NCF Nation: Hunter Cantwell
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Bill Koch has an interesting look at how building a signature athletic hub on campus has both helped and hurt Cincinnati financially. The Bearcats are facing a budget shortfall and have had to cut three men's sports teams.
In addition to the debt from the facility that must be financed, Varsity Village costs approximately $1.1 million a year to operate -- $700,000 for utilities and $400,000 in maintenance and custodial costs, [athletic director Mike] Thomas said.
UC, compared with the seven other Division I football schools in the Big East, is ill-equipped to absorb that kind of debt year after year. According to Thomas, the average combined revenue produced by the men's basketball and football programs among the eight Big East football schools is $26 million per year. UC ranks last in that group at $14 million.
• Greg Paulus was in Syracuse this weekend and apparently met with Orange football coaches on Sunday night, Donnie Webb writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
In draft news ...
• Pat White was thrilled to be drafted by the Wildcat-running Miami Dolphins, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail. Within this story, there is word that undrafted offensive linemen Greg Isdaner (Dallas Cowboys) and Ryan Stanchek (Atlanta Falcons) have signed free-agent deals.
• UConn's Julius Williams and Tyler Lorenzen signed with Jacksonville, while Dahna Deleston signed with the Bears and Keith Gray inked with Carolina, Desmond Conner writes in the Hartford Courant.
• Louisville's Hunter Cantwell signed with the Carolina Panthers, Mike Grant says in The Courier-Journal.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Twenty-seven Big East products had their name called over the weekend in the NFL draft. Three league schools had their best drafts ever.
Cincinnati had six players taken, the most of any Big East team and the most in program history. The previous school record had been five, which happened in 1998, 1960 and 1947. The Bearcats were one of only nine schools to have six or more players drafted this year.
Connecticut had never had a player taken in the first two rounds of the draft before Saturday. Four Huskies went in the first two rounds this year, including the school's first-ever first-rounder, running back Donald Brown.
Rutgers had a record-setting five players drafted, including the Scarlet Knights' first-ever first-rounder, wide receiver Kenny Britt. The most Rutgers had ever previously had drafted in one year was three, in 2007.
Here's a rundown of all the league draft picks and some commentary:
Player, Position, Round, Team
• DeAngelo Smith, DB, 5, Dallas Cowboys
• Mike Mickens, DB, 7, Dallas Cowboys
Thoughts: Kind of surprising that Mickens went after Underwood and Smith, when he was generally regarded as the best pro prospect of the three for most of his career. The fifth round is lofty territory for a punter, but Huber is that good.
Player, Position, Round, Team
• Donald Brown, RB, 1, Indianapolis Colts
• Cody Brown, OLB, 2, Arizona Cardinals
Thoughts: We thought UConn would have a huge day, and the Huskies sure did.
Player, Position, Round, Team
• George Bussey, OT, 5, New England Patriots
Thoughts: Bussey didn't get much pre-draft buzz, but the Patriots must have liked the former walk-on who became a three-year starter and All-Big East performer. Wood will play guard for the Bills.
Player, Position, Round, Team
• Scott McKillop, LB, 5, San Francisco 49ers
• LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, 7, Arizona Cardinals
Thoughts: OK, Pitt fans. How do you feel about McCoy going to Philly? Will you still root for him? Getting McKillop in the fifth round seems like a steal.
Player, Position, Round, Team
• Kenny Britt, WR, 1, Tennessee Titans
• Jason McCourty, DB, 6, Tennessee Titans
• Courtney Greene, DB, 7, Seattle Seahawks
Thoughts: I didn't think Teel would get drafted, but good for him. The Titans and Seahawks must have liked Greg Schiano's program.
Player, Position, Round, Team
• Tyrone McKenzie, OLB, 3, New England Patriots
Thoughts: Despite all that Florida talent, the Bulls had the smallest draft class in the Big East.
• Ryan Durand, OG, 7, Tennessee Titans
Thoughts: Durand was another guy who wasn't on many mock draft boards. There were some good fullbacks in the Big East, including Pitt's Conredge Collins and Louisville's Brock Bolen. But Fiammetta was the only one drafted.
Player, Position, Round, Team
• Ellis Lankster, CB, 7, Buffalo
• Pat McAfee, K, 7, Indianapolis
Thoughts: Can't wait to see how the Dolphins, who showed a lot of creativity on offense last year, use White.
Prominent players who went undrafted:
• Hunter Cantwell, Louisville
• Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers
• C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh
• Julius Williams, UConn
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Louisville's Hunter Cantwell has shortened his delivery and is impressing scouts at the East-West Shrine Game workouts, Eric Crawford writes in The Courier-Journal. Crawford also says that the Cardinals should lift their transfer restrictions on Latarrius Thomas.
• A Mississippi quarterback who tried to get a scholarship offer from Syracuse is going to Ole Miss after never hearing back from the Orange coaching staff, Donnie Webb notes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
• The St. Petersburg Times' Greg Auman speculates that former Miami quarterback Robert Marve could wind up at Syracuse or Cincinnati if not South Florida.
Since our What to Watch posts usually run on Friday, I thought I'd drop a few keys to tonight's Rutgers-Louisville game (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), which has major bowl implications for the league as a whole:
1. Pressure on the quarterback: When Rutgers scored its monumental win over Louisville in Piscataway two years ago, it did so by repeatedly knocking down quarterback Brian Brohm. Coach Greg Schiano is known for his creative and aggressive blitzing schemes, and the Scarlet Knights have turned up the heat on defense in the past several weeks. They have 16 sacks during their five-game winning streak, and several opposing quarterbacks -- including Bill Stull and Zach Frazer (concussions), Matt Grothe (ankle) and Pat White (head) -- haven't been able to finish the game after getting battered around. That's bad news for Hunter Cantwell and the Louisville offensive line, which has sprung far too many leaks this season.
On the flip side, the Cardinals and their patchwork secondary have absolutely no chance of slowing down receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood if they don't get to quarterback Mike Teel. If Teel has time, the game will get ugly. The problem is that the Louisville defensive front, while very solid against the run, lacks speed to put on a heavy pass rush. Defensive coordinator Ron English will have to dial up some blitzes from his linebackers and safeties to keep Teel from feeling comfortable in the pocket.
2. Louisville's ability to sustain drives: The Cardinals' best chance to pull off the upset is by pounding the ball on the ground, both to slow down the Rutgers pass rush and to control the clock with Britt on the sidelines. They have the players to do it, led by 1,000-yard freshman back Victor Anderson. Rutgers ranks just seventh in the Big East in rushing defense, allowing 147.3 yards per game on the ground. For Louisville to succeed with this strategy, though, it will have to cut way down on the silly penalties and costly turnovers that have plagued the team much of the season.
3. The kicking game: The last two games between these teams have been thrillers that have come down to field goals. Jeremy Ito hit a cluck kick to clinch Rutgers' comeback in 2006 (after an offsides penalty negated his previous miss). Art Carmody made the only game-winner of his fantastic career in last year's finale, as Louisville rallied from 18 points down.
If such a scenario repeats itself this season, then it's advantage: Rutgers. San San Te has been very solid after a shaky opening game, going 9-for-11 since then. The Cardinals' kicker is ... well, we're not sure who it is at the moment. They've used three there this year and keep switching the job around in a desperate attempt to find someone reliable. The three kickers have combined to make just 5 of 10 attempts all season, and none from longer than 36 yards. Steve Kragthorpe usually eschews a field goal attempt from anywhere outside the 20 and just goes for it on fourth down.
Still, the way this game shapes up on paper, Kragthorpe would probably welcome the idea of it coming down to a field goal tonight.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
1. LeSean McCoy vs. the Cincinnati defense: The Bearcats have been strong against the run of late, holding West Virginia to under 100 yards as a team and limiting Louisville to 3.2 yards per carry. But Donald Brown gashed them for 150 yards last month, and Pitt had two 100-yard rushers in a win over Cincinnati last year. Pittsburgh proved against Louisville that it could win without a huge day from McCoy, but one of his vintage performances sure would help the cause.
2. Cincinnati's passing game vs. the Pitt secondary: The Panthers' defensive backfield has upgraded its play since the disastrous showing against Rutgers, but it's still vulnerable to big plays. Cincinnati has the most productive pass-catching duo in the conference with Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard. You'd better believe Tony Pike is going to test Pitt deep early and often.
3. Jonathan Baldwin vs. Mike Mickens: The league's most electric young receiver will certainly find himself matched up at times with one of the best senior cornerbacks in the nation. Pitt's ability to throw deep off play-action will force Mickens and his teammates to react quickly. At 6-foot-5, Baldwin can erase mistakes by quarterback Bill Stull and can jump over the 6-foot Mickens. "Our corners are going to be challenged," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "DeAngelo Smith and Mike Mickens have to play their best football."
4. Pat White on the loose in Louisville: Last year against the Cardinals, White ran for 147 yards and passed for 181. Two years ago against them, he had 125 yards rushing and 222 yards passing. The West Virginia quarterback is usually at his best in this game, and given Louisville's inexperienced linebackers and dearth of speed on the defensive line, he could be in for another monster performance.
5. Louisville's spirits: The Cardinals have lost three straight, are surrounded by negativity and can't even get fans buzzing about a game against West Virginia. But it is Senior Day, and some terrific players like Eric Wood, George Bussey, Earl Heyman and Hunter Cantwell won't want to leave without a fight. Can they get something going early against the usually slow-starting Mountaineers and build some confidence?
6. Matt Grothe: The South Florida quarterback clearly isn't healthy right now. He hurt his left ankle against Rutgers and wore a boot for a few days afterward. He's a tough guy who will probably still play Sunday against UConn, but if his mobility is limited, that takes away one of his greatest strengths. And Grothe has thrown eight interceptions in his past three games even when healthy.
7. Donald Brown: The nation's leading rusher will go against a struggling Bulls defense. While South Florida's real weakness is in its defensive backfield, teams have been able to run up the middle against them, which is something Brown can do with the best of backs.
8. Air raid on Army: Rutgers has been flying high through the air during its four-game winning streak, and Army is going to have a tough time slowing down the Mike Teel-to-Kenny Britt connection. Certainly Army doesn't practice much against a passing offense; the Black Knights average just 50 yards passing per game and had a game this year where they didn't even attempt a throw.
9. Chip Bowden's well-being: Bowden is Army's quarterback, which places him in the crosshairs this weekend. Five of the last six quarterbacks have not been able to finish the game against the hard-hitting Rutgers defense, which made Grothe its latest victim last Saturday. Bowden is the team's second-leading rusher, so he'll be exposed to several hits.
10. Syracuse's motivation: How will the Orange react to the firing of Greg Robinson when they go to Notre Dame this weekend? Will they play with fire in an effort to show support for their well-liked coach? Or will they fold under the first sign of adversity?
1. Cincinnati's second-half production: One way the Bearcats could lose at Louisville is by going cold again after halftime. Cincinnati has been outscored 56-13 in the second half in its last four games. Against West Virginia last week, the Bearcats managed just one first down between halftime and the start of overtime. They need to keep the pressure on the desperate Cardinals on the road.
2. Cincinnati's defense vs. Louisville's offense: On paper, this looks like a mismatch. Louisville scored just seven points last week at Pittsburgh, while Cincinnati held West Virginia under 100 yards rushing for the first time in seven years and has arguably the best secondary in the Big East. The Bearcats sacked Pat White four times; imagine what they could do against the far less mobile Hunter Cantwell if Louisville's O-line doesn't hold up. What wrinkles can Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm come up with to move the ball for the Cardinals?
3. The kicking game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Cincinnati seems to have a big advantage here, too, with All-American punter Kevin Huber, the Big East's best kickoff return man in Mardy Gilyard and Lou Groza Award nominee Jake Rogers on field goals. Louisville muffed three punts last week at Pitt and still has little confidence in its place-kickers.
4. South Florida's fire: The Bulls' seniors called a players-only meeting last week and urged their teammates to play with more passion and emotion. Let's see how that manifests itself in the Rutgers game. Expect South Florida to celebrate more on big plays. The question is, how many of those big plays will they have to celebrate?
5. Mike Teel and Kenny Britt vs. South Florida's secondary: The Scarlet Knights' quarterback and star receiver have been killing people with the deep ball in recent weeks. The Bulls' defensive backs have been getting routinely killed on long throws ever since the Pittsburgh game. Expect Teel to keep looking down the field to Britt until South Florida shows it can stop them.
6. Matt Grothe's well-being: As mentioned in last week's things to watch, Rutgers' defense has made life hard on quarterbacks. When Syracuse's Cam Dantley left the game last week with a leg injury, it marked the fourth time in the past five games that the Scarlet Knights had knocked out an opposing quarterback. During his career, Grothe has been one of the most remarkably durable quarterbacks in the Big East, or anywhere else for that matter, thanks to his mobility. Can he escape the heavy Rutgers pass rush?
7. Donald Brown vs. the Syracuse run defense: Here is what the Orange have allowed the best backs they've seen this season:
• Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton: 152 yards
• Penn State's Evan Royster: 101 yards (on just 13 carries)
• Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy: 151 yards
• West Virginia's Noel Devine: 194 yards
• Louisville's Victor Anderson: 113 yards
• Rutgers' Kordell Young: 143 yards
Those are not encouraging numbers when the nation's leading running back is coming to town after a week off to rest. Brown is motivated to improve off his worst performance of the year against West Virginia, when he was held under 100 yards for the first time. If he doesn't get at least 130 yards on Saturday, it will be an upset.
8. Carrier Dome quarterbacks: UConn is once again listing its starter as a "game-time decision" between Cody Endres and Zach Frazer, and coach Randy Edsall hasn't officially ruled out Tyler Lorenzen. The Huskies desperately need some stability there. Syracuse has pledged to use both Dantley and backup Andrew Robinson in the game, which could be a distraction.
9. Curtis Brinkley: The Syracuse senior had just 67 yards last week against Rutgers, the first time in six games he failed to break the 100-yard mark. He needs one more 100-yard game to tie the school record, and you know he'd love to do it in his final home game on Senior Day.
10. Greg Robinson: After a one-week reprieve from this list, Robinson appears here again going into his team's final home game. Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross issued a written statement this week that said the school was focusing only on Saturday's game. So what happens after the game, if Orange loses to a program that has vaulted past them in the region and is led by a Syracuse alumnus?
Two weeks ago, a big win over South Florida made Louisville 5-2 and had fans dreaming of an improbable Big East title. In response to a question on one of my weekly chats, I said Steve Kragthorpe was probably the frontrunner for league coach of the year.
|AP Photo/Keith Srakocic|
|Steve Kragthorpe is 11-10 since taking over for Bobby Petrino after the 2007 Orange Bowl.|
Two ugly losses later, the Cardinals are just hoping to make it to any kind of bowl game, while fans have gone back to lambasting Kragthorpe on message boards and radio waves.
One man who hasn't been swayed by these shifts is Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich. Anyone who thinks Kragthorpe is in danger of losing his job simply doesn't understand the situation or Jurich's faith in his second-year coach. Jurich laid it out this summer at an athletics board meeting, when he said that the Cardinals were in a "rebuilding process" and added "the next two years ... I just want to get through them." He still feels that way.
"My expectations were not high this year because I knew the reality," Jurich said on Wednesday. "One thing I didn't want to do to the fans was lie to them.
"When I said we'd spend the next two years rebuilding, there was a lot of flack that came with it. Nobody wants to hear that. [But] it's a long haul and I knew that and I buckled up for it.
"It's hard for some people to hear that when one year you're going to the Orange Bowl and now you're not. Our fans are so new at this, they thought we'd be going to the Orange Bowl every week, but it's not like that."
Kragthorpe's relationship with the fan base has been tenuous at best at times during his tenure. He has gone 11-10 since taking over for Bobby Petrino after the 2007 Orange Bowl win. He has lost to Syracuse in consecutive years and has failed to beat his biggest rival, Kentucky, in two tries.
The phrase "rebuilding process" didn't make sense to those who saw Kragthorpe take over a 12-1 BCS team. Kragthorpe has attempted to manufacture a different type of program at Louisville, dismissing scores of players for various disciplinary infractions. Twenty underclassmen -- a full recruiting class -- left the team between the spring of 2007 and the start of camp this year for varying reasons.
"We're getting closer to where we want to be," Kragthorpe said Monday, "but certainly we've got to win more football games. That's my job."
1. Pittsburgh can win -- and win big -- without LeSean McCoy: At one point in the third quarter Saturday versus Louisville, Pitt's star tailback had 10 carries for minus-2 yards. He finished with a career-low 39. Yet, the game was never in doubt as the Panthers cruised 41-7. Teams figured they could take away McCoy and stop the Pittsburgh offense, but this group has a lot more options and a lot more creativity than it did at the beginning of the season. And that's why the Panthers are a serious threat to win the Big East.
2. Cincinnati is the most resilient team in the Big East: The Bearcats showed their fortitude earlier this season by withstanding a withering spate of quarterback injuries. Saturday night, they were even more impressive, staying strong after a potentially-devastating collapse in the final 71 seconds at West Virginia. The team calmly went about its business and took down the Mountaineers in the first overtime. There's something to be said for having 19 seniors. The next two games, at Louisville and at home against Pittsburgh, are no layups. But we know these Bearcats won't fold under pressure.
3. Rutgers' resurgence is legit: OK, so the Scarlet Knights only beat Syracuse on Saturday, and they struggled in the first half. But the Orange were as confident as they've been all season, coming off a win over Louisville and taking a quick 14-point lead. The early-season version of Rutgers might have packed it in at that point. Instead, the defense held Syracuse to 72 total yards of offense after Doug Hogue's first-quarter 82-yard touchdown run. Mike Teel rebounded from a couple of early picks to throw three touchdown passes, Tiquan Underwood re-emerged from hiding to catch two of those scores and Kordell Young ran for 143 yards. This team is starting to click now in all phases, and don't be surprised if it wins out.
4. Louisville is in crisis mode: Few teams have gone into a faster nosedive than the Cardinals the past two weeks. They were riding high after a win over South Florida got them to 5-2. Then they suffered an embarrassing upset at Syracuse and laid a beach-ball sized egg at Pitt. The low point might have come in the second half Saturday, as Louisville players stood around and looked at a muffed backward pass instead of going after the live ball. Pittsburgh picked it up and walked into the end zone. The game also featured multiple fumbled punt returns and Steve Kragthorpe pulling quarterback Hunter Cantwell in the first half. With no easy games left, the Cardinals are in danger of sinking from pleasant surprise to second-half disaster.
5. The end is near for Greg Robinson: The Syracuse coach didn't like questions about his job security after the Rutgers loss, saying things like, "we're going to quit talking about all this," and "get off of it." Athletic director Daryl Gross did not speak to reporters -- again. But with the Orange officially sealing a losing season and looking completely punchless after their biggest win of the season, it's clear that Robinson can't hang on much longer. At least he made it longer than Tommy Bowden, Tyrone Willingham, Ron Prince and Phil Fulmer.
Could Pitt actually score a blowout victory at home?
The Panthers for once are not in a life-and-death situation at halftime. Instead, it's Louisville that has all kinds of problems.
Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe pulled starting quarterback Hunter Cantwell for Matt Simms with about six minutes left before halftime. It didn't appear that Cantwell was injured in any way. The senior was just 3-of-10 for 35 yards. Simms -- whose father, Phil, watched from the press box -- didn't have much more success, going 2-for-6 for 15 yards.
The Cardinals offense has been bad, but their special teams have been worse. Doug Beaumont muffed three punt returns, two of them resulting in turnovers. Trent Guy caught a kickoff right next to the sideline near his own 10 then fell out of bounds with no defenders near.
LeSean McCoy has been held under wraps, mustering just two yards on seven carries as Louisville has stuffed the box. But Pitt has wisely responded by going to the air, and Bill Stull -- back from his concussion -- has thrown for 134 yards and a score. The game's first touchdown came with Pitt in the Wildcat formation, as LeRod Stephens-Howling handed off to Aundre Wright.
It's impressive and promising that the Panthers can play this well without getting much from McCoy. Louisville better regroup in a hurry, because its season appears heading downhill.
1. Tony Pike and the Cincinnati passing game vs. the West Virginia defense: The Mountaineers lead the Big East in points allowed and passing efficiency defense. But Cincinnati has the best passing offense in the league at more than 260 yards per game, and that's despite all the injuries the Bearcats have weathered at the position. Pike has a big arm and the young Mountaineers secondary hasn't been tested by a team this good through the air. UConn had receivers open last week, but drops and an inexperienced quarterback kept the Huskies from taking much advantage. Exploiting this matchup looks like Cincinnati's best chance for the upset.
2. Pat White, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders against the Cincinnati defense: Don't read too much into the 182 yards rushing the Bearcats gave up to South Florida last week. They were keeping extra defenders back to guard against the Bulls' spread passing attack and didn't mind if Matt Grothe handed off. Still, this week presents a huge challenge against a West Virginia running game that's revving up to Rich Rodriguez levels. Most teams change their schemes against the Mountaineers, like UConn did last week by bringing in an extra safety and playing three defensive linemen. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said his team will have to play differently as well. The Bearcats' defensive strengths lie in their secondary and pass rushers. That won't be the priority on Saturday.
3. Mardy Gilyard vs. West Virginia's kickoff coverage team: The Mountaineers are last among 119 FBS teams in covering kicks, allowing 29.58 yards per return. Gilyard leads the Big East with more than 27 yards per return. West Virginia coach Bill Stewart promised personnel changes on special teams this week. Gilyard doesn't have to score to have a huge impact on this game. If he can help give Cincinnati some short fields to work with, that would make the Bearcats' offense that much more potent.
4. West Virginia's I-formation: The I was closed during the Rodriguez years, but new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen has used it to great effect in recent weeks. Devine sprang a 92-yard touchdown run against Syracuse out of it, and Sanders scored twice out of it last week as the formation helped jumpstart the offense. White even threw out of it a couple times at UConn, showing off a new wrinkle. West Virginia's little backs can hide behind a burly blocker in the I, and it gives Cincinnati something else to think about.
5. LeSean McCoy: The Pittsburgh running back is one of the hottest offensive players in the country, going over 140 yards in each of his last five games and scoring 10 touchdowns in that span. On Saturday he gets a Louisville defense that was steamrolled by Syracuse's Curtis Brinkley for 166 yards last week. The Cardinals have been working on stopping the run all week, but no one's really found a way to slow McCoy in two years.
6. Hunter Cantwell vs. Pitt's pass defense: The Panthers have allowed 619 passing yards and nine touchdowns through the air their past two games. They finally seemed to find some answers in their coverage during the second half of the Notre Dame game, and they'll need to keep that up against the cannon-armed Cantwell. The good news for Pitt is, with Scott Long injured, the Cardinals don't have any receivers nearly as good as Kenny Britt to deal with.
7. Heinz home-cooking: Every time the city of Pittsburgh gets ready to embrace its local university football team, the Panthers seem to throw out a clunker at home. Happened in the season opener against Bowling Green. Happened against Rutgers two of the past three years. Maybe it's all the consternation and criticism Dave Wannstedt has taken from the fan base that gives the home team a little performance anxiety. Who knows? But beating Louisville at home is a must, not just to stay in the Big East race, but to build the excitement in the area.
8. Mike Teel: The last time we saw Teel, he was bombing away for six touchdown passes against Pittsburgh. It was an incredible turnaround from his poor performances in the Rutgers' first seven games. So has Teel turned the corner, or was that an aberration? And how will the team's bye week affect the timing between him and his receivers? Syracuse does not have a great secondary, and a couple of key defensive backs are nursing injuries this week, so the opportunity for another terrific Teel throw-a-thon is there.
9. Curtis Brinkley: As mentioned earlier, Brinkley is coming off a big game against Louisville and has set a school record with five straight 100-yard performances. Can he do it again against a Rutgers defense that has been sturdy of late but still ranks next-to-last in rushing defense in the Big East? One more 100-yard game, and Brinkley will tie Jim Brown and Joe Morris for the most in a career with seven. He'll probably need to get there for the Orange to have any chance of grabbing their second straight league win.
10. Cam Dantley's well-being: Call it coincidence or credit Rutgers' hard-hitting ways. Three of the last four quarterbacks who have gone against the Scarlet Knights defense could not finish the game. West Virginia's White left with a head injury, while UConn's Zach Frazer and Pittsburgh's Bill Stull each suffered concussions. Even Cincinnati's Chazz Anderson sprained his knee, though he kept playing. Rutgers players and coaches say they're not trying to hurt quarterbacks. But if you're a friend or family member of Syracuse signal-caller Dantley, you might be a little more nervous this week. Andrew Robinson better keep his arm loose just in case.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
|AP Photo/Ed Reinke|
|Louisville's Scott Long avoids South Florida defender Jerome Murphy (3) to score the winning touchdown in Saturday's 24-20 upset win.|
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Cynthia Kragthorpe stopped Scott Long as he was about to leave the Louisville football complex. She gave the receiver a hug.
"We're so proud of you," the wife of Cardinals coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "You deserve this so much."
For years, Long has made a lot of fans behind the scenes of the Louisville football program. He played so well in practice during his redshirt and freshman seasons that other teammates nicknamed him "Baby T.O.," noting similarities in size and strength (but not personality) to Terrell Owens.
But behind the scenes is mostly where Long stayed, a workout warrior who'd never really been able to translate that success onto the field. Coming into his junior season, Long was touted as the team's best playmaker and breakout candidate. Athletic director Tom Jurich said during a summer fan rally that if "this guy doesn't make first team All Big East, something's wrong."
Well, something did go wrong, as Long broke his foot on a special teams drill in August and missed the first four games. After he eased his way in during the last two games, Louisville fans finally got to see what all the fuss was about on Saturday.
Long made five catches for 134 yards and hauled in two touchdowns as the Cardinals upset No. 16 South Florida 24-20. Coming into the game, he had never scored in a game or had a 100-yard day.
"I've been telling everybody how good he was and what a gamebreaker he was," quarterback Hunter Cantwell said. "He got to show that today. It's good to have him back out on the field."
Cantwell and Long hooked up on the game's first touchdown. Early in the second quarter, South Florida flooded one side of the field to overplay the swing pass. Long got one-on-one coverage against Tyller Roberts, the Bulls' best corner.
It was no match.
Long beat him down the left sideline for a 69-yard score. Cantwell and Long played together for years on the second-string unit, and Cantwell said he's thrown that type of ball to Long "a million times."
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Just when it looked like Louisville had all the momentum in this game, South Florida drove the field in the final minute of the half for a Maiko Bonani field goal.
That should give the Bulls a little lift going into the second half, but the reality is Louisville owned the second quarter on offense and defense. The Cardinals are pushing South Florida around in the trenches and hemming Matt Grothe in with pressure.
Hunter Cantwell tossed a 69-yard touchdown pass to Scott Long on the Cardinals' first offensive snap of the second quarter. It was the first career touchdown for Long, the oft-praised receiver who missed much of the first half of the season with a foot injury. Cantwell later scored on a sneak.
Grothe is 16-of-21 for 165 yards, but he's also had to run for his life several times.
It was a ridiculous ending to the first half, as South Florida got the ball to the 8-yard line, and then we had five straight timeouts. Yes, five. Three by Louisville.
In 10 quarters all-time at Papa John's, South Florida has scored a total of 23 points. This is their house of horrors.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Greetings from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, where South Florida and Louisville will kick off in about an hour.
It's a big game for both teams, though it was hard to tell driving into the stadium this afternoon. I've never gotten to a Louisville game so quickly, the parking lots were barely half-filled two-and-a-half hours before the game. Very odd for a fan base that loves tailgating. It can't be the weather, because all though it's cool -- around 55 degrees -- the sun is out and it's a nice fall day.
Anyway, the stands should be full, and more importantly, we should learn a lot more about these two teams. As Matt Grothe said earlier this week, "the loser is probably out of the Big East race." True. USF (6-1, 1-1) could possibly still hang around with a loss today, but it would need an awful lot of help. Louisville (4-2, 0-1) can't take another home league loss, or its goals will officially be reduced to gathering enough wins for a trip to Birmingham or Toronto. And Cardinals fans would turn their attention to Rick Pitino's Top 5 basketball team.
The key matchups seem pretty obvious today. South Florida has to stop the Louisville running game and do a much better job against Victor Anderson than it did versus LeSean McCoy. For the Cardinals, they need to get some pressure on Grothe while not letting him escape their grasp and make big plays on the move.
Hunter Cantwell is close to 100 percent again for Louisville after the quarterback was severely limited by an ankle injury the past two games. That should allow the Cardinals to use more of their playbook and roll out Cantwell at times. South Florida is about as healthy as it's been since the Kansas game, so there are no excuses there.
The Bulls haven't been a particularly good road team in Big East play and have never played well here in Louisville. They've scored a total of 16 points in their previous two trips to Papa John's. I expect that to change today, and I expect a game in the high 20s or early 30s with plenty of offense by both teams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Not sure if I can come up with 10 legitimate things to look for in this weekend's crummy Big East schedule. Let's see how far we can make it:
1. The haves vs. the have-nots: It's not a scintillating weekend in the Big East by any means, but the gap between the contenders and the pretenders could grow even wider. Cincinnati begins league play against 1-4 Rutgers, which will be all but written off with another loss. West Virginia looks to go 2-0 in league play against Syracuse, which has won only two Big East games under Greg Robinson.
2. Mike Teel and Kenny Britt vs. the Cincinnati secondary: The Bearcats have won the past two meetings and picked off Teel seven times in those two games, led by cornerback Mike Mickens. The Scarlet Knights' best weapon is Britt, who had 12 catches for 151 yards last week against West Virginia and is fourth nationally in receptions. "We need to know where he is with our linebackers and safeties," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "We have to know where he is at all times."
3. Chazz Anderson vs. the Rutgers defense: Anderson managed the game well in his first career appearance last week at Marshall. But the Cincinnati redshirt freshman quarterback will see a rise in competition as the Bearcats enter league play. The Scarlet Knights have the best pass defense in the Big East. However, they have grabbed only two interceptions, both of them coming against Morgan State.
4. Pat White: How healthy is the West Virginia quarterback after leaving the last two games early, first with a bruised thumb and then after getting hit in the helmet? The Mountaineers say he's fine and will play against Syracuse. The Orange defense might make him feel a lot better. He had 247 rushing yards on just 15 carries the last time Syracuse came to Morgantown and 237 total yards last year in the Carrier Dome.
5. Syracuse's running game: For the Orange to have chance at all in Morgantown, they will need to control the clock and run the ball successfully. The rushing attack showed promise last time out against Pittsburgh until a second-half collapse. They've had a week off to get ready for this enormous challenge.
6. The Memphis blitz vs. the Louisville offense: Memphis has recorded 10 quarterback sacks in its past two games and will probably come after Hunter Cantwell to see just how well the Louisville quarterback's ankle has healed. That's a risk, though, because the Cardinals can burn the Tigers with quick-strike plays to speedsters like Victor Anderson and Doug Beaumont.
7. The Louisville defense vs. a well-rounded offense: The Cardinals' defense has been much-improved and is one of the best statistically in the Big East and the nation. But it's also true that they have played mostly one-dimensional teams like Kentucky (couldn't pass), Kansas State (wouldn't run) and Connecticut (didn't throw well until Zach Frazer got going). What can Louisville do against a multi-dimensional attack like Memphis, which is averaging 190 yards rushing and 272 yards passing and a quarterback who can move in Arkelon Hall?
8. The remote control: OK, so there's really not a whole lot to hold your attention in the Big East this weekend, and the league's slate will be done by about 3:30 Saturday afternoon. Feel free to click around. We won't judge.