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NCF Nation: Cody Endres

Halloween in the Big East

October, 29, 2010
The Big East knows Halloween.

You want scary? Just check out the league's nonconference record. The best story in the Big East right now is a team (Syracuse) whose mascot looks conspicuously like a giant pumpkin. And Pitt's quarterback of the future is named Mark Myers, which sounds an awful lot like you know who.

Here are some more Halloween tie-ins:

Dave Wannstedt
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicPittsburgh's home loss to Miami was a nightmare for coach Dave Wannstedt and the Big East.
Scary movie: Pitt's 31-3 loss to Miami at home was as frightening as it gets, both for Panthers fans and the Big East in general. The league's supposed best team got mauled by a former friend. Sounds like a horror-film plot. Runner-up: Rutgers' home loss to Tulane.

Night of the living dead: Cincinnati started just 1-3 after winning the past two Big East titles and going 12-0 in the regular season last year. The Bearcats crawled back to life, but another damaging loss to South Florida last week has them clinging to bowl hopes by their fingernails.

Cursed team: Connecticut. It's been a nightmare season for the Huskies, with injuries, suspensions and tough losses turning a promising season into a horror story.

Graveyard: Read the last rites for: Cincinnati's 13-game Big East winning streak; Syracuse's eight-year drought against West Virginia; UConn's Big East title chances; the Big East's Top 25 residency; Dion Lewis's Heisman and repeat Big East player of the year hopes; West Virginia's dominant run attack; South Florida's October weeknight road flops.

Thriller: The best and most exciting player in the Big East this season hasn't been Dion Lewis or Noel Devine. It's Louisville's Bilal Powell, who runs like there are ghouls and goblins chasing him and who attacks linebackers like a zombie hunter.

Jack-O-Lantern: If the light ever goes on for the Rutgers offense -- that is, if the line can protect the quarterback, the running game takes off and the young receivers mature -- the Scarlet Knights could be dangerous because of their already strong defense and special teams.

Twilight Zone: South Florida fans had to feel like they were trapped in some hellish cosmic time warp when quarterback B.J. Daniels kept making costly mistakes in losses to Florida, Syracuse and West Virginia. Daniels finally busted through his own shackles last week at Cincinnati, and the Bulls hope that's the end of the episode.

Costumes: And finally some suggested costumes this year for Big East personalities:

  • Charlie Strong: Dr. Frankenstein. He's stitched together some leftover parts and made Louisville come alive.

  • Doug Marrone: Lazarus. He has helped raise Syracuse from the dead.

  • Rutgers' offensive linemen: Swiss Cheese. With a nation's worst 33 sacks allowed, this group has plenty of holes.

  • Skip Holtz: The Joker. The South Florida coach always has a smile and is quick with the one-liners, but don't underestimate his killer instinct.

  • John Marinatto: Houdini. The Big East commish and his league have escaped conference realignment unharmed. For now (to be continued ...)
Redshirt freshman Michael Box will get his first career start at quarterback for Connecticut for Saturday's game at Louisville, head coach Randy Edsall said Thursday.

Box replaces Cody Endres, who was suspended for the rest of the year Wednesday for violating school policy. Edsall said Endres' time at UConn is officially over.

Box has appeared in two games this season, completing two of his five passes for 30 yards. He'll be backed up by senior Zach Frazer, who started the Huskies' first four games.

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Box is from Suwanee, Ga., and has been praised by the coaching staff for his work in practice.

Edsall said he had "complete confidence" in Box despite the quarterback's lack of game experience. Edsall also said he had a team meeting Wednesday in which he discussed the departures of both Endres and starting guard Erik Kuraczea this week.

"A lot of times, you get addition by subtraction," he said.

What to watch in the Big East: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
1. Rutgers' focus: It's impossible to tell how Rutgers will respond to the devastating injury to teammate Eric LeGrand last week that has dominated the discussion and thoughts in New Jersey. The closest parallel is probably how Connecticut played after losing Jasper Howard last year. The Huskies were inspired but took several weeks until they could close out and win a game, as the emotional fatigue might have been a factor. How do the Scarlet Knights come out on Saturday at Pittsburgh?

2. O-lines at Heinz: The offensive lines at Rutgers and Pitt have been under fire all season. The Scarlet Knights surrendered eight sacks last week and rank last among 120 FBS teams with 26 sacks allowed this season. They will have to hold off a strong defensive line led by Jabaal Sheard that will be looking to cause havoc. The Panthers' offensive front has showed improvement since making lineup changes three games ago, but it will face a difficult challenge against a Rutgers defense that brings pressure from lots of confusing angles. "Nobody will force the blitzing issue as much as Rutgers will," Dave Wannstedt said. This could be a defensive struggle unless the lines hold up.

3. Chas vs. Tino: Rutgers true freshman quarterback Chas Dodd will be making his first road start. Can he continue the fourth-quarter magic he's showed the past two games? Meanwhile, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had his best game last week at Syracuse. Can he keep it up against another blitz-heavy defense?

[+] EnlargeB.J. Daniels
J. Meric/Getty ImagesSouth Florida needs quarterback B.J. Daniels to get into a rhythm.
4. Can USF find the end zone? South Florida has failed to score an offensive touchdown in two Big East games. Skip Holtz and his staff went back to the drawing board this week, trying to find ways to improve the passing game and quarterback B.J. Daniels. Freshman cornerback Terrence Mitchell could see some time at receiver Friday night at Cincinnati. The Bulls have never won at Nippert Stadium and will have a hard time breaking that streak with merely field goals.

5. Cincinnati's offense vs. South Florida's defense: The secret to both teams' success Friday night is no secret. Cincinnati, which is averaging more than 30 points a game, likes to play a fast, free-wheeling offense that lights up the scoreboard. South Florida, which is allowing just 16.7 points per game, relies on its defense to keep it in games. If this is a track meet, the Bearcats should roll. If it's a physical, grind-it-out special, the Bulls have a chance.

6. Who will QB UConn? The Huskies' stunning announcement Wednesday afternoon that starting quarterback Cody Endres will be suspended the rest of the year creates intrigue for their game on Saturday at Louisville. Will Randy Edsall turn back to Zach Frazer, who made his debut while leading a memorable comeback win at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium two years ago? Or will Edsall stick to the depth chart and elevate redshirt freshman Michael Box, who has little important game experience? Either way, UConn's offense will have to make some on-the-fly adjustments this week as it prepares for a crucial conference road game.

7. Star running back duel: If you like watching standout tailbacks do their thing, Saturday's Connecticut-Louisville game is for you. UConn's Jordan Todman is the nation's No. 3 rusher, while Louisville's Bilal Powell -- coming off back-to-back 200-yard games -- is No. 4. Both have different styles; Todman is shiftier, while Powell will lay his shoulder into a defender. Both offensive lines are good and tough. Expect lots of handoffs and a fun battle to see who is the Big East's best back.

8. Big-play prevention: Avoiding the big play in the passing game has been a big problem for both UConn and Louisville. The Cardinals got burned several times last week by Cincinnati's receivers and may be without top cornerback Johnny Patrick. The Huskies lost the Rutgers game because of too many long Scarlet Knights passes, and it's been a continuing issue they worked on during the bye week. Their best corner, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, is coming off hand surgery. The strong running games for both sides should open up the play-action and potential big gainers in the passing game. Can either side stop it?

9. Cuse comeback: Syracuse's momentum wasn't just halted last week, it was flattened and sold off for parts. A 31-point home loss was embarrassing for a team that thought it had turned a corner. The Orange don't have long to feel sorry for themselves with this week's game at No. 20 West Virginia. Sometimes having a big-name opponent after a tough loss can help with focus. Syracuse needs a strong performance to show it wasn't merely an early-season feel-good story.

10. Deep-dishing Geno: Syracuse's defensive game plan the past two weeks was clear: load the box and see if the opposing quarterback could beat the Orange. It worked great against the struggling Daniels at South Florida, but Sunseri was ready for it and threw four touchdowns. Syracuse probably doesn't want to try the same strategy against West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who's been terrific all season and now has a solid complement of receivers. If defensive coordinator Scott Shafer doesn't change things up, though, Smith could have a big day.

This was supposed to be a breakthrough season for Connecticut. Instead, it's shaping up as one to forget.

The Huskies have suffered disappointing losses at Michigan, Temple and Rutgers, and now -- just a few days before an important conference game at Louisville -- they announced that starting quarterback Cody Endres has been suspended for the season.

No reason other than "university policies" was given for Endres' suspension. But he was suspended in the preseason and missed three games, so you'd think a guy in his shoes would be on his very best behavior the rest of the year. I don't want to speculate as to what Endres did to run afoul of team rules, but whatever it was could not have been smart on his part.

Curiously enough, offensive lineman Erik Kuraczea was suspended at the same time as Endres this preseason, and the school announced on Tuesday that Kuraczea was leaving the team. As of now, UConn isn't saying whether the two moves are related.

So now what does UConn do? Go back to Zach Frazer, who was inconsistent and inaccurate in his first four starts? The senior has been bumped down to third on the depth chart, and it sure seemed like Randy Edsall was talking about him Tuesday when he mentioned an unnamed player had not handled a demotion well. It appeared the team had lost some confidence in Frazer (and the fan base sure had).

Redshirt freshman Michael Box is currently the No. 2 quarterback, but he's never played any significant minutes and would be making his first career start on the road. The coaching staff likes him a lot, but that's a tough way to break in a young guy at that spot.

It's just another headache for Edsall, who thought he had a veteran team that would be ready to take the next step this year after a strong finish to 2009. Instead, he's been talking about how his team has felt a "sense of entitlement" and trying to find ways to fix various gaps and issues that have sprung up all year.

At 3-3 and sitting in a 0-1 Big East hole, this is the last bit of bad news UConn needed right now.

UConn takes lead into halftime

October, 8, 2010
A long, nearly two-hour first half has ended with Connecticut leading Rutgers 24-17.

There has been more offense than we could have expected so far. Well, that and special teams. UConn scored on a 100-yard kickoff return by Nick Williams, and Rutgers' two scores were set up by a long punt return by Mason Robinson and a 75-yard kick return by Joe Lefeged.

The Scarlet Knights led 17-7 thanks to a strong start by true freshman Chas Dodd. He completed eight of his first nine passes for 130 yards and showed a lot more poise in the pocket than injured Tom Savage has this year. There may be a real quarterback controversy here, which is amazing. Rutgers hasn't scored 17 points in its last two games and yet still trails despite the outburst.

That's because Jordan Todman erupted on a 66-yard touchdown run with some classic pulling work by UConn's offensive line, and Cody Endres's one great pass of the half went for a 22-yard touchdown to Kashif Moore. Clearly, UConn has more offensive weapons than Rutgers, to no one's surprise. The Huskies have also been better in the second half this year, so the seven-point lead bodes well.

But Rutgers isn't out of this, and if Dodd continues to play well this could actually turn into a shootout. It's been way more entertaining so far than expected.

UConn, Rutgers going opposite ways

October, 8, 2010
The Rutgers-Connecticut series lately has featured a matchup of relative equals, with the Scarlet Knights usually emerging with the upper hand.

As the two teams meet Friday night in the Big East opener, UConn looks like the team on the rise, while Rutgers is faced with all sorts of questions.

The Huskies have scored 85 points in their past two games, both wins, and seem to be hitting their stride with a new starting quarterback.

"I think we're coming along nicely," said that quarterback, Cody Endres. "We're starting to get all facets of of our offense going and I think we've kind of got a little momentum going into Big East play. Everyone is feeling pretty confident right now."

[+] EnlargeCody Endres
David Butler II/US PresswireQuarterback Cody Endres has UConn on the rise as it enters its game against slumping Rutgers.
That quote is about the exact opposite sentiment coming out of Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights have mustered just 27 total points in their past two games, both losses, and may be forced to put a true freshman under center for his first career start. They're coming off Saturday's demoralizing defeat to Tulane on homecoming, which has to rate as one of the worst losses of the Greg Schiano era.

"We certainly are disappointed and feel like we are a much better team than we showed," Schiano said.

History dictates this game will be close; six of the past eight meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less. And there are some interesting matchups to watch.

Rutgers has survived on its defense, which leads the league in points and rushing yards allowed. But UConn is the Big East's top scoring and rushing team, led by tailback Jordan Todman.

"He is something," Schiano said of Todman. "I see a lot of Ray [Rice] in him when he is running the football. He is not the biggest guy and he hides behind a gigantic line, but he has got great acceleration and really good patience and vision and balance."

A key for the Scarlet Knights will be to stop Connecticut's improving passing game, which has taken off since Endres supplanted Zach Frazer at halftime of the Buffalo game two weeks ago. As usual, Rutgers will likely blitz from several angles and hope to force Endres into mistakes as it did last year to Frazer, who threw three interceptions in a 28-24 loss.

"They come from everywhere," Endres said. "I have to read my keys and make all the right decisions."

But the real question is, can Schiano's offense keep up even with a modest UConn output? Starting quarterback Tom Savage might not play because of injured fingers on his throwing hand, and that means true freshman Chas Dodd could get thrown into the fire. Dodd showed some things while trying to mount a comeback against Tulane, but he lacks dependable receivers and is hampered by an offensive line that has given up 13 sacks already, including four last week. Meanwhile, the Huskies are tied for the league lead with 13 sacks on defense.

"If I am Connecticut, I am coming after Rutgers," Schiano said. "They are going to bring the heat and I would do the same thing in many different ways, and they have the ability to do it."

So things appear to lean toward the Huskies in this showdown. But it did last year, too, after Todman scored with 38 seconds left for a 24-21 lead, only to see Rutgers win the game 16 seconds later with an 81-yard touchdown pass from Savage to Tim Brown.

"We want to get anybody back who beats us, but especially the way that happened," Endres said. "We thought we had it in the bag."

We'll find out Friday night if the Huskies can play their advantages into a victory this time around.
[+] EnlargeEndres
David Butler II/US PresswireCody Endres has remained steady since taking over as the starting quarterback.
1. UConn is starting to figure things out: The Huskies were a preseason darling who fell flat in their first two games against FBS opponents. But since inserting Cody Endres as the starting quarterback last week, UConn has scored 71 points in its past six quarters. The defense is starting to come around to, shutting out Vanderbilt in the second half on Saturday after allowing too many big plays in the first 30 minutes. Granted, the competition was merely Buffalo and Vanderbilt. But Connecticut looks like it's in a whole lot better shape than next week's opponent. Speaking of which ...

2. Rutgers is in turmoil: Another injury to quarterback Tom Savage -- this time, adding a hurt throwing hand to his bruised ribs -- forced Rutgers to go with a true freshman under center against Tulane. Chas Dodd actually played pretty well, by the low standards of the Scarlet Knights offense. This team is the anti-Oregon; it's managed a total of 46 points against Florida International, North Carolina and Tulane. Some fans will no doubt call for Dodd to start over the struggling Savage this week, though that's unlikely. Losing to Tulane at home is inexcusable, and Greg Schiano has to turn this team around before Friday's conference opener.

3. Ray Graham is a budding superstar: Dion Lewis didn't play for Pittsburgh on Saturday, but the Panthers hardly needed him. Graham ran 29 times for 277 yards and three scores against Florida International, falling just 36 yards short of Tony Dorsett's single-game school record. For the season, Graham has gained 492 yards and is averaging a stunning 9.5 yards per carry, while Lewis had just 143 yards and 3.0 yards per carry. Dave Wannstedt says Lewis is still his starter, but Graham has earned the right to at least get equal carries going forward.

4. Coaching changes make a difference: We still don't know what we know about South Florida, which has beaten three patsies and lost to Florida this season. Louisville has the record (2-2) you'd expect at this point, with wins against Eastern Kentucky and Arkansas State and losses to Oregon State and Kentucky. But watching both teams, it's clear that each has benefited from the offseason coaching change. The Bulls look like a more complete team under Skip Holtz, adding a solid running game to the offense instead of simply relying on the quarterback to get things done. And although Louisville let up in the second half against Arkansas State, the Cardinals zoomed out to a dominating 31-7 halftime lead on the road, the kind of performance rarely seen in Steve Kragthorpe's tenure. This team believes in Charlie Strong, and it won't be an easy out in conference play.

UConn runs away from Vanderbilt

October, 2, 2010
Connecticut has established a trend in its last two games: Get off to an early lead, then let opponent back before halftime. Own the second half.

Whatever works. After blowing out Buffalo in the second half last week, the Huskies did the same thing Saturday against Vanderbilt in a 40-21 win. UConn outscored the Commodores 19-0 in the second half and produced 26 unanswered points after falling behind 21-14 in the first half.

The big plays that burned the Huskies in the second half weren't there for Vandy in the second half as the defense played much better. The defense, in fact, accounted for two scores, with Blidi Wreh-Wilson returning an interception for a touchdown for the second straight week and Vanderbilt taking a safety late.

Jordan Todman finished with 190 yards on 37 carries, and Cody Endres went 21-for-30 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. This offense is clearly performing better with Endres at the helm, and if UConn can eliminate some of the big mistakes it keeps making -- another fumble in the red zone Saturday, for example, this team can still live up to its preseason billing as a serious Big East contender.

The Big East improves to 2-10 against BCS conference opponents and now can say that it has beaten an SEC team, as dubious a claim as that might be.

Connecticut still has some issues to iron out, but the Huskies should take a fair amount of momentum and confidence into next week's conference opener against Rutgers.

UConn weathers Vandy storm

October, 2, 2010
Connecticut had a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, but then everything went wrong.

A 71-yard kickoff return led to Vanderbilt's first touchdown. One play after Cole Wagner shanked a punt, the Commodores capitalized with a 48-yard touchdown pass. Then Cody Endres threw his first interception of the year, and Vandy scored again, this time on a well-designed 44-yard reverse.

The three touchdowns came within four minutes as Vanderbilt seized all the momentum. But UConn answered with a solid drive at the end of the half, tying the score on an Endres touchdown pass to Kashif Moore.

There is good and bad in the half for the Huskies. The offense has had some good drives, and despite the interception, Endres is 14-for-17 for 116 yards. Receivers seem to be making more plays for him than they did for Zach Frazer as well. Jordan Todman has run the ball strong despite his elbow injury, picking up 91 yards.

But UConn has also given up way too many big plays on defense. Cornerback Mike Lang looked terrible while being burned for that touchdown pass after the bad punt. The Commodores passing game hadn't done much this season, but Larry Smith has already thrown for two scores.

Vandy is also averaging 8.2 yards per rush, though most of that has come on the big plays. Connecticut simply has to tighten things up defensively unless it wants this to continue to be a shootout.
How glad is UConn to have Jordan Todman back?

The Huskies' star running back missed last week's game against Buffalo with an elbow injury but is back in force this week. Todman already has two touchdown runs as Connecticut leads Vanderbilt 14-0 in the second quarter. Todman has piled up 79 yards and looks like he might challenge 200 today.

Meanwhile, new starting quarterback Cody Endres is 7-for-8 and validating Randy Edsall's decision to make a change at the position. The UConn defense has given up a couple of big plays but has stiffened on key short-yardage situations. It looks like the Huskies have more offensive options than the Commodores, led by Todman.

What to watch in the Big East: Week 5

September, 30, 2010
1. TCB Weekend: It's a rare week when every Big East team is favored and expected to win, with only UConn's game against Vanderbilt featuring a major-conference opponent. The league has been battered and bruised for its September performance, so this is a time to pick up some wins and confidence -- provided that everybody takes care of business.

[+] EnlargeCody Endres
AP Photo/Fred BeckhamCody Endres completed 7 of 11 passes for 139 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in relief of Zach Frazer last week.
2. Endres enters: Cody Endres looked good in relief of Zach Frazer at quarterback for Connecticut last week, and now he gets his first starting assignment since October of last season. Can he keep it up against an SEC defense? And can the Huskies passing game continue to show improvement?

3. UConn's rush to victory: Notice I called Vanderbilt an SEC defense in the last item, and technically that's true. But the Commodores rank 105th in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing 206 yards per game. We don't know yet if Jordan Todman will play after missing last week's game with an arm injury. But clearly there should be some running room for a team that loves to move the ball on the ground.

4. Macho Man Savage?: Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage is dealing with bruised ribs, and if you ever experienced an injury there, you know how painful that can be. It remains to be seen whether Savage, who has gotten off to a rough start while healthy, will play or be able to be effective against Tulane. If he can't go, then true freshman Chas Dodd may be forced into action, or Mohamed Sanu will see a whole lot of Wildcat time. That could make an already scuffling Rutgers offense even more sketchy.

5. Pitt's new-look line: Pittsburgh shook things up this week with its offensive line, moving tackle Lucas Nix inside and installing Jordan Gibbs at right tackle. The Panthers are desperately trying to get the line right and open up room for their running game, which is key to everything they want to do. The reshaped line gets its first challenge against Florida International, which gave Rutgers all it could handle in Week 2. FIU likes to blitz from different angles and has Florida athletes, so this will be a good litmus test for Pitt's makeover.

6. Sunseri in the spotlight: Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri did not look good against Miami, and when reserve Pat Bostick came in during the fourth quarter some fans were ready to make the change permanent. Dave Wannstedt isn't ready to make a switch and still believes in Sunseri. But clearly, the first-year starter needs to get on track, because the Panthers don't have much room for error. And they have a veteran in Bostick waiting in the wings.

7. Bulls on the run or in the air?: South Florida escaped Western Kentucky last week by running the ball almost exclusively. Now the Bulls play a Florida Atlantic team that ranks last in the country in rushing defense. So expect some more of the power I-formation look, and potentially a big day for Demetris Murray and Mo Plancher. At the same time, however, receivers Dontavia Bogan and Sterling Griffin could be back from injury, and both could use some work before next week's Big East opener against Syracuse. So USF needs to air it out a bit, too.

8. New Cardinals catchers: Louisville has suffered all kinds of injuries at the receiver position, the latest knocking out leading pass catcher Doug Beaumont. The Cardinals need to find people to make plays in the passing game this week at Arkansas State, and they could look to junior college transfer Josh Bellamy, sophomore Andrell Smith or freshmen Kai Dominguez and Jarrett Davis. None have much experience, and Louisville will likely need to get plays out of them against a Red Wolves team that's averaging 28 points per game.

UConn hopes Cody Endres is the answer

September, 29, 2010
The guy who might be the answer to Connecticut's offensive problems spent most of the past month throwing passes to a 325-pound offensive lineman.

Cody Endres incurred a month-long suspension for violating a team rule in August, and the quarterback wasn't allowed to participate in any team activities. So he lifted five days a week and threw to Erik Kuraczea, a backup guard, who was also serving a suspension. Kuraczea would only simulate the end of a route.

"I wouldn't let him run the full thing, because that might have thrown my timing off a little bit," Endres said.

[+] EnlargeEndres
AP Photo/Fred BeckhamConnecticut is hoping Cody Endres can provide a spark to its offense.
Timing, clearly, was not a problem. After returning to practice for a week, Endres stepped in for ineffective starter Zach Frazer just before halftime of Saturday's Buffalo game. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns as UConn's passing game finally showed some life. And just like that, Endres is the Huskies' starting quarterback. Again.

"We were just really kind of stagnant; we weren't doing much offensively," head coach Randy Edsall said. "Cody came in and gave us a spark. He was putting the ball on the money, getting the ball out of his hand and we were scoring points."

UConn had scored only 26 points combined in losses to Michigan and Temple as Frazer completed exactly 50 percent of his passes with no touchdowns in those games. Endres and Frazer have flip-flopped the starter's job for much of the past two years. But after Endres injured his shoulder midway through last year, Frazer seemed to take control. He was No. 1 on the depth chart all through the offseason even though Endres had a much better completion percentage (63.6 percent) than Frazer when he was healthy.

"It was difficult for me," Endres said of falling behind on the depth chart. "I think I did some good things before I got injured last year. But I stayed positive, hoping I'd get another chance."

But he almost eliminated that chance by running afoul of team rules last month. Endres said he was down at first but then recalled how former teammate Andre Dixon worked himself from the doghouse to star last season.

Still, Endres was banned from practicing or attending team meetings. He could eat with the team and sometimes stopped by the locker room, but that was about the extent of his involvement.

"Give him credit," Edsall said. "He went and worked hard on his own and did the things he needed to do to stay in shape."

It still didn't look too likely that Endres would play right after returning from suspension. He was third on the depth chart in practice last week, getting only one rep with the first-team offense per drill. But on Wednesday, Mike Box took a sack in a two-minute drill. Edsall didn't like that and promoted Endres to second string on Thursday. Then Endres stepped in Saturday and acted like he'd never been gone, throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass to Mike Smith early in the third quarter.

"We definitely had the same confidence in him as we did before," receiver Kashif Moore said. "He's poised and comfortable back there. He has a lot of confidence and brings a lot of energy."

Frazer, who transferred in from Notre Dame, has the bigger arm. But Endres is more accurate and does a better job hitting receivers in stride. Frazer has now been demoted to third string behind Box.

Endres had a nice debut against Buffalo. Things will step up a notch this week against Vanderbilt, with Big East play looming after that. The UConn offense needs to return to the level at which it was playing at the end of last season.

"We never had a problem in the running game," Moore said. "It was the passing game that's kind of lacking right now. We're going to keep making improvements and build off of last week."

Endres hopes to lead that charge. But he's learned through his ups and downs not to take anything for granted.

"It's never wrapped up at quarterback," he said.

Week 4 review/Week 5 preview

September, 27, 2010
The memory-wiping service featured in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is offering discounts to all Big East teams should they want to clear this September from their brains. Until then, let's review what happened in another tough week for the league:

Team of the week: Syracuse. Not much to choose from here, and all the Orange did was beat Colgate at home. But the Orange are 3-1 for the first time since 2003, and I don't see any other Big East teams celebrating milestone victories right about now.

[+] EnlargeButch Jones
AP Photo/Al BehrmanCincinnati and coach Butch Jones showed flashes of promise in an exciting game against Oklahoma.
Best game: Cincinnati's 31-29 loss to Oklahoma. It was a game full of big plays and a stirring Bearcats comeback, in a unique atmosphere against a big-time opponent. Plus, it offered signs of what Cincinnati could become under Butch Jones.

Biggest play: This is a four-way tie, and it's all about kicking-game plays not properly executed.

D.J. Woods' fumbled punt for Cincinnati proved costly and maybe the turning point, along with a missed PAT that kept the Bearcats from being able to tie the score late with a two-point conversion. West Virginia allowed a punt return for a touchdown and missed two field goals (one of which was blocked) in a 20-14 loss at LSU.

Rutgers, normally so good at special teams, had a punt blocked that set up North Carolina's final field goal in a 17-13 loss. And Pitt's Cam Saddler fumbled away a punt return just as Pitt cut Miami's lead to 17-3 and finally appeared to have some momentum. The Panthers completely deflated after that.

Never underestimate the kicking game.

Best call: Randy Edsall's decision to lift Zach Frazer for Cody Endres at quarterback in the Buffalo game. The Huskies seemed to gain almost immediate confidence on offense, and Endres led them down the field to several scores in a 31-point second half. Edsall couldn't really have made the call any sooner since Endres was suspended until last week. But it was the right time to make a change.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati. I totally blew it in my helmet stickers this week, giving a nod to Woods instead of Pead. I'd like to blame it on too many Abitas in Baton Rouge, but it was really a case of a bad internet connection in the LSU press box and no TV access. But no excuses. Throw the penalty flag on me. Pead was huge in the second-half comeback, running for 139 of his 169 yards after intermission. Cincinnati is a different team with a healthy Pead able to take pressure off the passing game.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Jerome Junior, S, Connecticut. Junior had a pair of interceptions, including one he returned 27 yards for the Huskies' first score against Buffalo.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Terrance Mitchell, South Florida. The true freshman had 94 yards on two punt returns, including a 64-yarder that set up a score against Western Kentucky.

Worst hangover: Pittsburgh. Sure, West Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati all lost their marquee matchups, too. But the total margin of defeat against LSU, Oklahoma and North Carolina was 12 points, at least giving some hope that each team can get things going. Pitt offered no reason for optimism in a 31-3 home collapse against Miami. The Panthers likely aren't as bad they showed last Thursday night, but they looked nothing like the preseason league favorite.

Strangest moment: With USF clinging to a 24-12 lead against Western Kentucky and the Hilltoppers about to go for an onside kick, Skip Holtz put quarterback B.J. Daniels in on his hands team. And wouldn't you know it: the ball went to Daniels, and he caught it. How many coaches would put their starting quarterback in that situation? Then again, given the kicking problems plaguing the league all during Week 4, it makes sense.

The good news for the Big East is that September is over. Here's how the hunt for a better October begins in a really lackluster week (games listed in descending order of interest/importance):

Vanderbilt at Connecticut (2-2): Hey, it's a chance for the Big East to beat an SEC team! (Crickets). But Vandy already has a better win than anybody in the Big East -- a 28-14 victory at Ole Miss. (, Noon ET)

Florida International (0-3) at Pittsburgh (1-2): It's Panthers vs. Panthers. Don't sleep on FIU, which has opened its season playing Rutgers, Texas A&M and Maryland tough. If Pitt's head isn't right, an upset is possible. (3:30 ET)

Tulane (1-2) at Rutgers (2-1): Hey, remember when Tulane used to have that high-scoring offense with Shaun King? That was fun. Hey, remember when Rutgers' offense used to score points, too? (2 ET)

Florida Atlantic (1-2) at South Florida (2-1): The Big East tries to maintain its tenuous hold over the Sun Belt in the ESPN conference rankings. (, 7:05 ET)

Louisville (1-2) at Arkansas State (1-3): You don't just walk into Jonesboro and expect to beat the Red Wolves. No, sir. (7 ET)

Bye: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Syracuse

Big East power rankings, Week 5

September, 27, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

In three years of doing these rankings, I've never been more dumbfounded as to where to rank the teams after the top spot. Over at my Twitter feed on Sunday, I asked fans for suggestions for the No. 2 team in these rankings.

I got votes for Cincinnati, Syracuse, UConn and even Louisville. A sampling of some of the other responses:

@CountryRoadsWV: Temple?

@agbecker: Villanova

@wjnelson11 Georgetown -- best backcourt in the country

@ultimatemale66: Rank everyone #2.

So, yeah. It's not easy. I had to take an innovative approach this week. Here goes:

1. West Virginia (3-1): Let's face it: No Big East team was going to go down to Death Valley and win. The Mountaineers probably had the best chance, and they might have pulled it off with better execution in the kicking game. I still believe this is the best team in the conference, though Noel Devine needs to stay healthy.

2. Vacant (0-0): The NCAA has vacated this spot until somebody steps up. At least Vacant U. is unbeaten.

T-3. Cincinnati (1-3): So it's come to this. Tied for the No. 3 spot in the rankings is a 1-3 team that has yet to beat an FBS opponent. Sigh. At least Cincinnati looked really good against Oklahoma. It might have just been one game and one inspired performance in an unusual atmosphere. But it's something.

T-3. Syracuse (3-1): Well, why not? The Orange are tied for the best record in the league right now, even if their three victims -- Akron, Maine and Colgate -- are all hapless punching bags.

T-5. Connecticut (2-2): The Cody Endres move has filled the Huskies with a lot of optimism. Still, it was just one half against Buffalo, at home. I need to see a strong performance this week against Vanderbilt before I'm convinced this team is actually starting to live up to its potential.

T-5. Rutgers (2-1): It's pretty hard to win if you can't score. The Scarlet Knights might have the best combination of defense and special teams play in the league. But that offense -- which I'm taking to calling Rutgers Mortis -- just can't score.

T-5. South Florida (2-1): Skip Holtz used more vanilla than Ben & Jerry against Western Kentucky, electing to pass the ball only 11 times. He could do that against a bad team and still register an unimpressive 12-point win. This is the hardest team in the conference to get a read on right now.

7. Pittsburgh (1-2): I don't really believe Pitt is the second-worst team in the conference. But after Thursday's putrid 31-3 loss to Miami, and the ridiculous lack of discipline the team has shown lately, the Panthers deserve this banishment for at least a week.

8. Louisville (1-2): I'm probably being too hard on the Cardinals in these wacky rankings. I thought all offseason that Louisville would have a difficult time winning more than one conference game. Now I don't think I'd be surprised if they won four or five.

What we learned in the Big East: Week 4

September, 26, 2010
1. Bottoms up: If there were a theme song for the Big East's 2010, it would be Green Day's "Wake Me When September Ends." The league completed a brutal opening month in which it went 1-10 against BCS opponents, saw all eight teams lose at least once and, by Sunday, completely exit the polls. No Big East teams were exactly expected to win in Week 4's big slate of games -- West Virginia at LSU, Oklahoma at Cincinnati, Miami at Pitt and North Carolina at Rutgers -- but the fact that all four of them went down only contributed to the league's current dismal state.

2. Pitt has problems: While West Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati all had chances to win their showdowns in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh got waxed 31-3 at home by Miami on Thursday. The team most everybody thought would be the Big East's best now looks in real danger of becoming a 7-5 type team or worse. There are serious issues on the offensive line and at linebacker, and questions linger about Dion Lewis's slow start and Tino Sunseri's ability to win a big game. Couple that with the Panthers' off-the-field problems, and it's been a very disappointing 2010 so far in the Steel City.

[+] EnlargeEndres
AP Photo/Fred BeckhamCody Endres' two touchdown passes helped spark the UConn offense on Saturday.
3. Cincinnati is coming along: The Bearcats were very respectable in their 31-29 loss to Oklahoma, a game they could have won with fewer mistakes. It was easily their best performance of the year, and the offense finally looked like the high-powered attack it promised to be. Cincinnati was saddled with a tough early schedule and had to adjust to new coach Butch Jones' style. If the team can play as well as it did against the Sooners on Saturday, a third straight Big East championship is not out of the question.

4. UConn has a new leader: Connecticut turned to backup quarterback Cody Endres at halftime against Buffalo, as ineffective starter Zach Frazer had led them to only a 14-14 tie with the Bulls. Endres gave the team a spark almost immediately, and the Huskies went on to a 45-21 rout. Endres may not have as strong an arm as Frazer, but he seems to make better decisions and deliver a more accurate throw. That's what UConn really needs with its stout running game. Endres will assume the starting role, but the Huskies may need Frazer again before the season is done.

5. South Florida is very much a work in progress: The Bulls beat Western Kentucky just 24-12 at home mostly because the offense was kept under wraps. With no experienced receivers, Skip Holtz chose to throw the ball just 11 times while running it 44 times. It was enough to beat a team that's never won since moving up to the FBS. You get the sense Holtz is just trying to get by until receivers Dontavia Bogan, A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin return from injury, when South Florida can open up the offense and take its shots in a wide-open Big East race.