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Sunday, September 11, 2011
Big East: What we learned

By Andrea Adelson

What did we learn about the Big East in Week 2?

1. Undefeated no more. After being one of only two conferences to start the season undefeated, the Big East unraveled in Week 2, going 4-4. Cincinnati, Rutgers and UConn all lost to their opponents from automatic qualifying conferences. Louisville lost to a Sun Belt team for the first time since 1981. What makes the weekend even more galling for fans is the way these teams lost. Cincinnati was supposed to be better on defense but got blown out by a mediocre SEC team in Tennessee. Rutgers could not win despite five turnovers and nine penalties from North Carolina. UConn did not score an offensive touchdown against Vanderbilt. And Louisville gave up 201 yards receiving to T.Y. Hilton.

Connecticut Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee
Connecticut Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee couldn't get the Huskies offense moving.
2. UConn has QB issues. That may have been obvious going into the game, considering the Huskies planned on playing three quarterbacks. But it is even more glaring now that they had such an anemic performance in the pass game in a 24-21 loss to Vanderbilt. Johnny McEntee ended up playing a majority of the game, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. He had for just 99 yards passing in the entire game. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said he stuck with McEntee for continuity, but there was no offense. The Huskies failed to score a touchdown on offense. In fact, UConn the last time the Huskies scored an offensive touchdown against an FBS opponent was in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati on Nov. 27, 2010.

3. Too close for comfort. Four teams may have lost, but three others were in games that were a little too close for their liking against FCS opponents. Pitt had to hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally from Maine, 35-29; Syracuse had to hold off Rhode Island 21-14; and West Virginia trailed Norfolk State at halftime 12-10 before storming back to win 55-12. Perhaps all three teams were looking ahead to much bigger games in Week 3. But in the case of Pitt and Syracuse, some of the same problems that appeared in Week 1 appeared again in Week 2. Tino Sunseri struggled at quarterback, and left the game in the fourth quarter. Freshman Trey Anderson came on in relief, but coach Todd Graham said afterward that Sunseri is his starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Syracuse could not get the ground game going, and the defense was sloppy with missed tackles. Both are going to have to be much better if they want to win next week.

4. USF a star again. One of the best things that happened this weekend was seeing USF steamroll Ball State. After an emotional week that featured a win at Notre Dame and the death of founding father Lee Roy Selmon, it would have been understandable if the Bulls started slowly. But they were the only team that looked good from the beginning of their game to the end, easily beating Ball State 37-7. Kudos to coach Skip Holtz for getting his players ready to play in the face of such a difficult week.

5. Offensive line problems. This seems to be a recurring theme for several teams. Louisville has five new starters and yet to find any cohesion there, and played poorly in both games. Syracuse has struggled. So have Pitt (the Panthers gave up seven sacks versus Maine) and West Virginia. UConn gave up five sacks against Vanderbilt. North Carolina had four sacks and 10 quarterback hurries against Rutgers. So if there is one position that seems the shakiest throughout the league, this one would be it.