Thursday, January 13, 2011
Best and worst from Big East bowl season
By Brian Bennett
What were some of the highs and lows from the Big East bowl season? Glad you asked:
Best moment(s): It's a tie between two similar scenes staged on baseball fields. Syracuse's Doug Marrone and Louisville's Charlie Strong both addressed adoring throngs of fans after their teams won bowl games. It had been a long time since either team could celebrate a bowl victory, especially Syracuse, and Marrone and Strong could both get elected mayor in their respective cities right now.
Adrian Hilburn was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and the penalty pushed Kansas' 2-point conversion attempt back 15 yards.
Worst moment: The excessive celebration penalty on Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn after he caught a touchdown pass with 1:13 left and then saluted the crowd. Maybe the Wildcats don't get the two-point conversion to tie the game anyway, and maybe Syracuse drives down and kicks a winning field goal before regulation ends. But the officials left both sides with a bad taste in their mouths by taking the game away from the players, and they deserved a Bronx cheer. An excessive one.
Best performance against a future multi-millionaire: South Florida's offensive line, particularly Jacob Sims, held Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers without a sack in the Meineke Car Care win. Bowers, who led the nation in sacks this season, could go in the top two picks in this spring's NFL Draft.
Best job of coping with turmoil: Pittsburgh fired two head coaches before the BBVA Compass Bowl and was missing two key assistants off the staff while the search for a new head coach continued. Big East defensive player of the year Jabaal Sheard missed the game with an injury, and Dave Wannstedt didn't inform the players until Monday before the game that he wasn't going to Birmingham. So what? Pitt had one of its best performances of the season in a 27-10 win over Kentucky.
Worst job of coping with turmoil: West Virginia coach Bill Stewart tried publicly to keep his team's focus on its Champs Sports Bowl matchup against NC State, but all anyone wanted to talk about was the coaching situation. Then Stewart bizarrely canceled several practices leading up to the bowl, and the Mountaineers came out flat in a 23-7 loss.
Best out-of-nowhere performance: Syracuse receiver Marcus Sales caught five passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Kansas State. Sales had only one touchdown catch and 242 receiving yards the entire regular season. It was the best performance by a catcher in Yankee Stadium since Bengie Molina's home run in the ALCS.
Worst disappearing act: Connecticut coach Randy Edsall sneaked out of Arizona after the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, taking a separate flight from the official team charter so he could go accept the Maryland job. He never told the players face to face and instead informed them later via a telephone conference call. Edsall's excuse later that the job offer came out of the blue rang a false and insulting note.
Best answer, Part I: Kentucky and Pittsburgh got into a second-quarter shoving match when Ridge Wilson hit quarterback Tino Sunseri late following a false start penalty. The large Wildcats contingent at Legion Field shouted "SEC! SEC!" while the scrum occurred. The game was tied 3-3 at that time, but the Panthers went on to score a field goal on that drive as part of 17 unanswered points. That's how you make a point.
Best answer, Part II: Seconds after Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter against Louisville in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, freshman Jeremy Wright took the kickoff 95 yards for a tying touchdown. The Cardinals controlled things from that moment on.
Best offensive efficiency: South Florida had only 279 yards of total offense but squeezed 31 points out of it, going 9-for-14 on third downs.
Worst offensive inefficiency: UConn had 335 total yards of offense against Oklahoma but posted no offensive touchdowns. The Huskies were just 5-for-20 on third and fourth downs.