Pitt, Big East Football Report

<b>BOSTON COLLEGE</b><br><br> Wherever Boston College competes in 2004, the Eagles will enter the season on the high of a three-game winning streak. They saw to that when they beat Colorado State 35-21 in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl to finish with an 8-5 mark.

It was Boston College's fourth consecutive postseason victory.

The Eagles, who have accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, are scheduled to play another season in the Big East, although there have been reports they might join the ACC ahead of schedule.

Whichever way it falls, the Eagles could have a very different look from the teams that have gone to five consecutive bowl games. RB Derrick Knight departs with his 3,725 career rushing yards, and standout guards Augie Hoffman and Chris Snee are gone. The only returnees at running back have a combined seven career carries.

On the plus side, the Eagles found a quarterback late in the season when juco transfer Paul Peterson, used sparingly early on, stepped in for an injured Quinton Porter and guided the team to three victories in his three starts.

Defensively, CB Will Blackmon, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, and FS T.J. Stancil, who didn't have an interception in the regular season but had three in the bowl win over Colorado State, lead returnees, but the Eagles have some rebuilding to do at linebacker with the departure of Josh Ott and Brian Flores.

One thing the Eagles could do that would help would be to learn how to win at home. They were 6-1 on the road and at neutral sites, the only loss coming indoors against Syracuse.

"The sky's the limit for these guys," Hoffman told the Boston Herald after the victory over Colorado State. "I feel like we have just laid the groundwork.." Player of the Year
RB Derrick Knight -- Though he finished six yards short of Mike Cloud's single-season school rushing record, Knight finished with 3,725 career yards rushing, a school mark. He topped his season with 122 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Colorado State in the San Francisco Bowl.

Players to Watch in 2004
QB Paul Peterson -- The junior college transfer took over the starting position when Quinton Porter went out with a hand injury on the first play against West Virginia in the 10th game of the season. He threw for 931 yards in BC's last four games, three of them victories.

CB Will Blackmon -- Blackmon is a threat as a return man and also is one of the top young defensive backs around.

DE Mathias Kiwanuka -- As a sophomore, he had a Big East-best 10.5 sacks in the regular season.

WR Grant Adams -- His 64-yard touchdown reception against Virginia Tech gave the Eagles the critical go-ahead touchdown. With the running back situation up in the air, Adams will play a key role in an improved BC passing game in 2004.

Injury Impact
QB Quinton Porter (hand) lost his job because of the late-season injury but should be recovered by spring. He'll have a difficult time regaining his job, however, with the emergence of Paul Peterson.

Quote to Note
"I know a lot of times last year the team won their bowl game and it was supposed to give them all of this momentum and they had disappointing seasons, and some teams lost their bowl game and came out and did OK this year." -- Coach Rich Rodriguez, putting some positive spin on the bowl loss to Maryland that ended his team's seven-game winning streak.


MIAMI

Recent history says Miami doesn't rebuild, it reloads. Will that maxim hold true for 2004?

With three juniors immediately announcing their departure for the NFL draft after the FedEx Orange Bowl victory over Florida State and a fourth a threat to do so, the Hurricanes look to replace 13 or 14 starters from their 11-2 team.

FS Sean Taylor, TE Kellen Winslow and DT Vince Wilfork all figure to be first-round picks as they pass up their senior seasons. CB Antrel Rolle could have been a fourth, but he decided to stay for 2004, when he will be the only returning starter in the secondary. Miami does lose all three starting linebackers (seniors D.J. Williams, Jonathan Vilma and Darrell McClover).

That doesn't even take into account the loss of OG Vernon Carey and RB Jarrett Payton on the offense.

Still, the position getting the most attention in the spring, at least from a fan's perspective, is quarterback, where incumbent but turnover-prone Brock Berlin will face a challenge from redshirt freshman Kyle Wright.

Coach Larry Coker said Berlin is the starter, "but we're going to play the best player. We'll see how things progress in the spring."

Coker benched Berlin in November because of too many turnovers, and despite a conservative approach, he had three more in the 16-14 bowl win over Florida State -- two interceptions (giving him 17 against 12 touchdown passes for 2003) and a fumble. Even so, Coker preaches patience when it comes to Wright, who, he notes, hasn't taken a snap yet.

"Some people want to anoint him with a big 'S' on his chest," Coker said of the young Californian. "I think he's going to be an outstanding player, but I want to hold that back until we actually go play the game. He'll get a lot of work; let's put it that way."

Player of the Year
FS Sean Taylor -- The junior topped off his collegiate career with his 10th interception of the season -- and third in two games against Florida State -- in the Orange Bowl victory over the Seminoles. He should be one of as many as five Hurricanes drafted in the first round.

Players to Watch in 2004
RB Tyrone Moss -- Moss ran for 511 yards in 11 games as a true freshman and will enter the spring as the top returnee as Frank Gore (468 yards rushing) recovers from another knee injury.

WR Ryan Moore -- He caught 44 passes for 637 yards and tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions. With TE Kellen Winslow gone, Moore's opportunities should greatly increase.

WR Roscoe Parrish -- He is a threat to break off a big play every time he touches the ball, whether it is as a receiver (24 catches for 322 yards in 11 games) or a punt returner (23 for 240, one touchdown).

PK Jon Peattie -- As a freshman, he kicked a game-winning field goal against West Virginia and the decider against Florida State from 51 yards in the Orange Bowl. He was 22-for-28 on field goals and a perfect 37-for-37 on extra points.

DE Thomas Carroll -- As a sophomore, he had five sacks among his 51 tackles. He will be the team's leading returning tackler.

Injury Impact
RB Frank Gore (knee) is eager to return in 2004 after being injured in the West Virginia game on Oct. 2. FB Kyle Cobia (knee) was injured in the Orange Bowl, but it doesn't appear he will need surgery. He has been riddled with injuries throughout his first three seasons.

Quote to Note
"Every year is a rebuilding year for us it seems. When you lose the first-round draft choices we lose, every year is somewhat that way." -- Coach Larry Coker.


PITTSBURGH

A season of big hopes turned into one of big disappointment as the Panthers lost three of their final four games. The 8-5 finish left Pittsburgh, which was ranked among the top 15 in the preseason, out of the polls.

The capper was a 23-16 loss to Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl. The Panthers couldn't score in four tries from the Virginia 1-yard line on their first possession and missed an extra point and makeable field goal. The offensive line also gave up five sacks -- making the total 14 over just their last two games.

All this from a team that entered the season with thoughts of winning its first Big East title and a BCS bowl bid.

"It's very disappointing," said WR Larry Fitzgerald, who was one of the reasons for the early optimism. "We fell short of our goals. All of us have to live with that."

The Panthers were strong in the skill positions, even though an injury sidelined RB Brandon Miree for more than half the season. Fitzgerald, runner-up in the Heisman race as a sophomore, was joined by Princell Brockenbrough at wideout, and TE Kris Wilson and QB Rod Rutherford enjoyed solid seasons. The Panthers led the Big East in passing by a wide margin, averaging better than 291 yards per game through the air.

But the Panthers came up woefully short at the line of scrimmage.

In their losses, they simply were dominated up front on both sides of the ball. In those five defeats, the Panthers managed only 53.2 rushing yards per game. For the season, the Panthers gave up 43 sacks, and opponents outgained them 185-117.5 on the ground.

Player of the Year
WR Larry Fitzgerald -- He caught a touchdown pass in every game of the regular season, setting an NCAA record for consecutive games with a TD catch (18) before being kept out of the end zone by Virginia. He finished the season with 92 receptions for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Players to Watch in 2004
WR Larry Fitzgerald -- He is expected to petition the NFL for the right to enter next spring's draft, but he was coy about his plans after the bowl game, noting he was going to be enrolled at Pittsburgh for the next semester. He had a spectacular 2003 season, stretching his consecutive game streak with a touchdown reception to 18 before failing to score in the bowl game.

WR Princell Brockenbrough -- Nagging injuries hampered Brockenbrough early, but he still caught 35 passes for 615 yards playing opposite Fitzgerald. If Fitzgerald leaves, he will become a prime target.

WR Greg Lee -- The true freshman played in only eight games but caught 10 passes for 211 yards. If Fitzgerald leaves for the NFL, Lee will be someone who needs to step up.

QBs Tyler Palko and Luke Getsy -- They will battle in the spring for the job of replacing the departed Rod Rutherford. Palko played sparingly as a true freshman in 2002, then sat out 2003 as a redshirt. Getsy got his redshirt season in 2002 and made only brief appearances in 2003. Both are considered talented prospects.

Injury Impact
RB Brandon Miree (stress fracture in his calf) suffered the key injury of the season in the third game. When he went out, the running game went south for the Panthers. He returned the next-to-last game of the season, but the Panthers still never got the rushing game in sync.

Quote to Note
"We're not as physical a football team as we need to be." -- Coach Walt Harris, critiquing his team after the loss to Virginia.


RUTGERS

Give third-year coach Greg Schiano some kudos for reviving the left-for-dead Rutgers program.

A season-ending 24-7 victory over Syracuse allowed the Scarlet Knights to finish its best season in five years with a 5-7 mark, including two wins in Big East play. And with almost 90 players expected back next fall and with league powerhouses Miami and Virginia Tech gone, there's actually bowl talk in New Brunswick, N.J.

"I'm excited about the fact that we are now a legitimate Division I football program, and now we have to take the next step," Schiano said. "That's the most important thing, because reaching legitimacy certainly isn't our goal. But it's a step along the way."

There are many reasons to believe that there will be more steps forward in 2004.

For one thing, Miami and Virginia Tech -- two teams that absolutely owned the Scarlet Knights -- are out of the league and off the schedule. And secondly, Rutgers' two-deep was littered with underclassmen -- including a record-setting quarterback in sophomore Ryan Hart, two capable runners in redshirt freshman Brian Leonard and true freshman Justise Hairston, some capable receivers and a promising young group of linebackers.

Player of the Year
Redshirt freshman running back Brian Leonard gave Rutgers something it hasn't had in ages -- a ground game. Leonard finished the season as Rutgers' leader in rushing yards (880) and in receptions (53 for 488 yards), amassing 1,368 all-purpose yards. He also scored 14 touchdowns.

Players to Watch in 2004
Quarterback Ryan Hart -- As a sophomore, Hart set single-season school records for passing yards (2,714), completions (234) and attempts (398). He tied the school's interception record (19), but seems to be well-suited to run the Scarlet Knights' West-Coast offense. Hart (15 TD passes) should really blossom next season with most of his key weapons back.

Running backs Brian Leonard and Justise Hairston -- A poor man's Mike Alstott, Leonard was one of the Big East's best newcomers this fall -- emerging as a threat as both a between-the-tackles runner and as a pass receiver. He led the team in rushing yards (880), pass receptions (53) and touchdowns (14). The scary part is that he'll be teamed next season with speedy tailback Justise Hairston (550 yards rushing, 8 TDs), who missed four games with a knee injury. Leonard and Hairston could be quite a duo the next few seasons in New Brunswick.

Injury Impact
At his season-ending press conference, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said LB Will Gilkison and DB Derrick Roberson will undergo shoulder surgery, and that OT Sameeh McDonald is facing the possibility of knee surgery. All three are expected to be fully recovered in time for fall practice. In fact, Gilkison and Roberson should be back for spring ball.

Senior offensive guard Brian Duffy (back injury) will petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2004. If he's granted it, then Rutgers will have three linemen with lots of starting experience back next fall.

Sophomore linebacker William Beckford will return for his junior season in 2004, after missing the stretch drive of the 2003 with a knee injury. Beckford, whose forte is his speed, should be 100 percent healthy by summer and should be ready to regain his starting outside linebacker spot.

Quote to Note
"Certainly, I'm excited about the fact that there are greater expectations. If there weren't, that would mean we really are struggling right now." --Third-year Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, after this season's 5-7 record.


SYRACUSE

A late-season collapse put Paul Pasqualoni's coach job in jeopardy, but six days after the closing victory over Notre Dame, Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel stepped up to the podium and announced Pasqualoni would be back for his 14th season.

Pasqualoni's task: Get the Orangemen back in a bowl and get the offense moving.

Crouthamel made it clear in his announcement that Pasqualoni, who directed most of his attention to the defense the last two seasons, would be shouldering the responsibilities of offensive coordinator, leaving coordinator George DeLeone responsible for the offensive line. DeLeone also will concentrate on recruiting duties.

"Paul is going to be more immersed on the offensive side," Crouthamel said. "His time and effort is going to be spent on the offensive side of the ball."

After the regular season, the Orangemen ranked near the bottom of the Big East in offensive statistics, placing sixth in total offense in the eight-team league (369.8 yards per game) and seventh in scoring (26.7 points per game).

The biggest problem in the past two seasons, which saw the Orangemen go 4-8 in 2002 and 6-6 in 2003, has been their inability to win outdoors. Playing in the Carrier Dome, the Orangemen are 8-5 over the past two seasons. On the road they are 2-9. They have averaged 34 points a game at home over that span, only 20 on the road.

Player of the Year
RB Walter Reyes set school records for rushing touchdowns, both for a single-season (20) and career (38). He finished the season with 1,347 yards, fourth best in the Big East. His average of 112.25 per game ranked 15th among Division I-A runners.

Players to Watch in 2004
RB Walter Reyes -- He put a lot of Syracuse fans' concerns to rest when he said right after the Notre Dame victory he would return for 2004. After rushing for 1,135 yards as a sophomore, he broke loose for 1,347 in 2003. In addition to his rushing totals, he also caught 38 passes for 375 yards, second best on the team to WR Johnnie Morant.

WR Jared Jones -- The junior will be the top returning wideout after catching 37 passes 355 yards in 2003. An ankle injury sidelined him much of the Notre Dame game or he might have ended up second on the team in receptions behind leader Morant, a senior.

Injury Impact
Injuries kept RB Damien Rhodes and LB Jameel Dumas sidelined much of the season. Rhodes should be OK by spring. Dumas was a senior. WR Jared Jones also was injured in the season finale, but his ankle should be fine by the spring.

Quote to Note
"I think that in every season and every game, there is pressure, what you are considering to be pressure. I think there is a lot pressure that players and coaches self-induce upon themselves in the program. I think we all have very high expectations." -- Coach Paul Pasqualoni, asked if he feels under pressure looking to the 2004 season.


TEMPLE

Temple's miserable season came to a predictable end as the Owls lost to West Virginia, 45-28.

The loss dropped Temple to 1-11 overall and 0-7 in Big East play, the 13th straight losing season for the Owls, who won four games in each of the three previous years. The last time they only won once was 1996. They're 17-51 in six seasons under Bobby Wallace.

The season-ending loss followed a familiar script as the Owls fell behind big early, 21-0 in the first quarter, and then tried to play comeback ball. It didn't work despite all the practice the Owls had at in 2003.

They trailed 21-0 at Louisville, 27-0 to Boston College, 27-0 to Rutgers, 17-0 to Virginia Tech, 14-0 to Pitt, 24-0 at Syracuse and 14-0 at Middle Tennessee ... which was the only game they wound up winning, 46-38.

An even more painful loss will happen after the 2004 season as Temple will lose its conference affiliation with the Big East after next season.

So what's next? According to Wallace, Temple is building an independent schedule for 2005 and hopes to latch on to another league after that.

But the Owls will need wins to get a league invite. That won't be easy, because in 2005, the Owls are scheduled to play host to Miami, Maryland, Toledo and Middle Tennessee. They're talking with Louisville and Navy, and they'll travel to Arizona State and Bowling Green the year after next.

Player of the Year
Sophomore LB Rian Wallace -- It was probably hard for a lot of people to notice him on a team that surrendered 32.8 points per game, but Wallace was one of the best linebackers in the Big East. He finished the season with 148 tackles, including an incredible 19.5 tackles for loss.

Players to Watch in 2004
QB Walter Washington -- Late in the season, Temple coach Bobby Wallace replaced struggling and banged-up Mike McGann with the powerfully-built Washington (6-2, 245). He led the Owls in rushing (579 yards, six TDs) and also passed for 1,265 yards with eight TDs and six interceptions. His throwing needs to improve, but Washington is a talent. He chose Temple over Nebraska because he wanted to play in a pass-oriented offense.

"We've played against Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick while I've been here at Temple and Walter Washington has the same type of athleticism as those two guys. He's not as fast as Michael Vick, but he can hurt defenses with his arm and his feet," Wallace said.

LB Rian Wallace -- Temple's porous "D" (32.8 ppg allowed) needs a leader to help them turn things around in 2004 and the hitting machine Wallace seems like a good candidate. Still a work in progress, Wallace finished the season with 148 tackles, including an incredible 19.5 tackles for loss. Those totals put him among the nation's leaders in those categories.

Injury Impact
Starting quarterback Mike McGann injured an elbow on Oct. 25 against Rutgers and was done for the year. The injury opened the door for mobile backup Walter Washington to get more and more snaps and he made the most of that opportunity, clearly signaling that he'll be the No.1 man under center.

Sophomore DE Rodney Wormley was supposed to Temple's lone returning starter up front in 2003. However, Wormley tore his ACL in an off-the-field incident and never played a down for Temple this season. Wormley redshirted and will challenge for his old starting spot in 2004. His return should help a forward wall that desperately needs some playmakers.

Quote to Note
"Do you how hard it is to recruit when you have a black mark next to you that you've been kicked out of your league? Everybody knows that the Big East is kicking us out of the league. That's tough to overcome and as a result, we end up signing kids with no other Division I offers." -- Temple coach Bobby Wallace when asked how hard it is to recruit at Temple, given the fact that they'll be booted out of the Big East after the 2004 season.


VIRGINIA TECH

Virginia Tech has built a reputation for strong defense and solid special teams play under coach Frank Beamer, but those cornerstones took a beating in the 2003 season.

The Hokies completely collapsed defensively over the last month of the regular season and in the bowl game, and special teams made several costly gaffes -- including 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.

Player of the Year
RB Kevin Jones -- He finished the season with a school-record 1,647 yards rushing after logging 153 against California on only 16 carries. He also set the school's single-game rushing record with his 241 in the loss to Pittsburgh. He announced before the bowl game he would pass up his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

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.

Injury Impact
CB Garnell Wilds missed most of the season after having knee surgery and Eric Green stepped in to take his place. DE Nathaniel Adibi, RG Jacob Gibson, TE Keith Willis, WR Chris Shreve and WR Justin Hamilton also missed games because of injuries.

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.


WEST VIRGINIA

Was the seven-game winning streak simply a mirage or a legitimate indication of how the West Virginia program has grown under Rich Rodriguez?

That's the big question for Mountaineer fans after the Gator Bowl loss to Maryland and heading into a 2004 season and a Big East race that will be without Miami, the only conference team to beat West Virginia in the past two seasons. With the Hurricanes in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Mountaineers, coming off an 8-5 season, figure to be a title contender.

First, though, they have some work to do, as evidenced by the 41-7 thumping from Maryland in the Gator Bowl.

"We're going to have to address a lot of things," Rodriguez said.

The Mountaineers hope to improve on a pass rush that netted only 17 sacks in 13 games, and they need to improve their passing game. QB Rasheed Marshall was under 50 percent accuracy for the season until going 10-for-16 in the bowl game.

They also have some rebuilding to do with the loss of RB Quincy Wilson on offense and LB Grant Wiley, CB Lance Frazier and FS Brian King on defense.

Part of the fix will come after a close examination of the schemes Rodriguez has used the past three seasons, including a 3-3 defensive front the last two, and part will come from recruiting.

"There are big holes," Rodriguez said, "but even in the places where the perception is that there are not big holes, the depth is not where it needs to be to be a consistent top 15 program."

Player of the Year
RB Quincy Wilson -- The former backup for Avon Cobourne, Wilson become one of the best in the Big East in 2003. He ran for 1,380 yards, giving him 2,608 for his career. His 49-yard effort in the Gator Bowl left him 12 yards short of Robert Walker, who is the school's fourth all-time leading rusher behind Cobourne, Amos Zereoue and Artie Owns.

Players to Watch in 2004
QB Rasheed Marshall -- He is an outstanding running quarterback, as his 1,179 career rushing yards are second only to Major Harris among Mountaineer signal callers. But he needs to improve his passing. He was under 50 percent on completions until his 10-for-16 effort in the Gator Bowl loss to Maryland made him 109-for-215 for the season to boost his percentage to 50.7.

WR Chris Henry -- The Big East's Rookie of the Year, Henry caught 42 passes for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has big-play capability as evidenced by his touchdown catches of 83, 79 and 67 yards.

Injury Impact
The Mountaineers are petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for OL Tim Brown (Achilles' tendon). He was lost for the 2003 season after suffering the injury during the week of the season opener.

Quote to Note
"I know a lot of times last year the team won their bowl game and it was supposed to give them all of this momentum and they had disappointing seasons, and some teams lost their bowl game and came out and did OK this year." -- Coach Rich Rodriguez, putting some positive spin on the bowl loss to Maryland that ended his team's seven-game winning streak.


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