East tiebreakers involve rankings, much less in the Coaches' Poll, so this love from the voters does little for their big picture goals.

Others receiving votesRutgers finds themselves right on the edge of the rankings once again after knocking Cincinnati from the top spot in the conference standings. Seems as though the national voters are not as thrilled with the excitement down the stretch in the Big East.

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Posted on: November 14, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 10:28 am
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 11

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

Others receiving votesWest Virginia knocked off Cincinnati and blew the Big East race wide open. Now both the Mountaineers and the Bearcats find themselves receiving a few votes from the pollsters, but neither collected enough to make it into the Top 25.

The Big East's absence of power could end up costing them their spot in the Champs Sports Bowl if things continue in this manner. The Orlando-based bowl game has the option to replace their Big East team (slotted as the #2) with Notre Dame once in every four-year cycle. Between Notre Dame's late-season push and the Big East's inability to make a splash on the national scene, it would not come as a huge surprise. Rutgers also received some votes in the coaches poll, though the Scarlet Knights made no AP ballots.

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Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:18 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

23/18. Cincinnati

The Bearcats maintain their lead in the Big East and status as one of the conference's biggest surprises, after overcoming a 10-point third quarter deficit to defeat Pittsburgh 26-23 at Heinz Field on Saturday. Even when quarterback Zach Collaros got back to the INT-happy ways of 2010, and the Bearcats converted on only 2 of 13 third downs, Butch Jones' squad found a way to win. The defense forced two second-half turnovers that were turned into points, showing why Cincinnati ranks third nationally in turnover margin. There are still four games left on the schedule, but a win against West Virginia would put the Bearcats in a terrific position to lock up the Big East title down the stretch.


Others receiving votesWest Virginia hangs around in ballots from both polls, but receives the expected boot from the cumulative rankings. Rutgers collected a vote from the Coaches, but it is otherwise bleak in the Big East.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 9

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

23/22. Cincinnati

Even though the Bearcats did not take the field this weekend, it was another week as the Big East's only unbeaten team in conference play. In order to hold their spot in the standings and rankings, Cincinnati must defeat Pittsburgh on the road and West Virginia at home in the next two weeks.  Second-year head coach Butch Jones already has erased the memory of last year's 4-8 showing, but the 6-1 start has the Cincinnati fan base thinking Big East title. Those dreams will either be reinforced or washed away in the next few weeks, as the Bearcats face arguably the toughest portion of the conference schedule.

24/21. West Virginia

West Virginia entered a difficult situation against Rutgers on Saturday. With the windy, snow-filled conditions, and Eric LeGrand leading the Scarlet Knights on the field it did not seem like the pass-happy Mountaineers had much going for them. But after trailing 31-21 at halftime the Mountaineers defense turned up the pressure on freshman quarterback Gary Nova, shutting out the Scarlet Knights in the second half on the way to a 41-31 win.

Shawne Alston and Dustin Garrison led a suddenly relevant ground attack for the Mountaineers, while Geno Smith used quick passes to Tavon Austin and Brad Starks to move the ball in the unfriendly weather. It was one of the strongest displays of resiliency by Dana Holgorsen's squad since their brief comeback in the LSU game, a great sign after the uninspiring performance against Syracuse.

Others receiving votesNone.  Syracuse was in this position last week, but after their flat performance against Louisville there were no votes givien to Doug Marrone's Orange from either poll.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 6:01 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 8

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

24/23. Cincinnati

Cincinnati's early success has been discredited by many, either for a lack of competition or fresh memories for a mistake-laden 2010 campaign. But with Week Eight in the books, the Bearcats are the only team still unbeaten in conference play

The improvement from year one to year two under head coach Butch Jones has paid off, and it all starts with turnovers. In 2010 the Bearcats put up big offensive numbers, but sloppy execution and a young defense resulted in finishing the season 119th nationally in turnover margin. Now Cincinnati leads the Big East in the same category, and ranks 3rd nationally behind Oklahoma State and LSU. With West Virginia's loss the door is open for Cincinnati to try make a run for their third Big East title in four years.

25/24. West Virginia

West Virginia was embarrassed and exposed by Syracuse on Friday night, but one poor performance was not enough to completely erase the Mountaineers' body of work in the minds of the voters. Dana Holgorsen's next task as a first-year head coach will be refocusing this group as they make a push for the Big East title down the stretch. If the Mountaineers win out (including a victory over 2-0 Cincinnati on Nov. 12) they can guarantee at least a share of the league championship. But in order to do that they need to find a way to do a better job protecting Geno Smith, and the defense needs to recapture the aggressiveness that defined the unit in 2010.

Others receiving votes:Doug Marrone's Syracuse team got some predictable attention from the voters after the defeat of West Virginia. The Orange schemed well for the primetime showdown, and now the challenge will be turning their strong start into a big finish in Marrone's third year at the helm. Rutgers, despite an embarrassing loss to Louisville on Friday that featured three Gary Nova interceptions, also received votes in both the AP and Coaches poll.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:14 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 8



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: The Big East

Entering conference play, I was curious to see how long it would take the league to figure out a way to slow West Virginia. There are plenty of great coaches in the Big East, and the backloaded conference schedule usually allows plenty of preparation material. Syracuse showed the conference how to beat West Virginia, and also opened up the race for the Big East title with their 49-23 win in the Carrier Dome on Friday.

The Syracuse defense sent extra pressure at Geno Smith all night, getting in his face and bringing him to the ground on four different occasions. The extra pressure got to Smith and he began to force throws from the pocket, which led to two big interceptions for the Orange defense. Until the Mountaineers prove they can counter, look for more Big East opponents to bring extra pressure to try and rattle Smith in the coming weeks.

LOSER: The Big East

While Syracuse's victory did show the rest of the league a way to slow down and possibly defeat the Mountaineers, it also eliminated the Big East's best chance of having a team finish high in the final BCS standings. As conferences look towards 2013 and the renewal of the BCS automatic bids, one concern to meet the requirements involves teams ranked in the final BCS standings.

The Big East has struggled in the polls and BCS standings in recent years, and not meeting the requirements for an automatic bid is one reason why the reported "Global Conference" has become an option. Cincinnati would likely have to run the table to finish with a high ranking, and if this weekend showed us anything it is how hard running the table has become in the Big East.

WINNER: Butch Jones

It is fairly difficult to be on the hot seat after just one season, but Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones was pretty close to it after the Bearcats finished 4-8 in 2010. There was no dissension in the program, but many fans were quick to doubt if Jones was the right choice to replace Brian Kelly.

But here in Week 8 of the 2011 season, there is only one unbeaten team left in the Big East - and it is Jones' Bearcats. Pulling Cincinnati back into bowl eligibility this early in the season takes a lot of pressure off Jones' shoulders, as he can now turn his teams' focus towards claiming their third Big East title in four years.

LOSER: South Florida's defense

BJ Daniels threw for 409 yards, three touchdowns, led the Bulls in rushing, and most importantly threw no interceptions. But it wasn't enough to snap South Florida's losing streak. Daniels put together what appeared to be a game-winning drive with 1:27 left when he found Andre Davis for a touchdown to give the Bulls a 34-30 lead.

But the defense could not come up with a stop, allowing Zach Collaros to march 70 yards in seven plays over a 75 second span. A pass interference call in the end zone was the final mistake for South Florida's defense, allowing the Bearcats to set up 1st and Goal from the two yard line. There were plenty of mistakes throughout the game, but the defense's inability to stop Cincinnati in the fourth quarter led to the third straight loss for the Bulls.

WINNER: Syracuse tight ends Nick Provo and David Stevens

Part of Syracuse's gameplan for taking down West Virginia involved using the play action to match up the tight ends with the Mountaineers linebackers in coverage. What the Orange revealed to the rest of the conference was a dramatic weakness in this year's version of Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense. Tight ends Nick Provo and David Stevens combined for 95 yards and four touchdowns on eight catches. After biting on the play-fake, Ryan Nassib would roll out and locate a tight end off his release in the perfect soft spot of West Virginia's defense. Provo and Stevens are among the better tight ends in the conference, but the gameplan on Friday set them up for a huge night that Syracuse fans will remember for the rest of the season.

LOSER: Rutgers

There is no way the Scarlet Knights could have known it at the time, but they missed out on a great opportunity to gain a leg up on the Big East title hunt on Friday night. With West Virginia falling to Syracuse, Rutgers could have stepped forward with Cincinnati as the only teams left unbeaten in conference play. Until the 16-14 loss at Louisville, Greg Schiano's squad was putting together an impressive body of work. The defense was rigid, and the offense had been able put together enough plays to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory.

But Gary Nova, who had led the comeback against Navy just a week before, showed his youth against the Cardinals' multiple defensive looks. The three interceptions came at the worst times for Rutgers, who couldn't put together the final push in the fourth quarter to stay undefeated in league play. Rutgers has never won a Big East title, and now that dream is going to be a little tougher with West Virginia and Cincinnati left on the schedule.


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Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:32 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Syracuse 49, No. 11 West Virginia 23

Posted by Chip Patterson

SYRACUSE WON. With an aggressive pass rush and methodical ball control, Syracuse bullied No. 11 West Virginia for four quarters on the way to a 49-23 victory at home on Friday night. Quarterback Ryan Nassib led a efficient, mistake-free Orange offense to 441 total yards of offense one of the Big East's best defensive units. The Orange also won the time of possession, finishing with 35:26 compared to West Virginia's 23:04. Mountaineers' head coach Dana Holgorsen is used to his team starting slow, and not owning the clock; but in most of the cases before Friday it resulted in victories.

HOW SYRACUSE WON: By keeping West Virginia's offense off the field, the Mountaineers were never able to develop a rhythm of establish any kind of continuity. The Orange converted on 12 of 16 third downs, and put up 11+ plays on three different touchdown drives. Inside runs, play action roll outs, and lots of tight end completions kept the Orange chipping away each drive. It wore down West Virginia's defense and combined with Syracuse's pass rush led to the victory for Doug Marrone's squad.

WHEN SYRACUSE WON: On the final play of the third quarter, Geno Smith dropped back and was picked off by Philip Thomas for his second interception of the game. The play came just after Ryan Nassib had completed his third touchdown pass to a wide open tight end (four touchdowns were accounted for by tight ends) to make it 35-16. All of the momentum was swinging Syracuse's way, and the Mountaineers needed a spark to get back into the game. Instead Smith's second interception set the Carrier Dome into a frenzy at the break, and Syracuse ran with the momentum to a victory.

WHAT SYRACUSE WON: A signature win for the Doug Marrone era. Last season's bowl appearance was a huge success for the former Orange offensive lineman, but much was credited to the play of the seniors. In what was considered to be a rebuilding year, Syracuse has jumped out a 5-2 start with a win over arguably the league's most talented team. There were 45,000+ in the Carrier Dome to witness the victory, one of the largest crowds since Marrone took over as head coach.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA LOST: Their frontrunner status in the Big East, and likely 10+ spots in the polls. In the round-robin conference format with no title game, the only way for West Virginia to control their BCS destiny was to finish undefeated in Big East play. Two games in, that position of power has already been stripped. Only Cincinnati sits undefeated in the Big East standings, and after watching the Mountaineers and Rutgers on Friday night, the Bearcats better be ready to bring their best on Saturday.

THAT WAS CRAZY: As pointed out below, West Virginia has been a slow starting team all season. At the end of the first quarter, there was this observation. But unlike most of the previous games on the schedule, the Mountaineers were not able to climb back from this deficit. In fact, they let it get out of hand rather quickly.



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