Big East Report

<b>WEST VIRGINIA</b><br><br> West Virginia showed it is not just a one-dimensional offensive team when it was forced to go to the air at Syracuse on Saturday. <br><br> With their running game slightly slowed, the Mountaineers got a 271-yard passing day from QB Rasheed Marshall and beat the Orangemen 34-23.

The clinching play came after Syracuse had scored to cut a 10-point deficit down to 27-23 with 6:13 left in the game. The Mountaineers, whose 196 yards rushing were 24.3 under their per-game average, faced a third-and-3 at their own 33-yard line on the ensuing series. A stop would have given the Orangemen the ball with plenty of time left for a go-ahead touchdown.

But instead of playing it cozy, coach Rich Rodriguez took advantage of man-to-man coverage on WR Chris Henry, and Marshall connected with the fleet sophomore for a 67-yard scoring play.

"We liked the matchup we got out there, and Chris is a confident guy," Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We told Rasheed to make sure he threw it as far as he could - don't worry about overthrowing it because Chris has got great speed. He made a nice adjustment on the ball, it was a great throw, and I thought that was big as far as getting the momentum back."

The sophomore receiver burned Syracuse for a school-record 209 receiving yards on six catches, including the 67-yarder for the touchdown that clinched the 34-23 victory. He also had a 24-yard touchdown reception earlier in the fourth quarter.

Syracuse wasn't done quite yet, but the Mountaineers thwarted the Orangemen's final bid by batting away a fourth-down pass after they had moved to the West Virginia 2-yard line.

Offensively, the Mountaineers running game was slowed a bit (196 yards), but Marshall picked up the passing attack and the Mountaineers wound up with 467 yards total offense. Marshall was 14-for-25 passing for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman RB Jason Colson was West Virginia's No. 2 rusher behind senior Quincy Wilson. Colson had 56 yards on 13 carries, with a 26-yard run setting up a West Virginia field goal. Wilson (ankle) sat out much of the second half but led all rushers with 105 yards on 19 carries.

Defensively, the usually stingy WVU rush defense - No. 3 in the Big East - gave up 163 yards to Syracuse. The Mountaineers gave up 499 yards to Syracuse but managed to limit the Orangemen to 4-of-17 third-down conversions.

The victory was the sixth in a row for the Mountaineers, whose only losses in Big East play over the past two seasons have been to Miami. West Virginia is 7-4 overall, 5-1 in the conference with the season finale against Temple on Saturday in Morgantown. A victory will assure the Mountaineers of a share of the conference title, their first since 1993.

They would need a Pittsburgh victory over Miami and some help in the BCS standings to get the Big East's BCS bid, however.

Conference rules state the bid goes to the team that wins the head-to-head matchup, unless the winning team trails the other by more than five places in the BCS standings. West Virginia, which has a victory over Pittsburgh, could be caught by that stipulation.

According to newspaper reports from Jacksonville, Fla., the Mountaineers are high on consideration for a Gator Bowl bid if the BCS spot isn't available.

"We needed to change the momentum after they had scored. We also try to go against the usual wisdom in those situations," said Rodriguez, who had QB Rasheed Marshall go deep rather than simply try for a first down on third-and-3 while clinging to a 27-23 lead late in the game. The result was a 67-yard touchdown pass to Henry.

BOSTON COLLEGE

Apparently, Boston College saved its best for last. With a potential bowl bid on the line, the Eagles put on a spectacular offense show at Virginia Tech on Saturday, unleashing a crunching ground attack and hitting the Hokies with a big pass play late for a 34-27 victory.

"I think for this football team, with all we've gone through this year, all the injuries, back and forth, this was a huge win for our program," said coach Tom O'Brien, who got his first victory over the Hokies after six consecutive losses in the series.

The Eagles got their seventh victory of the season and, although only six victories are needed to become bowl eligible, the feeling was BC needed at least seven because it doesn't figure to get much support from the Big East in postseason consideration. The Eagles created even more bitter feelings on the part of other league members than Miami and Virginia Tech did in their switch to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Senior RB Derrick Knight came up with a big night, rushing 38 times for 197 yards as BC outgained the Hokies 223-209 on the ground. He has 3,603 rushing yards for his career, supplanting Mike McCloud (3,597 from 1995-98) as the school's all-time leading ball carrier. Knight showed Virginia Tech that its celebrated runner Kevin Jones isn't the only one who can churn out the yardage.

The Eagles also got 232 yards from their passing game. Knight also caught a pass for 37 yards and scored two touchdowns. QB Paul Peterson threw for 231 yards on 15-of-28 passing, including a 64-yard strike to WR Grant Adams for the decisive touchdown. Adams made the catch of the night when he overcame pass interference to haul in a 64-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 31-27 lead with 4:40 left in the game. He also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass and overall had four catches for 94 yards.

Though both phases of the offense worked, the running game in particular was impressive against Tech. The Eagles had 229 net yards rushing, an average of 4.2 yards per carry against a defense that at one time was considered among the nation's best.

The Eagles also outplayed the Hokies in special teams. Larry Lester recovered a fumble on Tech's final kickoff return, letting the Eagles kill the remaining 91 seconds with three kneel-downs. Will Blackmon had 124 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 52-yarder to set up a touchdown; PK Sandro Sciortino shook off a groin injury to kick two field goals and boom four kickoffs into the end zone; and P Jeff Gomulinski had a 71-yarder on his only attempt of the first half.

The game was the regular-season finale for the Eagles, who finished 3-4 in Big East play. Reports are they are being considered by the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl, though even at 7-5 they still could get left out. If Syracuse wins its final two games, six teams in the conference would be 7-5 or better in competing for the Big East's five bowl slots. BC lost to Syracuse in their meeting.

Injury notes: Backup RB Horace Dodd (leg) left the game, but X-rays showed no break, as initially feared. PK Sandro Sciortino (groin) overcame his injury and kicked field goals of 25 and 29 yards in the game.

"Obviously, Kevin Jones is a great back, but Derrick Knight was the best back on the field today," - Coach Tom O'Brien, after Knight ran for 197 yards in the victory over Virginia Tech.

MIAMI

Defense and special teams once again rescued Miami on Saturday.

Locked in a tight battle for a half against Rutgers, the Hurricanes posted four touchdowns in the third quarter to turn a close game into a comfortable 34-10 victory over the Knights.

Ahead only 6-3 at halftime, the Hurricanes set up their first touchdown when LB Darrell McClover broke through the line to block a Rutgers punt, leaving Miami only 18 yards to negotiate to the end zone. They scored on QB Brock Berlin's 17-yard strike to TE Kevin Everett.

The second TD came minutes later when the defense backed up the Knights inside their 5-yard line and Roscoe Parrish's 17-yard punt return again set up the Hurricanes at the Rutgers 18-yard line. Again, Miami took only two plays to score, this time on RB Jarrett Payton's 18-yard run.

The Hurricanes blocked another punt on the next series, but Rutgers' Brian Hohmann picked the ball up from the end zone and ran it out to the 35 for a first down. It didn't matter. Two plays later, FS Sean Taylor, who had blocked the punt, intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards for a Miami touchdown.

Suddenly, Miami was leading 27-3. The Hurricanes added their final touchdown on a 66-yard march to close out the third period. Berlin hit WR Ryan Moore for a 44-yard gain to get the drive started, and his second touchdown pass to Everett capped it from 5 yards out.

Coach Larry Coker was glad to see the Hurricanes convert on their opportunities into touchdowns instead of settling for field goals from freshman Jon Peattie, whose 19 field goals this season are third best in Miami history.

"We want points. Jon Peattie has been very consistent for us, but we want touchdowns," Coker said.

Miami went back to Berlin as the starter at quarterback but got little more out of him than it did from Derrick Crudup the week before. Berlin was 6-for-14 passing for 86 yards. Crudup was 1-for-3 for 7 yards after going 5-for-13 for 80 yards in his starting debut a week earlier. Berlin and Crudup combined for only 7-for-17 passing for 93 yards. TE Kevin Everett may forget the "touchdown" pass he dropped against Virginia Tech, but he has been trying to make up for his mistake. He had two catches against Rutgers, and both went for touchdowns. He has three TD grabs for the season.

The offense benefited from field position created by special teams' play against Rutgers, starting from the visitors' 18-yard line on their first two touchdown drives in the second half. Most of the time, the Hurricanes struggled with the ball and actually were outgained by the Knights, 343-313.

The defense still remains the team's strength. Though Rutgers gained 343 yards in total offense, 171 came in the fourth quarter after the issue was already decided. Sophomore DE Javon Nanton, who wasn't on scholarship until the conclusion of spring ball, opened eyes with his play. He was in on four tackles, including three of Miami's six sacks.

The Miami injury update: C Joel Rodriguez (leg) went down late in the fourth quarter and is out for the regular-season finale. There is a chance he will be available for a bowl game. ... SS Maurice Sikes (hand) and special teams performer Jarrell Weaver (foot) also were injured. Sikes will be available for the Pittsburgh game. ... DT Orien Harris (knee) saw his first playing time since the Virginia Tech game. ... LG Vernon Carey (ankle) and WR Roscoe Parrish (knee) both returned after sitting out the previous game against Syracuse. ... The Hurricanes hope to get DT Santonio Thomas (shoulder) back this week.

Now 9-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big East, the Hurricanes will play for the league title when they finish the regular season at Pittsburgh on Saturday night. A victory assures them of the league's BCS bid, which will probably mean a commute up the road to the Orange Bowl.

When asked about the quarterback situation, Coach Coker said, "I don't know what the 'situation' is any more. Brock will be the starter, and we'll prepare both to play Saturday."

RUTGERS

Greg Schiano had seen Miami blitz opponents for quick scores before, but usually when he was on the Hurricanes sideline. It was more pleasant then.

The Rutgers coach, who was Miami's defensive coordinator for two seasons before returning to his home state, saw the 'Canes strike for four touchdowns in the third quarter Saturday as a closely fought game turned into a 34-10 defeat for Knights.

Miami blocked a punt to set up an 18-yard touchdown drive, returned a short punt 17 yards to set up another 18-yard TD drive and returned an interception 44 yards for a third score. The Hurricanes then finished their work with a five-play, 66-yard march near the end of the third quarter.

"We ran into what I've seen way too many times on the other side," Schiano said. "That's the way University of Miami teams get you. They can run you out of the stadium in about a six- or seven-minute period."

Actually, it was less than that. Miami had the ball for only 3 minutes, 11 seconds of the third quarter.

"Everything kind of turned against us," Schiano said, "and I don't think we did a good job of responding."

For the other three periods, the game was virtually a standoff. Miami kicked two field goals and Rutgers drove for one on its final possession of the first half to go to the locker room down only 6-3. Rutgers actually outgained Miami 99-52 in the second quarter. It gave some hope that the Knights, who fell to 4-7 overall and 1-5 in Big East play, are continuing to improve.

"We're light years ahead of where we have been," Schiano said, "and we are moving in the right direction."

Now assured of a losing season with a 4-7 overall record and 1-5 Big East mark, the Knights finish up with a home game against Syracuse on Saturday.

The Knights were giving up nearly 242 yards a game to opposing passers, but limited Miami to only 93 yards through the air. They also got to Miami for two sacks, both against backup QB Derrick Crudup. Penalties played a key part in Rutgers' difficulties at the start of the second half. Twice they were called for delay of game on their second possession of the third quarter, and they also were flagged for a false start. That forced the Knights to punt from their 3-yard line, and Miami needed to navigate only 18 yards for their second touchdown after Roscoe Parrish's 17-yard return.

Starting LG Brian Duffy (back) didn't play after being hurt earlier in the week in practice. Special teams performer Bryan Wilson (knee) was injured on the opening kickoff and may miss the season finale against Syracuse. LT Mike Williamson (ankle) was injured on the second play of the third quarter and did not return.

"I don't think we came out not ready to play in any way. What happened was we just got run into by a buzz saw." – Coach Schiano, after Miami struck for four quick touchdowns after halftime.

SYRACUSE

Syracuse looked to play spoiler Saturday against West Virginia, but the Orangemen's defense wasn't able to live up to the role. West Virginia pulled away from a 17-17 halftime deadlock for a 34-23 victory, scoring on a 67-yard pass play late in the game to clinch the victory.

The Orangemen had pulled within 27-23 and had the Mountaineers in a third-and-3 situation when the Mountaineers struck with the long pass for the clinching score.

"When you give up those kind of plays on third down, it certainly hurts," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "You try to play great on third down. Third down's a real critical part of the game."

The Orangemen, who no doubt have improved from last season's uncustomary 4-8 mark but have only one more victory to show for it with two to play, overcame the absence of RB Walter Reyes for most of the first half. Reyes hurt his knee early in the first quarter, but returned in the third quarter and scored on a 67-yard pass play with 6:13 left in the game to get the Orangemen within four points. Reyes rushed for 63 yards and had 80 more receiving, including the 67-yard touchdown play.

He ended the day with 63 yards on 14 carries and 80 more on three catches.

"I couldn't just sit on the sidelines and let my team down," he said. "I let the trainers do what they needed to do. I told them to just tape it up, and I went back out there to help my team in the second half."

Senior QB R.J. Anderson had a big day passing, going 23-for-36 for 336 yards and two touchdowns. The scoring passes went to WR Johnnie Morant (75 yards) and RB Walter Reyes (67). Anderson wasn't intercepted and also netted 31 yards on eight rushes.

True freshman PR Marcus Clayton ran a punt back 56 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Orangemen a 14-10 lead. He also had two other returns for 15 more yards.

The offense rolled throughout the afternoon, rushing for 163 yards and throwing for 336 for a total of 499. The Orangemen had no turnovers. The defense simply couldn't get West Virginia under control. Though the Orangemen slowed the Mountaineers' rushing somewhat, limiting them 196 yards on the ground (24 under their average), they gave up 271 to the Mountaineers' passing game. West Virginia came into the game last in the Big East in passing yardage per game, averaging only 158.6.

The setback left the Orangemen, who had lost by a touchdown at Miami the week before, two victories shy of having a chance of a bowl. They are 5-5 overall, 2-4 in the Big East, with a trip to Rutgers this Saturday. They finish the season Dec. 6 by playing host to Notre Dame.

Boston College holds the inside track to the league's fifth and final bowl slot with a 7-5 record. The Orangemen would have to win out to tie the Eagles at 7-5, and then get picked over BC, which lost earlier this season to Syracuse.

"This is by no means 2002 when the confidence was really low. Last week was a must-win game. This week was a must-win game. Next week is must-win again. We'll battle back." - QB R.J. Anderson, after the loss to West Virginia.

TEMPLE

Saturday was the same story as the previous week. The Owls fell behind early, mounted a rally, then saw the opposition run off a clinching score.

Down 21-3 to Pittsburgh at halftime on Saturday, the Owls got a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns out of QB Walter Washington -- one on a pass, the second on a run -- to close the gap to 21-16. But the Owls couldn't stop the Panthers on the ensuing possession, and the visitors drove 76 yards in 12 plays for a 28-16 margin with only 58 seconds left. The Owls then gave up a safety when Washington fumbled into the end zone while being sacked for the final 30-16 margin.

Against Virginia Tech in their previous outing, the Owls rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, only to lose 24-23 on a missed extra point.

The Owls were in a hole early against Pittsburgh.

CB Mike Holley had a potential interception bounce from his hands to TE Kris Wilson for a 26-yard gain to set up Pittsburgh's first score. The Owls reached the Pittsburgh 11-yard line in the second quarter, only to have three more plays net only a yard, and they settled for a field goal.

Later in the second quarter, they had Pittsburgh bottled up in a second-and-24 situation at its own 17-yard line, but gave up a 76-yard run to RB Brandon Miree, who was playing his first game since suffering a stress fracture to his leg in September.

For the game, the Owls put together 370 yards of offense, with 278 coming from the arm of Washington. They had problems with their running game, however, rushing for only 92 -- an average of 2.8 per attempt.

Washington, the junior college transfer who has two more seasons of eligibility after this one, led the Owls in rushing for the fourth straight game with a net 72 yards on 26 carries. He was 24-of-40 for a career high 278 yards. He also rushed for one touchdown and passed for another.

The Owls defence held the potent Pittsburgh passing attack to 147 yards, shutting down every Panther wide receiver ... except sophomore Larry Fitzgerald, who had seven catches and extended his streak of touchdowns in consecutive games to 17. TE Kris Wilson and FB Lousaka Polite were the only other Panthers to catch a pass. The Owls also had an interception and sacked Rod Rutherford once.

WR Zamir Cobb provided one of the highlights when he became the Owls' single-season receiving record holder by catching nine balls for 97 yards. He has 71 catches for the season, eight more than the previous best by Clint Graves in 1972.

Temple fell to 1-10 on the season and remained winless in Big East play (0-6) with the season finale coming up Saturday at West Virginia.

"As long we come out and compete like we did today, and like we did last week, I would say we made more strides at the end of the year this season to build off for next year since I've been at Temple." - Coach Bobby Wallace, after the loss to Pittsburgh.

VIRGINIA TECH

Knocked out of contention for the national championship Sugar Bowl with the loss to West Virginia, then bumped out of the Big East race by a second conference loss at Pittsburgh, the Hokies now find themselves out of the Gator Bowl following their 34-27 home loss to Boston College.

It was the Hokies' third loss in their last five games after a 6-0 start, leaving them at 8-3 overall but only 4-3 in their final season as a Big East member. The Hokies move with Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004.

They have one regular-season game remaining before likely receiving an invitation to the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.

In what has to be an ironic twist, special teams play helped do in the Hokies against the Eagles.

The Hokies saw their last chance to stage a drive for a potential tying touchdown thwarted when Cedric Humes fumbled the kickoff that had followed BC's final field goal. BC's Larry Lester recovered, and the Eagles took three kneel-downs to kill the remaining 1:31.

Earlier, the Hokes -- who pride themselves on their special teams play -- gave up a 52-yard kickoff return that set up a BC touchdown.

The Hokies got a big game out of junior RB Kevin Jones, who ran for 165 yards. But after ripping the BC defense for 238 yards in the first quarter, the Hokies could manage only 152 the rest of the way. The sophomore Jones piled up big numbers in the Hokies' defeat, logging 165 yards and three touchdowns on 24 rushes. He also had 57 yards on three receptions, including one for 55 yards. His season rushing total of 1,419 is a school record. As usual, the running game was in high gear. With Jones leading the way, the Hokies ran for 207 yards against a Boston College defense that was surrendering only 120.4 yards per game on the ground coming in, stingiest in the Big East.

They also made a key mistake in the fourth quarter that may have cost them a shot at a comeback. Facing fourth-and-2 at their own 32-yard line, the Hokies were lined up to go for the first down with only 3:25 left, but a false start penalty squashed that idea. The Hokies punted, and BC drove for a field goal in the remaining time.

Their defense also uncharacteristically gave up big plays that led to the defeat. BC scored its deciding touchdown on a 64-yard pass play, and later the Eagles got a 60-yard run from RB Derrick Knight to set up the field goal that provided them with their final cushion. Overall, the Hokies gave up 461 yards to the visitors. Tech now must regroup and prepare for the season finale Saturday at intrastate rival Virginia.

"We've got the biggest game in the state next week. What's happened, happened, and it's over with." - Coach Frank Beamer, looking to the upcoming game against Virginia after the loss to Boston College.

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