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Geno Smith picked up an easy win for the Big East.
West Virginia paid around $740,000 for UNLV to make a non-return visit to Morgantown this past Saturday. It was apparently money well-spent. The Mountaineers routed the outmanned Rebels of the Mountain West Conference by 49–10 and again gave the Big East a presence in the major Top 25 polls by re-entering both at No. 25.
WVU held a 35–0 lead at halftime and had four scoring plays of at least 28 yards. Sixty-eight Mountaineers saw action. Wide receiver Brad Starks had a career day with four receptions for 100 yards and three touchdowns as West Virginia improved to 4–1. Hampered by injuries all season, Starks had no catches heading into the game.
“He’s pretty much a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams,” said WVU quarterback Geno Smith, who completed 12-of-16 passes for 220 yards and the three scores. “Add in Jock (Sanders) and Noel (Devine) and Tavon (Austin) and everybody else and that’s a good mix to have.”
WVU’s lone loss of the season, 20–14 to LSU in Baton Rouge, also looks a bit better after the now-No. 9 Tigers defeated Florida in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, conference play got under way with a couple of Big East matchups — decided by a combined seven points.
Rutgers scored the league’s first conference win by downing Connecticut 27–24 on Friday night. The visiting Huskies boasted the Big East’s top-rated scoring offense, while the Scarlet Knights set out the league’s tightest defense. The story of the game, however, was the success of RU freshman Chas Dodd, who played because of an injury to Tom Savage. Dodd responded by throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also had a 52-yard touchdown strike to Mark Harrison that tied the game at 24 and hit Jeremy Deering for 45 yards to set up San San Te’s game-winning field goal with 13 seconds left.
“Those are the plays we haven’t made in the first four weeks,” said RU coach Greg Schiano.
Syracuse took a step forward by scoring a 13–9 win against South Florida in Tampa. The story there was SU’s defense, which held the Bulls to 219 yards of offense, recorded two interceptions and four sacks and blocked a point after touchdown. The 4–1 start is the Orange’s first since the 1999 season. Safety Max Suter had a game-high eight tackles with three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
In the highest profile game, Pittsburgh, the preseason favorite to win the league, fell 23–17 to Notre Dame. The Panthers did rally from a 20–3 third-quarter deficit to within six when Tino Sunseri had a touchdown run and connected with Jon Baldwin for another score. But the Panthers couldn’t get the go-ahead points on two possessions in the last 3:15.
Louisville and Cincinnati, meanwhile, blew out Memphis and Miami, Ohio, respectively. The U of L turned in its best effort of the season by rolling to a 56–0 win at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals, now 3–2, scored 28 points in the second quarter and, like WVU, held a 35–0 halftime lead. Running back Bilal Powell had 204 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Adam Froman completed 12-of-16 passes for 235 yards and four TDs.
Cincinnati scored 45 points in the first half against Miami and held a 45–3 halftime lead in the annual Battle for the Victory Bell. It was the most lopsided result in the 109 meetings between the rivals, who first played in 1888.
Quarterback Zach Collaros was 14-of-17 for 216 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Isaiah Pead ran for 197 yards and a TD — all in the first half — to lift the Bearcats to 2–3 on the year.
Rutgers 27, Connecticut 24
Syracuse 13, South Florida 9
Louisville 56, Memphis 0
Notre Dame 23, Pittsburgh 17
West Virginia 49, UNLV 10
Cincinnati 45, Miami, Ohio 3
The count and the amount
With four Big East teams finished with their non-conference play, the league’s overall record is now 22-15. Against FBS opponents, though, it’s 13–15 and 2–11 against BCS conference teams. Against Top 25 teams, the record remained at 0–5.
Still a rush
The Big East now has three of the nation’s top 10 rushers. Connecticut back Jordan Todman registered his fifth 100-yard game of the year with 123 yards on 24 carries against Rutgers. He’s third nationally, averaging 152 yards a game. Louisville’s Bilal Powell is eighth, averaging 137.8 yards, while Pitt’s Ray Graham is ninth, averaging 134. Graham is first nationally in all-purpose running, averaging 207 yards.
Rutgers may have a quarterback dilemma in the future after true freshman Chas Dodd led the Scarlet Knights to their victory over Connecticut. On Monday, however, coach Greg Schiano said there is no controversy. Dodd will make the start against Army while the hand of Tom Savage, the previous starter, is healing.
Which way did he go?
After seemingly overcoming a case of homesickness early in the season, West Virginia backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson, a freshman, was nowhere to be found during the Mountaineers’ game against UNLV.
“I don’t know how to combat the mileage,” said WVU coach Bill Stewart.
West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan spent the second half of the UNLV game in street clothes after injuring his arm. Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart seemed to indicate Hogan would be ready for this Thursday’s game against South Florida.
Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said on Monday that defensive back Blidi Wreh-Wilson had surgery on his hand. Huskies’ representative Mike Enright said Wreh-Wilson is “week-to-week.”
A little trickeration
Louisville pulled out a double reverse pass for a score against Memphis. Running back Bilal Powell took a direct snap and handed the ball to Victor Anderson, who then tossed the ball to quarterback Adam Froman, who lined up at receiver. Froman hit a wide-open Josh Chichester downfield. The play resulted in a 48-yard TD.
Nice game, tough loss
South Florida was stunned when Syracuse visited Raymond James Stadium and walked away with a victory. One, however, can’t point a finger at USF defensive end Craig Marshall. All he did was post a career-high eight tackles and record three sacks. That was the most sacks in a USF game for a player since George Selvie had four in a 2007 game against Elon.