Michael Redden: Around the Big East Update
Sep 21, 2011 | By: Random Blogger
Although there is much going on off the field regarding the Big East, there are plenty things occuring on it as well. SOR Columnist Michael Redden breaks down what matters most: the actual football being played.
The Louisville Cardinals (2-1, 0-0) suffered an upset at the hands of Florida International in week two. FIU’s star receiver T.Y. Hilton had a banner day with seven catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns to go with an additional 67 kick return yards. Hilton has started to become mentioned as a dark horse candidate for the Heisman and gave Rutgers fits last year. Down 21-3, Louisville rallied behind quarterback Will Stein who had 349 passing yards, however, lost the game after failing to execute an onside kick. StateOfRutgers.com covered the recruitment of Louisville Cardinal Michaelee Harris closely and Harris showed why in having a break-out game that saw him score a touchdown. In week two, Louisville was able to bounce back with a 24-17 victory over in-state rival Kentucky. Quarterback Will Stein left the game with a shoulder injury allowing true freshman Teddy Bridgewater to come in and give Louisville a boost throwing two touchdowns and leading the Cardinals to a much needed victory.
The Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1, 0-0) had a scare in their game in week two with FCS opponent Maine edging out a victory 35-29. Running back Ray Graham had 121 yards rushing and three touchdowns to go with five receptions for thirty yards. The Pitt passing defense was porous allowing Maine quarterback Warren Smith to throw for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had an off performance throwing for 224 yards and two interceptions before being benched in favor of Trey Anderson. Anderson, a walk-on who earned a scholarship shortly before the season started, led Pittsburgh on a touchdown-scoring drive giving Pittsburgh much-needed breathing room. Although the Panthers secured a victory, the performance raised serious questions about the defensive back seven, and the quarterback situation for the Panthers which only continue after Pittsburgh lost to Iowa 31-27. This allowed the Hawkeyes to come back from a 17-point deficit. The glaring weakness for the Panthers is clearly pass defense as Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg lit the Panthers up for 399 yards, most of which came in the second half.
The Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1, 0-0) struggled on the road in week two in one of the toughest venues in college football: Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. There, the Tennessee Volunteers moved the ball at will against the Bearcats as Tyler Bray threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for an additional score. Former five-star recruit Da’Rick Rogers had 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns for the Vols, while teammate Justin Hunter had 156 yards receiving and a touchdown. The lone bright spot for the Bearcats was Isaiah Pead, who ran for 156 yards and a touchdown. In week three, the Bearcats rolled to a 59-17 victory over Akron in a game that saw the Cincinnati defense return three turnovers for touchdowns. This is a hard team to judge, they have beaten inferior competition solidly, however, seemed overmatched against the Volunteers.
One team that is certainly in the Big East championship picture is South Florida (3-0, 0-0), currently one of two Big East teams to be ranked in the AP Top 25. The Bulls demolished Ball State 37-7 and then Florida A&M the next week 70-17. Running back Darrell Scott has emerged as a prominent back to watch out for. Scott was a five-star recruit who struggled at Colorado but has since flourished in Skip Holtz’s program. In week two Scott had 83 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Bulls and in Week three Scott broke out for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback B.J. Daniels had 359 yards passing and a touchdown in week two then followed that up with a 382 yard passing day with four touchdowns in Week Three. This could be a banner year for the Bulls and head coach Skip Holtz as they try to avoid being cast out of the BCS picture during conference re-alignment.
In Morgantown, West Virginia (3-0, 0-0) faced off against Norfolk State in week two and struggled early on going into the half down 12-10. The second half was a different story, however, as the West Virginia defense held Norfolk State to just two first downs and the Mountaineer’s offense lit up the scoreboard to winning, 55-12. This past weekend West Virginia edged out Maryland 37-31 on another strong Geno Smith performance, which saw him throw for a career high 388 yards and a touchdown. The previous week he threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
The Connecticut Huskies (1-2, 0-0) have suffered two straight tough losses to BCS opponents. In week two, the Huskies fell to Vanderbilt 24-21 and in week three, the Huskies fell to Iowa St., 24-20. While both games were hard-fought contests, the Huskies struggled to move the ball and have plenty of question marks. The quarterback situation is unsettled as upperclassmen Johnny McEntee has struggled and true freshman Mike Nebrich is still getting acclimated to the college game. USC transfer D.J. Shoemate has struggled with an ankle injury at running back causing Uconn’s offense to look anemic at times.
Rutgers, of coarse, fell to North Carolina 24-22 a couple weeks ago. Despite turning the ball over five times, North Carolina was able to edge out the Scarlet Knights behind the running of Gio Bernard who had 81 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Tar Heel quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw three interceptions. Mohammed Sanu had 13 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown receiving for the Scarlet Knights, while quarterback Chas Dodd went 25-47 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. The Rutgers offense struggled to run the ball the entire game and the Scarlet Knights missed out on several key plays which really could have turned the game in their favor. Rutgers had a much-needed bye week this past week and faces Ohio, a team believed to be the best in the MAC conference.
A couple weeks ago, in what was another close game for a Big East team against an FCS opponent, Syracuse (2-1,0-0) edged out Rhode Island 21-14 at home. In week three, however, the Orange were overmatched on the road against USC and lost 38-17, allowing Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley to throw for 324 yards and five touchdowns. The Orange has continued to show signs of growth under Doug Marrone and continue to do so as starting quarterback Ryan Nassib has performed well thus far. Against a talented USC defense, Nassib completed his first 11 passes but struggled the rest of the way. The Orange are clearly well-coached and will be a tough conference opponent for most Big East teams, however they do not have the depth talent-wise to really be a threat to win the conference crown.
Big East honors via BigEast.org
The BIG EAST Conference has named West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, Louisville linebacker Dexter Heyman and West Virginia kicker Tyler Bitancurt the winners of the conference's weekly football honors for the week ending Sept. 17.
Smith was named offensive player of the week after he set a school record by completing 36 passes on 49 attempts for 388 yards — all career highs — to lead West Virginia to a 37-31 win at Maryland. He registered his second 300-yard game of the season and the fourth of his career, and saw three separate receivers finish with at least 100 yards for the first time in school history.
Heyman, the defensive player of the week, was named the Howard Schnellenberger MVP of the annual Governor’s Cup matchup between Louisville and Kentucky after he had 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the Cardinals’ 24-17 win in Lexington. Heyman keyed a Louisville defense that limited Kentucky to just 35 rushing yards.
Bitancurt was named special teams player of the week after he scored 13 points, making field goals of 21, 34 and 35 yards and going 4-for-4 on PATs, in West Virginia’s 37-31 win at Maryland. Bitancurt leads all BIG EAST players in scoring, averaging 12.0 points per game, and ranks fifth on West Virginia’s career scoring chart (186 points).
WEEKLY HONOR ROLL
Derek Wolfe • Sr. • DT • Cincinnati • Lisbon, Ohio
Had two sacks and forced a fumble that was returned 54 yards for a touchdown in a 59-14 win against Akron.
Andre Davis • Fr. • WR • USF • Tampa, Fla.
Blocked a punt and scored a touchdown on the ensuing 11-yard return as part of a 70-17 win against Florida A&M. Also had three receptions for 39 yards and another touchdown.
Darrell Scott • Jr. • RB • USF • Ventura, Calif.
Rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries and had an 84-yard touchdown reception in a 70-17 win against Florida A&M. Finished with 230 all-purpose yards.
Ryan Nassib • Jr. • QB • Syracuse • West Chester, Pa.
Completed 23 of 37 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown in a 38-17 loss at Southern California. Had a streak of 22 consecutive completions spanning two games.
Terence Garvin • Jr. • S • West Virginia • Springfield, Va.
Had nine tackles, an assisted tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 37-31 win at Maryland.
While the conference is a complete mess off the field, on the field things may not be as bad. However, they certainly are not good. West Virginia and South Florida are the conference’s only teams that could legitimately, at this point, be potential Top-10 teams at some point in the season. However, do not discount Rutgers. Although they lost to North Carolina, the Tar Heels showed that they are indeed a very good team by dismantling a talented Virginia team. Geno Smith is clearly the best quarterback in the conference, however, B.J .Daniels is nipping at his heels while Ryan Nassib, Matt Stein, and Zach Collaros all have had strong starts. I would look for Connecticut to struggle in conference play and for Louisville to come on late in the year as their many young talented players get experience under their belt. One thing that does not reflect well for the Big East is the close fought games against FCS opponents. That should not happen.
Stay tuned to StateOfRutgers.com for news on Big East football and conference realignment.