This Week in The Big East

Conference play is no longer taking a week off - it's here to stay. As in previous weeks, we offer a team by team breakdown of this upcoming week's contests. In addition we'll also take a look at who's in, who's out, and what they are all saying?



Eagles coach Tom O'Brien doesn't believe his team will miss a step after its bye week: "I don't think that will be a problem," O'Brien said. "We're going into a conference game and looking to win this conference. So, every week is a championship game."  As if a head coach would ever admit that his team is worse off after a week off ... that's what I like to call coach-speak.
Boston College (4-1) will resume its schedule at Pittsburgh (3-2) on Saturday.  A once interesting rivalry has many wondering how long it will take the Eagles before they put away the whimpering Panthers.  The Eagles, coming off a 29-7 victory over I-AA Massachusetts on Oct. 2, look to extend their winning streak to 2 games and to improve to 2 and 0 in conference play.
If redshirt freshman Andre Callender recovers from a nagging groin injury, O'Brien may have to split carries among three running backs -- Callender, A.J. Brooks and L.V. Whitworth, each of whom have turned in 100-yard performances this season.  O'Brien said Brooks will start at Pittsburgh, but any of the three could see significant time.  Senior quarterback Paul Peterson continues to operate Boston College's offense efficiently. Peterson has completed 86 of 145 pass attempts for 1,035 yards and eight touchdowns (against six interceptions).  He led the Eagles to six straight wins as a starter dating to last season before losing at Wake Forest on Sept. 25.  Following the trip to Pittsburgh, Boston College will wrap up its non-conference schedule at Notre Dame. The Eagles finished 5-1 on the road in 2003 en route to their fifth straight postseason appearance.  With a win at Pitt they are well on their way to securing a sixth straight bowl bid.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Boston College owns the Big East's second-ranked rushing offense (183.6 ypg.) thanks to its talented trio of backs: A.J. Brooks, Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth. The Eagles also have the league's top third-down conversion percentage (46.3%). A.J. Brooks is second in the Big East in ypc at an impressive 6.4.  Teammate L.V. Whitworth is fourth in the conference at 5.6ypc.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The conference's best defense has allowed only five touchdowns and four field goals in five games. Opponents have averaged just 84.0 rushing yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think they're all unselfish players, that's what it takes to be an offensive lineman. You operate out of the limelight." -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, on the program's tradition of recruiting standout linemen.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boston College at Pittsburgh, Oct. 16 -- If Boston College's defense can break through Pittsburgh's beat-up offensive line and pressure QB Tyler Palko, the Eagles should improve to 2-0 in the Big East. In the process, they will avenge a 24-13 setback to the Panthers in Chestnut Hill, Mass., last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: CB/KR Will Blackmon -- The 6-0, 198-pound junior leads the nation with a 38.5-yard kickoff return average. He has already broken one for a touchdown. Blackmon also leads the Eagles in tackles with 26.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka -- The 6-8, 249-pound junior ranks second in the Big East with four sacks. He finished the 2003 season as the league's sack leader (11.5). Kiwanuka has recorded 25 total tackles, nine for loss.
ROSTER REPORT: RB Andre Callender (groin) has returned to practice, but is still questionable for the Pittsburgh game. ... Freshman LB Brian Toal made his first career start in place of junior Jon Misiewicz against Massachusetts. ... Redshirt freshman LB Jolonn Dunbar has also made an early impact.

Prediction:  Uttering the famous words of "Mr. T", my prediction for this game is: PAIN.  BC will win in their typical methodical style and continue to push the Panthers program backwards.

Boston College 27 - Pittsburgh 13


The Huskies will play the biggest game of their young season after a 13-day layoff.  "Hopefully we'll play to the best of our ability," Edsall said. "If we don't, it's not because we were off too long. We've tried to handle the 13 days the best we could by keeping the guys fresh and sharp.  It doesn't concern me that we've been off that many days. We had no control over it. We'll just go into the game ready to play."  That's what I like to call telling it like it is.
After splitting its first two Big East games, the league's newest member will take on No. 17 West Virginia (4-1) at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The teams have never met and the game will be the Mountaineers' conference opener.  The Huskies (4-1) will rely on the play of senior quarterback Dan Orlovsky and sophomore running back Cornell Brockington.  Orlovsky has averaged 278.0 passing yards and has thrown for 10 touchdowns this season.  However, Orlovsky has also thrown 6 INTs and has not taken the next step to become the signal-caller everyone imagined him to be.  Brockington has added four touchdowns on the ground.  The Huskies are 17-4 over their last 21 games, none bigger that this contest, tonight.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Dan Orlovsky will have to deliver in what could be Connecticut's toughest remaining game. Orlovsky has completed 112 of 172 pass attempts for 1,390 yards and 10 touchdowns in addition to throwing 6 picks. Orlovsky is second in passing yards (1,390) and QB rating (145.21) in the Big East.  Keron Henry ranks second among Big East receivers with an 81.4-yard average. 
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Connecticut recorded four sacks in a 29-17 win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 30 and held the Panthers to 4-for-16 on third down. The Huskies are ranked second in the league in scoring (16.2 ppg.), rushing (99.2 ypg.) and passing (169.8 ypg.) defense.  The LB core has been the unsung group of heroes for the Huskies so far.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They have quality people and Kay-Jay Harris is an outstanding back. Whoever they line up at tailback, we have to be ready for." -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, on the prospect of facing West Virginia on Wednesday without Harris, the Mountaineers' leading rusher.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: West Virginia at Connecticut, Oct. 13 -- Connecticut, which operates the Big East's second-ranked pass offense (282.0 ypg.), will try its luck against West Virginia's top-ranked pass defense (169.6). It won't be easy, but a rockin' Rentschler Field will help fuel the Huskies' fire for this mid-week matchup.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Cornell Brockington -- The 6-0, 195-pound sophomore has averaged 100.0 rushing yards, second in the Big East. Most recently, he rushed for 185 yards, one yard short of his career-best effort, and a game-clinching fourth-quarter touchdown against Pittsburgh on Sept. 30.
LB Alfred Fincher -- The 6-1, 240-pound senior leads the league in tackles with 56 and has managed one sack. Fincher has also recorded six tackles for loss.
ROSTER REPORT: DE Tyler King broke his right leg in the Pittsburgh game and is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks. CB Ernest Cole (ankle) has missed two straight games.

Prediction:  What UConn has done to reach the level they have is nothing short of outstanding.  But they're not nearly ready to match up against a team like WVU.  West Virginia comes into this game peeved while the Huskies show their inexperience in the national spotlight once again.

West Virginia 34 - Connecticut 21


Panthers coach Walt Harris saw some promising things in Saturday's 27-22 come-from-behind victory over Temple. He hopes those aren't fleeting, as his team has a tough game this week when it hosts Boston College (4-1) at Heinz Field.  "In the fourth quarter we played like a good team," Harris said. "We're shooting to play well for four quarters because we know we're in for a battle with Boston College."  Back to what I like to call coach-speak ... For the second time in three games, the Panthers (3-2) rallied to win a close one. Pittsburgh came back from a 16-6 halftime deficit and outscored Temple 21-6 in the final 30 minutes.  Junior quarterback Tyler Palko turned in a promising performance, completing 13 of 18 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 28 yards on 12 carries and didn't turn the ball over.
Harris clearly believes the Panthers can build on last week's performance, but not without some semblance of a running attack. Senior running back Raymond Kirkley rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns, but Pittsburgh still managed only 126 total yards on the ground.  It's fair to say the Panthers still haven't recovered from losing players like Heisman candidate wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald or quarterback Rod Rutherford. Surprisingly enough, though, Pittsburgh owned an identical 3-2 record at this point last season (with last year's losses coming at Toledo and while hosting Notre Dame).  Harris' swan-song begins against Boston College...

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Pittsburgh continues to struggle with its rushing offense (101.0 ypg.), which is ranked sixth in the seven-team Big East (Rutgers is holding on to the bottom slot like grim death). RB Raymond Kirkley rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns against Temple, but the attack still needs to improve.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Pittsburgh owns the Big East's fourth-ranked defense (366.2 ypg.). LB H.B. Blades lead the team in tackles with 44.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The best thing he did was not (commit) one turnover. That's where he has to focus his attention. He played extremely well. He did a nice job scrambling; he made some tremendous plays and was accurate for most of the afternoon. He'll have his hands full (against Boston College), but I'm looking forward to seeing him perform." -- Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris, on QB Tyler Palko's performance against Temple. He was 9-for-9 in the second half. 

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boston College at Pittsburgh, Oct. 16 -- The Panthers have won three of the last four meetings, including a 24-13 decision at Boston College last season. Pittsburgh's offensive line must protect QB Tyler Palko, who has been forced to use his feet in recent weeks. The Eagles have produced 11 sacks in five games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tyler Palko -- The 6-2, 220-pound junior completed 13 of 18 pass attempts for 191 yards against Temple. He led the Panthers to their second come-from-behind victory in the past three games.
WR Greg Lee -- With Pittsburgh's run game struggling, the 6-2, 180-pound sophomore has been Palko's favorite target. Lee caught eight passes for 159 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown reception, in the Temple victory. He is the Big East's top receiver (96.0 ypg.).
ROSTER REPORT: LT Rob Petitti (concussion), Pittsburgh's lone returning starter on offense, missed the Temple game. On Monday, coach Walt Harris said he didn't know if Petitti would be available for Boston College. Dale Williams will likely shift to LT and redshirt freshman Mike McGlynn might fill in at RT.

Prediction:  Palko will need help and once again, will not get it.  The Panthers dismal offensive line plays right into the hands of Boston College.  A methodical, grind'em out type of game goes to the Eagles.

Boston College 27 - Pittsburgh 13


The Scarlet Knights staged the largest comeback in school history on Saturday when they beat Vanderbilt 37-34 on the road.  Coach Greg Schiano said a 41-31 loss to Syracuse a week earlier might aid Rutgers' development in some way. He was correct.  The Scarlet Knights (3-2) appeared to be headed for a second straight stunning defeat after the Commodores took a 20-3 halftime lead. Coming out of the locker room only worsened the problem as Vanderbilt scored once more and lengthened an already impressive lead to 27-3.  But junior quarterback Ryan Hart was able to rally the offense, and the defense made a crucial fourth-quarter stops, over and over again, to lock up the non-conference victory.  Hart completed 31 of 40 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He has surpassed the 300-yard mark in back-to-back games, and for his efforts has been named Big East Conference Player of the Week.  Vanderbilt had a chance to tie with 1:11 remaining, but was unable to enter Rutgers territory, after an on-field controversy resulted in nullifying a 66-yard pass play with just 0:15 left to play.  "To be on the road down 24 points and come back was an important victory for our team," Schiano said. "It showed the character of our team."  Rutgers must now turn its attention to Temple and standout quarterback Walter Washington. The junior is a threat to run or pass, which should give the Scarlet Knights problems.  Rutgers faced mobile quarterbacks in New Hampshire's Ricky Santos and Kent State's Josh Cribbs earlier this season, surrendering 792 yards combined.   Rutgers looks to go to 4 wins and 2 defeats and inch 1 step closer to ...

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Even with receivers Shawn Tucker and Marcus Daniels sidelined due to injuries, the Scarlet Knights are ranked ninth nationally in passing (298.0 ypg.). FB Brian Leonard's return to the lineup after a one-game absence has already bolstered the league's worst rushing offense (98.0 ypg.).  Well, it is still worst in the league, but the gap has lessened.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Scarlet Knights surrendered 501 and 396 yards at Syracuse and Vanderbilt in successive weeks. Rutgers also features the league's next-to-last scoring defense (29.0 ppg.).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think, right now, we're an inexperienced team gaining experience. Pretty soon, I don't know if we'll be inexperienced. We're consistently inconsistent. We can do some great things as a football team, but we can do some things poorly." -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, on the state of his team midway through the season.  Sounds like coach-speak, but if you've seen this team over an extended period of play, you'd agree Rutgers' head man is just being honest.

QUOTE TO NOTE 2: "If we lose any of the next two games, to either Vanderbilt or Temple, I will never utter another word about Rutgers football to you - ever."  -- Matei, of, when discussing Rutgers' prospects of turning around their season after Syracuse.  The recipient of this humble statement was our departments Comp. Systems Administrator.  After the exchange of IMs the quote was printed out and hung on the server room wall, just in case the unexpected should occur.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Temple at Rutgers, Oct. 16 -- The Scarlet Knights must stop Owls QB Walter Washington, who set career highs in completions (30), attempts (44), yardage (314) and passing touchdowns (three) in Saturday's 27-22 loss to Pittsburgh. The Scarlet Knights handed the Owls a 30-14 loss in Philadelphia last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Ryan Hart -- The Big East Offensive Player of the Week completed 31 of 40 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns in Rutgers' 37-34 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. He has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games for the second time in his career (311 at Syracuse on Oct. 2).  Hart is ranked 17th nationally for total offense (277.6 ypg.) and leads the Big East in total passing yards (1441).
DE Ryan Neill -- The 6-3, 250-pound senior recorded two sacks for minus-11 yards at Vanderbilt and leads the Big East with 4.5. Neill also picked off a pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown in Rutgers' season-opening win over Michigan State.
ROSTER REPORT:   Linebacker Quintero Frierson will be back in action this week after being injured in the Knights' season opening win against Michigan State. Wide receivers Marcus Daniels and Shawn Tucker are currently listed as questionable for Saturday's game.  OT Sameeh McDonald (knee) and OT Jeremy Zuttah (knee) are out.  OG John Glass (ankle) and WR Shawn Tucker (groin) are questionable for Temple.  OT Cameron Stephenson looks to make his first ever start for Rutgers.

Prediction:  Rutgers fans will finally get a chance to see their back-up QBs in action.  This year's Homecoming dish is roasted Owl.

Rutgers 40 - Temple 20


The Orange will have a bye week to contemplate Saturday's 17-13 loss to then-No.8 Florida State, before returning to action at West Virginia on Oct. 21.
What they should think about, however, is a 51-0 season-opening loss to Purdue. Syracuse has come a long way since Sept. 5, and with three ranked opponents scratched from the schedule, can focus on a strong finish in the Big East.
"We're pleased from where we started, on Sept. 5," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "The kids have hung in there. I think we've gotten better and that's satisfying. But we're not satisfied with 3-3."
Syracuse had a chance to beat Florida State in the game's final minute, but quarterback Perry Patterson's pass was intercepted in the end zone with five seconds remaining. Patterson completed 19 of 28 passes for a career-high 207 yards and a touchdown.
Seven days after he burned Rutgers for 237 yards on the ground, running back Walter Reyes rushed for just 27 yards on 14 carries. He did, however, catch six passes for 51 yards.
If Reyes (92.7 ypg.) and backup Damien Rhodes (50.2) can regain their form, Syracuse could make a surprise run at the Big East title. The Orange are 1-0 in league play.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Syracuse's running attack ranks third in the Big East (160.7 ypg.) but managed just 58 yards against Florida State and hasn't really performed to expectations this season. The Orange have lost 17 straight games when rushing for less than 100 yards. Syracuse still owns the Big East's last-ranked offense (307.5 ypg., 20.0 ppg.).
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Syracuse is ranked fifth in the Big East for scoring defense (25.7 ppg.) and total defense (406.5 ypg.). LB Jerry Mackey is the team's leading tackler with 52.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just weren't able to connect. We needed one more big play, one more thing to happen. But we came up short." -- Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, on his team's bid to upset then-No. 8 Florida State on Saturday. The Orange eventually lost 17-13.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Bye week -- Syracuse (3-3) will return to action in a Big East game at West Virginia (4-1) on Oct. 21. The Orange close their season with five consecutive league games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Walter Reyes -- The 5-10, 209-pound senior rushed for only 27 yards on 14 carries against Florida State, but led the team with six receptions for 51 yards. Reyes is averaging 92.7 rushing yards per game, third in the Big East.
SS Diamond Ferri -- The 5-10, 218-pound junior was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded six solo tackles, forced a fumble and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown in Saturday's 17-13 loss to Florida State.
ROSTER REPORT: WR Jared Jones and CB DeAndre LaCaille are nursing unspecified injuries and are questionable for West Virginia. CB Tanard Jackson returned to the lineup after sustaining a stab wound three weeks ago. Jackson recorded five tackles in the Florida State game.


The Owls' season of disappointment continued on Saturday when they squandered a 16-6 halftime lead and ultimately dropped a 27-22 decision to Pittsburgh. Temple has lost nine straight Big East games and must play its next three on the road -- at Rutgers, Connecticut and West Virginia.
"Right now, we're looking to try to win a game at Rutgers," Owls coach Bobby Wallace said.
"It's not a long road game for us, so that's a good thing. We've had success at Rutgers. ... It's been very frustrating and I have to get our players' minds off that and onto Rutgers."
Quarterback Walter Washington continues to carry Temple's offense. The junior is averaging 182.2 passing and 60.5 rushing yards per game and has played a part in 12 touchdowns this season.
A week after posting career-low numbers in passing (32) and rushing (minus-17) yardage in a 70-16 loss to Bowling Green, Washington managed 314 yards and three touchdowns through the air, in addition to 55 yards on the ground against Pittsburgh.
Washington may have a chance to exploit Rutgers' defense, which has struggled of late. The Scarlet Knights will field the Big East's fifth-ranked run (138.4 ypg.) and seventh-ranked pass (271.4 ypg.) defense on Saturday.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Walter Washington has proven to be Temple's only significant offensive weapon. The junior is averaging 182.2 passing and 60.5 rushing yards per game and has played a part in 12 touchdowns this season. The Owls offer the Big East's fifth-ranked offense in terms of yards (363.2 ypg.) and sixth-ranked in terms of points (21.5 ppg.).
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Temple is ranked last or next-to-last in the Big East in every significant category, including scoring (39.7 ppg.) and total (454.3 ypg.) defense. Pittsburgh amassed 360 yards in a 27-22 win over the weekend.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was real proud that our players bounced back from the week before to play hard and play well. We felt like we had every opportunity to win the game." -- Temple coach Bobby Wallace, on his team's 70-16 loss to Bowling Green on Oct. 2, followed by the loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Temple at Rutgers, Oct. 16 -- Rutgers is feeling good, coming off a 37-34 come-from-behind victory at Vanderbilt. The Scarlet Knights have averaged 441.5 yards and 34 points over their last two games and are building the kind of momentum Temple wished it had.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Walter Washington -- A week after posting career-low numbers in passing (32) and rushing (minus-17) yardage, Washington managed 314 yards and three touchdowns through the air, in addition to 55 yards on the ground against Pittsburgh. He orchestrated three scoring drives of 79 yards or more in the loss.
LB Troy Bennett -- The 6-2, 240-pound senior leads the team in tackles with 61. Bennett managed 10 stops and one quarterback hurry in Saturday's 27-22 loss to Pittsburgh.
ROSTER REPORT: Three defensive players -- LB Ryan Gore, DT Randy Johnson and DT A.J. Lindsay -- made their first career starts against Pittsburgh. ... LB Rian Wallace didn't play against the Panthers after he was suspended for participating in a post-practice locker room skirmish last week. DL Antwon Burton (foot) is sidelined indefinitely.

Prediction:  Rutgers fans will finally get a chance to see their back-up QBs in action.  This year's Homecoming dish is roasted Owl.

Rutgers 40 - Temple 20


The Mountaineers may have to find a way to win without leading rusher Kay-Jay Harris, who is averaging 114.2 yards per game. Harris is recovering from a sprained knee and ankle suffered in a 19-13 loss at Virginia Tech on Oct. 2.
"According to the medical staff, it's not a season-ending thing," Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez said.
"It's not tremendously swollen, just a nagging thing we thought would get a little bit better by now. If it's not ready by Wednesday night, which it appears it won't be, hopefully he'll be ready for the next one."
West Virginia (4-1) will travel to Connecticut (4-1) for its first meeting with the Huskies on Wednesday. The game also marks the Mountaineers' Big East opener.
If West Virginia is to claim the conference's BCS berth, as many believed it would before the season began, it must have Harris in the lineup. But until the senior is ready to go, quarterback Rasheed Marshall and wide receiver Chris Henry will fuel the offense.
Jason Colson will fill in for Harris in the backfield.
Marshall is the Big East's top-rated passer, even though he does more with his feet than his arm. Marshall has thrown for 765 yards this season and eight touchdowns. He has rushed for 229 yards and two additional scores.
"We know we have a tremendous challenge in front of us," Rodriguez said. "Connecticut is playing well, and the game is going to be in a hostile environment. They're coming off a great victory against Pitt."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: West Virginia owns the top scoring offense in the Big East (35.6 ppg.). The Mountaineers are ranked first in rushing (247.6 ypg.) and sixth in passing (162.4 ypg.). WR Chris Henry, the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year, has reeled in 28 receptions for 367 yards and six touchdowns.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Mountaineers will attempt to put pressure on Connecticut QB Dan Orlovsky, but have struggled in that department this season. West Virginia has recorded only five sacks, sixth in the league, but is still ranked third in scoring defense (17.6 ppg.).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I haven't been up there yet, but judging by what I've seen on TV, there are a few sections that get into it. Until you experience it, it's hard to judge. But in the last few games the crowd has induced procedure penalties and it looked like they caused confusion. We'll try to prepare the best we can." -- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, on playing at Connecticut's 40,000-seat Rentschler Field.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: West Virginia at UConn, Oct. 16 -- A dangerous game for the Mountaineers, as UConn, still relatively new to this football thing, will be pumped up for a huge mid-week home game like this. West Virginia has the league's top-ranked pass defense, which should come in handy against the league's top passer -- Dan Orlovsky.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Kay-Jay Harris -- If the senior doesn't make a quick recovery (sprained knee, ankle), West Virginia's top-ranked rushing offense will take a serious hit. Harris is the Big East's leading ballcarrier (114.2 ypg.) and has scored six touchdowns.
QB Rasheed Marshall -- The senior is the Big East's top-rated passer and has helped West Virginia produce points on 17 of 18 trips inside the red zone this season. Marshall has thrown for 765 yards and eight touchdowns. He has rushed for 229 yards and two additional scores.
ROSTER REPORT: RB Kay-Jay Harris, FB Justin Dziak (hamstring) and SS Lawrence Audena (neck) are all questionable for Connecticut.

Prediction:  What UConn has done to reach the level they have is nothing short of outstanding.  But they're not nearly ready to match up against a team like WVU.  West Virginia comes into this game peeved while the Huskies show their inexperience in the national spotlight once again.

West Virginia 34 - Connecticut 21

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