Big East Report

<b>WEST VIRGINIA</b><br><br> Maryland holds a three-game winning streak over West Virginia going into their Gator Bowl rematch Jan. 1, and the Terps have outscored the Mountaineers 114-44 in that span. But the Mountaineers believe things will be different this time.

They believe they match up well against the Terps, even though Maryland pretty much had its way back in September. The Terps outrushed the Mountaineers 260-120 and outpassed them 238-36 in registering a 34-7 victory. West Virginia didn't score until the fourth quarter with the issue long since decided.

"We weren't doing things right," S Leandre Washington told reporters after studying films of the game. "We weren't doing the things our coaches told us to do to put ourselves in position to make plays. We got embarrassed. Right now, we're working hard so that doesn't happen again in the Gator Bowl."

West Virginia became a changed team after the loss at College Park.

Getting some extra time to prepare for a Thursday night meeting at Miami, the Mountaineers had the Hurricanes beaten in the Orange Bowl until the Hurricanes converted a key fourth down and drove for a winning field goal.

That defeat dropped the Mountaineers to 1-4 on the season, but their play against Miami obviously gave them confidence. They haven't lost since, winning seven in a row to gain a share of the Big East title with Miami and a berth in the Gator Bowl.

Over that seven-game span, the Mountaineers outrushed opponents by an average of 239.4 yards to 104.2 and averaged 37.7 points per game to the foes' 22.

Scouting the Mountaineers
The Mountaineers will be looking to avenge a 34-7 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Terps back in September. They also will be trying to end a three-game losing streak against their neighbors.

Offense - The Mountaineers are going to have to have more success running against Maryland than they did in the first meeting, when they rushed for only 120 yards in a 34-7 loss. One thing that has changed since then has been the emergence of WR Chris Henry as a big-play threat in the passing game. Henry caught 31 of his team-leading 38 receptions over the last seven games. RB Quincy Wilson is the workhorse in the rushing game, averaging just under 25 carries and 121 yards per game. QB Rasheed Marshall has completed under 50 percent of his passes.

Defense - LB Grant Wiley leads a young unit that gave up an average of 130 rushing yards per game to opponents and held Virginia Tech to only 65 and Miami to 88 yards on the ground. That is a marked improvement over the 260 the Mountaineers surrendered to Maryland. Since the loss to the Terps, sophomore Adam Jones has started at cornerback since senior Brian King was moved to free safety following the season-ending injury to Jahmile Addae.

Players to Watch
RB Quincy Wilson - Taking over for Avon Cobourne as the featured back in West Virginia's attack, Wilson ran for 1,331 yards in 11 games, sitting out the finale with an ankle injury that has since healed. He also caught 13 passes for 100 yards and had the team's play of the year when he took a screen pass 33 yards for a touchdown against Miami, eluding Miami's great DT Vince Wilfork in the backfield and running over a defensive back down the sideline.

QB Rasheed Marshall - He became the second West Virginia quarterback to go over 1,000 rushing yards for his career when he ran for 322 this season. His total of 1,144 trails only Major Harris' 2,161. Marshall completed fewer than half his passes (99-of-199) but has three of the longest pass plays in West Virginia history - a 93-yard touchdown pass to WR Travis Garvin against Virginia Tech, an 84-yarder to RB Kay-Jay Harris against Miami, and an 83-yarder to WR Chris Henry against Rutgers.

LB Grant Wiley - In addition to his team-high 158 tackles, the senior also came up with two interceptions, giving him eight for his career. His 293 solo career tackles are a school record.

WR Chris Henry - The Big East's Rookie of the Year, Henry and WR Travis Garvin give the Mountaineers big-play capability at wideout. Henry had touchdown catches of 83, 79 and 67 yards and Garvin had TD receptions of 93 and 48 yards.

Injury Update
RB Kay-Jay Harris (finger) and FB Moe Fofana (shoulder) are being watched closely in practice. DLs Fred Blueford (knee) and Earnest Hunter (thigh) also are hobbled. RB Quincy Wilson (sprained ankle) appears completely healed.

Quote to Note
"I'm sure they're probably tickled to death to get us in a bowl game. They've handled us pretty good two years in a row. I'm sure they're pretty confident." - Coach Rich Rodriguez, in the West Virginia Dominion-Post, looking to the rematch against Maryland in the Gator Bowl.

BOSTON COLLEGE

Boston College will be looking to continue an unprecedented run of success when the Eagles play Colorado State in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Their 7-5 record marked a fifth consecutive season of seven victories or more, a school first. A victory over the 7-5 Rams would be the Eagles' fourth straight in a bowl and also would be their 40th over a five-year span, matching the school's 1982-86 victory total.

But their task was made considerably tougher when LB Brian Flores was injured in pre-Christmas practices and had to have surgery for a torn right quad muscle.

"Flores is a blow," coach Tom O'Brien said.

Flores was the team's No. 2 tackler. He will be replaced in the lineup by sophomore Ricky Brown, who not only hasn't played outside before but hasn't played at all since suffering a concussion against Notre Dame on Oct. 25. He had 26 tackles in eight games.

With Flores' injury, the San Francisco Bowl is beginning to look more like a Red Cross Bowl. Colorado State has injury problems of its own. Rams QB Bradlee Van Pelt threw for the first time last week in practice since breaking his hand in the regular-season finale. He isn't sure if he can start.

Rams RB Rahsaan Sanders is nursing a sprained ankle. He started Colorado State's last three games.

Scouting the Eagles
The Eagles will be going for their fourth consecutive postseason victory. Though they played in the Aloha Bowl in 2000, this will be the Eagles' first appearance in a West Coast bowl.

Offense - The Eagles have gotten some big plays out of QB Paul Peterson recently, including a 64-yard pass that produced the go-ahead touchdown in the 34-27 victory over Virginia Tech. But RB Derrick Knight (1,599 yards rushing) remains the No. 1 weapon.

Defense - Losing LB Brian Flores to a right quad injury is a big blow to the defense. He was No. 2 in tackles (106) to LB Josh Ott. The Eagles are giving up 127 yards a game on the ground, and his absence is likely to be felt there.

Players to Watch
RB Derrick Knight - The school's all-time leading rusher with 3,603 yards, Knight will be looking to make a bigger impression in a bowl than he did last year when he ran for 65 yards on 19 carries in BC's 51-25 victory over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl.

QB Paul Peterson - He was only 14-for-27 passing for 193 yards through the first nine games, but after taking over for an injured Quinton Porter, he threw for 707 yards over a three-game span on 54-for-95 passing with five interceptions and six touchdowns.

LB Josh Ott - He will take on even more responsibility for the defense with Brian Flores sidelined with a pulled right quad muscle.

CB Will Blackmon - A threat as a kickoff returner (25-yard average with a long of 52), Blackmon will take on duties as a punt returner because of an injury to Nathanael Hasselback. Blackmon had a 22-yarder among his seven punt returns.

DE Mathias Kiwanuka - This talented sophomore will be counted on to keep Colorado State QB Bradlee Van Pelt in check. Kiwanuka had a Big East-best 10.5 sacks in the regular season.

Injury Update
LB Brian Flores (right quad) will join DE Jim Unis (head), C Francois Brochu (wrist) and OT Anthony Crosson on the sidelines for the bowl game. Sophomore Rick Brown will start in place of Flores. Hasselback (shoulder), a special teams performer, is questionable.

Quote to Note
"I don't know; maybe I needed all the games to learn and be the sideline quarterback. It definitely helped." - QB Paul Peterson, in the Boston Herald, on playing behind junior Quinton Porter for much of the season.

MIAMI

For the first time since 1999, Miami doesn't figure into the national championship picture as it prepares for its FedEx Orange Bowl date against Florida State on New Years Day.

The Hurricanes played for the title in each of the last two seasons, losing in double overtime to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl last season after beating Nebraska in the Rose Bowl for the 2001 BCS championship.

In 2000, the Hurricanes defeated Florida in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-1, putting themselves in position for a share of the No. 1 ranking if Florida State had beaten Oklahoma. The Sooners won and claimed the top ranking in both the media and coaches' polls.

This season, the 10-2 Hurricanes dropped out of contention with back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Tennessee in early November.

Overall, the Hurricanes are 45-4 over the last four seasons and have a chance to post the most victories over a four-year stretch in school history with a win over the 10-2 Seminoles. The 1986-89 Hurricanes were 45-3, including national titles in 1987 and '89.

The route to the Orange Bowl has not been as direct as the one the Hurricanes took the last three postseasons, especially the last two when they were undefeated in the regular season. In fact, the Hurricanes would have been relegated to a second-tier bowl had they lost their regular-season finale at Pittsburgh, which would have earned the Big East's BCS berth with a win.

But the Hurricanes' 28-14 victory over the Panthers helped them complete a major bowl "grand slam." In consecutive seasons, they have played in the four BCS games - the Sugar, Rose, Fiesta and now the Orange.

They also will be going for their fourth consecutive victory over the Seminoles, who won five in a row over Miami from 1995-99. Miami leads the series 27-20.

Scouting the Hurricanes
Thanks to this bowl rematch, the Hurricanes will play the Seminoles three times over an 11-month span. The two teams played in Tallahassee in October with Miami winning 22-14, and they will open the 2004 season in the Orange Bowl stadium.

Offense - These Hurricanes are not the quick-strike artists of recent seasons, but are more in the ball-control, grind-it-out mode. QB Brock Berlin is prone to interceptions (15 against 12 touchdown passes) but completed 61 percent of his passes. TE Kellen Winslow is a clutch receiver. RB Jarrett Payton is a straight-ahead runner who is averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, but it is freshman Tyrone Moss who is developing into a breakaway threat.

Defense - This unit carried the Hurricanes through the last month of the season. After giving up more than 169 yards a game rushing in 2002, the Hurricanes limited opponents to only 117.2 per game this season. Over the last four games, the Hurricanes gave up only 87.3 yards per game rushing. All-American FS Sean Taylor led the secondary with nine interceptions.

Players to Watch
TE Kellen Winslow - He made the play that probably saved the season when his catch on fourth-and-13 gave Miami a first down and propelled the Hurricanes to the deciding field goal in the 22-20 victory over West Virginia. If things get tight against Florida State, look for him to make a play, as the Seminoles have had a tough time this season defending the tight end.

RB Tyrone Moss - This true freshman ran for 259 yards in Miami's last three games after getting more playing time. He had only two carries for two yards in the first meeting with Florida State.

FS Sean Taylor - Taylor has 13 interceptions over the last two seasons, returning them for 309 yards and two touchdowns, including one against Florida State this season.

WR Ryan Moore - If Florida State concentrates on stopping Winslow, Moore could burn them. He has been Miami's most productive wideout with 41 catches for 585 yards and three touchdowns.

Injury Update
C Joel Rodriguez (cracked tibia) remains questionable, but LB Jarrell Weaver (broken foot), a special teams performer, is expected to play against Florida State. DTs Orien Harris (knee) and Santonio Thomas (ankle) figure to be 100 percent. Both returned in late November.

Quote to Note
"We've been spoiled. We've been able to do so many things that we wanted to do." - Coach Larry Coker, noting how the Hurricanes have had to adjust their offense this season with the departure of many big playmakers from the past.

VIRGINIA TECH

The Hokies completely collapsed defensively over the last month of the regular season and special teams made several costly gaffes – as in the 52-49 Insight Bowl loss to California.

In their last five games, the Hokies allowed an average of 35 points a game. Little wonder they managed to win only one of those five - a 24-23 overtime victory over Temple in which they gave up 17 points to the Owls in the fourth quarter.

Overall, the Hokies lost five of their last seven games to turn a 6-0 season of promise into one of 8-5 frustration.

Their troubles on special teams were summed up against California. After rallying for a 49-49 tie by scoring two late touchdowns, the Hokies kicked off out-of-bounds for the third time in the game, giving the Bears the ball at the 35 yard line. That helped the Bears move into position for the game-deciding field goal. The Hokies also missed two field goals in the game.

The Hokies will be without five defensive starters as they prepare for a 2004 season that begins Aug. 28 at Washington, D.C., against Southern California in the Black Coaches Association Classic. That list includes four seniors - DEs Nathaniel Adibi and Cols Colas, LB Vegas Robinson and rover Michael Crawford - and junior CB DeAngelo Hall, who announced after the bowl game he would enter the NFL draft in the spring.

Rapid Review
Everything went according to plan for the Hokies in the first two months of the season. They reeled off six consecutive victories and were in the national championship picture. Then everything started going wrong. They lost five of their last seven games, including the collapse in the Insight Bowl against California. It started with a 28-7 loss at West Virginia on Oct. 22. Tech recovered to beat Miami 31-7 the next week, but after that, their only success was a 24-23 overtime win over Temple in which they blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and won when Temple missed an extra point.

Fast Forward
Rebuilding the defense will be the first priority as the Hokies move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, but some work needs to be done on offense, too. Kevin Jones is skipping his senior season, leaving Tech without an established running back. The Hokies also must replace C Jake Grove and RG Jacob Gibson and find a replacement for WR Ernest Wilford. They also need to settle the quarterback situation between Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick once and for all.

Players to watch in 2004
QB Bryan Randall - He held off a challenge for the starting job from redshirt freshman Marcus Vick, brother of all-time Hokie great Michael. Randall threw for 1,996 yards, including 398 in the bowl loss to California. With RB Kevin Jones leaving for the NFL, Randall will be Tech's leading returning rusher. He netted 404 yards rushing for the season.

QB Marcus Vick - Vick never won the starting job from Randall, but he figures to make an even stronger challenge for the role in 2004. To get him on the field, coach Frank Beamer ended up putting him at wide receiver in the bowl game, and he caught four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.

LB Mikal Baaqee - He figures to play a key role as the Hokies go about rebuilding their defense. He finished with 105 tackles that included two sacks.

Quote to Note
"For us, defensively, we need to find some playmakers. And I think we're going to study things a bit this offseason. But you've got to make plays. That's the bottom line." - Coach Frank Beamer, after the 52-49 loss to California in the Insight Bowl.

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