Big East Recap Week 6
Just when you think you know everything there is to know about college football, the world gets flipped upside down. The Big East's two top teams suffered surprising defeats this week, leaving the Big East a wide-open race for the coveted BCS berth.
South Florida started out the week by playing a clunker of a ballgame at home against Pitt, falling 26-21. While USF only showed up for sporadic stretches of the game, this contest was more about the Panthers continuing the process of coming of age. The Panthers trailed 7-0 midway through the fourth quarter after having a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Dave Wannstedt and his coaching staff stuck with their plans, however, and pounded the Bulls' defense into submission with their potent ground attack. Pitt possessed the ball for over 36 minutes and used a balanced offensive attack to set up some deep passes by Pitt QB Bill Stull, most notably his 52-yard toss to Jonathan Baldwin less than two minutes after USF drew first blood in the game. Despite two turnovers, Pitt never seemed to lose control of the game. They did trail briefly in the fourth quarter, but again quickly struck for the lead again. LeSean McCoy finished with 142 yards and his second touchdown run of the game sealed the deal for the Big East's new fastest rising team. (Of course all that means is that they'll probably get knocked off in the near future).
Another of the Big East's up-and-coming teams rounded out its non-conference schedule in style this week. The Cincinnati Bearcats put in an efficient performance, laying the smackdown on Marshall 33-10. Their vaunted secondary was at it again, as the ballhawks recorded three interceptions to alleviate some of the pressure on freshman quarterback Chazz Anderson. Anderson finished with three total touchdowns (two if by air, one if by ground), but didn't have to do a whole lot to guide his team. The Bearcats got a safety for the lone scoring of the first quarter and scored the game's first sixteen points by the midway point of the second quarter. Cincy was able to spread the ball out on the ground, totaling over two hundred yards and giving three tailbacks at least eight carries apiece. John Goebel punched in a 21-yard touchdown for the Bearcats, who have gelled as a team and could very well find themselves playing in January this season.
West Virginia looked to play itself back into the Big East title race when it hosted Rutgers on Saturday. The Mountaineers would accomplish this, winning 24-17, but not without some cost. Quarterback Pat White accumulated nearly two hundred total yards and two touchdowns before leaving with an injury in the third quarter. He did not return to the game, but will (unfortunately) be ready and raring to go against Syracuse this weekend. The Mountaineers played a clean, fundamentally-sound game, letting their running game dictate the tempo. They held the ball for nearly 35 minutes and committed just three penalties. The Mountaineers also did not turn the ball over, in part because they ran the ball a whopping fifty times!
No matter how many times UConn ran the ball this weekend, it wouldn't have mattered. The Huskies were battered 38-12 by North Carolina in the battle of under-the-radar programs being piloted by backup quarterbacks. UConn thoroughly outplayed the Tar Heels, but found itself undone by eleven penalties and three costly interceptions from Zach Frazer. The Huskies didn't lose many categories on the stat sheet, holding the ball for over 36 minutes and racking up nearly four hundred yards of offense. Butch Davis's squad finished with one defensive and special teams touchdown apiece and tallied over twenty yards on each of their three interception returns. While UNC is looking skyward (darkhorse ACC contenders, anyone?), UConn will likely be involved in many grind ‘em out games in Big East play. Tyler Lorenzen can't come back soon enough for the Huskies, who seemed to crumble in the national spotlight without their vocal leader.
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