NCF Nation: Jacob Sims

The Big East's all-bowl team

January, 14, 2011
Let's put a final bow on bowl season with the Big East's All-Bowl team:


Quarterback: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

Nassib, who struggled down the stretch of the regular season, took advantage of Kansas State's shaky defense to complete 13-of-21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

[+] EnlargeSyracuse's Delone Carter
William Perlman/US PRESSWIRESyracuse's Delone Carter ran over Kansas State for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Running backs: Delone Carter, Syracuse, and Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh

Carter ran 27 times for 198 yards and two scores in the Pinstripe Bowl. Lewis rumbled for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the BBVA Compass Bowl before declaring for the NFL Draft.

Wide receiver: Marcus Sales, Syracuse

Sales came almost out of nowhere to record five catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State. No other Big East receiver had even a fraction of his stats in the postseason.

Tight end: Cameron Graham, Louisville

The league's best tight in the regular season kept it up in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, catching three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Offensive line: Jacob Sims and Sampson Genus, South Florida; Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh; Mark Wetterer, Louisville; Justin Pugh, Syracuse.

Sims and Genus were part of a USF line that pushed back Clemson's talented defensive front in the Meineke Car Care Bowl; Sims in particular helped keep Da'Quan Bowers quiet, which is not an easy thing to do. Pinkston showed some fire in protecting his quarterback after Tino Sunseri was hit late, and the Panthers ran for 261 yards while surrendering zero sacks against Kentucky. Wetterer and Pugh helped open holes for their high-scoring postseason offenses.


Defensive line: Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh; Terrell McClain, South Florida; Bruce Irvin, West Virginia.

Lindsey stepped up his game in the regular season when Greg Romeus was hurt and did so again in the bowl with Jabaal Sheard out. McClain didn't record many stats but was his usual dominant self in the middle against Clemson. Irvin had two sacks and a forced fumble against NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Linebackers: Derrell Smith, Syracuse; J.T. Thomas, West Virginia; Brandon Heath, Louisville; DeDe Lattimore, South Florida.

I went with a 3-4 look on defense to recognize the many strong performances by linebackers during bowl. Just about all of these guys had double-digit tackles and/or a couple TFLs.

Cornerbacks: Johnny Patrick, Louisville; Quenton Washington, South Florida

After getting burned on a play early, Patrick was all over the field. He forced a fumble and blocked a punt. Washington also blocked a punt and had a 45-yard interception return.

Safeties: Dom DeCicco, Pittsburgh, and Robert Sands, West Virginia

DeCicco had nine tackles and a forced fumble, while Sands had eight tackles and a sack.


Punter: Cole Wagner, Connecticut

Wagner punted seven times for an average of 46.9 yards -- with a long of 52 yards -- against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Placekicker: Chris Philpott, Louisville

Philpott only got the call once, but he made the game-winning 36-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Kick returners: Jeremy Wright, Louisville, and Robbie Frey, Connecticut

Both Wright and Frey returned kickoffs for touchdowns in their bowl games. Wright's was especially crucial, as it tied the score in the fourth quarter.

Punt returner: Terrence Mitchell, South Florida

Mitchell had a 34-yard punt return against Clemson.
What were some of the highs and lows from the Big East bowl season? Glad you asked:

Best moment(s): It's a tie between two similar scenes staged on baseball fields. Syracuse's Doug Marrone and Louisville's Charlie Strong both addressed adoring throngs of fans after their teams won bowl games. It had been a long time since either team could celebrate a bowl victory, especially Syracuse, and Marrone and Strong could both get elected mayor in their respective cities right now.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Hilburn
William Perlman/US PresswireAdrian Hilburn was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and the penalty pushed Kansas' 2-point conversion attempt back 15 yards.
Worst moment: The excessive celebration penalty on Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn after he caught a touchdown pass with 1:13 left and then saluted the crowd. Maybe the Wildcats don't get the two-point conversion to tie the game anyway, and maybe Syracuse drives down and kicks a winning field goal before regulation ends. But the officials left both sides with a bad taste in their mouths by taking the game away from the players, and they deserved a Bronx cheer. An excessive one.

Best performance against a future multi-millionaire: South Florida's offensive line, particularly Jacob Sims, held Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers without a sack in the Meineke Car Care win. Bowers, who led the nation in sacks this season, could go in the top two picks in this spring's NFL Draft.

Best job of coping with turmoil: Pittsburgh fired two head coaches before the BBVA Compass Bowl and was missing two key assistants off the staff while the search for a new head coach continued. Big East defensive player of the year Jabaal Sheard missed the game with an injury, and Dave Wannstedt didn't inform the players until Monday before the game that he wasn't going to Birmingham. So what? Pitt had one of its best performances of the season in a 27-10 win over Kentucky.

Worst job of coping with turmoil: West Virginia coach Bill Stewart tried publicly to keep his team's focus on its Champs Sports Bowl matchup against NC State, but all anyone wanted to talk about was the coaching situation. Then Stewart bizarrely canceled several practices leading up to the bowl, and the Mountaineers came out flat in a 23-7 loss.

Best out-of-nowhere performance: Syracuse receiver Marcus Sales caught five passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Kansas State. Sales had only one touchdown catch and 242 receiving yards the entire regular season. It was the best performance by a catcher in Yankee Stadium since Bengie Molina's home run in the ALCS.

Worst disappearing act: Connecticut coach Randy Edsall sneaked out of Arizona after the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, taking a separate flight from the official team charter so he could go accept the Maryland job. He never told the players face to face and instead informed them later via a telephone conference call. Edsall's excuse later that the job offer came out of the blue rang a false and insulting note.

Best answer, Part I: Kentucky and Pittsburgh got into a second-quarter shoving match when Ridge Wilson hit quarterback Tino Sunseri late following a false start penalty. The large Wildcats contingent at Legion Field shouted "SEC! SEC!" while the scrum occurred. The game was tied 3-3 at that time, but the Panthers went on to score a field goal on that drive as part of 17 unanswered points. That's how you make a point.

Best answer, Part II: Seconds after Southern Miss took a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter against Louisville in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, freshman Jeremy Wright took the kickoff 95 yards for a tying touchdown. The Cardinals controlled things from that moment on.

Best offensive efficiency: South Florida had only 279 yards of total offense but squeezed 31 points out of it, going 9-for-14 on third downs.

Worst offensive inefficiency: UConn had 335 total yards of offense against Oklahoma but posted no offensive touchdowns. The Huskies were just 5-for-20 on third and fourth downs.

South Florida knocks off Rutgers

November, 3, 2010
South Florida finally got past Rutgers after four straight losses to the Scarlet Knights.

The Bulls scored a touchdown with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter and then held on for a 28-27 win in Tampa. That was more points than I expected from two offenses that have struggled much of the season, but special teams helped out. Rutgers scored on a punt return, while the Bulls benefited from a safety and a touchdown set up by a long punt return.

The Scarlet Knights had owned South Florida in part because the Bulls had pretty much stuck to the same game plan the past few years. The new staff under Skip Holtz added a lot of wrinkles, including multiple formations on offense designed to help the running game. Tailback Mo Plancher had his best game of the year, running for 135 yards on 21 carries. He did fumble twice, but both were recovered by teammates -- including the game-winning touchdown that offensive lineman Jacob Sims pounced on.

B.J. Daniels continued his resurgence, throwing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. He did have one interception but played a lot better than he had earlier in the season.

Rutgers looked better on offense but couldn't come up with big plays in the fourth quarter when needed. Chas Dodd completed 19 of 22 passes but only had 139 yards as most of his throws were safe and short. The offensive line got dominated by South Florida's defense in the crucial fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights finished with just 238 total yards, and they weren't able to pounce on several fumbles that seemed to bounce right into South Florida players' arms.

This was a big game for both teams' bowl hopes. South Florida improved to 5-3 and 2-2 in the Big East and now is in pretty good shape for making the postseason. The Bulls are technically still alive in the conference race, too, as they still get to play Pittsburgh.

Rutgers is basically out of the Big East race as it fell to 4-4, 1-2. The Scarlet Knights would need to win out and have Pitt to lose three times to have a real chance at the league title. A more realistic goal now is just to get to a bowl again. This team has been through a lot with the Eric LeGrand situation, and it would be nice to see a good finish for these players.