Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
UConn, Edsall need to win one more to claim the Big East Crown.
At the beginning of the season, Connecticut was looked upon as a dark horse to win the Big East football title. Today, the Huskies are the front-runners.
With only three games remaining within the conference, three teams remain alive for the coveted BCS berth. Five could still lay claim to a share of the conference championship. There are all kinds of possible outcomes in regard to the title. An outright winner could be crowned. There could be three different two-way ties. There could be a three-way tie. Heck, there could even be a five-way tie.
But all eyes will be on UConn this weekend. Because in this case, the Huskies hold the reins.
The men of coach Randy Edsall are in a three-way 4–2 league logjam with West Virginia and Pittsburgh. However, Connecticut holds tiebreaker advantages over both the Mountaineers and Panthers.
The Huskies put themselves in that position by downing Cincinnati 38–17. They also received help from WVU, which drubbed the former first place team, Pitt, by 35–10. Now the task for Connecticut is to win at South Florida this Saturday in an 8 p.m. game.
“It’s on the road, but you know what? It’s what you want. This is why you play the game, to be in this position,” said Edsall.
This past weekend, the Huskies pulled away in what had been a close game late in the second quarter when defensive end Kendall Reyes intercepted a pass at the Connecticut 16-yard line as Cincy tried to tie the game before halftime. Reyes returned the pick 79 yards to set up a UConn touchdown that made the score 24–10 at the break. Back Jordan Todman, the nation’s No. 2 rusher averaging 148.1 yards per game, had two of his three touchdown runs in the second half. Todman had 175 yards to help lift Connecticut to 7–4 overall.
Beating South Florida, however, may not be easy. The Bulls, now 7–4 overall and 3–3 in Big East play, surprised Miami, Fla., this past Saturday 23–20 in overtime. Quarterback Bobby Eveld came off the bench in the second half to manage two touchdown drives, including one that was capped by his own 1-yard scoring run to tie the game with two minutes left in regulation.
If USF can win, West Virginia, 8–3 overall, will benefit after picking up its third straight win. The victory over Pitt in the 103rd Backyard Brawl not only gave WVU hope, but also seemingly cooled the seat of Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart.
“I can’t tell you how big of a win this is for West Virginia, for this staff and for me personally,” Stewart said afterward.
West Virginia QB Geno Smith threw three touchdown passes against Pitt, but, once again, the Mountaineer defense was the story, forcing three first-half turnovers and holding the Panthers to 78 rushing yards on the day.
The Mountaineers need to defeat Rutgers at home this weekend and hope Connecticut loses in order to snatch away the BCS berth.
In other league play last weekend, Louisville defeated RU 40–13 to finish 6–6. The Cardinals’ victory makes the team bowl-eligible for the first time since defeating Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl after the 2006 season.
U of L running back Bilal Powell had two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run before two minutes had been played in the second quarter. He finished with 123 rushing yards. Scarlet Knights freshman running back Jordan Thomas had a career-high 120 yards.
Syracuse, meanwhile, ended its regular season at 7–5 after a 16–7 non-conference loss to Boston College at the Carrier Dome.
Louisville 40, Rutgers 13
West Virginia 35, Pittsburgh 10
South Florida 23, Miami, Fla. 20, OT
Connecticut 38, Cincinnati 17
Boston College 16, Syracuse 7
All weekend there were rumors that West Virginia coach Bill Stewart was retiring at the end of the season. On Sunday, he straightened out those rumors. “First and foremost, let me begin by saying the reports of my retirement are greatly exaggerated,” he said via a teleconference call. “In fact, you’re hearing it directly from me, Bill Stewart, I have no intention of walking away. I’m not focusing on retirement. Lastly, and most importantly, I’m focusing on Rutgers.”
The Big Four?
South Florida’s football program still isn’t considered at the level of the Sunshine State’s Big Three of Florida, Florida State and Miami. But the Bulls are making progress. Last season, USF defeated then-No. 18 Florida State 17–7 in quarterback B.J. Daniels’ coming-out party. Then, Saturday, the Bulls upended Miami in overtime. “This is a big win for the program,” said USF coach Skip Holtz. “This is the level we aspire to be.”
Connecticut running back Jordan Todman injured his right shoulder against Cincinnati and sat out a few series in the first half, but re-entered the game. Rutgers back Joe Martinek tried to play against Louisville, but his high ankle sprain didn’t allow for much success. Martinek may be done for the season. Cincinnati wideout Vidal Hazelton, who tore his ACL early in the season, was cleared to play but did not against Connecticut. He could play against Pitt. Meanwhile, Bearcats receiver D.J. Woods was limited against the Huskies with ankle, knee and shoulder injuries. Also, Syracuse senior Delone Carter left his team’s loss to Boston College with an undisclosed injury. He had a bruised hip earlier in the season.
When Connecticut defeated Cincinnati, it was senior day. The family of Jasper Howard, stabbed to death last year, was in attendance. Huskies coach Randy Edsall said after the game he couldn’t talk about the presence because “I’ll break down.”
The Heat Is On
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is feeling heat after his team’s 40–13 rout at the hands of Louisville. The Scarlet Knights have now lost five straight games, and the loss snapped RU’s streak of five consecutive bowl appearances. Rutgers quarterbacks have been sacked 55 times this season, which leads the nation.
The heat is on, part two
Fans of the Pittsburgh Panthers are likewise unhappy with coach Dave Wannstedt after his team’s 35–10 home loss to West Virginia. Pitt fumbled six times, turning the ball over four times, against the Mountaineers. The preseason favorite to win the league is now 6–5 overall.
Hitting the canvas
When reigning back-to-back Big East champions Cincinnati fell to Connecticut, it not only bruised the Bearcats’ egos, but it also meant they would not appear in a bowl after four straight. Cincy is assured of its first losing season since 2005.
Powell packing punch
Louisville’s Bilal Powell is the nation’s 10th-leading rusher, averaging 120.91 yards per game. His 123-yard effort against Rutgers gave him seven 100-yard games this season, tying the school record previously set by Frank Moreau in 1999 and Walter Peacock in 1973. He’s third on the U of L all-time rushing list with 1,330.
Quote of the week
From South Florida coach Skip Holtz on his true freshman walk-on quarterback Bobby Eveld, who helped the Bulls upset Miami: “If a dog’s going to bite you, he’ll do it as a pup.”