NCF Nation: Chad Christen

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Rutgers celebrated a step into a new era this week by joining the Big Ten. Technically, it can celebrate a share of its first Big East title, too, but three other schools may eventually get to do the same.

Because Rutgers fell Saturday at Pitt, 27-6, and because Louisville lost to Connecticut in triple overtime, 23-20, the Big East could finish with a four-way tie.

If Rutgers beats Louisville on Thursday night, it is the lone Big East champion, with just one conference loss. If Louisville wins and if Cincinnati wins two days later at UConn, there would be a four-way tie for the Big East crown, with the conference's BCS berth going to the team ranked highest in the BCS standings, which would likely be Louisville.

One year after falling by 18 at Connecticut in a similar scenario to this year's, the Scarlet Knights failed to move the ball consistently against (again) resurgent Pitt. UConn blew a 10-0 lead at Louisville, came up with a big interception by Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the third extra session and then won it with a 30-yard kick from Chad Christen.

Hobbled by a left-hand injury, Teddy Bridgewater came back and led Louisville on a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive with 21 seconds left to set up overtime. He then absorbed a vicious hit on his knee in the extra session, only to come back in overtime No. 2 and hit DeVante Parker for a go-ahead strike.

His last pass will haunt him, however, as UConn — behind quarterback Johnny McEntee, who replaced an injured Chandler Whitmer — delivered in the third overtime.

Rutgers, meanwhile, notched just 50 total yards on 27 first-half plays against Pitt, going into the locker room down 21-0. Snow created for a hard surface, and hard hitting followed, with a number of players getting shaken up on the day.

Gary Nova landed on his shoulder early and left before eventually returning. Khaseem Greene left shortly before the first half after a big hit on a punt return, one he was penalized for, before returning as well. And Jawan Jamison was again limited from what appeared to be the same ankle injury that has bothered him the past couple of weeks.

Jamison eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, but Rutgers wasn't able to do much on the ground. Jamison finished with 14 yards on nine carries and Savon Huggins rushed for just 18 yards on eight carries as the Scarlet Knights dug themselves a big hole and were forced to abandon the run early.

Panthers running back Ray Graham closed his home career out in style, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Tino Sunseri followed suit, completing 21 of 39 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns.

Pitt is making good on its season of win two, lose two. And if the Panthers win at South Florida next Saturday, they will be bowl eligible.

UConn will be, too, if it can upset Cincinnati, as the Huskies have now won two straight Big East games after an 0-4 start. They can thank their rushing game for that, as Lyle McCombs once again delivered Saturday, notching 133 yards on 29 carries.

And of course, at the top, chaos reigns. Thursday should be fun.
What did we learn in the Big East in Week 7? Glad you asked.

1. Going bowling. Louisville and Rutgers increased their records to 6-0 and are among the first teams in the nation to become bowl eligible. Congrats to both teams. At this point, Louisville has a great offense and an average defense. Rutgers has a great defense but an average offense. And it is still incredibly difficult to find ways to separate the teams at the top of the Big East. Both looked vulnerable at times Saturday -- Louisville trailed at halftime to Pitt; Rutgers was tied at 7 with Syracuse. Both had impressive performances in the second half -- the Cardinals from their offense, the Scarlet Knights from their defense -- to pull out the victories. But it still feels as if both teams need to make major improvements to truly be considered elite teams this season.

[+] EnlargeLouisville's Senorise Perry
Charles LeClaire/US PRESSWIRESenorise Perry and the Louisville offense have the Cardinals unbeaten at 6-0.
2. Hot seat watch, Part 1. I think we can officially add two more coaches to the hot seat watch. There were questions about Doug Marrone at Syracuse and Paul Pasqualoni at UConn going into the weekend, but those have grown after their respective losses. Let us start with Marrone. The Orange could not get out of their own way against Rutgers, continuing their alarming trend of turning over the football. Syracuse had four turnovers, giving the Orange 15 on the season with only five total takeaways. You are not going to win many games with that type of turnover margin. Red zone performance was terrible again. On four trips inside the Rutgers 20, Syracuse scored one touchdown. And then there was the blocked field goal that resulted in a Rutgers touchdown. Jamal Merrell had the block -- the same player who blocked a field goal attempt and extra-point attempt in Rutgers' win over Syracuse last year.

3. Hot seat watch, Part 2. As for UConn, the Huskies had plenty of success passing on Temple early, but then reverted to their usual form and managed zero points after scoring 14 in the first quarter. In fact, the Huskies had 192 yards in that opening quarter. They then managed 189 yards of offense for the rest of the game. Still, UConn had more first downs, more total yards, held the ball longer, had fewer turnovers and lost in overtime. Place-kicking, which had been a strength the past several years with Dave Teggart, was a disaster. Chad Christen missed four field goals for UConn, including the potential game winner in overtime. A team that loses to Western Michigan and Temple in the same season has major questions to answer.

4. Temple is on a roll. Nobody gave the Owls much of a chance to do anything in their first year in Big East play, but lo and behold they are 2-0 in the Big East. It is the first time that Temple has started 2-0 in Big East play AND has won consecutive league games. How is that for a statement? Steve Addazio has brought his "Temple Tough" brand of physical football to the Big East, and it has worked in the past two games. It may not have looked pretty at times, but the Owls can win games when they play physical, run consistently and limit the mistakes. Montel Harris has shown why he was such a huge get from Boston College, with his two straight 100-yard games. There is no quit in this team. In both its Big East wins, the chips were down at times, but the Owls showed a resiliency that should keep them in every game the rest of the way. Now here is one thing to keep in mind: Temple plays only 11 games this year, and that could hurt when it comes to bowl eligibility. The Owls did not have multiple gimme nonconference games like every other Big East team.

5. Cincinnati gets fired up after halftime. Well, at least against inferior competition. Against Fordham, Cincinnati scored on all five of its second-half possessions to outscore the Rams 35-11. Last week against Miami (Ohio), Cincinnati outscored the RedHawks 28-0 after the break. This is quite the uninspiring stretch before the Bearcats face longtime rival Louisville in two weeks. But against Toledo next week, Cincinnati is going to have to work on starting faster. If this team wants to beat Louisville, it cannot afford to go through the motions for an entire half. The Rockets are 6-1 and will present a tougher challenge than Miami and Fordham, so Cincinnati has to be ready.

Temple stuns UConn in overtime

October, 13, 2012
Well, the Big East has rolled out the red carpet for Temple.

The Owls pulled the come-from-behind overtime win over Connecticut 17-14 on the road Saturday afternoon. Temple posted 17 unanswered points for the victory. This marks the first time in school history Temple (3-2, 2-0) has won back-to-back Big East games. Temple pulled another stunner last week, beating USF in its first Big East game since 2004.

At the beginning of the game, there were not many indications this would go Temple's way. UConn (3-4, 0-2) jumped out to a quick 14-0 first-quarter lead as quarterback Chandler Whitmer picked apart the Temple defense. In fact, he had 159 yards passing in the first quarter alone. Temple, meanwhile, could not get anything going against the No. 1 run defense in the Big East.

It looked as if the Huskies would have no trouble.

But Temple started chipping away once it got its running game going midway through the second quarter. Montel Harris got the Owls on the board late in the quarter, running for 62 of Temple's 80 yards on the scoring drive. UConn could not get going on offense, and the offensive line in particular did this group no favors. The Huskies also played without leading rusher Lyle McCombs, though replacement Max DeLorenzo held his own with 90 yards rushing.

UConn blew several opportunities to build on its lead. Kicker Chad Christen missed three field goals in regulation. Temple, meanwhile, came up short on several opportunities of its own, fumbling at the UConn 25 just before halftime. Then later in the fourth quarter, with opportunities to kick field goals, coach Steve Addazio went for it on fourth down but came up short.

Temple got one final chance with 2:56 remaining. The Owls were able to convert twice on fourth down, and then Chris Coyer made two incredible throws -- the first a 33-yarder to Deon Miller on third-and-13, and then the last to Jalen Fitzpatrick for a 14-yard touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. That sent the game into overtime.

Once again, UConn could not move the ball and sent out Christen. He missed his fourth field goal of the day, this one a 28-yarder. Temple kicker Brandon McManus made his 29-yarder when he got his chance, and the Owls came out with the victory. Harris ended up with his second straight 100-yard game, carrying the ball 30 times for 142 yards with a touchdown. He got the majority of the carries with Matt Brown on the sideline because of a sprained ankle.

As Steve Addazio celebrates the win over his former mentor, questions about whether UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni is on the hot seat are only growing stronger. UConn has a defense that can keep the Huskies in games, but it has been futile on offense. UConn has now lost to Temple and Western Michigan this season, raising serious questions about whether UConn is headed in the right direction.

Big East helmet stickers: Week 1

September, 2, 2012
Here's the best of the Big East (so far) in Week 1:

Ryan Nassib, Syracuse: The senior set school records with 44 completions (on 65 attempts) and 470 passing yards Saturday. Down by 22 in the second half, Nassib threw four touchdowns passes, leading the Orange to 28 unanswered points before the defense ultimately let them down in a 42-41 home loss to Northwestern. Still, you can't ask for much more than what Nassib left out there, and his resilience facing an early deficit has to rub off on the rest of the team down the road.

Ryne Giddins, USF: Can Giddins be the next in the line of great Bulls defensive ends? He certainly looked the part Saturday, recording 1.5 sacks on the first three plays of the game, leading a defense that sacked Chattanooga six times in what turned into a 34-13 rout.

Matt Brown, Temple: Nineteen carries, 145 yards, a touchdown. All behind an offensive line replacing four starters. Montel Harris' hamstring injury forced a heavier workload upon Brown, and he delivered in a 41-10 rout of crosstown rival Villanova.

Khaseem Greene, Rutgers: What else did you expect from the reigning Big East defensive player of the year? In a rugged 24-12 win over Tulane, Greene led the way with 14 tackles, a sack and a pass breakup, keying a defense that held Tulane to just 8 rushing yards.

Chad Christen, UConn: No Dave Teggart, no problem. Don't laugh. Christen, who held for Teggart when he broke every career kicking record in school history, stepped right up to the plate in his debut Thursday, going 3-for-3 on field goals, including a 47-yarder in a 37-0 win over UMass.