Best and worst from Big East bowl season

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
1:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

A look back at the best and worst of the Big East bowl season:

 
  Dale Zanine/US Presswire
  Pat White went out with a bang, passing for a career-high 332 yards.

Best performance: Just when you thought Pat White had shown us everything in his bag of tricks, the West Virginia quarterback goes out and shreds a good North Carolina pass defense for a career-best 332 passing yards while completing 26 of 32 throws in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. White went out the only appropriate way: a winner.

Worst performance: Cincinnati and Pittsburgh's offenses combined for seven total points in the FedEx Orange and Brut Sun bowls, respectively, and zero points in either second half. It wasn't a great year for offense in the Big East, and the league's top two scoring teams proved it in the postseason.

Best closing statement: Connecticut running back Donald Brown was wrongly ignored during awards season but showed why he was the nation's leading runner with a career-high 261 yards in the International Bowl, finishing his season with more than 2,000 yards. Then, in his postgame news conference, Brown announced he was skipping his senior year to turn pro.

Best red zone play call: Rutgers dialed up a fake field goal from the NC State 6-yard line on its first possession of the Papajohns.com Bowl, and first-time holder Rob Cervini ran past the surprised Wolfpack defenders for a touchdown.

Worst red zone play call: Trailing 20-7 midway through the fourth quarter, Cincinnati had a fourth and goal on the 1-yard line. Never a great short-yardage team, the Bearcats got away from what they do best and called for quarterback Tony Pike to try and run it in off tackle. He was stuffed, and the game was effectively over.

Best feel-good bowl win: After what amounted to a lost season, South Florida went out on a high note by blasting Memphis 41-14 in the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, even allowing senior quarterback Grant Gregory to play the entire fourth quarter.

Worst feel-bad bowl loss: After a breakthrough year had Pitt thinking about a 2009 Top 10 preseason ranking, the Panthers produced an unparalleled stink bomb in their 3-0 loss to Oregon State. Out of 68 bowl teams, Pittsburgh was the only one that didn't score a point, and the performance raised questions about the program's future.

Best atmosphere: The Meineke Car Care Bowl drew a sellout crowd of 73,712, fueled both by the home-state Tar Heels fans and the traveling horde of Mountaineers supporters. The game had the second-highest attendance of all the non-BCS bowls, behind only the Cotton Bowl, and fans were treated to a highly entertaining game.

Worst atmosphere: The magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl should eventually develop into one of the Big East's best postseason slots, given the sunny Florida locale. But the inaugural game attracted an announced crowd of just 25,055 (an estimate that seems generous), making it the second-lowest turnout of bowl season. It doesn't help when Memphis claims only 1,000 of its 10,000-ticket allotment.

Best postgame quote: From West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, remarking on White's accomplishments and the state of his team: "Those people out there in the old gold and blue, they all love him," Stewart said of White. "About half of them would like to hang me. The other half would probably like to make me governor. But, I'm not mad at any of them. You know why? Because I'm one of them. They have such a passion in West Virginia for football. All they want is for us to be the best."

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