Big East Report

<b>BOSTON COLLEGE</b><br><br> Maybe some of that reputed Notre Dame magic has rubbed off on Boston College. <br><br> The Eagles seemingly had their game against the Irish in hand going into the fourth quarter, then needed a late drive for a winning field goal - from a kicker who had converted less than half his attempts on the season - before pulling out the 27-25 victory.

Coach Tom O'Brien excused his team for everything that had gone awry before the Eagles beat the Irish for the third straight time and for the fourth time in the past five meetings.

The victory was crucial for the Eagles maintaining their postseason hopes. It gave them a 5-3 overall record (they remain 1-2 in the Big East) with home games against Pittsburgh and West Virginia the next two weekends.

But it didn't come easy.

Horace Dodd churned out 64 yards on 12 carries against the Irish after RB Derrick Knight was hobbled after twisting his ankle in the first quarter and left him with 43 yards rushing and 20 yards short of the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Dodd's runs of 5 and 9 yards after Knight went to the sideline in the first quarter set up Porter's 26-yard touchdown pass to TE David Kashetta.

After bulling their way to a 24-6 lead late in the third quarter, they saw two critical mistakes in their kicking game lead to two Irish touchdowns. A bad snap on a punt put the Irish in position for a touchdown that closed the gap to 24-19 with 12:42 left in the game. The Irish then blocked BC's next punt attempt and Carlos Campbell returned it 25 yards for a go-ahead score.

Television replays showed he stepped out at the 4-yard line, but that may have played into the Eagles' favor. With 3:42 left, the Eagles, who were given excellent field position by Will Blackmon's kickoff return to his 49-yard line, had plenty of time to move into position for Sandro Sciortino's winning field goal attempt from 26 yards.

The key play was QB Quinton Porter's 24-yard pass to WR junior Grant Adams on third-and-11 from the 48-yard line. Adams had four catches for 103 yards, making several key catches for the Eagles. His 24-yard reception on third-and-11 kept alive the Eagles' drive to their decisive field goal. Earlier, he had two catches to get the Eagles into position for a field goal for a 17-6 lead in the third quarter, then caught a short grab over the middle on third-and-7 to the Irish 3-yard line to set up QB Quinton Porter's 1-yard touchdown run for a 24-6 cushion.

Sciortino, who had missed six of his 11 field goal attempts coming into the game, was true from the left hash. He kicked a 30-yarder earlier in the game.

The Irish ran five plays in the final 38 seconds, the last a pass to the BC 32-yard line as time ran out.

BC's run defense was particularly outstanding against a Notre Dame team that had ground up Pittsburgh a couple of weeks earlier. The Eagles held the Irish to a net 47 yards rushing, limiting RB Julius Jones (262 vs. Pittsburgh) to only 40 on 15 carries. The defense also came up with a critical stop late in the game when the Irish couldn't gain one yard for a first down in two tries.

Special teams nearly cost the Eagles the game. The Eagles had a bad snap on one punt that led to an Irish touchdown and had a punt blocked that was returned by Notre Dame for another touchdown. The Eagles nearly had a turnover on a kickoff return that would have given the Irish the ball inside the 20-yard line down by only five points, but Will Blackmon managed to recover for BC.

"If you coach or play at Boston College, you have to beat Notre Dame. That's one thing you have to get done. It's a powerful, powerful win for this team." - Coach Tom O'Brien, after the victory over the Irish.

MIAMI

One of the top priorities of the season at Miami was to find a replacement for departed WR Andre Johnson. The Hurricanes have yet to do so, but so far, it hasn't hurt them.

That probably will have to change if the Hurricanes are going to keep their winning ways through November, starting Saturday when they visit Virginia Tech.

"They know they've got to step up," coach Larry Coker said of his wide receivers. "You can't win with just a tight end."

That might be news to Miami's first seven opponents, who might think the Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0 Big East) are doing quite well with TE Kellen Winslow as their primary target. The junior Winslow is Miami's leading receiver (36 catches, 391 yards) and came up with the catch that just may have saved the season when he made a fourth-down grab late against West Virginia back on Oct. 2. The first down was the impetus to a drive for the winning field goal.

Next on the list is WR Ryan Moore (24-316) followed by WR Kevin Beard (18-247).

Coker looks for Moore to step it up in the five remaining regular-season games. "He's the one that has got to become the guy because he is going to be a big-time player," Coker said.

Moore has shown some signs he may be ready for the role, but as a redshirt freshman, he has been somewhat inconsistent, as young receivers often are. Beard had a big game against Florida with a 62-yard reception keying Miami's comeback victory, but he disappears at times. Sophomore Roscoe Parrish (13-198) also has shown flashes of being a big-play guy, but he took a big hit at Florida State and sat out the victory over Temple.

Coker feels the Hurricanes are getting what they want out of their passing game. QB Brock Berlin has completed 61 percent of his passes (141-of-253) for 1,604 yards. He has suffered from some drops, but the red flag is his touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has thrown nine scores and had 10 passes intercepted. The Temple win marked the first time Berlin made it through a game without throwing an interception.

In the meantime, the Miami defense is really tightening things up. The Hurricanes held Florida State to only 61 yards rushing. Opponents are converting less than 20 percent of their third downs (17-for-90), and the Hurricanes have 16 sacks in seven games. Their run defense is giving up only 125.6 yards per game, a big improvement over 2002 when they surrendered an average of 169.4 yards on the ground.

DE Thomas Carroll has very quietly been putting together a solid season at a position that was a question mark coming into the season. He is sixth on the team in tackles (27) and has two sacks and two fumble recoveries. He also is credited with eight quarterback hurries.

Penalties were an issue in the relatively easy 52-14 victory. Holding calls came at critical times, on passing and running plays.

The Hurricanes seem to be weathering the losses of RB Frank Gore (knee) with the emergence of senior Jarrett Payton, who had his first career 100-yard day in the victory over Temple (115 yards). Freshman RB Tyrone Moss also had a big day as the No. 3 back with 135 yards on 15 carries against Temple. WR Roscoe Parrish, who took a big hit against Florida State and was held out of practice for more than a week, has returned and should be available against Virginia Tech. FS Sean Taylor (shoulder), who had arthroscopic surgery and sat out the Temple game, also will return against Tech.

"Kinda hit and miss? They've been a thrill a minute. It's kind of great strategy. They don't know where the ball is going to go because we don't know where it's going to go." – That's what Coach Larry Coker had to say in response to a comment about Miami's kickoffs, which often have been short pop-ups.

RUTGERS

Nobody's making bowl plans yet, but Rutgers, which had won three games in two previous seasons under coach Greg Schiano, suddenly is 4-4 following Saturday's 30-14 victory over Temple.

Gone also is the burden of the 25-game Big East losing streak.

Assuming Temple doesn't get things together and pull off an upset, the Knights (1-3 Big East) are assured of escaping the conference cellar for the first time since 1998, when they were 2-5 and finished sixth in the eight-team league.

The victory was made no less satisfying because it was accomplished with four starters - RB Justice Hairston, WR Tres Moses, LB Berkeley Hutchinson and LT Mike Williamson - plus several backups on the bench with injuries.

And it also was some payback for last year's meeting between the two that saw the Knights squander a 17-3 halftime lead and lose 20-17.

"I am not going to sit up here and lie and say that it is not gratifying to get our first Big East win," Schiano said.

"We are building something for the long haul so it is great to get the win, but that was not really the focus. You work the entire year as a coach or player for 12 opportunities and if you are good enough, you get a 13th."

The Knights won despite a performance that was far from flawless. They rushed for only 44 yards on 44 carries, turned the ball over three times and were flagged for 64 yards on eight penalties.

But they got a 316-yard passing day from sophomore QB Ryan Hart, who found WR Shawn Tucker 10 times for 99 yards and RB Brian Leonard nine times for 84 yards and a touchdown. And Leonard gave them just enough running, adding touchdown runs of 1 and 4 yards to his receiving for a three-score day.

It was Hart's second consecutive 300-yard passing game and the first time a Rutgers passer has accomplished that feat, when he was 30-for-42 passing for 316 yards. He threw for one touchdown and had one interception.

But the Knights still need to get more out of their running game. They wound up with only 44 net yards, including Hart's sacks. RB Brian Leonard was the most productive back with 64 yards on 26 carries. His 9-yard run was Rutgers' longest run from scrimmage.

WR Marcus Daniels made his first career start, and the true freshman had four catches for 49 yards, including a long of 18.

The defense held Temple to only 39 net yards rushing and didn't allow a touchdown until the offense had put 27 points on the board. The defense kept Temple's running game in check, giving up only 39 yards on 19 attempts. Overall, the Knights gave up only 282 yards to the Owls.

The Knights will have an extra week to celebrate their escape from the Big East basement before traveling to future conference member Connecticut on Nov. 8. The rest should be helpful with RB Justice Hairston (knee), WR Tres Moses (ankle), LB Berkeley Hutchinson (knee), LT Mike Williamson (shoulder), DE Ryan Neill (knee), FS Bryan Durango (knee) and DB Brandon Wood (broken arm) sitting out the game. WR Shawn Tucker (groin) played despite his injury and caught 10 passes for 99 yards.

"That is a first as Rutgers' coach. I was shocked, because I was really still into the game. We're a young football team, and you have to lead by example and coach and play until the very end. I was totally immersed in the game and then, all of a sudden, I was totally immersed in water. It was a little bit of a shock." - Coach Greg Schiano, after getting doused with ice-cold water by senior DE Raheem Orr following the victory over Temple.

SYRACUSE

Syracuse had to leave Pittsburgh on Saturday wondering how something that started so sweetly could turn so sour.

The Orangemen took advantage of a bad snap on a punt for one touchdown, drove 80 yards for a second and were leading Pittsburgh 14-7 after the first quarter, holding the Panthers to minus-yardage on the ground.

But the Panthers scored on the first play of the second quarter to tie it, assumed a 21-14 halftime lead and pretty much kept the Orangemen bottled up the rest of the way in pinning a 34-14 whipping on the visitors.

The Orangemen were so futile on offense that they barely managed to make in the final three quarters what they had gained in the first 15 minutes. After compiling 92 yards in the opening quarter, they had only 103 the rest of the way.

QB R.J. Anderson also saw his streak of passes without an interception end at 178 when he was picked off in the second quarter. Pitt CB Shawntae Spencer outjumped WR Johnnie Morant for Anderson's toss. Morant had a tough day all around. He dropped a potential touchdown pass early in the game and later slipped and fell while running his route on a crucial third-down play. Anderson was picked off a second time on Syracuse's final drive.

Defensively, the Orangemen had a great day stopping the run, holding Pittsburgh to a net 44 yards rushing. But the Panthers threw for 310 and three touchdowns. They were solid against the run, limiting Pittsburgh to only 44 yards on the ground. In the first half, Syracuse held the Panthers to minus-43 as a team. Only one Pittsburgh rusher had plus yardage at the break -RB Jawan Walker who netted a yard on two carries.

Junior SS Diamond Ferri was moved from offense before the season began, he led Syracuse in tackles with 12 and broke up a pass. Ferri also made a big play on special teams when he picked up a Syracuse blocked punt and made a 15-yard gain to convert a first down for the Orangemen.

P Brendan Carney had a good game averaging 43.7 yards on seven punts with three knocked dead inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line. His one blocked punt turned out to be harmless when teammate Diamond Ferri picked up the loose ball and got a first down.

Now 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big East, Syracuse gets a bit of a respite to put things back together, taking this weekend off before playing host to Temple on Nov. 8. Then comes a visit to Miami on Nov. 15.

"I'd give it an F. A straight F. Nothing went right. We played very poorly. If I had to grade it, it would be an F. No F-plus. There's no such thing as F-plus. Just F." - WR Jared Jones, in the Syracuse Post-Standard, when asked to grade the offense in the Orangemen's loss to Pittsburgh

TEMPLE

Temple's one saving grace in the Big East in recent seasons has been the Owls' ability to beat Rutgers. They don't even have that consolation now.

The Knights on Saturday went back home with a 30-14 victory over the Owls, their first in the series since 1998, despite playing without RB Justice Hairston, their leading ground gainer, and WR Tres Moss, their leading receiver

The Owls couldn't get anything going early, falling behind 27-0 before scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass from backup QB Walter Washington to WR Zamir Cobb. Washington came in for Mike McGann, who left the game in the second quarter with an elbow injury and didn't return. Washington's TD pass to Cobb and sophomore LB Rian Wallace's 18-tackle performance on defense were about all the Owls had to cheer about.

After gaining a respectable 150 rushing yards against Miami, the Owls were held to only 39 on 19 attempts on Saturday. Washington wound up the leading rusher with 30 yards on five attempts.

LB Wallace was 11th in the country in total tackles entering the game. He had one tackle for a loss and broke up one pass. The run defense kept Rutgers at bay, holding the Knights to 44 net yards on 44 attempts. Owls defenders also got to Rutgers QB Ryan Hart for three sacks for 28 yards in losses.

"I feel offensively, we've gone backwards about as fast as I've seen a team go backward, ever, in the last three weeks," coach Bobby Wallace said of his Owls.

"I hurt very much for these kids. I can't tell you how much. It's very frustrating. We just have to keep working. It hurts to see their faces after games."

The Owls, who fell to 1-7 overall and 0-3 in Big East play, will have an extra week to try to find the answers to their problems. Their next game is Nov. 8 at Syracuse.

VIRGINIA TECH

When things came apart for Virginia Tech, boy, did they come apart.

After nearly two months of dominating performances, the Hokies found out what life is like on the other side when they visited Morgantown last week for a mid-week nationally televised affair. The Mountaineers were dominant in just about every way in stunning the Hokies 28-7.

Consider, the Hokies were giving up less than 90 yards a game rushing. They gave up 82 to West Virginia RB Quincy Wilson in the first half alone and ended up surrendering 264 to the Mountaineers as a team.

The Hokies were the least-penalized team in the Big East coming in, averaging just over five a game for only 49.3 yards. They were penalized 13 times for 116 yards against West Virginia and had three others that didn't count. Two penalties were declined, and a third was offset by a West Virginia violation.

The Hokies were averaging less than two turnovers a game, but had four against West Virginia, three of them errant passes by QB Bryan Randall. The Mountaineers capitalized for 14 of their points.

Just for good measure, the Tech offense - which was leading the Big East in rushing (249.3 yards per game) and total offense (439.2) - managed only 65 and 211, respectively. In fact, the offense didn't score a point.

The Hokies' only touchdown came on a return of a fumble, and even that was tainted because Vegas Robinson, who had recovered the fumble, seemed to be down before coughing up the ball on the return, which was taken the rest of the way for the touchdown by his teammate Vincent Fuller.

Flanker Justin Hamilton was a lone bright spot on the offense. He moved into a starting role because of injuries and had three catches for 35 yards.

"I didn't think a team could line it up, tell us they were going to run the ball on us and then do it, and do it to perfection," Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall told reporters afterward. "I don't think nobody in the country thought so."

Kevin Jones had only 57 yards rushing. Ernest Wilford had four catches for 58 yards but wasn't a significant factor, except for a sideline incident that embarrassed coach Frank Beamer. ESPN cameras caught the coach slapping the wide receiver on the helmet as he came to the sidelines. Beamer expressed apologies later, and Wilford dismissed the incident.

The offense should recover, but the 264 yards the Hokies surrendered to the Mountaineers on the ground is a major cause for concern. The Hokies were giving up less than 90 yards a game, but had played a somewhat less than challenging schedule through the first six games (five at home).

The loss took some of the luster off the upcoming game with unbeaten Miami Saturday. At 6-1 with a poor strength of schedule, the Hokies are almost certainly out of the national championship picture. But at 2-1 in conference play, they remain in contention for the Big East title.

CB Garnell Wilds (knee) is lost for the season after having surgery the day after the loss at West Virginia. He didn't make the trip to Morgantown after being hurt in practice three days earlier. Junior Eric Green got his first start of the season. FL Richard Johnson (knee), who had missed the previous two games after starting the first four, returned for the West Virginia game.

"I have to give West Virginia credit. They played a great game and took it to us." - Coach Frank Beamer, after the loss to the Mountaineers.

WEST VIRGINIA

What West Virginia started against Miami earlier in the month, the Mountaineers finished in a mid-week encounter against Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers were dominant in a 28-7 thrashing of previously unbeaten No. 3 Virginia Tech.

It was the first time the Mountaineers had ever beaten a team ranked in the Top 3. They had come within one play of beating No. 2 Miami on Oct. 2 before losing 22-20 on a field goal with 11 seconds left.

"We always have a quote of the week, and this week the quote was, 'It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.' It's all about preparation, and our guys did a great job of preparation," coach Rich Rodriguez said.

The Mountaineers dominated offensively with RB Quincy Wilson churning out 178 yards and his backup, Kay-Jay Harris, gaining 77. West Virginia intercepted Tech QB Bryan Randall three times and recovered his fumble, turning the four turnovers into 14 points.

Wilson's 178 yards, over 33 carries, was the third time he has gone over the 100-yard mark this season and seventh in his career. He scored a touchdown to make up for the one he gave to Tech when he fumbled.,

WR Travis Garvin had missed the previous game because of a death in his family, but returned with a vengeance against Tech. He made the key play of the game when he caught QB Rasheed Marshall's pass at about his 35-yard line and went the distance for a 93-yard scoring play to give West Virginia a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. Overall he had three catches for 117 yards.

QB Rasheed Marshall threw for 162 yards on 7-for-14 passing, but 93 yards came on one play. He didn't throw an interception and avoided being sacked but he'll still have to be looking to improve his performance as the season goes on.

West Virginia's defense also threw a shutout, as Tech's only points came on a return of a fumble by Wilson.

The victory not only put West Virginia, only 3-4 overall but 2-1 in Big East play, into contention in the conference race but also gave the Mountaineers some much-needed respect. Virginia Tech last summer accepted an invitation from the Atlantic Coast Conference and will leave the Big East after this season - a sore point among teams remaining in the Big East.

"I think it helps us from a program standpoint because, with this ACC-Big East thing, there was a thought that there wasn't going to be any good football left when Tech and Miami leave," Rodriguez said.

"I said at the time, 'Well, I think we'll be all right.' And I think there are going to be some other teams left in our league who can play pretty good football."

The Mountaineers get a respite from league play when they play host to UCF in their next outing this Saturday. A victory would put them at .500 and in contention for a bowl bid with games against Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Temple remaining.

After losing to Miami in the closing seconds of a game earlier this season, Rodriguez had this to say, "It's nice to be on the good end of one of these."


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