A Big East team finally hit paydirt against a BCS conference team. Otherwise, however, dirt continued to be thrown on league teams.
West Virginia, the only Big East team ranked in both major polls, turned in an impressive performance against the ACC’s Maryland, now 2–1. After having to rally to rally to force overtime against Marshall, the Mountaineers cruised to a 31–17 win Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
West Virginia held a two-touchdown lead before the Terrapins had run four offensive plays, and the Mountaineers led 28–0 in the third quarter before Maryland got on the board. WVU, which hadn’t recorded a sack in its first two games, had eight against the Terrapins.
“Everybody was talking about how there were only four teams in the country that didn’t have a sack and we were one of them,” said WVU defensive end Bruce Irvin, a junior college transfer. “We knew what we could do. After that first sack, it was all downhill.”
West Virginia also held the Terps to minus 10 rushing yards. QB Geno Smith had four touchdown passes, while tailback Noel Devine ran for 131 yards.
The win lifted West Virginia to 3–0 with a showdown set for Saturday against 3–0 LSU Saturday in Baton Rouge.
Aside from WVU? Well, again, not much went right for the league. Syracuse did defeat Maine in the Carrier Dome by 38–14. But the Orange had trouble early with the Black Bears before taking a 17–14 lead into halftime. SU then scored 21 second-half points. QB Ryan Nassib had a career day, though, completing 19-of-28 passes for 260 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. Wideout Van Chew had seven receptions for 113 yards and a TD.
Perhaps more impressive was rebuilding Louisville’s loss to a Top 25 opponent three time zones away from home. A late comeback rally, however, fell through against Oregon State via an interception in Corvallis. Louisville had 453 yards of offense, but couldn’t contain Oregon State back Jacquizz Rodgers, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 132 yards.
Cincinnati began the weekend on an ugly note, falling victim to to NC State on national TV Thursday. Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson torched UC for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Cincy was whistled for 71 penalty yards. The Bearcats were, however, playing their third game in a 12-day span. They’ll need the extra couple of days of rest with Oklahoma visiting this Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Even uglier than Cincy’s performance, however, was that turned in by preseason darling Connecticut. Playing against a Temple team once booted from the league, the Huskies allowed a costly fumble return for a score to spark a 16–0 run. Connecticut went on to lose 30–16 in Philadelphia. The only high note was Husky tailback Jordan Todman ran for a career-high 192 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He leads the Big East in rushing, averaging 149.3 yards.
NC State 30, Cincinnati 19
Temple 30, Connecticut 16
West Virginia 31, Maryland 17
Oregon State 35, Louisville 28
Syracuse 38, Maine 14
The outlook for success may be bleak, but a few Big East teams have sparkling non-conference opportunities again this week.
On Thursday, preseason favorite Pittsburgh hosts Miami in a nationally televised game. Then, on Saturday, Oklahoma visits Cincinnati and WVU visits LSU.
Overall, the Big East is 4–9 against FBS opponents and 1–6 versus BCS conference teams.
A passing attack?
Under Rich Rodriguez, in the Pat White-Steve Slaton era, West Virginia was known for its running attack. There’s been a change of late though.
Although the Mountaineers still have Noel Devine — the Big East’s No. 2 rusher, averaging 118 yards — a passing attack has emerged. Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, in fact, leads the league in passing (266.7 yard average), pass efficiency (157.7) and total offense (271). Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Tavon Austin, Smith’s main target, leads the league in receptions per game (seven on average) and receiving yards per game (93.7). WVU’s Jock Sanders is second in receptions per game (6.3). And Smith’s former high school target, Stedman Bailey, is emerging.
“I think (Austin and Bailey) are really going to make defensive coordinators look at this offense differently,” Smith said. “A couple years ago, it was a run-based offense. Spread option. Now we’re developing a great passing game. I think it’s going to make game-planning hard for defensive coordinators.”
Tough time for Pitt’s Romeus
Pittsburgh’s standout defensive end Greg Romeus, last season’s co-Big East defensive player of the year, is going through what coach Dave Wannstedt called a “tough, tough time for him.”
Wannstedt said Romeus’ mother passed away on Sunday after a battle with cancer. The player also went through what was termed “successful back surgery.” The hope is Romeus can return for the last third of the season. Redshirt junior Brandon Lindsey will continue to fill in for Romeus.
Injuries and suspensions
Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead, battling a knee injury, played briefly against NC State, but didn’t carry the ball. On Monday, though, UC coach Butch Jones said Pead was fully recovered and will play this week against Oklahoma.
Rutgers running back Joe Martinek (ankle) missed three practices during his team’s off-week. “He’s coming around,” said RU coach Greg Schiano. “I don’t know if he’ll be ready to play (against North Carolina). It’ll be close.”
The swelling has gone down in the ankle of South Florida wideout Dontavia Bogan since the team’s loss to Florida. He may play this week against Western Kentucky.
WVU cornerback Brandon Hogan was on the sideline for his team’s win over Maryland after being suspended following a DUI charge. The Terrapins took advantage, burning his replacement, Pat Miller, for two long touchdowns.
Pitt’s Keith Coleman, meanwhile, faces a hearing this week on charges of aggravated assault, harassment and disorderly conduct after a fight. Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt says Coleman, a reserve offensive lineman, is suspended indefinitely. Pitt’s rushing offense is seventh among Big East teams.
Can’t get no...
Louisville coach Charlie Strong said his team “can’t take satisfaction” from losing to Oregon State 35–28, even though the Cardinals rallied from a 21-point deficit.
“It’s a loss,” he said. “What you look at is you hope you can gain something from this loss.”
What one can take is this: Louisville has weapons. QB Adam Froman accounted for three touchdowns and completed 22-of-38 passes for 288 yards. Wideout Doug Beaumont had game highs of nine receptions and 121 yards.
To say Cincinnati’s offense is struggling would be an understatement. The Bearcats are last in the Big East in rushing offense (117.7 average) and have allowed a staggering 15 sacks. The most allowed by any of the other seven league teams is five.
“Nobody’s pushing the panic button,” said UC coach Butch Jones. “Our loyalty to the program, everything is going to be challenged. But our kids have worked hard.”
Like Cincy, Rutgers’ offense has been struggling. The Scarlet Knights are last in the Big East in total offense and are one of the nation’s worst offenses, averaging 297 yards.
During the off-week, QB Tom Savage watched film with ex-RU QB Mike Teel. “We just sat back and talked about the games a bit,” Savage said. “I think it helped.”
RU coach Greg Schiano might start redshirt freshman guard Antwan Lowery instead of Caleb Ruch.
UConn just can’t
Connecticut returned eight offensive starters this season, but is averaging just 26 points after the loss to Temple. The Husky defense allowed 356 yards Saturday. Coach Randy Edsall on Monday said there might be changes, including at quarterback. Zach Frazer was 16-of-31 for 150 yards against Temple. Cody Endres is due to return from suspension.
“We’re looking at the quarterback position, as well as all positions,” Edsall said. “The biggest things we’re looking for is consistency and production at all positions.”
The Huskies play their second straight opponent from the Mid-American Conference Saturday when they host Buffalo.