Big East Week 10 Recap
If you blinked, you might've missed it. If you're like most of the national media, you buried West Virginia six feet under after their two September losses. However, Big East aficionados know better than to bury a team led by Pat White. The Mountaineers made an emphatic statement with a pummeling of UConn on the road and find themselves in the driver's seat for the Big East title. That and more to follow in this recap.
Before we get to West Virginia, let's start the week with another one of the Big East pre-season favorites. This one, however, has fallen far from grace after a fast start, eerily reminiscent of 2007. Yes, the South Florida Bulls are at it again with another late-season swoon. They take it on the chin 24-10 in Cincinnati. The two keys to the game health-wise that I mentioned in my preview both went against USF. Cincy's Tony Pike turned in a gutsy performance at quarterback, piling up 281 yards and a couple of touchdown tosses. Meanwhile, USF was without running back Mike Ford, though it seems this didn't slow them down as much as it could have. The team still averaged nearly five yards per rush against a stout Bearcats defense. However, it was the Bearcats secondary that again stole the honors. The heart and soul of Cincy's defense, the secondary played brilliantly all night. They forced Matt Grothe into numerous hurried throws into tight spaces. Grothe finished with no touchdowns and three interceptions through the air and an atrocious completion percentage well under fifty percent. Grothe had two chances to bring the Bulls back into the game (they never led) but misfired on two fourth down plays in the fourth quarter. A Cincinnati team greatly affected by the quarterback carousel over the last two weeks finished 5 for 10 on third down conversions after going 0 for 25 in their previous two games. While USF's title hopes appear shot, Cincinnati is still very much alive in the Big East. They could move into a tie for first place next week if they can topple West Virginia on the road.
Speaking of those ‘Eers, it was a tale of two cities…err, halves in East Hartford, Connecticut this weekend. WVU scored 28 points in the second half to erase a deficit. They would ultimately coast to a 35-13 victory. West Virginia started sluggishly for the second straight week but like last week, finished the game on a scoring frenzy. Pat White and Jock Sanders each had two touchdown runs and White also found Sanders for a short touchdown pass in a game where the Mountaineers dominated the clock and forced five turnovers. For the Huskies, Donald Brown (the nation's leading rusher) was held to a season low of 82 yards on the ground (less than half of his season average). However, only five of these came after halftime, as WVU struck quick and often in the waning moments of the third quarter. On the milestone watch, Pat White eclipsed two career milestones: 5,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards. UConn will get a week off to right the ship before traveling to the Carrier Dome to try to keep its slim hopes at a Big East title alive.
Pittsburgh may not have been able to do anything to hurt its Big East title chances this past weekend, but it sure did its part to help boost the conference's image. The Panthers come up with an impressive 36-33 come-from-behind victory that took four extra sessions to complete. LeSean McCoy didn't have to worry about putting on a costume for Halloween. He was just his usual other-worldly self in this one; the sophomore finished with 169 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. While Pitt turned the ball over three times (courtesy of three Pat Bostick interceptions), the Panthers were a perfect 3 for 3 on fourth down conversions, as they rallied to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter. Pitt used a balanced attack to come back in this one, which like the West Virginia-UConn game, was a tale of two halves. Dave Wannstedt, who afterwards praised his team for "never coming unglued", further cemented his reputation as a sound halftime motivator. On the Irish side of the ball, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd both finished with over 100 yards of receiving, as Jimmy Clausen continues to mature into the quarterback that Notre Dame recruited him to be. Pitt is back in action at high noon on Saturday, as they host a disappointed Louisville squad in what's shaping up to be a huge trap game.
Speaking of those Cardinals…yes, the Orange victimized them for the second consecutive year in the Dome on Saturday night, in case you hadn't heard yet. A couple of storylines ran concurrently through the entire game. SU had many unknown players step into the limelight (Da'Mon Merkerson, Antwon Bailey), while Louisville seemed to have switched shoes with the ‘Cuse. The Cardinals with numerous uncharacteristic pass drops and personal fouls in the game that helped SU's cause. The scoreboard read 28-21 at the end, but this game should only represent a minor roadblock for the Cards, who appear to be on the rebound after struggling mightily last season. For SU, it's a port in the storm, but only time will tell if it's the game that turns the tide. Looking inside the box score, the Cardinals finished with eight penalties and two turnovers, two categories they could ill afford to let SU win in a hostile environment. Though the Dome may no longer be hostile, all 32,000 in attendance (okay, stop with that crock of bologna…we all know there weren't 32,000 there, so please don't try to tell us this…it makes us feel stupid) were just waiting for any excuse to cheer and SU gave them many reasons to, showing miles and miles of heart Saturday night to get a crucial win for their beleaguered coach, G-Rob.
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