Tag:Greg Schiano
Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:35 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 11



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: Dana Holgorsen's "Winners"

The West Virginia head coach was so fed up with his team's effort in recent weeks, he threatened to cut the travel roster - only taking "who wants to win." The Mountaineers did travel a few short of their usual amount, which is about 70. But the ones that did walk into Paul Brown Stadium did so prepared to win, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line got pressure on the quarterback consistently for the first time in weeks, led by the efforts of Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin. Offensively Geno Smith found ways to put the ball in the hands of Tavon Austin (9 catches, 126 yards) and Stedman Bailey (6 catches, 104 yards) while avoiding interceptions. The Mountaineers did benefit from Zach Collaros' injury, but a win is a win in the now wide open Big East title race.

LOSER: Zach Collaros, Cincinnati

Cincinnati picking up their first conference loss against West Virginia on Saturday was not just significant because it re-opens the conference title race. The Bearcats offense took a huge hit when senior quarterback Zach Collaros left the game with an apparent ankle injury. The veteran signal caller was hit by West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin, coughing up the ball in the end zone for a Mountaineer recover touchdown. But as Collaros was being brought to the ground his leg appeared to bend underneath his body, resulting in the Cincinnati medical staff taking him into the locker room.

Cincinnati's offense eventually got running under athletic backup Munchie Legaux, but there was a slow start and considerable drop off from when Collaros is under center. While Legaux can present that same rushing threat that Collaros presents to a defense, the young sophomore quarterback is not as productive moving the ball through the air. Cincinnati still holds a one-game on the rest of the pack in the Big East standings, but they must win out in order to avoid a tiebreaker scenario with another team. Things get serious next week for the Bearcats, who will face Rutgers next week on the road with at least a share of the Big East title on the line. The official word on Collaros is an ankle injury, and he is expected to undergo further testing before any decisions are made regarding his availability for next week. When he reemerged from the locker room, Collaros was in street clothes on crutches. Needless to say, it was not a welcome sight for Cincinnati fans.

WINNER: Mohamed Sanu

Despite an ever-changing quarterback situation, Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has been able to put together a historic 2011 season. He was once again the most dominant offensive threat for the Scarlet Knights in the 27-12 win over Army, pulling in 13 of the team's 17 receptions. The performance brings Sanu's reception count on the season to 94, breaking the Big East single-season record for catches. The record (92) was previously held by former Pittsburgh and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The consistency of having Sanu has been a crutch for an otherwise inconsistent offense, and a big part of the reason the Scarlet Knights are 7-3 heading into the final weeks of the season.

LOSER: Louisville's rush defense

Coming into the game, Louisville relied on one of the Big East's toughest rushing defenses to keep the Cardinals' in games and give freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a chance. But after the 38-35 win over West Virginia put Charlie Strong's team in a position to make a run at a BCS bowl bid, the Cardinals put up one of their worst defensive efforts since Strong arrived in Louisville. The Cardinals gave up 200 yards on the ground to Pittsburgh, who has been without leading rusher Ray Graham (season-ending knee injury) since Oct. 26. The inability to stop the Panthers on the ground kept Bridgewater and the offense from opportunities to climb back into the game.

WINNER: BJ Daniels 

After a white-hot start and an early season national ranking as high as No. 15, South Florida quickly found themselves in jeopardy of making a bowl game at the end of 2011. The Bulls entered Friday night's contest against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome needing a win to keep their hopes of a second-straight bowl appearance under Skip Holtz alive. Junior quarterback BJ Daniels has received praise from coaches and teammates alike for the strides he's made this season under center. Daniels stepped up when his team needed him most, picking up 254 yards through the air and leading the Bulls in rushing with 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The 371 yards of total offense nearly outgained Syracuse as a team (405), and looked effortless as Daniels was not sacked once and did not throw a single interception. It was the performance USF needed from their offensive leader, and now the Bulls have three consecutive home games to try and get that sixth win and return to the postseason.

LOSER: Big East kickers

The most notable kicking struggles in Week 11 occurred in West Virginia's 24-21 victory over Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium, but the league as a whole did not boot it well this weekend. Tyler Bitancurt hit just one of three field goals against the Bearcats, but that one ended up deciding the game with Cincinnati's Tony Miliano missing both of his attempts. The blocked 31-yard field goal as time expired will be the one that haunts the freshman kicker, but the kicking woes were a trend across the Big East. The place-kickers in the conference combined to make just 5 of 11 field goals on the weekend, numbers that were padded with the performances of South Florida's Maikon Bonani (3/3) and Syracuse's Ross Krautman (1/1).

WINNER: Fans of tiebreaker scenarios 

Heading into the weekend, Cincinnati was the conference's only unbeaten team, and Louisville held one game over a slew of 2-loss (conference record) contenders in the standings. With Cincinnati losing at home to West Virginia and Louisville doing the same against Pittsburgh, the race has been blown wide open. The Bearcats maintain their slight lead on the pack with only one conference loss, but five other teams all are in position to possibly win a share of the Big East title in the next three weeks.

The Big East title has been shared four of the last eight seasons, but there is only one gold medal: the automatic bid to a BCS bowl. So as the final weeks wind down, every matchup will have potential tie-breaker implications in the final sorting of the league standings. From here on out, every 2-loss team facing Cincinnati has a shot to win at least a share of the title. This starts with Rutgers welcoming the visiting Bearcats next week at High Point Solutions Stadium. With the victory over West Virginia, the Mountaineers have also put themselves in a favorable position as long as they win out and Cincinnati picks up another loss along the way. Louisville, considered a dark horse just a week ago, will need to hit the road to face Connecticut and South Florida on their quest for a return to the BCS bowls.

No team has ever won even a share of the Big East title with more than two conference losses. With Cincinnati losing to West Virginia and five other teams with two losses, the final three weeks of the regular season will be a battle for survival for all six teams in contention. We'll brush up on the Big East tiebreaker rules next week, but anyone who loves this kind of title race chaos will enjoy the conference play down the stretch.

LOSER: USF and Syrcause 

While 75% of the conference buckles down for an intense final stretch of league games, South Florida and Syracuse are the only teams not invited to the party. With matching 1-4 conference records, the Bulls and Orange are eliminated from contention for the Big East title. The good news for these two struggling squads is that bowl eligibility is still in the cards. Syracuse needs to win one of their final two contests to make the postseason for the second straight year, though they might find that difficult with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the schedule. South Florida has the benefit of three home games to close the regular season, needing just one more win to become bowl eligible. The Bulls host Miami and Louisville before closing the schedule against West Virginia on a nationally televised Thursday night showdown.

BONUS WINNER: Rutgers' Eric LeGrand and Army running back Malcolm Brown



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Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:35 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 11



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: Dana Holgorsen's "Winners"

The West Virginia head coach was so fed up with his team's effort in recent weeks, he threatened to cut the travel roster - only taking "who wants to win." The Mountaineers did travel a few short of their usual amount, which is about 70. But the ones that did walk into Paul Brown Stadium did so prepared to win, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line got pressure on the quarterback consistently for the first time in weeks, led by the efforts of Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin. Offensively Geno Smith found ways to put the ball in the hands of Tavon Austin (9 catches, 126 yards) and Stedman Bailey (6 catches, 104 yards) while avoiding interceptions. The Mountaineers did benefit from Zach Collaros' injury, but a win is a win in the now wide open Big East title race.

LOSER: Zach Collaros, Cincinnati

Cincinnati picking up their first conference loss against West Virginia on Saturday was not just significant because it re-opens the conference title race. The Bearcats offense took a huge hit when senior quarterback Zach Collaros left the game with an apparent ankle injury. The veteran signal caller was hit by West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin, coughing up the ball in the end zone for a Mountaineer recover touchdown. But as Collaros was being brought to the ground his leg appeared to bend underneath his body, resulting in the Cincinnati medical staff taking him into the locker room.

Cincinnati's offense eventually got running under athletic backup Munchie Legaux, but there was a slow start and considerable drop off from when Collaros is under center. While Legaux can present that same rushing threat that Collaros presents to a defense, the young sophomore quarterback is not as productive moving the ball through the air. Cincinnati still holds a one-game on the rest of the pack in the Big East standings, but they must win out in order to avoid a tiebreaker scenario with another team. Things get serious next week for the Bearcats, who will face Rutgers next week on the road with at least a share of the Big East title on the line. The official word on Collaros is an ankle injury, and he is expected to undergo further testing before any decisions are made regarding his availability for next week. When he reemerged from the locker room, Collaros was in street clothes on crutches. Needless to say, it was not a welcome sight for Cincinnati fans.

WINNER: Mohamed Sanu

Despite an ever-changing quarterback situation, Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has been able to put together a historic 2011 season. He was once again the most dominant offensive threat for the Scarlet Knights in the 27-12 win over Army, pulling in 13 of the team's 17 receptions. The performance brings Sanu's reception count on the season to 94, breaking the Big East single-season record for catches. The record (92) was previously held by former Pittsburgh and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The consistency of having Sanu has been a crutch for an otherwise inconsistent offense, and a big part of the reason the Scarlet Knights are 7-3 heading into the final weeks of the season.

LOSER: Louisville's rush defense

Coming into the game, Louisville relied on one of the Big East's toughest rushing defenses to keep the Cardinals' in games and give freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a chance. But after the 38-35 win over West Virginia put Charlie Strong's team in a position to make a run at a BCS bowl bid, the Cardinals put up one of their worst defensive efforts since Strong arrived in Louisville. The Cardinals gave up 200 yards on the ground to Pittsburgh, who has been without leading rusher Ray Graham (season-ending knee injury) since Oct. 26. The inability to stop the Panthers on the ground kept Bridgewater and the offense from opportunities to climb back into the game.

WINNER: BJ Daniels 

After a white-hot start and an early season national ranking as high as No. 15, South Florida quickly found themselves in jeopardy of making a bowl game at the end of 2011. The Bulls entered Friday night's contest against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome needing a win to keep their hopes of a second-straight bowl appearance under Skip Holtz alive. Junior quarterback BJ Daniels has received praise from coaches and teammates alike for the strides he's made this season under center. Daniels stepped up when his team needed him most, picking up 254 yards through the air and leading the Bulls in rushing with 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The 371 yards of total offense nearly outgained Syracuse as a team (405), and looked effortless as Daniels was not sacked once and did not throw a single interception. It was the performance USF needed from their offensive leader, and now the Bulls have three consecutive home games to try and get that sixth win and return to the postseason.

LOSER: Big East kickers

The most notable kicking struggles in Week 11 occurred in West Virginia's 24-21 victory over Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium, but the league as a whole did not boot it well this weekend. Tyler Bitancurt hit just one of three field goals against the Bearcats, but that one ended up deciding the game with Cincinnati's Tony Miliano missing both of his attempts. The blocked 31-yard field goal as time expired will be the one that haunts the freshman kicker, but the kicking woes were a trend across the Big East. The place-kickers in the conference combined to make just 5 of 11 field goals on the weekend, numbers that were padded with the performances of South Florida's Maikon Bonani (3/3) and Syracuse's Ross Krautman (1/1).

WINNER: Fans of tiebreaker scenarios 

Heading into the weekend, Cincinnati was the conference's only unbeaten team, and Louisville held one game over a slew of 2-loss (conference record) contenders in the standings. With Cincinnati losing at home to West Virginia and Louisville doing the same against Pittsburgh, the race has been blown wide open. The Bearcats maintain their slight lead on the pack with only one conference loss, but five other teams all are in position to possibly win a share of the Big East title in the next three weeks.

The Big East title has been shared four of the last eight seasons, but there is only one gold medal: the automatic bid to a BCS bowl. So as the final weeks wind down, every matchup will have potential tie-breaker implications in the final sorting of the league standings. From here on out, every 2-loss team facing Cincinnati has a shot to win at least a share of the title. This starts with Rutgers welcoming the visiting Bearcats next week at High Point Solutions Stadium. With the victory over West Virginia, the Mountaineers have also put themselves in a favorable position as long as they win out and Cincinnati picks up another loss along the way. Louisville, considered a dark horse just a week ago, will need to hit the road to face Connecticut and South Florida on their quest for a return to the BCS bowls.

No team has ever won even a share of the Big East title with more than two conference losses. With Cincinnati losing to West Virginia and five other teams with two losses, the final three weeks of the regular season will be a battle for survival for all six teams in contention. We'll brush up on the Big East tiebreaker rules next week, but anyone who loves this kind of title race chaos will enjoy the conference play down the stretch.

LOSER: USF and Syrcause 

While 75% of the conference buckles down for an intense final stretch of league games, South Florida and Syracuse are the only teams not invited to the party. With matching 1-4 conference records, the Bulls and Orange are eliminated from contention for the Big East title. The good news for these two struggling squads is that bowl eligibility is still in the cards. Syracuse needs to win one of their final two contests to make the postseason for the second straight year, though they might find that difficult with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the schedule. South Florida has the benefit of three home games to close the regular season, needing just one more win to become bowl eligible. The Bulls host Miami and Louisville before closing the schedule against West Virginia on a nationally televised Thursday night showdown.

BONUS WINNER: Rutgers' Eric LeGrand and Army running back Malcolm Brown



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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: November 6, 2011 3:06 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 10



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

WINNER: Charlie Strong

After dropping their third straight game in a 25-16 losing effort against Cincinnati, few pundits had Louisville on their short list of Big East contenders. But second-year head coach Charlie Strong didn't quite have the pieces in place offensively for the Cardinals to reach their maximum potential. But after naming Shawn Watson the offensive play-caller, Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback, and allowing Dominique Brown to settle in as a true tailback; Louisville has found the winning combination.

The timing of Louisville's current three-game win streak also lines up nicely with Strong's lucrative contract extension, which will pay him to coach the Cardinals through 2018. Since the announcement of the new deal, Louisville is 3-0 and now sits alone in second place of the current Big East standings. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Cardinals, but as expected the young talent has improved throughout the season and now they are one win away from bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. Louisville hasn't been to bowl games in back-to-back years since Bobby Petrino's tenure, and the offensive growth shown in the 38-35 upset of West Virginia makes that scenario appear likely.

LOSER: West Virginia

Geno Smith's 410 passing yards weren't enough to lead West Virginia to victory on Saturday, and the Mountaineers find themselves on the losing end of a Big East conference matchup for the second time in three weeks. The 5-1 start that had the Mountaineers poised as a conference title contender has evaporated, and now Dana Holgorsen's team will likely need to win out in order to give themselves a chance at a BCS bowl bid. After being one of the nation's most stingy units in 2010, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has been picked apart by quarterbacks in recent weeks.

The talent on the field is arguably the best in the conference, but West Virginia's inability to execute has plagued them since league play began. On Saturday it was a blocked/missed field goals and poor red zone defense that allowed Louisville to hang in the game and steal a victory late against the Mountaineers. Now the challenge for Holgorsen will be bouncing back in time for next week's showdown with conference-leading Cincinnati. One more conference loss all but seals West Virginia's destiny for a bowl berth in December. However, knocking off the Bearcats will open the title race up and give the Mountaineers the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. Because of Saturday's loss, the next seven days could determine West Virginia's season.

WINNER: Rutgers' bowl eligibility

After a tough 2010 campaign, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said that it was "time to get back to playing Rutgers football." Schiano, the most tenured coach in a very young Big East, must have "Rutgers football" defined as "finding ways to win." For the Scarlet Knights won their second overtime game on Saturday, marching back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 20-17 against South Florida. It was the fifth game this season decided by one score or less, and once again Rutgers found a way to win despite being out-gained offensively 381-228. Racking 228 yards of total offense is normally an easy way to lose to the likes of BJ Daniels, but the defense came through in the second half and put starter-turned-backup quarterback Chas Dodd in a position to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory. Now at 6-3, Rutgers is bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Greg Schiano may not come to mind as one of the most dominant coaches in the game, but his time at Rutgers has been defined by consistent winning seasons.

LOSER: USF fourth-quarter defense

The four game losing streak that has South Florida in a 0-4 hole for league play is due in large part to the Bulls' performance late in games. In the slide, USF has been outscored 44-14 in the fourth quarter. At times (like the loss to Pittsburgh) the struggles were game-long, but holding a two-score lead against Rutgers and losing is cause for serious concern in the South Florida camp. Before conference play started the Bulls were ranked in the Top 20 and thought (by this author, included) to be one of the new frontrunners for the Big East title. Now mathematically out of the running for the crown, head coach Skip Holtz must rally the team to make the most out of the 2011 season.

Luckily, bowl eligibility is not out of question for the 4-4 Bulls. They will travel to face Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Friday before finishing their schedule (Miami, Louisville, West Virginia) with three games in Tampa. If USF can win two of those contests they could find themselves snagging a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl (or some similar Big East tie) with a 6-6 record. It would not be anything to hold a parade about, but a turnaround will be necessary if the Bulls want to have anything to build on heading into 2012.

WINNER: Cincinnati's Big East title hopes 

Charlie Strong isn't the only second-year coach making headlines with 2011's unpredicted success. Butch Jones continues to build on his impressive sophomore effort with the Bearcats, improving to 7-1 (3-0 in Big East play) with a 26-23 road victory against Pittsburgh. Already with a victory against Louisville, the Bearcats now have a two-game buffer on the competition for the conference's BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately the road to a BCS invitation will not come easily, with away games against Rutgers and Syracuse following Saturday's meeting with West Virginia. A win over the Mountaineers puts the Bearcats in a great position to win the league title outright. A loss will create a jumble for the title, and then tie-breakers suddenly become the differentiator between the Champs Sports Bowl and a BCS bowl appearance.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's offensive line 

Pittsburgh's offensive line has dealt with injuries and depth issues all season. Head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme has led to heavy rotation among the five positions, with the Panthers never really settling in on a lineup yet this season. The issues up front have been felt by Pittsburgh's quarterbacks. The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in sacks allowed with 36 in eight games of action.

The offensive line was exploited once again by Cincinnati in the 26-23 loss, but you won't find the proof in the stat sheet. Tino Sunseri was only brought down three times in the losing effort, but the Bearcats brought the heat through the whole second half. Pittsburgh's inability to adjust to the pressure and get something going offensively eventually became their downfall, as they watched a 10 point lead disappear over the last two quarters.


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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 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 29, 2011 5:21 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 5:26 pm
 

VIDEO: Eric LeGrand leads Rutgers onto the field

Posted by Chip Patterson

The snow-covered fans who braved the weather to attend Saturday's Big East showdown between Rutgers and West Virginia are already being rewarded with fireworks. The Scarlet Knights finished the first quarter leading 17-14, in a game that already has outscored last week's loss to Louisville.  You can follow the rest of the action HERE.

But the real treat for Rutgers fans was seeing the team led onto the field by Eric LeGrand. The former defensive tackle wore his No. 52 jersey as he directed his motorized chair out of the tunnel and towards midfield. It was LeGrand's first time back on a game field since suffering the neck injury last October that left him paralyzed from the neck down. LeGrand will join the ABC crew in the announcer's booth for the second half, he has recently been working as an analyst for the Rutgers radio network.



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