Unlike other I-A teams -- specifically Mississippi State and Rutgers -- Boston College staved off a I-AA letdown in turning back Massachusetts 29-7 at home on Saturday.
Coach Tom O'Brien continually stressed to his team the danger of taking a lower-level opponent lightly and apparently the Eagles took his words to heart. A.J. Brooks rushed for a school freshman-record 160 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Paul Peterson completed 16 of 30 pass attempts for 239 yards.
Boston College (4-1) has beaten instate rival Massachusetts five consecutive times. The Eagles were coming off a 17-14 loss to Wake Forest last week, the second such loss in as many years for the future ACC conference rivals.
Brooks, who rushed for 95 yards against the Demon Deacons, wasn't the only Boston College running back to make an impression. True freshman L.V. Whitworth, who set the previous rookie rushing record with 129 yards on 21 carries in the Eagles' season-opening win at Ball State, added 72 yards on 15 carries before sitting out the final quarter.
The Eagles, who are 1-0 in the Big East, jump back into conference play with a game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 16. Boston College dropped a 24-13 decision at home to the Panthers (2-2) last season. Fans of the continuing Big East may not want to hear this, but Boston College has as good a chance as any of the current teams (in fact, probably better than any of the current teams, save the West Virginia Mountaineers) to run the table in the conference.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB A.J. Brooks -- After rushing for 95 yards in a loss at Wake Forest, the true freshman delivered 160 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 29-7 win over Massachusetts on Saturday. It was Brooks' first career start.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Larry Lester -- The junior has apparently recovered from a knee injury sustained earlier in the season. A converted defensive back, Lester caught three passes for 84 yards against Massachusetts. He is an excellent complement to Grant Adams, the team's top wideout.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think this was one of those games that, regardless of how well you play, if you don't get the right stats, people are going to say, 'It was a bad game.' " -- DE Mathias Kiwanuka, in the Boston Globe, regarding Boston College's 29-7 win over I-AA Massachusetts.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: If Boston College can get Andre Callender back healthy and L.V. Whitworth to 100 percent, its ground attack may rival that of West Virginia's for the most productive in the league. With freshman A.J. Brooks now in the mix, any one of the three backs has breakout potential.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Despite scoring 29 points against UMass, the Eagles had difficulty crossing the goal line. Boston College managed 516 yards of total offense, but scored only three touchdowns. The Eagles settled for three field goals.
ROSTER REPORT: RB Andre Callender (groin) was unavailable. ... True freshman LB Brian Toal made his first career start in place of junior Jon Misiewicz. ... Freshman QB Matt Ryan also took his first snap in relief of starter Paul Peterson.
The Connecticut Huskies won their first Big East contest on Thursday night, a 29-17 decision over visiting Pittsburgh. Connecticut won its eighth straight game at Rentschler Field before a sellout crowd of 40,000 and before a national television audience.
It took the Huskies just two attempts to capture their first conference victory after dropping a 27-7 decision at Boston College on Sept. 17, their first Big East contest. Connecticut (4-1), which has played five games in 27 days, will host the conference's top dog, West Virginia (4-1), on Oct. 13 following a bye week.
Sophomore running back Cornell Brockington rushed for 185 yards on 27 carries and a game-sealing fourth-quarter touchdown for the Huskies, while senior linebacker Alfred Fincher managed 17 stops.
Senior Dan Orlovsky (23-for-43, 237 yards against Pittsburgh) could be the league's most talented quarterback and Brockington has proven to be a solid complement in the backfield. Receiver Keron Henry leads the team with 29 catches for 407 yards. In a transitional year for the league, Connecticut has as good a chance as any Big East member to secure a postseason invitation.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Cornell Brockington -- The sophomore rushed for 185 yards, one yard short of his career-best effort, and a game-clinching fourth-quarter touchdown in Connecticut's 29-17 win over Pittsburgh. Brockington averaged 6.0 yards per carry and recorded his third straight 100-yard rushing game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Alfred Fincher -- The senior recorded a game-high 17 tackles and inspired a defensive unit that limited Pittsburgh to 82 rushing yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm telling you right now, Connecticut football is going to get really big. The fans were really loud. I couldn't even hear the offense say 'hut' today. The crowd really fired us up." -- LB Alfred Fincher, on the contribution Rentschler Field's sellout crowd made to Connecticut's victory.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: After connecting on 6 of 9 field goal attempts in Connecticut's first four games, Matt Nuzie made 3 of 3 against Pittsburgh. He drilled a career-high 49-yard effort to close the first half and gave the Huskies a 13-10 lead at intermission. That FG attempt came after a somewhat controversial play call by Pitt Coach Walt Harris, who just moments earlier, decided to go for a trey and go to the half tied, rather than seize the momentum and grab the lead.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Even though Connecticut scored 29 points, its third-highest tally of the season, the Huskies converted only 3 of 15 third-down opportunities. Connecticut ranked third in Big East in that category heading into the Pittsburgh game. However, pre-season expectations that had many in the region and across the nation staring wide-eyed at what Uconn has managed to do, are on their way to being met. The Huskies' showdown against West Virginia on Oct. 13 is now looming as one of the conference's top contests this year - and who would have thought that just a few short weeks ago. ROSTER REPORT: DE Tyler King broke his right leg against the Panthers and is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks. CB Ernest Cole (ankle) missed his second straight game.
Seven days after they edged I-AA Furman 41-38 in overtime, Pittsburgh dropped its Big East opener at Connecticut 29-17. The trip marked the Panthers' first to Rentschler Field.
Junior quarterback Tyler Palko's 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter gave Pittsburgh a 17-16 lead, but Connecticut responded with a six-play, 62-yard drive that was capped by quarterback Dan Orlovsky's 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Keron Henry.
Palko completed 11 of 31 pass attempts for 267 yards and rushed for an additional 49, but received little protection from the offensive line. Connecticut managed four sacks for minus-29 yards, and Palko ran for his life on several occasions.
Pittsburgh's rushing attack continued to be ineffective. Take away Palko's 49-yard contribution and the Panthers rushed for just 33 yards. The team is averaging 94.8 yards per game on the ground.
Pittsburgh (2-2) returns to action at Temple, everyone's panacea, this Saturday. It's too early to identify any game as a "must win," but if the Panthers can't hang one on Temple (1-4), it's going to be a long season for coach Walt Harris.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Tyler Palko -- The junior completed 11 of 31 pass attempts for 267 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 49 yards and scored a 1-yard touchdown on the ground as Pittsburgh dropped a 29-17 decision at Connecticut. After a very rocky start to his season, Palko is emerging as a legitimate D-1 quarterback. With some protection up front one could see why the Pitt staff was so high on Palko from day one.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Greg Lee -- Lee only caught two passes, but each made an obvious impact. Lee snared a Palko pass and cruised 77 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, then added a 52-yard reception later in the game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our guys were fighting. They'll continue to keep fighting and you won't hear me say a bad word about them. We need to get better, including myself. You have to look at this as a learning experience." -- QB Tyler Palko on his team's loss at Connecticut.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: QB Tyler Palko continues to mature in a difficult situation, managing to put up solid numbers against UConn despite poor protection and a nonexistent running game. Bottom line: He has potential but needs more weapons to succeed. If left alone without any emergent playmakers (save for Palko), Pitt will continue to struggle.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Pittsburgh's ground game continues to struggle. Coach Walt Harris even played true freshman TB Brandon Mason, who he had planned to redshirt, when Tim Murphy sustained an injury. The Panthers are averaging 94.8 rushing yards per game and only one back, Raymond Kirkley, has reached the 100-yard plateau (100 vs. Ohio and 108 vs. Furman).
ROSTER REPORT: LT Rob Petitti was injured in the third quarter and didn't return. P Adam Graessle also exited the game. Walk-on Nick Krut stepped in for Graessle. Their status for the Temple game was undetermined. ... RG John Simonitis played for the first time this season.
The Scarlet Knights added to their decades-long tale of woe on Saturday by dropping a 41-31 decision at Syracuse. The loss marked Rutgers' ninth straight at the Carrier Dome dating to 1986.
In possession of a 31-27 fourth-quarter lead, defensive tackle Gary Gibson recovered a Syracuse fumble on the Orange 21-yard line. The Scarlet Knights (2-2) figured they would use the clock to their advantage, kick a medium-range field goal and at the very worst, head for overtime if Syracuse answered with a touchdown. The strategy sounds awfully familiar to that of another conference head coach whose decision came back to bite him in the behind in the waning first half moments ... at Connecticut.
Just 22 seconds later including a blown referee call which resulted in pushing Rutgers 5 yards further upfield, freshman Jeremy Ito pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right, which set up an Orange comeback. Syracuse scored 14 points in the final 2:24 -- and 21 overall in the fourth quarter -- to steal the victory.
Junior quarterback Ryan Hart turned in the best performance of his young career (29-for-49, 311 yards, 3 TDs), but couldn't overcome the defense surrendering 501 yards.
The Scarlet Knights, who play two of their next three games on the road, must now regroup for Saturday's matchup at Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt (1-3). Coach Greg Schiano's teams are just 3-14 away from home. As devastating a loss as this was for Rutgers, it was not a must win - not by a long shot. The Scarlet Knight season started with high expectations and can continue on that track - with contests against Vanderbilt and Temple coming up, Rutgers' season should turn the corner ... soon.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Ryan Hart -- The junior returned to the site of his first collegiate appearance (in 2002) and delivered the best performance of his career. In his 20th start, Hart completed 29 of 49 pass attempts for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn't intercepted in the 41-31 loss to Syracuse on Saturday. Hart also rallied Rutgers from three second-half deficits.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Chris Baker -- After moving from quarterback to receiver twice in his first three seasons, the senior has finally settled into a comfort zone. Baker set career bests in catches (5) and receiving yards (101) against Syracuse. He also reeled in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Hart with 3:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. Not to be outdone, WR Tres Moses reeled in over 100 yards receiving - the tandem of Baker, who poses tremendous physical challenges against any defense, and Moses, will serve as a tremendous offensive advantage for Rutgers. Throw in Jr wideout S. Tucker, and the offense looks downright formidable - that is, if the receivers can get their hands on the ball.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It sounds crazy because we gave up 501 yards, but the defense is not that far off." -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano on the defensive unit's unrealized potential.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Under the direction of junior QB Ryan Hart, the Scarlet Knights haven't managed a legitimate come-from-behind victory ... but came close at Syracuse. Hart rallied the team from three second-half deficits.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Rutgers, which was ranked 114th out of 117 Division I-A teams in pass defense heading into the Syracuse game, surrendered a season-low 131 yards through the air. But the Scarlet Knights couldn't stop the run. Syracuse managed 370 rushing yards and had two backs (Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes) cross the century mark. The defense has been less, in fact much less, than impressive thus far.
ROSTER REPORT: FB Brian Leonard (thigh), who was responsible for nearly 40 percent of Rutgers' offense in the team's first three games, did not play at Syracuse. WR Shawn Tucker (groin) and LB Quintero Frierson (ankle) were also unavailable. All except for OL Sameeh McDonald (leg) are at least probable for Saturday. LB Brad Cunningham made his first start of the season and DE Piana Lukabu returned from a three-game suspension.
The Orange stifled boos for at least one week by handing Rutgers a 41-31 loss at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Syracuse avenged a 24-7 defeat in Piscataway, N.J., last season and recorded their ninth straight home victory over the Scarlet Knights. Lucky? Perhaps ... but a win is a win, and the Orange needed it, badly.
Coach Paul Pasqualoni and his team endured heavy criticism after losing to ranked teams Purdue (51-0) and Virginia (31-10) in the season's opening month. But the victory over Rutgers put the Orange (3-2) in prime position for a run at the Big East's upper echelon teams.
Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes showed why they are considered one of the nation's top backfield tandems by rushing for 237 and 102 yards, respectively, in the win. They each scored two touchdowns.
Trailing 31-27 late in the fourth quarter, Reyes coughed up a fumble, which Rutgers recovered on the Syracuse 21-yard line. The Scarlet Knights, however, failed to capitalize on the gift and the Orange scored 14 points in the game's final 2:24 to lock up their third victory.
The schedule gets harder as No. 9 Florida State will visit the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Walter Reyes -- The senior had been waiting for a breakout performance and delivered with a season-best 237 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 41-31 win over Rutgers. Reyes rushed for 121 yards by intermission.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Damien Rhodes -- Even though he plays second fiddle to Reyes, the junior has established himself as a big-play threat. Rhodes rushed for 102 yards on just 10 carries (10.2-yard average) and scored two touchdowns.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think the key thing with Greg Hanoian and the fullbacks is they've been working so hard on blocking in the perimeter. When you block in the perimeter, you have a chance to have the kind of statistics in rushing the we had today." -- Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni on how his team amassed 399 rushing yards against Rutgers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Syracuse's run game was clearly the class of the Big East on Saturday. The Orange entered the game with the league's worst offensive statistics, but sprung backs Walter Reyes (237 rushing yards) and Damien Rhodes (102 rushing yards) for big days. A function of the re-emergence of halfback-U, or a symptom of the lethargic Rutgers defense that has seen better tackling days.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Orange appeared to be quite undisciplined in the first half against Rutgers as they where whistled for 11 penalties and 96 yards. The miscues dropped off in the game's final 30 minutes as Syracuse committed four additional penalties for 24 yards.
ROSTER REPORT: WR Steve Gregory (thigh), LB Kellen Pruitt (knee) and CB Tanard Jackson were sidelined for the Rutgers game. Syracuse's secondary was further depleted when SS Diamond Ferri and FS Anthony Smith left the game with ailments, but each eventually returned.
Well, so much for Plan B. In the week leading up to Temple's match with Bowling Green, coach Bobby Wallace decided to alter his quarterback situation.
Senior Mike McGann, a drop-back passer, would lead the team between the 20-yard lines. Once the Owls reached the red zone, the more mobile Walter Washington would take the reins.
Temple (1-4), however, managed just 294 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns in a mind-numbing 70-16 loss to Bowling Green at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
The Owls allowed 639 yards as they suffered their worst loss since a 55-0 drubbing by Miami in 1999.
McGann completed his first five passes and finished with 165 yards and a touchdown. He moved into fourth place on Temple's career total offense chart with 4,639 yards and provided one of the Owls' few bright spots.
Washington, who ranked second in the Big East in total offense heading into last weekend, posted career lows in passing (32) and rushing (minus-17) yards.
Temple will open its league schedule on Saturday, when it hosts Pittsburgh (2-2). The Owls dropped a 30-16 decision to the Panthers in 2003 when they failed to win a conference game.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Brian Allbrooks -- A junior college transfer playing his first season at Temple, Allbrooks managed six receptions for 94 yards in a 70-16 loss to Bowling Green on Saturday. Allbrooks had reeled in only two passes for nine yards prior to the game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR/KR Travis Shelton -- Not only did the freshman catch a 56-yard touchdown pass from Mike McGann early in the forth quarter, but he also averaged 20.8 yards per return.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have not been through a day like today defensively in my career. They executed extremely well and we could just not make a play. Right now, when we play an outstanding offense, it's a struggle for our defense." -- Temple coach Bobby Wallace on the 639 yards of total offense his team surrendered in a 70-16 loss to Bowling Green.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: QB Mike McGann's presence was the only positive aspect of Temple's 70-16 loss to Bowling Green on Saturday. McGann, a senior who was a possibility for a redshirt year, completed 7 of 12 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Just about everything needs to be, at the very least, tweaked, but Temple's defense was repeatedly exposed by Bowling Green. The Falcons rolled up 442 yards of total offense in first half and took a 42-9 lead by intermission. Game over!! Turn your sets off!! What - you weren't watching to begin with??
ROSTER REPORT: DL Antwon Burton (foot) is sidelined indefinitely. ... When McGann entered Saturday's game against Bowling Green, he eliminated any chance of returning next season.
The sixth-ranked Mountaineers' dream of an undefeated season fell apart on Saturday as they lost to Virginia Tech 19-13 in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies returned the favor after unranked West Virginia upset third-ranked Virginia Tech in Morgantown last season.
The Hokies' offense managed just four field goals, as their only touchdown came on a blocked field goal return. It was, however, enough to spoil West Virginia's quest for that special season.
The ground attack that fueled the Mountaineers' 4-0 start was nowhere to be found. Leading rusher Kay-Jay Harris was limited to 22 yards on seven carries before he went to the sideline with an injury. Backup Jason Colson added 47 yards on 12 attempts.
West Virginia's leading rusher was quarterback Rasheed Marshall, who contributed 74 yards on 16 carries. Marshall also completed 9 of 19 passes for 81 yards, but was unable to lead his team into the end zone.
The Mountaineers (4-1) actually had a chance to win the game when they started a drive on their own 15-yard line with 41 seconds remaining. Marshall marched the team to the Virginia Tech 41, but he was intercepted by Vincent Fuller.
Next up for the Mountaineers is their Big East opener at Connecticut (4-1) on Oct. 13, which as of right now, is setting up as one of the biggest conference games this year. The truth of the matter is, only one thing has slipped through the 'Eers hands, and that was a chance (that's right a chance) at a national championship. Much remains at stake for West Virginia this season, and it all starts with a continuation of the dominance they have displayed in the Big East dating back to last year.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Rasheed Marshall -- The senior turned in an unspectacular performance, but was nonetheless the best his team had to offer in a 19-13 loss at Virginia Tech. Marshall completed 9 of 19 pass attempts for 81 yards and rushed for an additional 74 on 16 carries.
KEEP AN EYE ON: DB Eric Wicks -- The sophomore was responsible for West Virginia's only touchdown on a 34-yard interception return.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're disappointed and it hurts to lose, but this is a good ball club at their place and we didn't play very well and we lost. The most important goal is to always win the Big East and we haven't even started Big East play yet, so everything is still out in front of us." -- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, on rebounding from Saturday's loss at Virginia Tech.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: West Virginia's defense held Virginia Tech to five field goal attempts and 334 yards of offense. The Hokies' only touchdown came on a blocked field goal attempt that was returned 74 yards.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Mountaineers were unable to deliver a single touchdown drive (their only TD of the game came on an interception return). West Virginia amassed only 247 yards and was 0-for-13 on third-down conversion opportunities.
ROSTER REPORT: SS Lawrence Audena, the Mountaineers' leading tackler through four games, was not available. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Ridwan Malik.
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