Sunday, October 28, 2012
What we learned in the Big East: Week 9
By Andrea Adelson
What did we learn in the Big East in Week 9?
Quarterback Gary Nova and Rutgers had a rough day against Kent State on Saturday.
1. Then there was one. Louisville is now the only unbeaten team left in the Big East after No. 15 Rutgers lost to Kent State 35-23 on Homecoming. Although the Cardinals needed overtime to pull out their win over Cincinnati on Friday night, they are the best remaining team in a league that had three unbeaten and ranked teams going into last weekend. Rutgers, with a history of dropping games to overmatched teams, did so again in stunning fashion. The Scarlet Knights had seven turnovers -- a school-record six interceptions from quarterback Gary Nova. It was the most turnovers by Rutgers since committing eight at West Virginia in 2001. Coach Kyle Flood said afterward he never considered pulling Nova, which is a stark difference from predecessor Greg Schiano, who used to pull quarterbacks at the first sign of trouble. Flood reasoned that Rutgers still had chances to win late despite the mistakes. Although Rutgers came from behind last week to beat the Owls, the Scarlet Knights were never really in this game and appeared out of sorts all day.
2. Stop scheduling the MAC. The Big East lost four games to the MAC this season, and two of them cost teams undefeated seasons (Cincinnati, Rutgers). Let us not forget that Temple joined the Big East from the MAC last season and was unable to even compete with the Scarlet Knights in the second half last week. The win for Kent State was probably the biggest in school history -- it was the program's first victory over a ranked team. The Flashes had gone 0-22 in games against Top 25 teams before Saturday. Ball State and Western Michigan also pulled upsets earlier this year. And by the way, the MAC has 16 nonconference wins to set a new league record.
3. Louisville doesn't make things easy. There is a reason folks in Louisville are starting to call 'em the Cardiac Cards. Louisville does not like to make things easy on itself. For the second straight game -- and third time in four games -- the Cardinals needed a fourth-quarter comeback to win. For the fourth straight game, they had to overcome a second-half deficit. Coach Charlie Strong praised his group for its resiliency, but the truth is it has been quite a while since Louisville has put together a complete game. In addition to all these recent comebacks, they trailed FIU in the first half and needed to withstand a ridiculous fourth-quarter comeback from North Carolina. Still, the path is pretty clear to being undefeated in the regular-season finale against Rutgers. Of course, we all thought the path was clear for Rutgers to go 9-0 before playing Cincinnati in a few weeks.
4. Good Pitt is back! The Panthers thoroughly dominated Temple 47-17, as Tino Sunseri threw for more than 300 yards, Ray Graham ran for more than 100 yards and Devin Street had a career-high 140 yards receiving. So that should tell you that everything worked well on offense. The 47 points were the most Pitt scored in a home game against an FBS opponent since Oct. 2, 1999, when it defeated Temple 55-24 in Pitt Stadium. Pitt notched its first Big East win this season, and players also earned the right to get their names back on their jerseys.
5. Syracuse is getting hot. Don't look now, but the Orange are in the thick of the Big East race with a 3-1 league record, joining Rutgers and Louisville as the only teams with winning conference marks. Syracuse did not play its best game against USF, but it found a way to win in the closing seconds, 37-36. B.J. Daniels has given this team fits for his entire career, and it was no different Saturday night. But the Orange were able to make enough plays on the porous USF secondary to win for the third time in the past four games. Remember, this team was 2-4 after a demoralizing loss to Rutgers and now stands at .500 with Big East games remaining against Cincinnati and Louisville and Temple.