Monday, September 5, 2011
Big East weekend rewind
By Andrea Adelson
Time to take a quick look back on Week 1 and look ahead to Week 2.
The good: The Big East went 8-0, joining the Big 12 as the only conferences to have a perfect record on opening weekend. Four of the wins came against FCS opponents and two against non-AQs. So the schedule was not the strongest. But the league should get credit for not having any bad losses. The ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten cannot say the same. Duke and Oregon State lost to FCS teams, and Indiana lost to Ball State. Of course, the biggest win belonged to USF, which upset No. 16 Notre Dame, 23-20. Syracuse deserves credit, too, for erasing a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Wake Forest in overtime.
Running back Ray Graham had a big opening game for Pittsburgh.
The inconsistent: Neither Pitt nor West Virginia showed the true potential of its offense. Perhaps expectations were way too high for both to come flying out of the gate as unstoppable forces of nature. It takes time for players to get adjusted to new systems. There were significant differences between what the two teams showed this weekend. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri struggled. But Ray Graham proved he is going to be a valuable member of the offense, rolling up 201 yards on the ground. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith made plays by himself left and right, thanks to a shaky offensive line. But the run game struggled mightily in three quarters -- just 42 total yards on the ground and an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
The unknown: There are only so many conclusions to make in Week 1. Rutgers rolled up 48 points and Cincinnati 72. But both played FCS opponents, so there is no real way of knowing where either team stands heading into big tests in Week 2. The Louisville offense sputtered in the second half against Murray State. The Syracuse defense struggled for three quarters. USF gave up more than 500 yards to Notre Dame. Connecticut has three quarterbacks but no starter.
The weather: South Florida and West Virginia endured significant rain delays in their games. The Bulls had some experience with that after waiting out a long weather delay before their first scrimmage of fall camp in Vero Beach. But the delays in Morgantown were much longer, and there was no choice but to call the game.
The freshmen: Plenty of true freshmen played this weekend with mixed results. Rutgers running back Savon Huggins had two touchdowns but only 32 yards on 10 carries. The West Virginia trio of Andrew Buie, Vernard Roberts and Dustin Garrison were up and down. Ronald Jones at Pitt and Ralph David Abernathy IV at Cincinnati showed terrific flashes as returners. UConn quarterback Michael Nebrich got his chance, going 3-of-8 for 60 yards with an interception. Louisville had receiver DeVante Parker score a touchdown, and B.J. Dubose made some plays on the defensive line.
Another helmet sticker: Tavon Austin returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score in West Virginia's rain-shortened 34-13 win against Marshall.
Week 2: Three games are on the slate against teams from other AQ conferences, and all three are on the road. Cincinnati is at Tennessee; Rutgers is at North Carolina; and UConn is at Vanderbilt. Even though Week 1 featured a game against a ranked team, this week is a more critical test for the league. None of the opponents are projected to win their conferences. But each has been to bowl games in the recent past. Plus, two of the games are against teams from the SEC. Sure, one of the games is against Vanderbilt, but wins against that league are always important.
Tennessee, North Carolina and Vandy opened with wins against FCS opponents. There were questions about the Tar Heels after the sudden termination of coach Butch Davis. Plus they have a first-year starting QB Bryn Renner. But he quieted some doubts after going 22-of-23 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against James Madison.
The other league games: FIU at Louisville; Maine at Pitt; Norfolk State at West Virginia; Rhode Island at Syracuse; Ball State at USF.