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Top 10 memories of the 2008 Big East

1/14/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
How will the 2008 Big East football season be remembered? Here are my top 10 memories from this year.

1. Cincinnati's orange crush: I attended a couple of Bearcats games in the 1990s as a college student and can remember how deserted and dreary Nippert Stadium was in those days. So to see the place stuffed with fans and people running onto the field and throwing oranges in anticipation of a BCS bid -- twice -- stands as my indelible memory of the '08 season. Sure, the celebration was premature in the Pitt game. But in other ways, it was a long time coming.

2. The Donald's stiff-arm: No one player put his team on his back quite like Connecticut running back Donald Brown. He had eight games of at least 150 yards rushing and three games over 200 yards. His 2,083 yards placed among the top 10 seasons all-time among FBS running backs. What I'll remember most is how he'd get into the open field, extend one of his powerful arms to the head or chest of a defender and just push him away as he dashed ahead for a bigger gain.

3. LeSean McCoy's burst: The Pittsburgh star tailback wasn't bad either, with 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns. He did it with a little more style and flair than Brown. No player was more explosive upon finding a small opening. And when there was a lane to the end zone, McCoy always seemed to find another gear. He may have tried to force the big play too much at times, but when it was there, it was breathtaking to watch.

4. West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30: The Meineke Car Care Bowl had a little bit of everything, from wild offensive bursts to key turnovers to Tar Heels' receiver Hakeem Nicks' acrobatic catches. But what I'll remember most is how Pat White finished his college career in style by showing us something new -- 332 passing yards -- and then being his usual humble self afterward. It was the perfect end to an astonishing career.

5. Rutgers 54, Pittsburgh 34: I was in the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium press box for Louisville-South Florida at the same time as this game was going on, and since I didn't have access to watch it on TV, I was following the score on ESPN's GameTracker. I couldn't believe what I was seeing even as I called out the updates to other reporters -- "Mike Teel just threw another TD!" Rutgers nearly equaled its point total from the entire season in one game, and it was the start of one of the more remarkable turnarounds in recent college history.

6. Syracuse 24, Notre Dame 23: Speaking of shocking results. I remember watching this in the press box at Nippert Stadium, where everyone was gathered around the TV before the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game to see the Orange complete their comeback in South Bend. They won less than a week after the school announced coach Greg Robinson would be fired, and then Robinson and his players displayed class by pausing for the Notre Dame alma mater. No matter your loyalties, you had to feel good for the long-suffering program at that point.

7. Maikon Bonani's debut: South Florida may have had a disappointing season once it reached Big East play, but I didn't see a more exciting game all year than the Bulls' 37-34 thriller over Kansas. And the best story line was the team's freshman kicker, who made his college debut earlier in the game and then drilled a 43-yarder as time expired. For a moment there, anything seemed possible for the Bulls.

8. Victor Anderson's arrival vs. Kansas State: The Louisville freshman ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries on a Wednesday night in September. Watching his speed and shimmying up close, you knew a star had been born.

9. Bill Stewart's press conferences: The homespun West Virginia coach was liable to wax on for 20 minutes at a time, almost always including his love for the "ol' Blue and Gold" in there somewhere. He'd call players by their numbers instead of names or refer to them as "that rascal." Sometimes he'd even confuse everyone with long-lost references. But it was always entertaining, and no coach seemed happier just for the opportunity to talk about his team.

10. Mardy Gilyard meets Garrett Monroe: Another image I'll take with me from this season happened when Cincinnati's Gilyard crashed into the stands and ran into the 7-year-old Monroe. After Monroe cried, Gilyard stayed with the boy and hugged him, momentarily turning the youngster into a celebrity. That act showed Gilyard's compassion and led to more people finding out about his pretty amazing background. Stories like that are the ones that stick with you.

What were some of your best memories from the 2008 Big East season?