Sunday, November 4, 2012
What we learned in the Big East: Week 10
By Andrea Adelson
What did we learn in the Big East in Week 10? Glad you asked.
1. Pitt gave it the ol' college try. And by the ol' college try, I mean Pitt blew a 20-6 fourth-quarter lead against No. 3 Notre Dame and found a way to lose. There were so many turning point moments in this game. Forget about the phantom pass-interference call on K'Waun Williams that led to the Irish closing the gap to 20-12. Pitt had several opportunities to put a clamp on the game. But questionable play calling has left many scratching their heads. Pitt had the ball with 3 minutes, 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter, still leading, and the first call from its own 20 was a pass. The Panthers eventually went three-and-out. After Notre Dame tied the game, Pitt went three-and-out again. All of a sudden, an offense that was having no problem running the ball on the Irish could do nothing. In the second overtime, a botched snap led to Kevin Harper missing what would have been a game-winning 33-yard field goal. There are only so many chances you have to take down one of the best teams in the nation. You got the feeling as the fourth quarter wore on that Pitt would find a way to lose. The Panthers did.
2. Louisville is H-O-T. Instead of letting Temple hang with them for four quarters, the Cardinals ditched the Owls midway through the second quarter, ending the game on a 28-0 run and moving to 9-0 -- the best start in school history. Louisville won 45-17 for its sixth consecutive home win, the longest streak under coach Charlie Strong. What more can I say about Teddy Bridgewater, the runaway choice for Big East Offensive Player of the Year? He had another outstanding game, throwing a career-high five touchdown passes on a shaky secondary. Louisville has Syracuse and Connecticut coming up, giving the Cardinals a great shot at being undefeated going into the regular-season finale at Rutgers.
In place of the benched Munchie Legaux, backup QB Brendon Kay led Cincinnati past Syracuse.
3. Brendon Kay may be the future at Cincinnati. Bearcats fans have been complaining about Munchie Legaux for the entire season, but the criticism reached a fever pitch the past two weeks, as Legaux threw five interceptions combined in losses to Toledo and Louisville. Coach Butch Jones stuck behind his starter headed into Cincinnati's game against Syracuse, but Legaux struggled in the passing game again. So Jones yanked Legaux in the third quarter with the Bearcats down 24-21. Backup Kay led back-to-back scoring drives, and Cincinnati won 35-24. Jones said after the game he would open up the quarterback competition this week. "I felt we needed a spark," Jones said. "Brendon Kay has been working really hard, and I thought he deserved an opportunity. We will go back and evaluate the film, see where we are and then let those two battle it out in practice."
4. Syracuse cannot avoid mistakes. I said this Saturday on Twitter: Watching Syracuse is so maddening because this team should be bowl eligible by now, given some of the plays we have seen the Orange make this season. But in the same way misery loves company, mistakes love the Orange. They can't quit each other. Syracuse had many opportunities to beat the Bearcats, but mistakes compounded themselves. There were two turnovers that led to 14 points, a blocked field goal, missed field goals, 12 penalties and costly drops. The Orange are now going to need wins in two of their final three games (Louisville, at Missouri, at Temple) to become bowl eligible. "We have people in position to make plays," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. "When we make them, we play pretty darn good." Problem is, Syracuse has not made enough of them this year.
5. South Florida knows how to win. That was not so clear over the course of the past two months, when the Bulls dropped six straight games, including four close ones in the fourth quarter. The defense took a particular brunt of the criticism from not only fans but also coach Skip Holtz, who said last week he would consider making staff changes when the season ended. Well, the Bulls responded against UConn, winning 13-6 with a particularly strong fourth quarter. When was the last time somebody said that about the Bulls? After team leader B.J. Daniels went down with an ankle injury, the defense got its first two interceptions of the season -- the last Football Bowl Subdivision team in the nation to get a pick -- and preserved the close victory. The defensive front had its best performance of the season, consistently pressuring the Huskies quarterbacks. USF had a dominating defensive performance without starting linebacker Sam Barrington, who was suspended for the game. USF has to win out to get to a bowl game, but breaking a six-game losing streak and winning a close game certainly feels better than what the Bulls have gone through since their last win -- Sept. 8 at Nevada.