NCF Nation: Brandon Murie

Big East weekend rewind: Week 5

October, 1, 2012
One last look back at the weekend that was in the Big East.

The good: The Big East went 3-1 Saturday, improving to 4-3 against the ACC this season and even exacting a bit of revenge against the MAC, as UConn topped Buffalo at home. This was the final real nonconference weekend for the Big East, and by and large it did not disappoint.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisThe Cardinals and Teddy Bridgewater played through horrendous conditions to eke out a win.
The bad: South Florida had the conference's lone loss, though the Bulls put forth a valiant effort against the No. 4 team in the country. UConn and Louisville both had offensive shortcomings but managed to come away with wins against far inferior opponents.

The ugly: The Southern Miss field. Woof.

The clutch: Munchie Legaux connected with Damon Julian for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left, leading Cincinnati to an upset over Virginia Tech. More consistency is needed for Legaux, but he took a huge step forward with the pressure and spotlight on him. Props to Julian for bouncing back from a dropped touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter as well.

The scare: Louisville barely beat a winless Conference USA opponent in a game said opponent completed only two passes. And the Cardinals needed a botched punt to set up their game-winning touchdown drive. Yes, the conditions were awful, and the defense deserves plenty of credit. But this would have been as bad a loss as the conference could have had, regardless of the field, as the preseason No. 1 team survived a scare from a Southern Miss team in its first year under a new regime.

The improvement: The numbers may not exactly reflect it, but USF's defensive line played a strong game against Florida State. The Seminoles rushed for 183 yards, one week after they rushed for 287 in a win over Clemson. Yes, the Bulls lost a third straight game, but a defense that had trouble at Ball State played much better against a potential national title contender, and this is something the team can build on as it enters conference play.

The gutsy call(s): Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn called for an onside kick following his team's first touchdown, one it recovered. In the third quarter, Alex Zordich hit Alex Neutz with a short pass, with Neutz then lateraling the ball to Brandon Murie for a 50-yard hook-and-ladder touchdown. The risk-taking almost paid off, as the Bulls climbed back from a 17-point deficit at UConn and had a chance to drive for the win at the end.

UConn survives scare from Buffalo

September, 29, 2012
The final margin isn't what anyone in Connecticut would have hoped for, but the Huskies managed to hold off Buffalo in their final nonconference test, 24-17.

UConn's offense got into the kind of rhythm early that it needed to before entering Big East play, as Chandler Whitmer completed 15 of 22 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. Lyle McCombs rushed for 97 yards and a score, and Martin Hyppolite added 60 yards on six carries, including a 50-yard scoring run early in the second quarter for a 17-7 lead.

The Huskies had a 24-7 lead late in the third quarter, but their offense stalled down the stretch, netting just 27 total yards in the fourth quarter as the Bulls mounted a comeback. Alex Zordich hooked up with Alex Neutz, who then tossed the ball back to Brandon Murie for a 50-yard hook-and-ladder score in the third. The Bulls added a field goal late and got the ball for one last drive before Yawin Smallwood stuffed Zordich on fourth-and-4 from the Buffalo 39 to ice the game.

The hook-and-ladder was one of several wrinkles Buffalo tossed in throughout the afternoon, including a recovered onside kick following its first touchdown. But the Bulls' offense couldn't do much until the fourth quarter. They went for another onside kick following a late field goal and, despite not recovering, forced a three-and-out to get one last shot.

UConn's offense struggled late, and it failed to take advantage of generous field position down the stretch. But it took control early and did not turn the ball over, small steps for a maligned unit that still has plenty of work to do when conference play begins next week at Rutgers.