Tag:BJ Daniels
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: September 29, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 11:52 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Pittsburgh 44, No. 16 USF 17

Posted by Chip Patterson

PITTSBURGH WON. The Panthers overcame both their offensive inefficiencies and their fourth quarter woes in their 44-17 rout of South Florida on Thursday night. Under the lights of Heinz Field and with the attention of national television, Ray Graham stole the show. Graham picked up 303 all-purpose yards (226 rushing, 42 receiving, 35 return yards) and was a crucial piece of every Pittsburgh scoring drive.

HOW PITTSBURGH WON: Head coach Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense finally lived up to their reputation against USF, and the result was a production of 523 total yards. South Florida's defense looked visibly worn down, starting with hands on hips as early as the second quarter and finishing with gasping defensive lineman in the fourth. Pittsburgh's defense also dialed up the pressure on BJ Daniels in the second half, and the junior quarterback - for the first time in a couple contests - looked completely out of sync with his wide receivers.

WHEN PITTSBURGH WON: The Panthers dominated most of the second half, but the game's fate was not sealed until Pittsburgh defensive back Jarred Holley forced Darrell Scott to fumble early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers flipped the turnover into a field goal, but most importantly ate up more than six minutes of clock to put the game out of reach.

WHAT PITTSBURGH WON: After a rocky start, the Panthers are rejuvenated. If there were any doubters, Todd Graham may have won the respect of the locker room with Thursday night's win. It was validation for Graham's system, and validation for his preparation to get Pittsburgh ready for a talented USF team on a short week. The Big East title race is focused on league play, and league play alone. At least for the next 40+ hours, Pittsburgh sits alone the top of the standings.

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA LOST: A huge shot to the momentum that the Bulls have had rolling since the end of the 2010 season. The Bulls will likely lose their Top 25 status, and now will need to fight their way back into Big East title contention. The Bulls play three of their next four contests on the road, so this was not the best start to their October stretch. The next couple weeks will be crucial if the Bulls plan to contend in November and December.

THAT WAS CRAZY: I was going to write something about South Florida's tendency to choke on Thursday nights, or the strange trends regarding the Bulls and national television. Thankfully, our own Brett McMurphy summed up it well with this tweet.



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Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:36 am
 

Big East poll reactions (Sept. 25)

Posted by Chip Patterson

The new polls were released on Sunday, and as suggested by Brett McMurphy - holder of an AP ballot - LSU has taken over as the top team in the nation. The coaches poll reflects otherwise, with the Sooners holding on to No. 1 and Alabama locked with the Tigers in a tie for second.

In the Big East, the conference continues to only see South Florida and West Virginia receive any attention from the voters. The Bulls continue their climb up the rankings after their third straight 35+ point performance. West Virginia slipped to No. 22 after falling to LSU at home on Saturday night. With Cincinnati still trying to prove themselves and Pittsburgh continuing to frustrate their fans with inconsistent play, it is hard to find many more teams in the conference worthy of even consideration for a national ranking.

South Florida (AP: 16/Coaches: 14) - The Bulls weren't exactly known for their high-powered offense in 2010, and averaged just 11.0 points in their five losses. But four games into the 2011 season, junior quarterback BJ Daniels is leading one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Voters and fans alike are impressed with 523.3 yards per game (9th nationally) and 45.5 points per game (10th nationally). The fast start will be met with a challenging stretch ahead for Skip Holtz's team. USF has just one home game (Oct. 22 against Cincinnati) between now and the mid-November. Surviving the extended road test will make or break the Bull's Big East title chances and be reflected in their climb or fall in the polls.

West Virginia (AP: 22/Coaches: 23) - The Mountaineers get credit for climbing back in the third quarter against the AP's new No. 1 team, still hanging on near the bottom of the rankings. Quarterback Geno Smith made some plays under center, but when you throw the ball 65 times against LSU's secondary you are going to expect some interceptions. After facing Maryland and LSU, the Mountaineers will face Bowling Green on Saturday before finishing their schedule against all seven Big East opponents. Rankings will mean much less to West Virginia for the rest of the season, with the focus being on winning the conference title.

Other receiving votes: Not Applicable

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 11:26 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 18 South Florida 52, UTEP 24

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH FLOIRDA WON. After the first half looked like it was going to be a shootout on both sides, South Florida pulled away from UTEP late for a 52-24 win.  BJ Daniels put together yet another impressive performance through the air, throwing for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  He complimented that with 130 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.  USF is 4-0 and rolling, but now must focus on conference play with Pittsburgh coming up on Thursday. 

HOW SOUTH FLORIDA WON: In the first half UTEP was taking advantage of uncharacteristically reactive Bulls' defense.  The result was a 31-17 halftime deficit that still felt attainable for the Miners.  But the defense toughened up in the second half, forcing three UTEP turnovers while the offense delivered the late touchdowns to put the game out of reach.  .

WHEN SOUTH FLORIDA WON: When B.J. Daniels struck Lindsey Lamar (pictured) for the 54-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put USF up by three touchdowns, you could tell the Bulls were going to have their way for the rest of the game.  UTEP had sputtered significantly since putting up 234 yards of total offense in the first half.  The game was sealed for good with Sam Barrington's interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA WON: Withstanding the Miners' first shot was a good test for the Bulls' defense.  South Florida's competition since their season opening win against Notre Dame in South Bend has been a noticable caliber downgrade, so it was good to see a different look before staring the Big East season on Thursday.  In their 4-0 start the Bulls have boosted their status as Big East title contenders, and they will have a short week to prepare proving it in conference play. 

WHAT UTEP LOST: The Miners had a chance to hang with the nationally ranked Bulls, but turnovers put the game out of hand in the second half.  UTEP is pretty banged up right now, and competing with South Florida in Tampa was not something that was expected.  Any road trip against a team like the Bulls is a good experience for UTEP, but it really stings knowing how close they were.

THAT WAS CRAZY: South Florida was not known as a particularly high scoring offense in 2010, but through four games the Bulls are averaging 45.5 points scored.  Additionally, the 52-point performance against UTEP marked the first time in program history a team has scored 50+ points in back-to-back games.  USF entered Saturday's game hot after routing Florida A&M 70-17 a week ago.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 5:38 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 3

Posted by Chip Patterson

The new polls were released on Sunday, and the Big East saw their two nationally ranked representatives make a step up after convincing wins. West Virginia had a convincing win by defeating a competitive opponent away from home. South Florida impressed voters with a casual 745 yards of total offense in a 70-17 win.

West Virginia (AP: 16/Coaches: 16) - The Mountaineers have continued to be incredibly efficient on offense, but it was the defense's ability to come up with stops and turnovers early that impressed on Saturday. Maryland was able to climb back into the game with a bruising rushing attack, but all things considered it was an impressive non-conference victory for head coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers face their toughest challenge of the season on Saturday, welcoming the No. 2 LSU Tigers to Morgantown in primetime. If the Mountaineers can produce some offense on the rigid Tigers' D, they could give themselves a chance for the upset.

South Florida (AP: 18/Coaches: 17) - After three weeks of observation, the Bulls are finally starting to prove that their opening week upset of Notre Dame was no fluke. USF once again mightily handled their MEAC opponents, as quarterback BJ Daniels broke his own career-high numbers that were set just a week before. South Florida currently has no ranked opponents on their schedule before the season finale against No. 16 West Virginia on Dec. 1., so it will be difficult to make big jumps in the polls. Under the direction of head coach Skip Holtz, I don't expect the Bulls to get distracted by rankings anytime soon.

Other Receiving Votes - None. Pittsburgh blew a fourth quarter lead to Iowa, Syracuse lost by three touchdowns to USC, and Cincinnati blasted an inferior Akron squad. For right now, the Mountaineers and Bulls are representing the entire conference by themselves in the eyes of the national fan. Could be worse, there have been times it is ONLY West Virginia's banner to carry.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:45 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 17)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. The Big East lost big time on Saturday, and never saw it coming. Big East commissioner John Marinatto sat down in Byrd Stadium on Saturday to watch West Virginia take on Maryland. When he made the arrangements to attend the game, I bet he didn't know that he would be in an ACC stadium while being informed of reports Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for that very conference. When reached for comment about the reports, Marinatto had none. Based on reports from the stadium, the commissioner never saw it coming.

If true, it is incredibly embarrassing for the league office and not a great sign for the league members. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte already expressed his concerns regarding the shifts in conference alignment, and the departure of two teams has led to league officials reaching out to current Big 12 members. It's possible that if Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big 12, the remaining members (likely that Oklahoma State would follow OU, possible Texas Tech follows Texas) could fold in with the remaining members of the Big East.

From a conference perspective, league officials needed to decide whether they wanted to play offense or defense in realignment. Texas A&M started the process, but the power move was made on Saturday when the Big East lost two more schools to the ACC - bringing the tally to five schools in a decade. Syracuse was a founding member of the conference, and Pittsburgh had become a perennial contender in football and basketball. The Big East only added TCU as their offensive move, and were completely unprepared for Saturday's news defensively. The conference only has a $5 million exit fee, as opposed to the recently approved $20 million exit fee for the ACC (unanimously voted on last week by the school presidents). The Big East lost two schools, and a lot of leverage in conference realignment. Now John Marinatto must scramble, and make efforts to secure TCU's interest in the conference as well as develop a plan to replace the departed universities. Ironically, the conference went 4-2 on Saturday. Only Pittsburgh and Syracuse picked up losses.

2. Give West Virginia the ball and flip a coin, if it's heads they'll score. The Mountaineers finally got a ground game going in the 37-31 win at Maryland on Saturday, with Andrew Buie, Vernard Roberts, and Shawne Alston combining for 107 yards on 25 attempts. The numbers aren't fantastic, but it is an upgrade from where the rushing attack was heading into College Park. Head coach Dana Holgorsen mentioned that teams were daring West Virginia's offense to run the ball, and if they couldn't make it a threat it would be a weakness moving forward.

Instead of the run setting up the pass, the pass sets up the run in Morgantown. The mere presence of a rushing threat completes an already efficient West Virginia offense. On the season the Mountaineers have scored on 17 of 31 drives uninterrupted by the end of a half. Give West Virginia the ball, there's more than a 50% chance that Geno Smith will methodically march down the field and turn the possession into points on the scoreboard. With West Virginia's secondary causing all kinds of trouble for 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien, you have to feel good about the state of West Virginia's offense. Of course, we reach this conclusion one week before the Mountaineers face LSU's defense. I believe they present just a little bit of a different threat than the Terps.

3. USF does not get caught "playing to their competition." - The Bulls' offense scored less than 20 points on five different occasions in 2010. I'm willing to bet it doesn't happen more than twice in 2011, if even that. South Florida refused to play down to their Sun Belt opponents on Saturday, lighting up the scoreboard in the 70-17 victory. The blowout comes on the heels of a 37-7 route of Ball State, where BJ Daniels really started to get the Bulls' offense clicking. Everything was moving in full gear against the Rattlers, with Daniels setting a career-high for the second week in a row tossing for 382 yards and four touchdowns. USF scored on eight of their first ten drives, and also featured the breakout of Colorado transfer Darrell Scott. Scott put up career numbers as well with 146 yards rushing, 84 yards receiving, and four total touchdowns. The Notre Dame win felt like it more of a Irish loss at the time, but the sloppy, rain-delayed victory might have been the spark to kick off a potentially memorable season for the young program.

4. Pittsburgh's defense has to improve second half performance. A huge red flag went up last weekend, when the Panthers allowed a blatantly inferior Maine squad climb back into the game in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears did score their final touchdown with three seconds remaining, resulting in a misleading six-point victory, but the it was concerning nonetheless. The trend of poor second half defense finally caught up with the Panthers against Iowa on Saturday, resulting in a 31-27 loss.

Kevin Harper's 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave Pitt a seemingly safe 27-10 lead. Then this touted 3-4 defense sat back and allowed James Vandenberg to go to work on the secondary. Iowa's offense put up 201 of their 475 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, sending the Panthers packing with no answers for their poor play. The Panthers will get one more non-conference game to fix these issues before kicking off the Big East schedule against South Florida at home. Unfortunately for the Panthers, next week's opponent is a much-improved Notre Dame squad fresh off a confidence-building victory against Michigan State.

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 10:45 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 22 USF 37, Ball State 7

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH FLORIDA WON. The Bulls did not show any signs of a Notre Dame hangover following the upset of the Irish in South Bend. South Florida took care of business against Ball State in Tampa, which drew their largest crowd for a home opener since 2008. Ball State was held scoreless for three quarters until Jahawn Edwards scored on a 13-yard touchdown run on the Bulls' backups. The score spoiled the chances of a shutout for the South Florida defense, but head coach Skip Holtz is happy to be 2-0 after the 37-7 win.

WHY SOUTH FLORIDA WON: BJ Daniels enjoyed one of his best performances in front of the home crowd, setting career highs for completions (28), attempts (39) and yards (359). The Bulls were also able to get some ground game going utilizing both Demetris Murray and touted Colorado-transfer Darrell Scott. The workload was split pretty evenly, and the pair combined for 133 yards on 26 carries while each scoring a touchdown. Combine that with three forced fumbles and only allowing the Ball State to convert on 3 of 16 third downs and the win came pretty easily for South Florida.

WHEN SOUTH FLORIDA WON: Red zone offense was one concern from the Notre Dame game, and Ball State was successful in holding the Bulls to field goals on two of the first three scoring drives. But when Demetris Murray was able to punch in the 2 yard touchdown to make the score 20-0, it was clear the game was getting away from the Cardinals.

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA WON: More confidence and more respect from the college football community. They were favored to beat Ball State, but this same Cardinals squad did beat Indiana a week ago in Lucas Oil Stadium. South Florida didn't just win, they won convincingly - holding the Cardinals scoreless through three quarters while Daniels picked apart the defense.

WHAT BALL STATE LOST: Any momentum from the Indiana win. After rushing for 210 yards against the Hoosies, they were only able to move the ball 71 net yards on the ground against South Florida. The loss is not a devastating one for the Cardinals, but it certainly was a dose of reality after the Indiana win.

THAT WAS CRAZY. South Florida's first touchdown of the game came on a fumble return for a touchdown for the second week in a row. Against Ball State it occurred on the opening kickoff with Mark Joyce scooping up the loose ball and taking it to the house. Last week it was this goal line stand that kick-started the Bulls' upset of then-ranked Notre Dame.

Posted on: September 6, 2011 11:12 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 1

Posted by Chip Patterson

Predictably, the preseason polls did not have much of a Big East presence. The preseason Associated Press poll only opened the door for West Virginia to sneak in at No. 24. But on Saturday South Florida made quite the statement to the voters, pulling off the upset win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Now the conference gets to revel in two teams represented in the polls, with one more collecting votes.

19. West Virginia - Dana Holgorsen's debut in Morgantown was far from normal as the Mountaineers collected their first victory in a game called for lightning. The new offensive scheme under the direction of quarterback Geno Smith sputtered at first, but by the time the game was called the offense had scored five times on eight offensive drives - something that Holgorsen singled out on Monday as "pretty good." Next the Mountaineers will host Norfolk State before traveling to College Park and face Maryland in Byrd Stadium.

22. South Florida - Skip Holtz said before the season that his team had some momentum coming off the Bulls' dramatic late season victories over Miami and Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. That momentum off those two close wins carried over to South Bend on Saturday with the 23-20 victory over the then-ranked Irish. The Bulls' defense was opportunistic, and BJ Daniels was able to orchestrate enough scoring drives (granted, field goals) in the first half to put the game out of reach by the time the Irish made the quarterback switch. The Bulls now have three winnable games ahead with the possibilities of traveling to Pittsburgh 4-0. After that begins the brutal road journey through the Big East that includes four away games in five weeks.

Other Receiving Votes 38. Pittsburgh - The Panthers' "high-octane" offense took a while to get going against Buffalo, and it is clear the Panthers are sell getting used to operating at Todd Graham's preferred speed in a game situation. Luckily Pitt welcomes Maine to town on Saturday for one more test-run before taking Graham's "high-octane" show on the road to face the Hawkeyes in Iowa on Sept. 17.
 
 
 
 
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