Around the Big East

Looking ahead to the upcoming weekend's action in the Big East conference

Among other things, Eagles coach Tom O'Brien hopes to uncover and fix problems associated with his team's stalled rushing attack during this bye week.

Although Boston College pulled out a 24-23 victory over Notre Dame on the road last weekend and is in the process of positioning itself to secure a sixth consecutive bowl invitation, O'Brien is far from satisfied.

"We have to get the running game back going," O'Brien said. "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."

Three Boston College running backs -- A.J. Brooks, Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth -- have rushed for 100 or more yards in games this season. But the Eagles were held to a season-low 56 rushing yards in a 20-17 loss at Pittsburgh two weeks ago and to just 62 at Notre Dame.

Boston College owns the Big East's fourth-ranked rushing offense (148.0 ypg.).

"It's everybody involved," O'Brien said. "From the line to the fullback to the tailback to the quarterback. It's everybody. We have to get everybody on the same page."

On a more positive note, senior quarterback Paul Peterson completed 27 of 41 passes for a career-high 383 yards in beating the Irish. Peterson also hit receiver Tony Gonzalez on a 30-yard scoring pass with 54 seconds remaining in the game.

Boston College (5-2) will return to action on Nov. 6 when it hosts Rutgers (4-3).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Boston College amassed 445 yards of total offense in Saturday's 24-23 win at Notre Dame, but only 62 yards on the ground. The Eagles' rushing offense is still ranked fourth in the Big East (148.0 ypg.), but clearly needs a boost. The passing game has been on point lately, averaging 257.3 yards under the leadership of QB Paul Peterson.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Big East's top-ranked defense has surrendered just 10 touchdowns (13.1 ppg.). Opponents are averaging 284.0 yards per game against the Eagles. DE Mathias Kiwanuka leads the league in tackles for loss (11) and has recorded five sacks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think it's a good sign. I think it's an increasingly -- every year -- tougher and tougher atmosphere for college coaches." -- Boston College's Tom O'Brien, on the dismissal of Florida coach Ron Zook and his staff on Monday.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: After a bye week, Boston College (5-2) will return to action on Nov. 6, when it hosts Rutgers (4-3).

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Paul Peterson -- The Big East Offensive Player of the Week passed for a career-high 383 yards in the Eagles' 24-23 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday. 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. WR Larry Lester -- The junior caught eight passes for 111 yards against Notre Dame. After injuring his knee on the first play of Boston College's first scrimmage in August, Lester has returned to full strength.

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.

Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, who graduated from Syracuse in 1980, has only one thing in mind for homecoming this weekend.

"We're coming up to win a game," Edsall said. "There's nothing sentimental for me."

The Huskies (5-2), who have won three of their last four, will travel to Syracuse (3-4) on Saturday for a game that could go a long way toward determining each team's postseason future. Connecticut currently occupies fourth place in the Big East standings, while Syracuse is fifth.

Edsall's team is coming off a 45-31 win over Temple on Saturday. Senior quarterback Dan Orlovsky completed 18 of 29 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. He is Connecticut's new record holder for career touchdown passes with 74.

Sophomore tailback Cornell Brockington, the Big East's leading rusher (110.1 ypg.), contributed 181 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. He has failed to reach the 100-yard plateau only once in six career starts.

The only hurdle standing between Connecticut and a bowl invitation could be its difficult schedule. After playing six of their first seven games at friendly Rentschler Field in East Hartford, the Huskies must travel to Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Rutgers in the next five weeks.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Senior QB Dan Orlovsky leads the Big East's second-ranked pass offense (276.9 ypg.). Orlovsky has thrown for 14 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in seven games. Wideouts Jason Williams and Keron Henry are ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, for receiving yardage.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Huskies own the league's third-ranked scoring (20.4 ppg.) and total (326.0 ypg.) defense. Connecticut is ranked first in pass defense (180.4 ypg.), due in large part to the play of senior CB Justin Perkins. Perkins has managed three interceptions.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He wants to do so much. He wants to gain every yard he can on every play. We have to tell him that sometimes it's better to go down instead of fighting for that extra yard." -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, on the play of sophomore tailback Cornell Brockington. The Big East's leading rusher fumbled twice in a win over Temple on Saturday.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: UConn at Syracuse, Oct. 30 -- Connecticut (5-2) will travel to Syracuse (3-4) for a game that could determine each team's postseason future. The Huskies and Orange have never met on the gridiron.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Cornell Brockington -- The leading rusher in the Big East delivered 181 yards and two touchdowns in Connecticut's win over Temple. He rushed for a 61-yard touchdown in the first quarter. LB Alfred Fincher -- The senior recorded 13 tackles and broke up three passes against Temple. Fincher leads the conference with 90 tackles and has added two sacks.

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.

Narrow victories over I-AA Furman and lowly Temple, in addition to a loss at Connecticut, left Panthers coach Walt Harris on the "hot seat" two weeks ago. But a win over Boston College and Saturday's 41-17 thrashing of Rutgers have Pittsburgh suddenly contending for a Big East championship.

"I think a lot of people just got down on us," Harris said.

"I think the reason we probably weren't playing as well as people expected was we were so young. We had 10 new starters on offense."

With four games remaining -- Syracuse, Notre Dame, West Virginia and South Florida -- the Panthers are in second place in the Big East. And if junior quarterback Tyler Palko continues to improve, there's no telling what Pittsburgh might accomplish this season.

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 the win over Rutgers.

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.

The Panthers (5-2) will take the week off before heading to Syracuse (3-4) on Nov. 6.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Pittsburgh's pass offense has steadily improved throughout the season. QB Tyler Palko threw for 318 yards in Saturday's 41-17 win over Rutgers. Two receivers -- Joe DelSardo and Greg Lee -- managed 102 receiving yards.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: A week after limiting Boston College to 56 rushing yards, Pittsburgh did the same to Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights amassed the exact same total on 22 carries. Pittsburgh owns the league's second-ranked run defense (109.4 ypg.), behind Boston College.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Tom O'Brien has done an excellent job playing Notre Dame. We should probably invite him and his staff down to help us." -- Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris on his team's Nov. 13 matchup with the Irish. O'Brien and Boston College have beaten Notre Dame in four straight meetings.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: The Panthers (5-2) will take the week off before heading to Syracuse (3-4) on Nov. 6.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Joe DelSardo -- The 5-8 former walk-on burned Rutgers for eight catches and 102 receiving yards. DelSardo reeled in touchdown passes of 18 and 17 yards in the first half. LB Josh Lay -- The junior returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown in Saturday's win. He also broke up three passes and was credited with four tackles. The Panthers only surrendered 56 rushing yards.

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said that he considered replacing quarterback Ryan Hart during Saturday's 41-27 loss at Pittsburgh, but ultimately decided his team couldn't win without the junior on the field.

Battling a stomach illness, Hart completed 31 of 57 passes for 351 yards, but was intercepted four times. The junior also fumbled away a possession in the second quarter.

"He's had two games in a row where he's turned the ball over and it's definitely an issue that has to be addressed," Schiano said. "We have to get that corrected. He's a productive quarterback who does things well, but that can be negated when you turn the ball over."

Hart has accounted for nine turnovers in Rutgers' last two games. The Scarlet Knights managed a 16-6 home victory over Temple on Oct. 16, and then dropped the crucial decision at Pittsburgh.

Rutgers (4-3) now finds itself on the outside of the bowl picture looking in. The Scarlet Knights had hoped to reach the postseason for the first time since 1978, but instead look to be headed for another disappointing finish.

Rutgers' final four opponents own a combined 22-6 record. The Scarlet Knights must win at least two games to be considered for a bowl invitation. The brutal stretch begins on Saturday when No. 15 West Virginia (6-1) visits Rutgers Stadium.

In their last trip to New Jersey in 2002, the Mountaineers handed the Scarlet Knights a 40-0 loss.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Rutgers' rushing offense, which is ranked 112th nationally, continues to struggle. FB Brian Leonard managed 78 yards in Saturday's loss at Pittsburgh, but he was the only back who carried the ball. The Scarlet Knights, however, lead the league in passing at 290.6 yards per game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The secondary has been a weak link throughout the campaign. Rutgers is ranked 107th in pass defense (270.6). The Scarlet Knights lead the league with 27 sacks. DE Ryan Neill has reached the quarterback six times.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have taken one step at a time to put things together. I don't think the Pitt game is a blowup or something like that. It's a setback because we had an opportunity to be 5-2, but we're 4-3." -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, on his team's mindset after Saturday's 41-17 loss at Pittsburgh.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: West Virginia at Rutgers -- The Mountaineers have outscored the Scarlet Knights 154-26 in the teams' last three meetings and is coming off a 27-6 win over Syracuse. Rutgers dropped a 41-31 decision at Syracuse on Oct. 2. The Scarlet Knights are 3-1 at home this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Tres Moses -- The senior tri-captain has managed 100 or more receiving yards in three of Rutgers' last four games. He reeled in 12 receptions for 113 yards in Saturday's loss at Pittsburgh. Moses also scored his first touchdown of the season on a fade route. He is fourth nationally in receptions per game (7.7). PK Jeremy Ito -- The true freshman has drilled five consecutive field goals and tied his career-best effort with a 48-yarder at Pittsburgh. Ito has connected on 13 of 19 attempts.

ROSTER REPORT: DB Bryan Durango (knee) will probably miss the remainder of the season. DBs Dondre Asberry (spine, neck), Eddie Grimes (head, face) and Manny Collins (head, face), who were involved in a car accident on Oct. 16, won't be available this week. LB Berkeley Hutchinson (shoulder), OL Cameron Stephenson (ankle), WR Shawn Tucker (groin) and OL Jeremy Zuttah (knee) are questionable.

Senior tailback Walter Reyes' participation streak of 42 straight games was snapped last Thursday when a bad case of the flu caused him to miss Syracuse's 27-6 loss at West Virginia.

Not only was Reyes unavailable, but backup tailback Damien Rhodes was also hindered by the illness. The Orange rushed for 66 yards in defeat.

"It really hurt us," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "Not only did it hurt us, but Damien was a step away from the same thing. You can't go into a game like that at their place missing 50 percent of your one-two punch."

Pasqualoni made no excuses for his team's poor performance. The Orange (3-4) moved the ball inside the Mountaineers' 25-yard line five times, but scored only once. Special teams missed two field goals and an extra point.

Pasqualoni, however, chose to look on the bright side. Each of Syracuse's four losses have come against teams -- West Virginia, Purdue, Virginia and Florida State -- ranked among the nation's top 15.

The Orange will host Connecticut (5-2) on Saturday for the first time in school history.

"Connecticut is a very experienced team, a very senior team," Pasqualoni said. "To me, they appear to have that leadership and type of chemistry you'd hope to get with that kind of experience."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Perry Paterson needs to improve for Syracuse to finish better than .500 this season. The 6-4, 250-pound sophomore has thrown for three touchdowns against five interceptions. Running backs Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes have been dominant at times, but without a passing game Syracuse isn't likely to reach the postseason for the third straight year.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Orange will field the league's last-ranked run defense against Connecticut (196.6 ypg.). Bear in mind, Huskies tailback Cornell Brockington leads the conference in rushing. Syracuse has surrendered 25.9 points per game -- fifth in the Big East. Keep an eye on LB Jerry Mackey, who has recorded 55 tackles and one sack.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The ACC is finding out what it's like to have Miami in their conference. They all have high aspirations until the game is over." -- Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, on the departure of former Big East member Miami to the ACC.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: UConn at Syracuse, Oct. 30 -- The Orange will host Connecticut in the teams' first meeting ever. The Huskies are coming off a 45-31 victory over Temple. Syracuse's fourth-ranked pass defense (212.3 ypg.) will have to limit Connecticut's second-ranked pass offense (276.9 ypg.) to have a chance in this one.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: SS Diamond Ferri -- For the second straight game, the senior forced and recovered a fumble on the same play. He also had a team-high 13 tackles against West Virginia. Ferri leads the Big East in kick return yardage (29.6). RB Walter Reyes -- The senior missed last week's game against West Virginia with the flu, but is expected to return against Connecticut. Reyes is averaging 92.7 rushing yards per game -- third in the Big East.

ROSTER REPORT: WR Steven Gregory (thigh), who had missed four games, returned to catch five passes at West Virginia. FB Stephen McDonald (knee) is out indefinitely.

Owls coach Bobby Wallace is disappointed, but he hasn't reached the point of giving up just yet. Temple, which has lost 11 straight Big East games, suffered a 45-31 setback at Connecticut on Saturday.

As far as Wallace is concerned, this week's bye has arrived at the perfect time.

"I think this is really the first time in a while we've had an open date this late in the season, which to me is good," Wallace said. "If it was earlier in the season we'd be practicing a lot. But we want to get some people rested."

Temple held an edge over Connecticut in first downs (23-20), passing yards (270-260), total plays (85-83) and time of possession (33:46-26:14), but couldn't overcome a 31-7 halftime deficit.

Junior quarterback Walter Washington was responsible for each of the Owls' four touchdowns -- two rushing, two passing. Washington amassed 360 yards of total offense and leads the Big East with 10 rushing touchdowns. Temple (1-7) will return to action on Nov. 6 at No. 15 West Virginia (6-1).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: As usual, QB Walter Washington carried Temple's offense in a 45-31 loss at Connecticut. The junior amassed 360 yards of total offense and played a part in each of Temple's four touchdowns. The Owls' numbers continue to improve -- second in the league in rushing (157.6 ypg.) and fifth in passing (219.1 ypg.) -- but the results have not translated to the scoreboard.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Owls are ranked last in scoring (37.4 ppg.) and total (440.9 ypg.) defense. LB Rian Wallace is the Big East's third-leading tackler with 69.

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.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Temple (1-7) will take the week off before traveling to No. 15 West Virginia (6-1) on Nov. 6.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: 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 Saturday. Washington leads the Big East with 10 rushing touchdowns. LB Rian Wallace -- The junior recorded a team-best nine tackles before leaving the Connecticut game with a sprained ankle midway through the fourth quarter. Wallace ranks 12th all-time at Temple with 293 stops.

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

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