Conference Play to Conclude With Big Finish

<b>The Big East's Champion has yet to be determined, and with several big conference games on tap this week, we should know who stands where, soon. </b>



Boston College moved one step closer to securing its first BCS bid on Saturday by beating Temple, 34-17, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The No. 19 Eagles (8-2) will end the regular season against Syracuse this weekend, and can grab the berth outright with a win.

Redshirt freshman running back L.V. Whitworth rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, which moved Boston College into a first-place tie with No. 21 West Virginia in the Big East standings.

The Mountaineers need to beat rival Pittsburgh on Thursday and have the Eagles lose to claim the automatic BCS invitation.
"It's what we've worked for all year," Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said. "We've put ourselves in great position. Now, we've got to win that game."

The Eagles will, however, face Syracuse without senior quarterback Paul Peterson, who left late in the first half with a broken right hand. Peterson, who has passed for 2,358 yards and 16 touchdowns, could be available for a bowl game.  Freshman Matt Ryan replaced Peterson and completed 8 of 15 attempts for 121 yards and a touchdown. 


GAME BALL GOES TO: RB L.V. Whitworth -- The redshirt freshman rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries against Temple.  Whitworth was coming off an 84-yard performance in the win over West Virginia on Nov. 13.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Larry Lester -- The junior reeled in five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown at Temple. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have our fate in our hands." -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, regarding his team's march to the BCS. 


LOOKING GOOD: Boston College owns the Big East's top-ranked scoring defense, allowing 13.6 ppg. The Eagles limited Temple to a pair of meaningless passing touchdowns in the second half. 

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Not much. Even the Eagles' struggling ground game got untracked against Temple. RB L.V. Whitworth rushed for 151 yards and Boston College finished with 183 on the ground. 

ROSTER REPORT: QB Paul Peterson broke his right hand and is sidelined indefinitely. Backup Matt Ryan, a freshman, will start against Syracuse on Saturday.



The Huskies became bowl eligible in their first season as Big East members thanks to a 29-0 victory over Buffalo at home on Saturday. Connecticut (6-4) will close the regular season at Rutgers (4-6) on Thursday. 

Playing in his final game at Rentschler Field, senior quarterback Dan Orlovsky passed for 283 yards, and sophomore tailback Cornell Brockington added 136 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

The Huskies were bowl-eligible last season, but didn't receive an invitation. With four bowl tie-ins guaranteed to Big East teams -- and a host of other games looking for at-large participants -- Connecticut is likely headed toward the postseason.

"To be able to ensure a winning season, to be bowl-eligible for the second time in two years and to ensure a .500 season or better for the first time in three years as a Division I school is a hell of an accomplishment for this senior class and this program," Huskies coach Randy Edsall said.

Connecticut opened up a 22-0 third-quarter advantage and registered its first shutout of the season. Buffalo managed just 96 yards in defeat. 


GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Dan Orlovsky -- The senior completed 28 of 38 pass attempts for 283 yards and a touchdown in his final home game. Orlovsky found nine different receivers and went over the 10,000-yard mark in career passing yardage.

KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Justin Perkins -- The senior managed his 11th career interception against Connecticut, which moved him into sixth place on the Huskies' all-time list. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want to thank the fans for the job they've done here over the past four years. They've helped us and helped establish the relationship we've built with them. It was my last time here and it was nice to go out in that kind of style of win." -- Connecticut's Orlovsky, on playing his last game at Rentschler Field. 


LOOKING GOOD: Connecticut's secondary allowed Buffalo to complete just 4 of 21 pass attempts for 35 yards in a 29-0 victory on Saturday. The Huskies' pass defense is ranked first in the Big East (171.1 ypg.).

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Huskies converted just 4 of 16 third-down opportunities against Buffalo. Connecticut has converted 50 of 146 attempts on the season (34 percent).

ROSTER REPORT: DE Tyler King (broken leg) is sidelined indefinitely.



During the Panthers' bye week, focus turned to Thursday's "Backyard Brawl" rivalry game against No. 21 West Virginia. 

The Panthers (6-3) have won four of their last five games and are coming off a dramatic 41-38 road victory over Notre Dame. Place-kicker Josh Cummings connected on a 32-yard field goal with one second remaining to lift Pittsburgh past the Irish in South Bend, Ind., for the first time since 1986.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Palko has been instrumental in the Panthers' rise this season. The Co-Big East Offensive Player of the Week became the first player to throw five touchdown passes against Notre Dame.

He completed 26 of 42 attempts for 334 yards and didn't throw an interception. Palko is averaging 248.9 yards per game -- third in the Big East -- and has managed 18 touchdown passes.

It's no surprise that wideout Greg Lee, Palko's favorite target, leads the league in receiving yards per game (103.0).

After losing two of their first four games, the Panthers are in the hunt for one of the conference's four guaranteed bowl invitations. Following its date with West Virginia (8-2), Pittsburgh will face South Florida to end the regular season on Dec. 4. 


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Pittsburgh's passing attack has proven to be one of the league's best this season. The Panthers are averaging 253.7 yards through the air -- third in the Big East. Tyler Palko and Greg Lee have formed a surprisingly dangerous quarterback-receiver connection. 

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Panthers' pass defense is ranked last in the seven-team Big East. Pittsburgh allows an average of 264.9 yards, and has yielded 17 touchdowns. This could prove fatal with West Virginia WR Chris Henry coming to town. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There is no such thing as over-hype when it comes to this game. This is the biggest game of the year for us, the most important one on our schedule every year. This one cannot be over-hyped. We have to do our job, a better job than we've done the past two years, though." -- Coach Walt Harris, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, regarding Pittsburgh's rivalry with West Virginia. 


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Pittsburgh (6-3) will host No. 21 West Virginia (8-2) on Thursday in the "Backyard Brawl" at Heinz Field. The Mountaineers have won two straight over the Panthers in a series that dates to 1895.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tyler Palko -- The junior completed 26 of 42 passes for 334 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-38 win over Notre Dame on Nov. 13. He is the Big East's third-rated quarterback and is averaging 248.9 passing yards per game.

WR Greg Lee -- The Big East's leading receiver reeled in five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Irish.

ROSTER REPORT: DE Azzie Beagnyam (ankle) will miss the remainder of the season.



With their season on the line, the Scarlet Knights flopped in spectacular fashion at Navy on Saturday. The Midshipmen rushed for a season-high 476 yards and six touchdowns en route to a 54-21 home victory.

Had Rutgers beaten Navy, they would've had a chance to finish better than .500 for the first time in 12 years. Instead, Thursday's game against Big East foe Connecticut (6-4) has been reduced to a meaningless finale.

The Scarlet Knights will endure their 12th consecutive losing season after opening the campaign with a 4-2 record. Rutgers (4-6) could drop its last five games.

"I'm surprised (by the loss), but you can't do nothing about it now," said wide receiver Tres Moses, who reeled in six passes for 121 yards. "I thought we came ready to play. But we got on the field and it got bad real quick."

Navy led 40-7 at halftime and scored 47 unanswered points at one point. Rutgers added two fourth-quarter scores to soften the disparity.


GAME BALL GOES TO: TE Clark Harris -- The junior caught nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 54-21 defeat at Navy. Harris, a John Mackey Award candidate, has caught 49 passes for 664 yards this season. 

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Tres Moses -- The senior caught six passes for 121 yards against Navy and set Rutgers' single-season record for receptions (74). Moses has reeled in 62 passes for 780 yards in the past seven games. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'd probably say this is my toughest (loss). We had so much that we could've done. After this, it kind of changes your whole perspective on things." -- WR Tres Moses, on Saturday's loss at Navy.


LOOKING GOOD: The Scarlet Knights accomplished very little at Navy on Saturday. WR Tres Moses (six catches, 121 yards) and TE Clark Harris (nine catches, 116) turned in positive performances. Even Rutgers' defense, which entered the game with a Big East-leading 31 sacks, failed to reach Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco (although, of course, Navy doesn't pass much).

NEEDS SOME WORK: Rutgers' defense played as if it had never seen an option attack before. Navy rolled up a season-high 613 yards, 476 of which came on the ground. The Midshipmen scored six rushing touchdowns. And to think, Rutgers had two weeks to prepare.

ROSTER REPORT: WR Shawn Tucker (groin) will miss the remainder of the season. TE Sam Johnson (concussion) is questionable for the Connecticut game and LB Berkeley Hutchinson has left the team for personal reasons. ... Sophomore QB Terrence Shawell replaced starter Ryan Hart on two occasions at Navy. He completed 6 of 12 pass attempts for 126 yards and one touchdown. 



One question remains for Syracuse. Will the Orange be without running back Walter Reyes on Saturday when they face No. 19 Boston College in a game that will determine postseason eligibility?

Reyes, the Big East's second-leading rusher (100.0 ypg.), missed the Temple game on Nov. 13 with a shoulder injury. He is listed as questionable.
Syracuse (5-5) has played four ranked teams this season, and clearly improved along the way. But that won't matter much if the Orange fail to reach the postseason for the third consecutive year.

It has been suggested that coach Paul Pasqualoni is on the hot seat, and closing the season with losses to Temple and Boston College (8-2) won't do much to help his cause.

The Orange have produced impressive wins -- a 41-31 come-from-behind victory over Rutgers and a 38-31 double-overtime decision against Pittsburgh -- but only their final record will mean anything.

Syracuse managed a 39-14 win over Boston College in 2003. The Orange, however, have won just two of the six games they have played in November over the last two seasons. 


KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Damien Rhodes -- Filling in for injured starter Walter Reyes, the junior rushed for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Temple on Nov. 13. It marked Rhodes' second straight 100-yard game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We need to win. It's probably the biggest game of the season and if my arm's not falling off, I'm going to give it a go. I have to. I've got to be there for my coaches and teammates." -- RB Walter Reyes, regarding his availability for Saturday's game against Boston College.


LOOKING GOOD: RB Damien Rhodes (200 yards) bolstered Syracuse's ground game in the absence of injured starter Walter Reyes in a loss to Temple on Nov. 13. The Orange finished with 235 rushing yards and are ranked second in the league with a 178.5-yard average. 

STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Syracuse's run defense has one more opportunity to show improvement against Boston College this weekend. The Orange are ranked sixth in the seven-team league and have allowed 13 touchdowns on the ground. 

ROSTER REPORT: RB Walter Reyes (shoulder) missed the Temple game and is questionable for Boston College on Saturday.



The Owls limped to a disappointing 2-9 finish, but scored one upset before leaving the Big East. Temple snapped a six-game losing streak on Nov. 13 by edging Syracuse 34-24.

The Owls, who were voted out of the league two years ago, will play an independent schedule in 2005. The ouster has been a source of discontent for coach Bobby Wallace, but at least he had the last laugh.

Temple, however, will finish last in the conference standings for the second straight season.

Junior quarterback Walter Washington grabbed headlines for most of the season. The 6-2, 240-pound junior college transfer, set the league's rushing record for quarterbacks this season. He passed for 2,207 yards and played a part in 25 touchdowns.

"I almost forget to mention him because we take him for granted," Wallace said.

Temple's football future is uncertain, but at least it has a marquee player at one position. But one question remains. Can Washington lead this soon-to-be independent team out of college football's basement? 


GAME OF THE YEAR: The Owls, who had posted a disappointing 13-68 record in Big East play since 1993, scored a victory over Syracuse in their next-to-last conference game. QB Walter Washington rushed for 185 yards and passed for an additional 130 in Temple's only Big East win of the year. 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: QB Walter Washington -- Not only did the junior break the Big East's career rushing record for quarterbacks, he also delivered in the pocket. The 6-2, 240-pound Washington rushed for 889 yards, passed for 2,207 and played a part in 25 touchdowns ... all while getting little help from his teammates.

RAPID REVIEW: Temple played the part of conference doormat this season, but scored a surprise victory over Syracuse on Nov. 13. The Owls opened with big losses to Virginia (44-14) and Maryland (45-22), but bested I-AA representative Florida A&M 38-7 in Week 3. Temple also gave Pittsburgh a game at home, but eventually dropped a 27-22 decision. 

FAST FORWARD: Temple played its final game in the Big East on Nov. 20 -- a 34-17 loss to Boston College -- and will have an independent schedule in 2005. The Owls were voted out of the league two years ago. According to coach Bobby Wallace, a committee is in the process of determining the school's future in athletics. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We finally put one away. ... It was very satisfying. I'm very proud of our players for continuing to fight." -- Coach Bobby Wallace, on Temple's 34-24 victory over Syracuse on Nov. 13.


PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Walter Washington -- The 6-2, 240-pound junior could be one the nation's most exciting players next year. He continues to develop and can virtually do what he wants in the Owls' offensive system. Washington will never be a prototypical pocket passer, but his approach has worked, even though Temple's record may not show it. 

LB Rian Wallace -- The 6-4, 245-pound junior recorded a team-best 101 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. Even though he missed one game for disciplinary reasons, Wallace proved to be one of the league's top linebackers. He even managed one interception. INJURY IMPACT: DL Antwon Burton (foot) missed the entire season. But injuries didn't play a significant role in Temple's struggles.



Following a disappointing 36-17 home loss to Boston College on Nov. 13, the No. 21 Mountaineers' attention immediately turned to the "Backyard Brawl" against rival Pittsburgh on Thursday.

West Virginia may have given away its shot at the Big East's automatic BCS berth to the Eagles, but there is still much to play for. The Mountaineers have beaten the Panthers in consecutive seasons.

West Virginia (8-2), however, may have to play without running back Kay-Jay Harris. The senior is averaging 91.1 rushing yards per game -- third in league -- but is nursing a sprained knee.

Senior quarterback Rasheed Marshall will have to compensate for Harris' loss, but that shouldn't be an issue. Marshall has thrown for 1,610 yards, rushed for an additional 686 and played a part in 22 touchdowns this season. He also leads the Big East in pass efficiency.
West Virginia worked out in full pads on Wednesday and Thursday, took Friday off and returned to practice on Saturday and Sunday. 


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: West Virginia leads the league in rushing yards per game (258.3). Three Mountaineers -- Kay-Jay Harris (91.1), Jason Colson (64.3) and Rasheed Marshall (68.6) -- are among the Big East's top 10 rushers.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: West Virginia's defense limited Boston College to just 243 yards in a 36-17 loss two weeks ago. The Eagles managed two offensive touchdowns. The Mountaineers own the league's second-ranked scoring (20.0 ppg.) and third-ranked total (330.6 ypg.) defense. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was pretty wild. They had Dan Marino and Bill Fralic. We got after each other. When we played, Pitt was a four-letter word." -- West Virginia coach and former Mountaineer Rich Rodriguez, in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, comparing the current West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry to when he played. 


THIS WEEK'S GAME: No. 21 West Virginia (8-2) will face rival Pittsburgh (6-3) on Thursday in the "Backyard Brawl" at Heinz Field. The Mountaineers have won two straight over the Panthers in a series that dates to 1895.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Rasheed Marshall -- The senior completed 21 of 35 pass attempts for 224 yards in a loss to Boston College on Nov. 13. He also rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries and played a part in both West Virginia touchdowns. Marshall broke West Virginia's all-time mark for touchdown responsibility, surpassing Ira Rodgers' (1915-1919) record of 66. 

WR Chris Henry -- The sophomore broke West Virginia's record for touchdown receptions in a season when he scored his 12th against Boston College. He caught eight balls for 118 yards.

ROSTER REPORT: RB Kay-Jay Harris (sprained knee) and TE Ryan Thomas (sprained knee) are doubtful for the Pittsburgh game. WR Eddie Jackson (sprained knee) is probable.

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