- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are some news and notes from the Big East coaches' conference call today.
Coach Butch Jones spent a lot of time talking about the physicality of his football team, both on offense and defense so far this season. Cincinnati ranks No. 1 in the league in rush defense and No. 2 in rush offense.
It is a point of emphasis he has made with this group since becoming head coach.
"It's creating a mindset," Jones said. "In recent years, we haven't had much success on defense. There hasn't been a lot to hang your hat on, so I think it's really building the standard of what you expect day in and day out from the way you prepare to the way you practice to the level of physicality you play with."
The Huskies have lost running back D.J. Shoemate (shoulder) and offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett (knee) for the season. They will apply for a sixth season for Shoemate, the highly touted transfer from USC who only had eight carries all season.
When asked whether he was surprised at his team's 2-3 start, coach Paul Pasqualoni said injuries and inexperience at key positions like quarterback and linebacker have hurt. "These things don't help you, especially when you're a new staff and have a new system on offense, defense and special teams," he said.
Coach Charlie Strong says starting quarterback Will Stein remains day-to-day with a shoulder injury and would know later in the week whether he will be able to go against North Carolina. Running back Victor Anderson, who was hobbled against Marshall, will be re-evaluated this week to determine whether he can play.
As for the way his team performed in a 17-13 loss to Marshall, Strong said, "No position played well." When asked for the mood at practice Sunday, he said, "Nothing needs to be said when you have a poor performance on Saturday. You don't have room to talk. It's about getting better and just keeping your mouth shut and going about your business.”
Coach Todd Graham was pleased with the way his team put together a complete effort against USF. Tino Sunseri did a much better job with timing and rhythm, and even had success running the ball at times. If there is one area where he wants his offense to improve, it is getting big plays downfield. The big knock on Sunseri has been his inability to throw the ball downfield. So that is the next step.
"We executed the offense closer to where we want to try to be," Graham said. "The key is, the system will work for you. You've just execute it."
Coach Greg Schiano said he will wait and see before making a decision on who starts at quarterback against Pitt. Schiano pulled a struggling Chas Dodd in favor of true freshman Gary Nova, who led a 19-16 double-overtime comeback win over Syracuse.
Rutgers has played both quarterbacks in three of four games, but it was Nova's most extensive action of the season.
"They're both getting reps anyway and we'll make a decision as the week goes on," Schiano said.
Coach Doug Marrone meant no disrespect to Rutgers, but reiterated he felt his team gave the game away on Saturday with five turnovers -- including three in the second half. Now he wants to make sure one loss does not turn into two against Tulane on Saturday.
"Our kids will respond," he said. "I believe in them. They're very disappointed. ... Not trying to take away anything from Rutgers, but it hurts a lot. ... You have to move on and we'll start working with our players today on that."
The Bulls are going to have a long time to sit on their 44-17 loss to Pitt, with a bye this week before playing UConn on Oct. 15. Is that too long to wait?
"We would have played Saturday if they would have let us after playing the way we did on Thursday," coach Skip Holtz said. "I wish we could get out and go play to get rid of that bad taste, but we were the ones that performed that way."
One injury of note: receiver A.J. Love (ankle) will be held out of practice this week but should return for UConn.
After some early-season struggles, the Mountaineers' offensive line has put together back-to-back solid performances. Coach Dana Holgorsen said it was only a matter of time before they got better.
"They've allowed themselves to be coached," he said. "After the first game, we knew we had a couple new starters, a couple guys who were returning starters that didn't go through spring practice, plus you put that with a new coach, a new system and new scheme it's not surprising it took them a few games to get going. They've showed improvement not only with schemes but techniques."