Monday, October 18, 2010
Week 7 review/Week 8 preview
By Brian Bennett
There was nothing more significant that happened in Week 7 than the neck injury to Rutgers' Eric LeGrand. It's devastating, and fans from all schools have been sending in their prayers and condolences.
On to more trivial matters, as we review the games and action from the week.
Team of the week: Pittsburgh. The Panthers haven't had much reason to celebrate this season, but a 31-point road win against a Syracuse team that was jacked up on confidence will do the trick. Pitt fumbled away its nonconference opportunities, but it would be foolish to count this team out of the Big East race.
Cincinnati receiver Armon Binns had three touchdown catches against Louisville.
Best game: Cincinnati's 35-27 win against Louisville was far and away the most entertaining game of the week in the Big East. It was a shootout in the first half, as the Cardinals took a 24-21 lead into the locker room. The scoring slowed down in the second half, but there were many big plays, big performances and an exciting finish.
Biggest play: Robert Sands' interception of South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels in the final minute before halftime of West Virginia's 20-6 win on Thursday. The pick set up a Mountaineers' score right before intermission to make it 17-3 and put the game on ice. Lesson to USF coach Skip Holtz: Never let Daniels pass near the end of the half while in his own territory. That proved disastrous against both Florida and West Virginia.
Best call: The touchdown set up by the Sands play was an exciting hook-and-ladder pass that Jock Sanders lateraled to Noel Devine. Gotta give credit to Bill Stewart and Jeff Mullen for that, especially after criticizing them for the double-pass play that failed against Maryland. But, actually, my award for best call involves the first West Virginia touchdown. The Mountaineers had their big-back look with Ryan Clarke and a fullback in the I, but Geno Smith faked the handoff and found a wide open Brad Starks for a 31-yard strike. West Virginia hadn't passed much out of that formation, and it clearly caught USF off guard.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Cincinnati receiver Armon Binns had eight catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-clinching 62-yard score in the fourth quarter. Good to see Binns have a monster game after he'd been relatively quiet much of the year.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy was burned repeatedly in last year's game against South Florida. On Thursday, he had 10 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble to prove he's no longer a weak link in the chain.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Pitt's Dan Hutchins averaged 50 yards on five punts and had two downed inside the 20. He also made his lone field-goal attempt, a 24-yarder.
Strangest moment: Rutgers seemingly had everything in place for a game-winning field-goal try against Army after rallying from a 17-3 deficit. Chas Dodd completed a pass to Mohamed Sanu at the Army 28 on first down. Then Dodd ran for a 2-yard loss, trying to get the ball to the middle of the field. Then Army called timeout, and Rutgers somehow got a delay of game penalty after that stoppage as Dodd couldn't find his helmet on the sideline.
Forced to run another play, Rutgers gave up a sack. And then Dodd threw an interception on fourth down, forcing overtime. Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they still went on to win.
"We fouled that thing up," head coach Greg Schiano said. "I've made a lot of really good, time-management decisions over 10 years, really good ones that have won games for us. That one could have lost the game for us. That's my job to take control, and that was a bonehead move by me."
Worst hangover: Syracuse. The Orange kicked away a lot of momentum and fan excitement by losing 45-14 at home to Pittsburgh on Saturday. They surely thought they had improved to the point where they wouldn't get blown out at home like that in a conference game. You could sense the resignation by the home fans, many of whom headed for the Carrier Dome exits midway through the third quarter.
Now let's look ahead to Week 8, the first week when all eight Big East teams are squaring off head-to-head in conference play (Games listed in descending order of importance/interest):
Rutgers (4-2, 1-0 Big East) at Pitt (3-3, 1-0): The only matchup featuring two teams with undefeated Big East records. Rutgers had owned this series until Pitt struck back last year. How will the Scarlet Knights react after the LeGrand injury? (ESPN3.com, Noon ET).
Connecticut (3-3, 0-1) at Louisville (3-3, 0-1): The past three games in this series have all been close, with UConn winning all three. One of these two teams will essentially be out of the Big East race by Saturday night. (ESPNU, 3:30 ET)
Syracuse (4-2, 1-1) at No. 20 West Virginia (5-1, 1-0): How do the Orange bounce back while taking on what looks like the best team in the league? Can the Mountaineers keep things rolling and avoid a letdown? (ESPN2, Noon ET)
South Florida (3-3, 0-2) at Cincinnati (3-3, 1-0): Two teams going different routes, as the Bearcats have turned it on offensively, while the Bulls continue to search for answers on that side of the ball. (ESPN2, Friday, 8 ET)