Big East Winners and Losers: Week 7
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:05 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Greg Schiano
Rutgers' head coach was struggling with his running back rotation, and not getting enough production out of Chas Dodd as the Scarlet Knights started the season. Contrary to the desires of many Rutgers' fans, Schiano dedicated many of the rushing attempts to sophomore Jawan Jamison instead of highly-touted freshman Savon Huggins. Jamison's early season experience paid off in the 21-20 comeback victory over Navy, as he delivered his first 100+ yard performance of his short career. Schiano also made the right call making a quarterback change, giving freshman Gary Nova his first career start against the Midshipmen. Nova also stepped up to the challenge, completing 23 of 31 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. There is room for improvement with Nova (like the two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown) but it is clear he is the quarterback of the future for the Scarlet Knights.
LOSER: South Florida's Big East title hopes
After starting conference play with two straight losses, South Florida has made the task of claiming their first Big East title much more difficult. It is not impossible, Connecticut accomplished such a feat just a year ago, but it is particularly challenging with USF's schedule. In order to put themselves in a position to finish atop the league standings, they will need to run the table in conference play and get some significant help. After starting the season 4-0, the Bulls were ranked in the top 20 and getting buzz as Big East frontrunners. Now they stare down Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse (on a short week), Louisville, and West Virginia needing five wins and some help in order to reclaim that buzz surrounding the program in September.
WINNER: Mistake-prone Bearcats
Cincinnati started flat against Louisville on Saturday, and some Bearcats fans will even tell you they arguably deserved to lose the game. The only turnover was a Zach Collaros interception returned for a touchdown, but Cincinnati fumbled the ball four times. Thankfully the ball was recovered by a Bearcat in each of the four instances, but Butch Jones' squad had that kind of luck against the Cardinals. After all, it was Louisville penalties and failure to execute that opened the door for the 18-0 second half run to deliver Cincinnati a victory in their Big East opener. At 5-1 the Bearcats have already surpassed the win total from Jones' first season, and find themselves as one of the new favorites in the hunt for the conference title.
LOSER: Pittsburgh's "no-octane" offense
Head coach Todd Graham has tried everything with Pittsburgh's offense, but with the exception of their explosion against South Florida the Panthers have been painfully ineffective with the ball. Starting quarterback Tino Sunseri still looks uneasy trying to push the ball down the field, and even a change of pace quarterback like Trey Anderson hasn't been able to get anything started for Pittsburgh. The 26-14 loss to a visiting Utah squad was embarrassing, but the offense's inability to score a single point against the Utes was downright shameful. Pittsburgh instead had to get their points with defense and special teams, while their no-octane offense definitely sorts them into the "loser" column for Week 7.
WINNER: West Virginia
Even though the Mountaineers had Week 7 off, they emerge as a winner in the Big East. More conference infighting has revealed vulnerability in West Virginia's opponents in the quest for a conference title. South Florida started the season as one of the early candidates to challenge for the crown, but after Skip Holtz's squad dropped their second conference game and Pittsburgh failed to score an offensive touchdown things are looking good in Morgantown. Their stiffest competition will likely either come from Rutgers and/or Cincinnati. Both games will be road tests for the Mountaineers, and now become the unsuspecting "games to circle" in the Big East conference schedule.
LOSER: Louisville and their self-hating ways
Louisville entered the game as the Big East's most penalized team, averaging 8.6 flags per game. On Saturday they lived up to their reputation, committing four penalties on one drive as the Cardinals held a 16-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. While Charlie Strong's squad kept the total number of penalties down, that frustrating possession was enough to swing the momentum away from the inexperienced Cardinals. When Cincinnati got the ball back, it only took two plays for Isaiah Pead to break loose for 50 of his 151 yards rushing and a touchdown to take the lead away from Louisville. For the third week in a row, the Cardinals suffer a close loss. A game that could have easily ended differently if not for some crucial mental errors.
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