Tag:Tavon Austin
Posted on: November 12, 2011 4:40 pm
 

QUICK HITS: West Virginia 24, Cincinnati 21

Posted by Chip Patterson

WEST VIRGINIA WON. Dana Holgorsen only wanted to take winners with him to Cincinnati, and those who made the trip will return to Morgantown as winners after holding on for a 24-21 victory over the Bearcats. Cincinnati had a chance to to tie the game with a 31-yard field goal, but Tony Miliano's kick was blocked and the Mountaineers held on for the win.  Cincinnati starting quarterback Zach Collaros left the game with an apprent leg injury suffered on a fumble forced by Bruce Irvin

HOW WEST VIRGINIA WON: Few weapons on the West Virginia roster are as valuable as wide receiver Tavon Austin. Austin did about everything for West Virginia, totaling 246 all-purpose yards on the afternoon. Austin and fellow wide receiver Stedman Bailey were once again favorite targets for quarterback Geno Smith, who finished with 376 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The Mountaineers overcame two missed field goals, 13 penalties, and only 28 yards rushing to squeak out the victory. Much of the credit can be given to the West Virginia defense, which responded well when the Bearcats were forced to turn to backup quarterback Munchie Legaux.

WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: West Virginia got a huge boost when Collaros left the game with a leg injury. The senior quarterback is the key to making the Cincinnati offense hum, and Legaux did not find his rhythm until late in the third quarter. But after giving up the lead to the Bearcats early in the fourth quarter, Geno Smith answered by orchestrating an impressive 12 play, 74 yard drive on the next possession to immediately re-take the lead for good.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: A loss would have knocked the Mountaineers from Big East title contention. But the victory not only kept their BCS hopes alive, but gave them the advantage should the Bearcats drop another conference game down the stretch. .

WHAT CINCINNATI LOST: The all-important head-to-head tie breaker against a conference title contender. The Bearcats can not afford another conference loss down the stretch, now needing to keep a game of separation ahead of West Virginia. Not to mention the potential loss of Collaros, who was on crutches by the end of the game. .

THAT WAS CRAZY: The Big East standings are now a complete muddled mess. With Cincinnati and Louisville losing on Saturday, six teams are within one game of the lead in the standings heading into the final weeks of play. Every game now carries a huge importance, as tiebreaker scenarios will play themselves out in these final contests.

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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 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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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 10, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 6

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)

13/16. West Virginia

West Virginia got off to a slow start before riding a 33-point second half to a 43-16 beatdown of Connecticut in their Big East conference opener.  The Mountaineers are off to a 5-1 start under first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen, and should feel good heading into their off week with only a loss to top-ranked LSU.  The Mountaineers will return to action in two weeks against Syracuse, and finish the season with five straight conference games.  

Holgorsen referred to Big East play as "the second season," and that's the way the schedule sets it up for the only ranked team in the league.  As West Virginia found out in 2010, ranking does not hold any weight in the second season.  Despite a national ranking, two conference losses had the Mountaineers playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in December.  It was unranked Connecticut that earned the Fiesta Bowl bid with their play in the "second season."   


Others receiving votes:South Florida and Cincinnati make their second straight appearance as vote-getters, both falling short of the Top 25 once again.  The Bulls and the Bearcats were off in Week 6 and will try to capitalize on what little voter attention they have left with conference matchups ahead in Week 7.  

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:26 am
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 5

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)

16/19. West Virginia

West Virginia utilized Saturday's 55-10 victory over Bowling Green as a chance to break in a running game that was absent in the loss to LSU a week ago. Freshman Dustin Garrison exploded for 291 yards, and the Mountaineers had more team rushing yards in Week 5 than they had totaled all season. If West Virginia can keep that ground game going in conference play, they will make it much more difficult for opposing defenses to prepare for Dana Holgorsen's high-powered attack.


Others receiving votes:Predictably, South Florida was dropped from both polls following their 44-17 loss to Pittsburgh on national television.  The Bulls still collected a decent amount of votes and could still find themselves back in the polls with a few impressive conference wins.  Cincinnati made their debut as a Big East vote-getter, after matching 2010's win total with their 4-1 start.  

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 11:58 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 11:59 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 2 LSU 47, No. 16 West Virginia 21

Posted by Chip Patterson

LSU WON. West Virginia was able to get Dana Holgorsen's offense in rhythm, collecting 533 total yard of offense.  But on Saturday LSU provided a potent offense of their own, feeing off great field position and 4 turnovers to a 47-21 win in Morgantown.  There was trash talking, hard hits, and great competition at the skill positions.  But the game was won for LSU in the trenches on both sides of the ball, with the Tigers wearing down West Virginia and pulling away late. 

HOW LSU WON: The Tigers' touted defensive unit did not put up numbers that would jump off the page (like the aforementioned 533 yards of offense for West Virginia), but they delivered enough timely turnovers and frurstrating pass coverage that kept West Virginia from crossing the end zone.  Nearly every time the Mountaineers started rolling down the field, LSU would come up with a perfect stop just outside of scoring position.  Jarrett Lee also put together an unusually impressive evening, completing 16 of 28 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Once the Tigers' had the lead for good, it was Ware and Ford pounding the ball on West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense.  An exhausting clock drainer that has become LSU's bread and butter in the fourth quarter.

WHEN LSU WON: West Virginia got the home crowd rocking after scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to cut the LSU lead to six points.  In typical Tigers fashion, they completely reveresed the game's momentum with a big special teams play.  Morris Claiborne took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards down the field for a touchdown and a two score lead for LSU.  It was a crippling blow to the home crowd and West Virginia's offense did not get a chance to score again.

WHAT LSU WON: The right to be considered the best team in the nation.  The Tigers have put together some of the most impressive on field performances this season, but their body of work and strength of schedule gives plenty of reasons for voters to consider placing LSU above Oklahoma and Alabama in the No. 1 spot.  There are still plenty of obstacles left in that rigourous schedule, but it is hard to make an argument FOR either Oklahoma or Alabama after LSU has beaten Oregon on a neutral field, as well as Mississippi State and West Virginia at home in primetime.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA LOST: The chance to leap up into the Top 10 nationally and make a case as a national contender.  Playing in the Big East won't get you enough respect from the voters and computers to give you many opportunities past the BCS berth, but a 4-0 start with victories over Maryland and LSU would give plenty of reason to consider the Mountaineers a dark horse.  West Virginia is still the favorite to win the Big East, and now that needs to be their No. 1 focus. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: Tyrann Mathieu.  Other fans may get tired of the attention he's getting, but we will stop calling his name when he stops making plays.  From strips, to interceptions, to punt returns, to downing punts at the one-yard-line; the guy is all over the place.  He wears Patrick Peterson's number and he still has (at least) one more full season to continue to improve.  

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