NCF Nation: Brouce Mompremier

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Randy Edsall knows who Connecticut's starting quarterback will be, but he's not telling anyone outside the team until Saturday, Desmond Conner writes in the Hartford Courant.

"The decisions are made and anybody that needs to know what the decisions are has been told," he said.

Edsall also said Thursday that he didn't know anything about a report earlier in the week that cornerback Darius Butler would play offense exclusively. But later in his conference call with reporters, he mentioned that there could be new starters at defensive back. A little gamesmanship, perhaps?

• More bad news for South Florida: linebacker Brouce Mompremier's career may be finished, Brett McMurphy reports in the Tampa Tribune. Mompremier worked his way back onto the field after a scary neck injury in September. But he suffered another head injury at Louisville, and the senior did not play at Cincinnati.

• The Bearcats bounced back from an awful showing at UConn to keep their Big East dreams alive, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

• New Louisville defensive line coach Ken Delgado has brought some unusual techniques, including martial arts, Pilates and constant sled work, C.L. Brown writes in The Courier-Journal. Whatever he's doing is working, as the defensiv line has been one of the team's main strengths.

• Arthur Jones remains a bright light on the Syracuse defense, capable of being bubbly and optimistic off the field and ferocious on it, Donnie Webb writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.

• Pittsburgh insists that its defensive performance in the Rutgers loss was the exception and not the rule, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Nothing has determined the outcome of the South Florida-Louisville series quite like geography.

In their five meetings since 2003, the home team has won every time, and usually quite convincingly. The Bulls have taken the last two in Tampa by a combined 69 points, including last year's 55-17 beatdown. Louisville, meanwhile, has crushed South Florida by a combined score of 72-17 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, site of the series' latest installment Saturday.

Why has this series been so lopsided in favor of the home team?

"That's a good question," USF senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "The good thing is, somebody's going to have to break the streak, and hopefully it's us."

The No. 16 Bulls are more concerned with stopping another trend this weekend. More so than home turf, the ground game seems to determine success or failure for South Florida.

Sure, the team has good statistics against the run this year, allowing only 77.3 yards per game and leading the Big East in that category. But the truth is, none of the Bulls' early opponents put much effort or skill into running the ball. The best nonconference team they played, Kansas, made no pretense of handing it off.

Then Pittsburgh came into Raymond James Stadium and ran for 146 yards -- 142 of them by LeSean McCoy -- in a 26-21 win. Even last week against Syracuse, the Bulls gave up 100 yards rushing in the first half to Curtis Brinkley before dominating the second half.

In three of South Florida's four losses last year, opposing running backs had big days. Rutgers' Ray Rice had 181 yards when the Scarlet Knights ended the Bulls' unbeaten season. UConn's Andre Dixon compiled 167 yards the following week in another loss. And in Oregon's 56-21 blowout of the Bulls in the Sun Bowl, Jonathan Stewart amassed 253 yards.

Now comes Louisville, which is averaging 210 yards rushing per game, led by Victor Anderson and Brock Bolen.

"After the Pittsburgh game, I'm sure everyone will try to run the ball on us," senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier said. "We accept that challenge. We love that type of game, that physical game. I've always felt we were a good run defense."

The Bulls say McCoy's big day was an aberration, because injuries to guys like George Selvie, Terrell McClain and Mompremier left them undermanned. The Syracuse second half, in which the Orange mustered nine total yards, is more indicative of what the defense can do at full strength, they believe.

"We were missing a couple of guys, but now we're getting healthy again," McKenzie said. "I hope they try to run the ball down our throats and come out with a game plan to get your nose bloody. That's what football is all about anyway."

Here's their chance to prove they can stop a high-powered rushing attack, and defy the geography rules of this series.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The simple act of putting on his uniform and pads, something he'd done countless times before, brought a wave of emotion over Brouce Mompremier before last Saturday's game against Syracuse.

Less than a month earlier, the South Florida linebacker wasn't sure he'd ever play football again. For a couple of tense hours, he wasn't sure he'd walk again.

Mompremier suffered a scary neck injury when he endured a head-first collision with teammate Carlton Williams in a Sept. 20 game at Florida International. He lay motionless on the turf for several minutes, was taken away on a stretcher and taken by helicopter to a hospital. Teammates and fans feared the worst.

"I was really scared," he said. "Flashing through my mind was, how am I going to live the rest of my life?"

He briefly couldn't feel his arms or legs while he was down on the field. By the time he got to the hospital, he said, he had regained all his feeling and started to calm down. He was released from the hospital the next day with a sore neck and feeling "like there were shocks in my arms."

"I had to drive back to Tampa that day, and the drive was pretty hard for me with all the bumps in the road," Mompremier said.

For a couple of weeks, the senior figured he was finished with football. But he met several times with doctors who assured him that he'd incurred no long-term damage and was no more at risk going forward than any other player.

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Defensive end George Selvie and linebacker Brouce Mompremier are expected to start against Syracuse for South Florida, Gregg Becnel writes in the Tampa Tribune. Mompremier hasn't played since he suffered a neck injury on Sept. 20 at Florida International, while Selvie missed one game and wasn't full strength against Pittsburgh with an ankle injury. Nose tackle Terrell McClain should also play through his ankle problem.

  • West Virginia is using more conventional looks in its spread offense including increased doses of the old-fashioned I-formation, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail. Noel Devine's key 92-yard touchdown run against Syracuse came out of the I.
  • Connecticut has been working hard on its punt protection schemes after getting three consecutive punts blocked at North Carolina, the Connecticut Post reports.
"We're not going to make wholesale changes in what we do because we know we're sound and solid in what we do," coach Randy Edsall said. "We just have to get guys to do it a little bit better."
  • Daniel Covington has gone from unknown walk-on to starting safety for Louisville. C.L. Brown has his story in The Courier-Journal.
  • Running-game shortcomings have been the biggest problem for Rutgers this season, Aditi Kinkhabwala writes in the Bergen Record.

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1. Pitt's defense vs. the Navy triple option: The Midshipmen tore through the Panthers' defense last year for 331 rushing yards (497 total) on their way to a 48-45 double-overtime victory. The health of Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who had 122 of those yards, is uncertain, as he's been dealing with a hamstring injury. If he's not ready, that might help Pitt's cause. But more importantly, the Panthers' defensive ends and outside linebackers -- whose strength is getting penetration and pressuring quarterbacks -- have to stay with their assignments and not try to get too aggressive. Or else they might be watching Navy players taking pitches and running past them all afternoon in Annapolis.

2. Shady vs. the sailor boys: As much of a challenge as Navy's offense poses to Pitt's defense, the reverse might pose an even bigger mismatch. LeSean "Shady" McCoy has had back-to-back 100-yard rushing days behind an offensive line that's getting nastier by the week. Navy's 3-4 defense will have to find a way to slow him down, and like most service academy teams, it's undersized. The four starting linebackers weigh an average of just over 211 pounds, or just one more pound than McCoy.

3. Donald Brown: The Connecticut star grew up about 30 miles away from the Rutgers campus but was lightly recruited by the Scarlet Knights. Hard to blame Greg Schiano, who had Ray Rice at the time. But Brown sure seems to relish showing Schiano what he missed. As a freshman, he ran for 199 yards and two scores in his first start against Rutgers. Last year, he punished the Scarlet Knights for 154 yards. Given that he's running better than ever this season, who knows what kind of numbers he will put up against his home-state school.

4. Zach Frazer: The sophomore quarterback was strong in the second half against Louisville in relief of the injured Tyler Lorenzen but shaky in his first start at North Carolina. Look at it this way: He threw three picks against the Tar Heels, but they lead the nation in interceptions. Rutgers has yet to create a turnover against an FBS opponent this season. With a bye week to prepare for this one, Frazer needs to have a mistake-free effort on Saturday.

5. Rutgers circling the wagons: Sure, the Scarlet Knights are 1-5. But their last three losses have come by a combined 12 points, and all were on the road. If the team hasn't given up on the season yet, it should rally to the occasion when regional rival UConn comes to town. Why wouldn't Schiano fire all his bullets, including trick plays and fake punts? There's nothing left to lose.

6. The Bulls' bounce-back: It's been 15 days since South Florida lost its perfect season and national title dreams to Pittsburgh. Few things serve as better salves than Syracuse. The Bulls have won their three Big East games against the Orange by a combined score of 95-20. Syracuse has shown improvement recently, but South Florida needs a big, confidence-boosting blowout victory. Which would be helped by ...

7. South Florida's health: The chipped-up defense appears to be rounding into shape. Defensive end George Selvie and linebacker Brouce Mompremier are expected to start for the first time in three games. How close to 100 percent are they? And can they stay that way for the stretch drive?

8. The Louisville defense: Here's a weird stat: The Cardinals have not won consecutive games against FBS opponents under Steve Kragthorpe. That should change Saturday against Middle Tennessee -- unless the Louisville defense reverts to last year's form, when the Blue Raiders hung a triple-nickel (555 yards) and nearly pulled off an upset. The Cardinals have been much better this season but were shaky against the Memphis spread offense last week.

9. Hunter Cantwell: The Louisville quarterback was clearly nowhere near his usual self in the Memphis game because of an ankle injury. He was never the most mobile guy anyway, but the bum wheel made him a statue and limited what the Cardinals could do on offense. Cantwell won't have to be full strength to beat Middle Tennessee State, but Louisville will need him healed a week later when South Florida comes to town.

10. Greg Robinson: This is one to watch throughout the weekend and possibly into early next week. If the Orange lose at South Florida, the intrigue over their coach will begin. Syracuse has a bye week before playing Louisville on Nov. 1, so if athletic director Daryl Gross wants to make a change, this would seem like a good time. And he can't be accused of having the itchiest trigger finger since Clemson has already parted ways with Tommy Bowden.

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The Charleston Gazette's Mitch Vingle says West Virginia's program and prestige have taken a downturn, and it may soon be time to do something about it. He talks to Mountaineers athletic director Ed Pastilong, who expressed confidence and optimism about head coach Bill Stewart. But Vingle writes that the offensive struggles and the recent decommitment of star quarterback Tajh Boyd show that something is off.

It seems, however, something needs to be done before WVU's program is scorched long-term. A sign the slide won't be tolerated. Ask any coach, scout, what have you. They'll tell you -- privately -- there's absolutely no reason for the Mountaineers to be at this point. None.

Yet here they sit, struggling to get past Syracuse at home. Not a poll vote in sight.
One person I respect suggested the chemistry among the offensive coaches is off. Maybe so. There certainly have been whispers from Morgantown to that effect. And when you have bad chemistry and add heat, the result is a hole in the ground.

  • Life is good for Pittsburgh kicker Conor Lee, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Lee owns three school records, has dual degrees in business and economics and will be married in January.
  • Is UConn-Rutgers a rivalry? Neill Ostrout of the Connecticut Post writes that it's heading in that direction. Both schools recruit the same areas and have a lot of players who are familiar with each other. The Huskies have won four of the last six, but most have been close games.
"I don't think we've been playing each other long enough to have a rivalry," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "What's happening, though, is we are close by location and we have had some exciting games. Since that occurred, there's seeds for a rivalry. Will it come to fruition? Who knows? When people try to make something like that happen, it never works. You let it develop on the field and that takes time."
  • South Florida defensive end George Selvie vows to play Saturday against Syracuse, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune. And linebacker Brouce Mompremier wants to go, too, but might be held out for precautionary measures.
  • The Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci examines whether Mike Teel should still be the starter at quarterback for Rutgers. The numbers are stunningly bad.

Bulls' new goal: win out

October, 7, 2008
10/07/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

As you might expect, gloom and doom made their presence felt around the South Florida football complex following last Thursday's loss to Pittsburgh.

"On Friday and through the whole weekend, it seemed like the end of the world," Bulls defensive end George Selvie said.

But by Monday, as the players reconvened, the mood had lightened a little bit. Sure, South Florida (5-1, 0-1 Big East) has blown its chance for an unbeaten season and a long shot BCS title run. Not everything has come to an end, however. The primary goal of winning the school's first conference championship remains alive, though more difficult to attain.

A 5-2 league record was enough to win the Big East last season, but the Bulls know they can't count on that again, especially having already lost to a contender at home.

"Pittsburgh's going to get even better after that win, and some other teams are playing well now, too," quarterback Matt Grothe said. "I think we definitely need to win out the rest of our games to win the Big East.

"Looking at our schedule, I definitely think we can beat anybody we play if we execute and keep everybody healthy."

(Read full post)

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Better than your afternoon pick-me-up cup of coffee. It's links time.

For the second day in a row, Connecticut coach Randy Edsall mentioned that a player on the team is dealing with an ankle injury without revealing the player's name, Desmond Conner reports in the Hartford Courant. As Conner notes, Edsall likely wouldn't be using this secrecy if it weren't somebody important. UConn fans just have to hope it's not Donald Brown.

Conner also has a nice feature on Moe Petrus, one of my preseason breakout candidates.

* The Tampa Tribune talked to injured South Florida linebacker Brouce Mompremier, and it doesn't sound as if Mompremier is coming back anytime soon, if at all.

"Let me put it this way: if they said I could play today, I wouldn't even know how to hit anybody right now," Mompremier told Tribune correspondent Gregg Becnel on Tuesday. "You see a lot of players get hurt like I did, and I don't want to end up like that Ball State player."
That Ball State player, senior WR Dante Love, broke his spine and sustained a spinal cord injury Saturday against Indiana, a few hours after Mompremier's injury. Love had five hours of surgery and can move his arms and legs, but BSU officials said Love will not play again.
Mompremier's injury wasn't as severe -- his did not require surgery and doctors said he did not suffer any serious spinal injuries -- but it was still terrifying. Mompremier was momentarily unconscious, and he initially couldn't lift his legs.

* The similarities between Dave Wannstedt and Greg Robinson are striking, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Both are ultra-conservative, defense-first guys with NFL backgrounds. And both have struggled in their first college head coaching jobs. Neither has had a winning season or a bowl trip; in fact, Syracuse and Pitt are the only two teams in the Big East who haven't gone bowling in the last three years. True, but one has a moustache.

* Also in the Post-Gazette, Chuck Finder says West Virginia kicker Pat McAfee had another nightmare few days after missing a field goal in overtime at Colorado. It was all too similar to last year's experience in the Pittsburgh loss.

Same as with the post-Pitt reaction, McAfee received hate e-mail and missives from angry Web slingers. This time, though, there was no vandalism against his car, no threats.
"There are still some idiots," McAfee said. "There are some people I'd like to run into in person. If people are going to act the way they act, it's kind of sad. Oh, well."

Seriously, people, you don't have better things to do than to harass a college kicker?

Big East internal affairs

September, 24, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

South Florida: The loss of senior outside linebacker Brouce Mompremier to a neck injury is a big blow, but the Bulls should be able to weather the loss. The reason is that South Florida has played primarily in its nickel defense much of the season, meaning only two linebackers are on the field most of the time. "That's what's saved us," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said.Tyrone McKenzie and Kion Wilson will be the main linebackers in the nickel, with Chris Robinson coming in to play strongside in the base 4-3 sets. South Florida will probably have to come out of the nickel next week against run-heavy Pittsburgh, however.

Louisville: The Cardinals hope that left tackle George Bussey and left guard Mark Wetterer can return to action Friday night against UConn after missing the Kansas State game with ankle injuries. But if they can't go, Louisville has confidence in backupsJosh Byrom and Greg Tomczyk , who played extremely well against Kansas State last week. "We told them, all great players have to start their first game sometime," head coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "Why not tonight?" The Cardinals also might have found a new placekicker in Purdue transfer Tim Dougherty, who replaced the struggling Chris Philpott in the second half against the Wildcats and drilled his only attempt, from 36 yards.

Pittsburgh: Dave Wannstedt is still trying to get promising youngsters Jonathan Baldwin and Lucas Nix involved, but he says it's been hard because of how the games have played out. The Panthers have had three close games versus Bowling Green, Buffalo and Iowa. "You want to do what's fair to the kid and what's fair to the team," Wannstedt said. "That's the balancing as a head coach. They're going to be good players, but my first responsibility is to this football team." Wannstedt said Baldwin, a wide receiver, played 10 out of 60 snaps against Iowa but got bumped off his route on a play designed to go to him. Wannstedt also saidElijah Fields will get his second start at safety but will split time with Dom DeCicco.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats seem happy with running a two-man running back committee. John Goebel and Jacob Ramsey have split carries almost evenly, with Goebel getting 30 attempts and Ramsey 29. Goebel has been slightly more effective, averaging 5.1 yards per carry to Ramsey's 4.1. Promising freshmen running backs Quentin Hines and Isaiah Pead have yet to touch the ball.

Connecticut: Donald Brown has been phenomenal for the Huskies and leads the nation in rushing. But even though Brown hardly ever tires, coach Randy Edsall would like to reduce his workload. Brown is averaging more than 28 carries per game and is on pace for nearly 340 rush attempts this season. He was in on 60 snaps against Baylor last week. Edsall wants to keep him from getting hurt or worn down before the end of the season. The return of backfield mate Andre Dixon could help. Dixon, who led the Huskies in rushing last year, has been slowed by an ankle injury so far this season but was back on the field at times in the Baylor game. Edsall said he wants to start giving the ball to Dixon and freshman Jordan Todman more and give Brown a break.

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