Posted on: October 2, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 1:51 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Either Pittsburgh's better, South Florida's worse, or something. Not entirely sure what it is exactly we can take away from Thursday night's matchup between nationally ranked (probably not for long) South Florida and Pittsburgh. The Bulls are winless in nationally televised Thursday night games, so history wasn't on their side. But this was the same Panthers team that blew fourth quarter leads against Iowa and Notre Dame. The last thing I expected as a 44-17 beatdown in this Big East opener.
But in conference play, sometimes you'll have games that defy football knowledge or logic - and for this we are thankful. In this case, the Bulls are left with plenty of questions. The seemingly potent offense has very different numbers against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (20 points per game) than they do against Ball State, Florida A&M, and UTEP (53 points per game). The methodical routs of lesser opponents had me thinking this could be South Florida's year to finally finish higher than 3rd in the Big East, but Thursday's loss made me much less certain.
But there are plenty of other factors that help explain Thursday's outcome. Mostly, it was the perfect scenario for Ray Graham to star in Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense. The Panthers had struggled to find consistency in the new system, with quarterback Tino Sunseri looking uncomfortable with the pace early and struggling to get the ball downfield. The scheme is by no means flawless, but Graham's work running the ball and catching out of the backfield helped keep South Florida's defense running all over the field, eventually gassing them for 303 all-purpose yards.
The fact that Pittsburgh had not put together a dominant performance meant there was very little film of the offense working for South Florida to prepare. The short week meant the defense had even less time to prepare. These are not excuses, but the Bulls did not seem ready for Pittsburgh at all. By the time they looked around to see what had happened, the game was already out of hand.
But that's how Todd Graham's system is meant to work. When USF's linebackers were already throwing hands on pads by the third quarter, the Panthers offense smelled blood and went into kill mode rattling off 24 unanswered second half points.
Pittsburgh is definitely improving, and South Florida might not be as flawless as some believed. To what extent both statements are true is yet to be seen, but that discussion will be for another week.
2. Cincinnati might be 2011's dark horse. For a team that was 4-8 a year ago and returns many of the same players, the Bearcats have tied up many of the loose ends that plagued them in 2010. Cincinnati's defense ranked near the bottom of the Big East in most statistical categories a season ago, and virtually the same lineup now is only giving up 12.2 points per game. The level of competition hasn't exactly been top-notch during Cincinnati's 4-1 start, but you have to see results somewhere. The biggest improvement on the defensive end has been the ability to force turnovers and then let the offensive turn them into points. The Bearcats lead the nation with 18 forced turnovers, and there is nothing that all-conference quarterback Zach Collaros likes more than a short field to do work.
Collaros has also rediscovered his rushing game, which took a back seat a year ago after being a weapon in his arsenal as an underclassman. The senior quarterback was the leading rusher against Miami on Saturday, picking up 89 yards on 15 carries in the 27-0 victory over their in-state rivals. Nothing is settled until conference play begins, but if this squad continues to show their improvement in conference play I'd imagine they are top three in the conference with a chance to steal the title in November. By no means the favorite, but definitely a dark horse candidate.
3. West Virginia might have found a ground game. It was a much different caliber of competition, but the Mountaineers delivered with a much-needed rushing performance against Bowling Green in their 55-10 victory. Freshman running back Dustin Garrison led the way with 291 yards and two touchdowns on a bruising 32 carry afternoon. West Virginia entered the game as one of the nation's worst rushing teams. On Saturday they piled up more yards on the ground than they had in the previous four contests combined. The special teams woes from the LSU game continued, but at least they may have found a solution for the unbalanced offense. With teams being forced to respect the rushing attack, quarterback Geno Smith should have plenty of opportunities to stretch opposing defenses and put torment Big East opponents with Holgorsen's offensive system. The rest of the Mountaineers' schedule is made up of their seven Big East conference games. If a return to a BCS bowl is the goal, then the ground game showed up just in time for West Virginia.
4. Syracuse can't avoid karma. The biggest story for Syracuse football in the last week was the win they might not have earned. I completely understand the decision not to overturn the extra point that wasn't, particularly because it wasn't the last play of the game, but the fact remains that the kick was no good. If Toledo can hold on to the ball, Syracuse loses in regulation and the game never goes to overtime.
When the Orange went to their third overtime of 2011 in a game that already featured four field goals, I had a feeling Doug Marrone's squad might not be able to escape this one. After Rutgers (gasp) kicked a field goal to take a 16-13 lead, it was only appropriate that a fumble needed to be reviewed to seal Syracuse's fate. Not trying to hate on Syracuse's team or the Big East's decisions regarding last week's outcome, but Saturday felt like the football gods were doing some self-correction.
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Posted on: August 29, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 4:05 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Injured safety Phillip Thomas, one of the leaders of the Syracuse defense is finally getting back to 100 percent and should be ready to play when the Orange open their season against Wake Forest on Thursday.
Thomas told the Syracuse Post-Standard he has been able to practice with no pain after breaking his jaw during practice earlier this month. He has been with the team in a non-contact role for the last couple weeks, helping in a mentor role to underclassmen like Jeremi Wilkes and Durell Eskridge.
"Right now, I'm back in a helmet and I'm doing pretty good," Thomas said. "I'm about 95 percent."
Thomas was the third-leading tackler on the defense last year, behind graduated all-conference linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, and will be looked to as a defensive leader along with fellow safety Shamarko Thomas. Head coach Doug Marrone confirmed that he expected both players to start against Wake Forest during the Big East coaches teleconference on Monday.
Opening the season against an ACC team in the Carrier Dome will give Syracuse a chance to reverse some disappointing trends against the conference. Since 1996 the Orange are 1-12 against ACC opponents, and winless (0-8) in the Carrier Dome.
Posted on: August 18, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 8:58 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Big East gets criticized often on the national level for being the one of the weaker BCS conferences, but with new coaches and high-octane offenses 2011 could be a bounce back year for the league. I join Adam Aizer to sort through the many story lines in the Big East and try to make sense of a league that has had 5 different teams win a share of the conference championship since 2005.
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Tags: Adam Aizer, Big East, Big East Podcast, Big East Preview, Big East Preview Podcast, Brandon Irvin, Butch Jones, Charlie Strong, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Dana Holgorsen, Doug Marrone, Geno Smith, Greg Schiano, Kendall Reyes, Louisville, Paul Pasqualoni, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Sio Moore, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Syracuse, Tavon Austin, Todd Graham, USF, West Virginia
Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: August 8, 2011 10:20 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Syracuse's 2010 campaign delivered the first bowl victory for an Orange team in nearly a decade. With 13 starters returning for 2011, the media picked Syracuse to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason poll. This should be a time of excitement and optimism for Orange football, but head coach Doug Marrone has seemed displeased with their work three practices in to fall camp. Nolan Weidner, of The Post-Standard observed that the third year head coach "wasn't particularly upbeat" when evaluating his team's performance on Sunday.
"As of right now, no one's really separated themselves," Marrone explained. "We expect a lot of them, we hold them to a high standard. We have high expectations for them this year, it's all about the little things."
Some of those "little things" add up to a general feeling of practice productivity. When Marrone felt like his squad wasn't getting that kind of "quality practice" he was looking for, he cut Sunday's session short. In his post-practice comments with the media (The Post-Standard has a video here), Marrone seemed to place some of the blame for sub-par practice on the youth of his team. While the Orange do bring back several upperclassmen, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, only five of the top 12 tacklers are back on defense. With big question holes to fill at linebacker and cornerback, that competition Marrone is looking for will be key to re-establish a defense that only gave up 19.3 points per game in 2010.
The onus on that defensive side will start on the front line, led by junior all-conference end Chandler Jones and senior Mikhail Marinovich. With a Sept. 17 trip to face USC in the Coliseum, there will not be much of a learning curve once the season starts. As an Orange alum himself, Marrone takes great pride in his team's work ethic. I would expect that this week's practices may carry a different tone as the season inches closer.
Posted on: August 5, 2011 5:55 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 6:02 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
At Big East Media Day, Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone had no official comment on the status of Prince-Tyson Gulley or Marcus Sales. The former suffered multiple stab wounds after an on-campus brawl broke out at a party, the latter faces several felony drug charges after a traffic stop last Friday night.
When meeting with the media an hour before the Orange kicked off their first practice of the 2011 season, Marrone announced that Sales has been suspended indefinitely and Gulley will miss 7-10 days of practice.
Gulley reported to camp on time and will not face any disciplinary actions, and a suspect has been arraigned in Syracuse City Court. Gulley will take a more active role in the Syracuse offense this season, after primarily serving as a return man in 2010. With Antwon Bailey looking to fill in for the departed Delone Carter, Gulley will be counted on as the second-string back to share the load.
Sales' potential absence could be a big blow to the Orange passing game. Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw 19 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions last season, and was counting on having his two senior receivers (Sales and Van Chew) in the lineup.
Marrone also announced that backup quarterback Jonny Miller has been suspended, after being arrested on Wednesday in connection to an assault and robbery incident in Boulder, Colo. along with Colorado offensive lineman Bryce Givens.
Posted on: August 5, 2011 10:35 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's not often two college football players from FBS programs on different sides of the country join up to do anything noteworthy, much less commit a robbery. But that's allegedly the case for two high school teammates from Colorado and Syracuse.
Now former Buffalo offensive lineman Bryce Givens and Orange sophomore quarterback Jonathan Miller were arrested by Boulder police early Wednesday morning and charged with robbery. Miller was also charged with third-degree assault. The two knew each other as teammates at Denver's Mullen High School.
According to police, the victim reported being confronted by two men at 3:30 a.m. in Boulder. Miller is believed by police to have punched the victim in the face before the pair took his cell phone and cash and fled. Givens and Miller were later arrested and eventually freed on bond.
While there's been no official word yet from Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, Buffs first-year head coach Jon Embree -- having already suspended Givens in the spring following a vandalism arrest -- wasted no time in dismissing his former tackle from the team. "That ship has sailed," Embree said Thursday morning.
Though neither were major contributors in 2010, Miller has been touted by many as the Orange's quarterback of the future--an honor that is surely in doubt after Wednesday's events.
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 1:51 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Big East Media Day got started in Newport the the release of the preseason media poll and opening remarks from commissioner John Marinatto and all eight head coaches. Each coach was given several minutes to address the media and share some thoughts on the upcoming season.
Pretty much every coach spent some time talking about the competition in the league. It was pointed out several times that 5 of the 8 teams have earned a share of the conference title since 2006, and all eight teams have earned at least one bowl berth in the last two years. Also many of the coaches expressed their excitement for the arrival of TCU and the topic of the upcoming media deal negotiation was not ignored. Other than Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, no other coach has been in his current post for longer than three seasons. The anxiousness to get into fall camp was another common theme, particularly for new coaches Todd Graham, Dana Holgorsen, and Paul Pasqualoni.
Below are some highlights from each coach's time at the podium.
Rutgers - Greg Schiano
- Schiano acknowledged the late-season collapse from 2010. "The wheels came off," he explained to the media. "We'll return Rutgers football to its winning ways, to bowl games." The Scarlet Knights had been to five straight bowl games (winning four in a row) until 2010's last place finish.
- One of the weakest points in Rutgers' offense a year ago was the offensive line. With new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, Schiano believes the Scarlet Knights will return to being a "power football team." Says they've made some schematic changes to the line, but also believes they "are a better group than we were at any time last year."
- Highly touted running back Savon Huggins has become a star in the Rutgers football community before even setting foot on campus. Schiano made no promises about the starting running back position, but instead listed the entire group and said that Huggins will "make for great competition" when camp opens.
West Virginia - Dana Holgorsen
- "Excited to get to do this a year early" was the closest Holgorsen came to mentioning former head coach Bill Stewart. However he did spend a considerable amount of time complimenting the work of defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. While the Mountaineers lost seven starters from the defensive unit to the NFL, Holgorsen believes they have a "good nucleus" of players coming back to lead the 2011 edition of Casteel's defense.
- Holgorsen said that quarterback Geno Smith has picked up the new offensive system well. While Holgorsen has only been head coach since June, he's been working with the offense since his arrival in Morgantown before spring practice. He said that Smith's challenge now is "to make everyone around him better."
- "Tavon Austin is a dynamic kid who can touch the ball in a whole bunch of different ways," Holgorsen said of the junior playmaker. He made it clear the Mountaineers plan on putting the ball in his hands as much as they can.
Syracuse - Doug Marrone
- With an 8-5 finish and a Pinstripe Bowl victory, the Orange are fresh off their most successful season since 2001. Marrone, entering his second year on the job, made it clear that the goals for the program are to create a foundation and "become a competitive team year in and year out" in the league. The media projected the Orange to finish fourth in the conference, but well behind West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and USF.
- The Orange lost a lot of talent on defense, and Marrone made it clear that there will be lots of competition over the next month in camp. While the unit is solid at defensive end and safety, it sounds like the interior line, outside linebackers, and corner back positions are up for grabs.
- There was no update on the medical status of Prince-Tyson Gulley or any team decision regarding recently arrested wide receiver Marcus Sales. It has been reported that Gulley has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home, but the coach made no statement on either situation.
Charlie Strong - Louisville
- Strong won over the Cardinals football community in his first year by taking the team back to the postseason for the firs time since the 2006 season, when the Cardinals were Big East champions. He was able to deliver a bowl game experience to a team that had 25 seniors, with 14 in the starting lineup. Strong made it clear that the Cardinals will be looking for players to step up this fall, filling in for the mass exodus of players from the two-deep.
- There is no hiding the lack of experience at quarterback for the Cardinals. Junior Will Stein has the most experience of the group (2 starts), but Strong made sure to mention dual-threat freshman Teddy Bridgewater and wildcard QB Dominique Brown as well. In spring practice it looked like Stein had a lead on the job thanks to his comfort with the offense, but clearly every candidate will get a shot to earn snaps this fall.
- Strong said that the defense will likely be the team's strength this season, particularly the defensive line. Three starters return from last year's unit, and the entire two-deep has game experience. The Cardinals also return both starting safeties, most notably 2nd team All-Big East sophomore Hakeem Smith.
Paul Pasqualoni - Connecticut
- It seems odd that one of the "first-year" coaches was present for the first season of Big East football in 1991, but such is the way things have worked out for Connecticut's Paul Pasqualoni. He pointed out how different the league is now, noting that the diversity of champions in recent years contrasts to the conference's inception - where Miami took 9 of the first 13 Big East titles.
- With no starting quarterback (Pasqualoni has decided to let all four candidates continue to compete into fall camp), there has been an emphasis placed on the offensive line. The Huskies did a fantastic job moving the ball with Jordan Todman in 2010, and Pasqualoni hopes that USC-transfer D.J. Shoemate will be able to find similar success this fall.
- Expect multiple looks from the Huskies defense this season. Explained that he and defensive coordinator Don Brown (formerly with Maryland) have different backgrounds and are "merging" their systems. There will be some 3-4 and some 4-3 as the Huskies continue to develop the linebacker position. Pasqualoni says that he has an "outstanding defensive line," anchored by all-conference defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.
Todd Graham - Pittsburgh
- When Graham took the podium, it was impossible not to recognize his feeling of pride after being introduced as the Pittsburgh coach. He opened talking about how far he has come, from coaching middle school football 25 years ago to now finally being a head coach in a BCS AQ conference. He mentioned his great memories as an assistant at West Virginia (his first collegiate job), and expressed his excitement to return to the conference. He also indirectly gave credit to former head coach Dave Wannstedt, saying he "has a lot of respect for the job that has been done before him" to bring this team together.
- Graham used the phrase "high-octane" several times during his remarks, and Panther fans should get excited for what it could mean for the offense this fall. Not only will it lead to exciting football, but Graham actually believes that it will better suit quarterback Tino Sunseri as well. According to Graham, moving the returning starter back into the shotgun "accentuates" his talents.
- For all the talk about Graham's new "high-octane" offense, he was sure to point out his excitement for the defense, which returns most of a unit that ranked 8th nationally in 2010. In addition to the returning starters, the coaching staff is excited about the development that they saw this spring on the defensive side of the ball. Graham also singled out senior nose tackle Myles Caragein as "the leader of this football team."
Buch Jones - Cincinnati
- Unlike the rest of his colleagues, Jones spent no time going over personnel or specific team outlook in his opening remarks. Instead he commented mostly on his admiration for the conference and pleasure to be coaching the 5th oldest college football program in the nation. Leadership is clearly a theme of his right now, although he called it "misunderstood" by many in America. It was confusing, I know. I'm guessing he is saving all his specific football chatter for the afternoon.
- One remotely football topic Jones covered involved his opening remarks was returning an entire defensive unit. He described that it is "one thing to be older, but we have to be better," when referring to the returning defense. The Bearcats ranked near the bottom of the conference in most defensive categories, and must improve if they want to turn around last season's 4-8 performance.
Skip Holtz - USF
- I'll give the second-year Bulls' coach one thing: he deliver a straightforward and enthusiastic message. "We were three plays a year ago from winning 11 games," Holtz said. "But we were three plays away from probably winning four." The Bulls went to overtime twice in 2010, and played in seven games decided by 8 points or less. Holtz, who described his first year on the job as "a blur," clearly understands how close the conference competition can get in the Big East.
- Holtz spent a considerable amount of time praising the university's leadership for their efforts in USF's growth. From facilities to funding, the entire athletic department has benefited from an initiative by the school to become more than a "commuter school." According to Holtz, seeing the campus-wide push has created a sense of excitement around Tampa.
- Speaking of excitement, Holtz identified the Bulls' late season wins over Miami in Coral Gables and Clemson in the Belk Bowl as victories that created a "snowball effect" for the team. He said the way the team came together and finished the season created a lot of excitement about the future. But Holtz knows it is still too early to make any projections regarding the 2011 season.
"From August 3 to September 3 we are going to learn a lot about this football team," Holtz explained. "I think that the next month will determine the amount of success we have [as a football team]."
Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:28 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The last week hasn't been very kind to the Syracuse football program. Wide receiver Marcus Sales was arrested on a number of different drug charges, and in scarier news, running back Prince-Tyson Gulley suffered multiple stab wounds during a fight on campus. Thankfully for Gulley, he's now been released from the hospital.
Gulley left the hospital over the weekend and is at home recovering with his father. It's expected that he'll return to Syracuse some time this week before camp begins on Friday, though nobody knows when he'll be able to return to the field, or what kind of punishment -- if any -- he faces for the incident.
Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said he's talked to Gulley since the incident, but he hasn't gone into any detail into what kind of consequences there will be for Gulley or Sales, saying it'll be handled internally.
Gulley suffered stab wounds to the back and arms after a fight broke out at a party following a group of non-students showing up at the party on campus.
Gulley only had 13 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown last season, but did return 30 kicks for 633 yards and is expected to play a much larger role in the Syracuse offense this season.