Monday, November 29, 2010
Week 13 review/Week 14 preview
By Brian Bennett
Only one more week to go in the regular season. I'm not crying, it's just been raining. On my face.
Let's look back at the penultimate week in the Big East.
Team of the week: South Florida. West Virginia and UConn scored key conference wins. But the Bulls planted a flag in their state and gave Skip Holtz a signature victory with the overtime upset at Miami. That's one that should propel South Florida in recruiting and help continue to build the school's brand.
South Florida players celebrate their 23-20 overtime win over Miami.
Best game: You know I'm a sucker for overtime games, so it's got to be South Florida's 23-20 win in extra time over those Hurricanes, even it was offensively-challenged most of the time. You know who else loves working overtime? The Bulls, who are a remarkable 9-0 in overtime, including 2-0 this year. If you can't beat them in regulation, might as well forfeit.
Biggest play: West Virginia led 14-7 as the third quarter began at Heinz Field. Three plays from scrimmage later, the Mountaineers were up 21-7 when Geno Smith hit Tavon Austin with a 71-yard touchdown pass. All hope seemed to evaporate out of the Pitt players' bodies at that point, and the Backyard Brawl was effectively over.
Best call: This call came not from a coach, but a player. Jordan Todman was supposed to throw the ball late in the first half with Connecticut near the Cincinnati goal line. But after Todman took the handoff, he saw that that his receiver was bottled up. So he stopped and cut to the outside, knowing that if he didn't make the end zone, valuable seconds would tick off. He scooted in and gave the Huskies a 24-10 halftime lead which they would never relinquish.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Todman. Not even two injured arms can stop this guy. He rushed for 175 yards and three scores on 31 carries despite missing most of the second quarter with an injured right arm.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia. Hogan's interception and 53-yard return to the Pittsburgh 2 on the game's first play set the tone for the Backyard Brawl. He also had a forced fumble and recovery, and he kept Jon Baldwin from shaking free for big plays most of the afternoon.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Justin Brockhaus-Kahn, P, South Florida. In a game where field position became crucial, the Bulls' punter wore out his leg with 10 punts for an average of 41 yards per attempt. His kicking, and the Bulls' excellent work on coverage, limited Miami's explosive return game.
Worst hangover: Pittsburgh. Losing to West Virginia is one thing. Getting embarrassed by your rival by 25 points on your home field is quite another. The Panthers are just 6-5 in what was supposed to be a special season, and the Big East was there for the taking like never before. Dave Wannstedt's popularity with his fan base might have reached its lowest point.
Strangest moment: Cincinnati had a chance to tie the score at 17 late in the first half, but Zach Collaros was picked off inside the UConn 10-yard line by defensive tackle Kendall Reyes. That gave us the always-amusing sight of a big man (Reyes goes 6-foot-4, 298 pounds) rumbling the other way, and Reyes looked surprisingly spry while going 84 yards for the apparent touchdown.
Ah, but he did not get the carrot. Linebacker Lawrence Wilson was called for a block in the back near the end of the run even though it would have been hard for anyone to stop the runaway train that was Reyes with even the most minor interference from blocking teammates. "Me and Bama [Wilson] discussed it," Reyes told the Connecticut Post with a smile after the game. "We'll handle it."
Now, for the last time in 2010 (I'm not crying; my eyes are just a little sweaty today), let's preview the regular-season week ahead (Games listed in descending order of interest/importance):
Connecticut (7-4, 4-2 Big East) at South Florida (7-4, 3-3): As close as the Big East gets this year to a league championship game. Huskies win and they're in the BCS. But the Bulls are hot and would love to play spoilers. (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).
Rutgers (4-7, 1-5) at No. 24 West Virginia (8-3, 4-2): The Mountaineers have to hold serve to even have a chance if UConn stumbles. That shouldn't be too difficult the way the Scarlet Knights are gasping toward the finish line. (ABC, Noon ET).
Pittsburgh (6-5, 4-2) at Cincinnati (4-7, 2-4): Pitt has to hope that West Virginia and UConn lose and it can pull off the biggest back-into-the-BCS job of all-time. The Bearcats are just playing out the string. (ESPN, Noon ET).