Inside The Big East

With just under a month to play in the Big East Conference, several teams are left jousting for post-season positioning. Indeed, only a single team from the entire conference has been eliminated from post-season contention.



The Eagles had a bye week to enjoy their 24-23 victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 23, but a difficult stretch still remains. Boston College will face Rutgers, West Virginia, Temple and Syracuse this month.

The Eagles (5-2) are seeking their sixth straight bowl appearance and need just one more victory to become eligible for the postseason.

However, tinkering with the run game was at the top of coach Tom O'Brien's to-do list during the off week. Three running backs -- L.V. Whitworth, Andre Callender and A.J. Brooks -- have rushed for 100 or more yards this season -- but Boston College was held to a season-low 56 yards in a 20-17 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 16 and managed just 62 at Notre Dame.

If the Eagles' ground game returns to form, the team could challenge West Virginia for the Big East championship. Boston College has one league loss and will face the Mountaineers in Morgantown on Nov. 13.
The Eagles, however, dropped a 35-28 decision to West Virginia in 2003.


GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Paul Peterson -- He passed for a career-high 383 yards in the Eagles' 24-23 victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 23. While leading his team back from a 20-7 halftime deficit, Peterson completed 19 of 23 passes for 297 yards over the final 30 minutes.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Grant Adams -- He has done a decent job of establishing himself as the go-to receiver. With 31 catches for 493 yards and two touchdowns, Adams is not a superstar. However, he has good hands and is effective.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to get the running game back going. We haven't rushed the ball well in the last two weeks. We can look at field conditions and everything else, but we have to look at ourselves." -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, on his team's rushing attack.


LOOKING GOOD: Boston College's aerial attack has flourished in recent weeks with the return of junior receiver Larry Lester from a leg injury. The Eagles are averaging 257.3 passing yards per game under the direction of quarterback Paul Peterson.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Boston College amassed 445 yards of total offense in the win at Notre Dame, but only 62 yards on the ground. The Eagles' rushing offense is ranked fifth in the Big East (148.0 ypg.), and clearly has the talent to be better.

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.




Connecticut coach Randy Edsall's homecoming was spoiled as his team turned the ball over five times en route to a 42-30 loss at Syracuse on Saturday. Edsall, a 1980 Syracuse graduate, was far from pleased with the Huskies' performance.

"It's not really complicated to figure out what went on out there," he said. "When you have three fumbles, two interceptions and 10 penalties, and you're playing a team like Syracuse with the athletes they have, your margin for error is very slim."

Senior quarterback Dan Orlovsky completed 39 of 51 passes for 445 yards and sophomore running back Cornell Brockington added 123 yards on the ground, but Connecticut's offensive domination couldn't overcome its many mistakes.

After playing six of their first seven games at home, the Huskies (5-3) are discovering why the Big East is a historically difficult conference in which to compete.  Connecticut, which is 0-2 away from home in its first Big East season, must face Georgia Tech and Rutgers on the road in November.


GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Cornell Brockington -- The Big East's leading rusher managed 123 yards on the ground and a second-quarter touchdown against Syracuse. The sophomore also caught 10 passes for 93 yards.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Dan Orlovsky -- The senior completed 39 of 51 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns in defeat. Orlovsky, who was also intercepted twice, hit 10 different receivers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every week we're killing ourselves. That's what we keep emphasizing. It's us making the mistakes. It's just something we've got to get over." -- Connecticut tight end Dan Murray, on his team's five turnovers and 10 penalties in a 42-30 loss to Syracuse.


LOOKING GOOD: QB Dan Orlovsky, who has already been invited to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29, set a career high for completions (39) and passing yards (445) in the loss to Syracuse.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Connecticut's five turnovers against Syracuse were the most it has committed since joining the Division I-A ranks three seasons ago. In a disturbing trend, the Huskies gave away four turnovers in a 45-31 win over Temple on Oct. 23.

ROSTER REPORT: LT Ryan Krug and WR Keron Henry sustained ankle injuries, but neither ailment was considered serious.



When all is said and done, Pittsburgh may prove to be the Big East's biggest surprise this season. The second-place Panthers own a 5-2 record and are in line for a Gator Bowl bid.

Coming off a bye week, the Panthers will travel to Syracuse (4-4) on Saturday. Pittsburgh will also face Notre Dame, West Virginia and South Florida in the season's final four weeks.

But no matter how the Panthers finish, they have clearly made strides. Take into consideration that this team edged I-AA Furman in overtime, was beaten convincingly at Connecticut and barley got by lowly Temple in September.

As junior quarterback Tyler Palko continues to progress, there's no telling how far Pittsburgh might go this season. Palko has completed 121 of 219 passes for 1,564 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Palko, who has gained notoriety by throwing ambidextrous flip passes when pressured in the pocket, completed 27 of 43 attempts for 318 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-17 win over Rutgers on Oct. 23.
The Panthers took a 38-3 halftime lead and were never threatened at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh's defense forced five turnovers and limited Rutgers to 56 rushing yards.


GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Raymond Kirkley -- While QB Tyler Palko is inconsistent, Kirkley has been dependable. He has carried 126 times for 458 yards and five touchdowns. He has also caught 20 passes and has decent hands when the Panthers use him as a safety valve.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Joe DelSardo -- The 5-8 former walk-on burned Rutgers for eight catches and 102 receiving yards on Oct. 23. DelSardo reeled in touchdown passes of 18 and 17 yards in the first half.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think a lot of people just got down on us. I think the reason we probably weren't playing as good as people expected was we were so young. We had 10 new starters on offense." -- Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris, on the recent improvement of his team.


LOOKING GOOD: With Pittsburgh's offensive line finally intact, the ground game has shown promise in recent weeks. Junior tailback Raymond Kirkley is averaging 65.4 yards per game and has scored five touchdowns.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Panthers have struggled with third-down conversions. Pittsburgh is ranked sixth in the league, having converted just 35 of 109 attempts (32.1 percent).

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.



The Scarlet Knights must win two of their final three games to qualify for a bowl. Rutgers jumped out to a 4-2 record this season, but has dropped two straight and will head to Boston College (5-2) for a league game on Saturday.

Despite committing four first-half turnovers, the Scarlet Knights still had a chance to upset No. 15 West Virginia at home on Saturday. Junior quarterback Ryan Hart completed 35 of 46 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns, but couldn't rally Rutgers all the way back from a 35-17 fourth-quarter deficit.

Fullback Brian Leonard added 80 rushing yards in the 35-30 loss, while receiver Tres Moses managed eight receptions for 94 yards.

Rutgers (4-4) had been outscored 61-9 in first halves by its three previous opponents -- Vanderbilt, Temple and Pittsburgh -- and trailed the Mountaineers 21-14 at intermission. Hart engineered two fourth-quarter scoring drives, but the Scarlet Knights failed to recovering an on-sides kick with just over one minute remaining and couldn't climb all the way back.

Rutgers will play road games at Boston College and Navy -- separated by an open date -- before closing the season against Connecticut at home on Thanksgiving.


GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Tres Moses -- The senior reeled in eight receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 35-30 loss to West Virginia. Had Moses managed six additional yards, he would've reached the 100-yard plateau for the fourth time this season. He has caught 50 passes for 561 yards in Rutgers' past five games.

KEEP AN EYE ON: FB Brian Leonard -- The redshirt sophomore rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia. He also caught seven passes for 37 yards. Leonard ranks second in the Big East in all-purpose yardage (127.6) heading into the weekend.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we still have a chance (for a winning season). We're 4-4 and there are three games left. I think we're still a good football team. We realize what's ahead of us. But it's a long season and we still have a shot at this bowl thing." -- Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, on what lies ahead.


LOOKING GOOD: Rutgers' aerial attack continues to fuel its otherwise run-of-the-mill offense. Quarterback Ryan Hart connected with eight different receivers en route to a 324-yard performance against West Virginia. Hart led the Big East with an average of 283.6 passing yards prior to the West Virginia game.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over four times against West Virginia and 14 times in the last three games. Hart has thrown nine interceptions in that stretch.

ROSTER REPORT: LG Brian Duffy (knee), OL Cameron Stephenson (ankle), WR Shawn Tucker (groin) and DBs Dondre Asberry (spine, neck), Manny Collins (head, face), Eddie Grimes (head, face) and Bryan Durango (knee) were not available for the West Virginia game. DT Gary Gibson sustained a knee injury in the first quarter and didn't return.



Senior running back Walter Reyes returned from a bout of the flu on Saturday and rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns as the Orange knocked off Connecticut 42-30 at the Carrier Dome.
With Reyes sidelined a week earlier and backup Damien Rhodes also limited by illness, Syracuse rushed for 66 total yards in a 27-6 loss at West Virginia. But with both in the lineup and healthy, the Orange rolled up 281 yards on the ground in the victory.

Quarterback Perry Paterson completed 11 of 19 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He found receiver Andre Fontenette for a 36-yard touchdown completion as time expired in the first half, giving his team a 21-20 lead.

Connecticut running back Cornell Brockington rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Dan Orlovsky threw for 445 yards and three scores, but the team fell to 0-2 on the road this season.
Syracuse's defense forced five turnovers in the victory. Now the Orange (4-4) must travel to Pittsburgh (5-2) for a crucial Big East contest on Saturday, before finishing the season on the road at Temple and Boston College.


GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Walter Reyes -- The senior returned from a nasty case of the flu to rush for 121 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's 42-30 victory over Connecticut.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Steve Gregory -- In his second game back from a thigh injury, Gregory led Syracuse with six receptions for 53 yards. He reeled in five catches in the West Virginia game a week earlier.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Give all the credit to Font. I just threw it up there. It was a big emotional lift. Connecticut came out firing and we just had to keep up with their scoring. It was a spark." -- Syracuse quarterback Perry Patterson, on his 36-yard touchdown pass to receiver Andre Fontenette that closed the first half.


LOOKING GOOD: When they're at full strength, Syracuse backs Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes form one of the top rushing tandems in the nation. Reyes rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns against Connecticut on Saturday, while Rhodes added 80.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Orange defense surrendered 566 yards to the Huskies, including 445 passing, but somehow allowed just 10 points in the second half.

ROSTER REPORT: Redshirt freshman fullback Breyone Evans replaced starter Greg Hanoian, who missed the game with an injured finger. ... True freshman quarterback Joe Fields came into the game for one snap in the third quarter. It was Fields' first appearance since starting the Cincinnati game on Sept. 18.



The bad news is Temple has lost 11 straight Big East games dating to last season. The good news is the Owls will get three chances to snap that streak in November, before they leave the league for good.
Coming off a bye week, Temple will face No. 15 West Virginia (7-1) on Saturday in Morgantown. The Owls suffered a 45-28 setback to the Mountaineers in 2003. Bobby Wallace's team will then close the 2004 season with home games against Syracuse and Boston College.

Though Wallace has called the season a disappointing one, he must look at the few positives. Walter Washington, a junior college transfer who started to see significant playing time during the second half of last season, has emerged as one of the conference's top quarterbacks.

The 6-2, 240-pound Washington has thrown for 1,588 yards and run for an additional 514. He has played a part in 16 touchdowns this season. Linebackers Troy Bennett and Rian Wallace have also made an impact with 73 and 69 tackles, respectively.

The season hasn't exactly gone according to plan and recruiting hasn't picked up as Temple (1-7) still looks for a conference to call home. While an independent schedule awaits next season, Wallace can only hope Temple's athletic administration finds a new league soon.


KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Walter Washington -- The junior amassed 360 yards of total offense and was responsible for four touchdowns in Temple's 45-31 loss at Connecticut on Oct. 23.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been knocked down a bunch and have gotten up. I'm very proud of these kids." -- Coach Bobby Wallace on the difficulties Temple has faced this season. The Owls have dropped five straight games.


LOOKING GOOD: Temple owns a perfect turnover margin. Though the Owls have given away 14 possessions, they have also forced 14 turnovers in eight games.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: QB Walter Washington needs some help on the offensive end. No receiver or running back has stepped up this season.

ROSTER REPORT: Temple coach Bobby Wallace said LB Rian Wallace's sprained ankle should heal in time for the West Virginia game on Nov. 6. DL Antwon Burton (foot) is out indefinitely.




The Mountaineers furthered their bid to win the Big East's automatic BCS invitation by handing Rutgers a 35-30 loss in Piscataway, N.J., on Saturday.

West Virginia, which has won three straight, will close its schedule with games against Temple, Boston College and Pittsburgh. The Mountaineers' only loss came at Virginia Tech (19-13) on Oct. 2.

Senior Rasheed Marshall isn't a prototypical quarterback, but his run first, throw second approach has been more than effective. Marshall rushed for 79 yards and completed 9 of 13 passes for 165 yards in the win over Rutgers.

Though West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez wasn't pleased with his team's performance (11 penalties for 107 yards), he was happy to leave Rutgers with a victory.

"I'm embarrassed by the penalties and lack of discipline," said Rodriguez, who has guided the Mountaineers to postseason appearances in two of his first three seasons. "All around, it wasn't a very good day for us. We were lucky to get out of here with a win."

Three Mountaineers -- Marshall, Kay-Jay Harris and Jason Colson -- are among the Big East's top 10 rushers. And despite his recent trouble with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (two against Rutgers), receiver Chris Henry has proven to be one of the league's best. He reeled in four passes for 119 yards and a touchdown last weekend.


GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Rasheed Marshall -- The senior rushed for 79 yards and a first-quarter touchdown in Saturday's 35-30 win over Rutgers. Marshall also completed 9 of 13 passes for 165 yards and two scores.

KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Dee McCann -- In addition to recording eight tackles, the junior forced and recovered a fumble. He also managed an interception in the win over Rutgers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told him it was embarrassing, flat out simple. You're embarrassing yourself, you're embarrassing the program and I didn't even see what happened. I don't need to see what happened." -- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, on the ejection of receiver Chris Henry for two conduct infractions.


LOOKING GOOD: The league's top rushing attack punished Rutgers for 267 yards on Saturday. Kay-Jay Harris, Jason Colson and Pernell Williams are all major threats on the ground. Coach Rich Rodriguez can run over the opposition with any of the three.

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: West Virginia leads the Big East in penalties and was whistled for 11 in the Rutgers game. Receiver Chris Henry cost the team 30 yards in unsportsmanlike conduct infractions.

ROSTER REPORT: CB Adam "Pac-man" Jones (ankle) missed the second half of the Rutgers game. ... Although Harris is the most heralded of West Virginia's three running backs, Colson has emerged as one of the best in the Big East. Colson rushed for 103 yards against Rutgers.

Scarlet Report Top Stories