Big East Recap Week 8
Though the Big East boasted only two matchups pitting conference teams against each other last week, the results of these two games cannot be underestimated. As October nears its conclusion, leaves continue to follow and temperatures plunge, the 2008 college football season has maintained the same frenetic pace of upsets from last year. While nationally, none of the nation's current top 3 was ranked in the top 10 to begin the season, the Big East has also experienced shakeup as an individual BCS conference. Some contenders, like South Florida and West Virginia, were knocked off their high horses early in the season and are now making fast recoveries. Other teams, such as Cincinnati and Connecticut, have fought the injury bug and looked to remain among the conference's elite this weekend.
Syracuse kicked off the weekend's action at high noon Saturday with another forgettable performance. Many thought they had turned the corner after playing close contests with both Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but this 45-13 drubbing at the hands of South Florida throws the ‘Cuse right back where they belong right now: in the Big East doghouse. Bulls QB Matt Grothe paced a balanced offensive attack, throwing for three touchdowns. He had an efficient day, completing nineteen of his 26 passes for 248 yards. The dual threat signal caller also ran in a second-quarter touchdown to give USF an eight-point halftime advantage. Unfortunately for ‘Cuse fans, Greg Robinson's squad was unable to muster a single point in the second half. After two straight performances of fifty plus minutes of solid football, this dismal effort where the team showed up for thirty minutes at most is a disappointing setback. The Orange averaged less than five yards a pass in the game, barely half of South Florida's average. While all three units seemed to regress for SU this weekend, the egg laid by Cam Dantley was perhaps most telling. He finished with just eleven pass completions on the day for a completion percentage of barely forty percent. SU gets a week off before they jump back into action, hosting Louisville. Those same Cardinals will host South Florida this coming weekend.
Speaking of Louisville, the Cardinals continue to work under the radar. They improved their record to 4-2 on the season, swatting Middle Tennessee State 42-23. MTSU jumped out to a two touchdown edge just nine minutes in, but the resilient Cardinals cut the deficit to 17-14 at the half before recording 28 unanswered points to put the game on ice. Louisville was able to dominate the game on the ground, getting a combined 228 yards and three touchdowns out of their two-headed rushing monster, Victor Anderson and Brock Bolen. MTSU shot themselves in the foot with ten penalties, but the Cardinals cancelled this out with two Hunter Cantwell interceptions. After finishing their out-of-conference slate with four wins and one loss, Louisville will look to re-establish itself as a Big East heavyweight when they host #16 South Florida this week.
Like Louisville, the Pittsburgh Panthers are another team looking to overcome a tough early season out-of-conference loss. Dave Wannstedt's club opened the season in the top 25 before promptly falling to Bowling Green in their first game. Since then, the Panthers have reeled off five consecutive wins and developed the conference's most fearsome 1-2 rushing combo. The Panthers got the job done this weekend, doubling up Navy 42-21. The Panthers ran for nearly 250 yards on the Midshipmen, getting standout performances from filth mongers LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Pitt scored early and often, putting up 35 points before the half on Navy. The game was never in serious doubt, despite two Bill Stull interceptions. Pitt finished an astounding 9 for 13 on third down conversions, and will look to improve on their #17 ranking when they host an upstart Rutgers squad next week.
Speaking of those Scarlet Knights, Greg Schiano's squad comes up with an epic gut check victory over a struggling UConn squad, 12-10. The Scarlet Knights get the winning margin when they tackle the nation's leading rusher, Donald Brown, in his own end zone late in the third quarter for a safety. The game was played relatively cleanly in terms of turnovers, as the teams combined to have zero. However, the wind wreaked havoc with the kicking game. UConn drove down the field trailing by two in the final moments, only to see Tony Ciaravino send the game-winning 42 yard attempt wide right. It was his third miss of the game and it ruined a solid day by backup QB Zach Frazer. Frazer performed admirably as a caretaker of the Huskies offense, as did his counterpart, Rutgers QB Mike Teel. While Rutgers will look to keep its momentum going when it travels to play a ranked Pittsburgh squad, UConn hopes to give Cincinnati its first loss in Big East play. The Huskies host the Bearcats next week in what should be another defensive battle.
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