NCF Nation: Mike Dent

Big East lunchtime links

November, 20, 2008
Posted by's Brian Bennett

An internal review found that Rutgers failed to provide oversight to its athletic department, which allowed for rule-bending and high-spending, The Star-Ledger reports. Fullback Jack Corcoran has been the one constant in the Scarlet Knights' ever-changing backfield, Keith Sargeant writes in Home News Tribune.

  • East Carolina's Skip Holtz is on Syracuse's wish list for its next coach, Donnie Webb writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
  • Cincinnati finally beat West Virginia and Louisville and now must take on another historical thorn in its side in Pittsburgh, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
  • Confidence and maturity by the offense have allowed Pittsburgh to keep going for it on fourth down this season, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • The longest yard for Louisville has been the last one, as the Cardinals are getting repeatedly stuffed on fourth-and short, C.L. Brown writes in The Courier-Journal.
  • West Virginia center Mike Dent says he's not worried about his neck injury, which will keep him out of the Louisville game, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.
  • Matt Grothe still wasn't practicing on Wednesday, but the South Florida quarterback was out of the boot that protected his injured ankle, Greg Auman reports in the St. Petersburg Times. He still expected to play Sunday versus UConn.
  • Freshmen tackles Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes have moved into starting roles and are leading a youth movement on the Connecticut defense, John Silver writes in the Journal-Inquirer.

Big East internal affairs

November, 19, 2008
Posted by's Brian Bennett

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have had four different tailbacks take starring roles this season. Last week, redshirt freshman Joe Martinek ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns at South Florida. The week before, Kordell Young had 143 yards against Syracuse. Earlier this season, Jourdan Brooks and Mason Robinson each had big games, but their roles have diminished of late. Coach Greg Schiano said he determines who will be the featured back each week based on the opponent. "We have to look and see what do we think we're going to try to do most in the run game, and then who fits that description best and try to rep it that way during the week," he said. "It's hard to get more than two backs ready for a game. There's always a third guy that is ready and a fourth guy that's ready, but they don't get many repetitions. I can't tell you right now who that guy will be."

Cincinnati: Should the Bearcats be concerned about kicker Jake Rogers? He lost his job early in the season after missing a few extra points, and coach Brian Kelly wondered about his confidence. But then Rogers came back and tied a school record with 13 straight converted field-goal attempts. Since then, however, Rogers has missed four straight kicks, including all three tries at Louisville. The conditions were poor at wet and windy Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, and Kelly said that had more to do with Rogers' problems than anything. "It's the development of a kicker," Kelly said. "Earlier in the year, he struggled mentally. This time, it was technique. He has a natural draw on his kicks, but they didn't draw because of the wet balls. He hit all of them well, but he missed all of them to right. Then he overcompensated. I'm sure he'll be able to correct it for this weekend."

West Virginia: The Mountaineers could be without starting center Mike Dent for a second straight game this week at Louisville. A mainstay in the lineup the past two seasons, Dent missed the Cincinnati game with a neck injury. Now he has swelling in the neck, and team officials aren't sure what the problem is. Dent could play this weekend, but coach Bill Stewart is fearful of further damage to his neck. Sophomore Eric Jobe got the start versus Cincinnati and likely will be the snapper on Saturday. "Eric Jobe is good.," Stewart said. "He's just not Mike Dent. Mike Dent isn't good, he's great. We had two pro scouts watching tape on him. He's got a chance to play at the next level.''

Pittsburgh: Fourth down doesn't necessarily mean it's time to punt for Pittsburgh. The Panthers have shown an inclination to go for it on fourth down this year, and usually with success. They have converted 13 of their 17 fourth-down attempts, a 76.5 percent rate that ranks sixth-best in the nation. An outstanding running game and a strong offensive line gives coach Dave Wannstedt confidence in going for the gamble. "I think that every time we get in a fourth-down situation our players want to go for it," he said. "That's a normal reaction. They're like the fans and the media. I think you have to look at the defense and what we feel we can execute and then try and make up a sound decision as to what your chances are of making it. You don't want to do something just to do it. We have been outstanding though."

Syracuse: Quarterback Cam Dantley has struggled in his past few games and was pulled for Andrew Robinson in the Connecticut loss. Dantley was just 3-of-12 for 19 yards against Rutgers and 4-of-16 for 38 yards with an interception against UConn. Robinson hasn't been much better in relief, going a combined 4-of-14 for 29 yards and throwing two picks in those same two games. Cody Catalina even got a couple of looks under center versus the Huskies. Coach Greg Robinson isn't saying yet who will be the starter this week at Notre Dame.

Big East internal affairs

November, 12, 2008

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Cincinnati: Coach Brian Kelly says that strong safety Aaron Webster has added toughness to the Bearcats since he moved into a starting role after the Akron game. "He's brought a physicality to our defense that we were lacking," Kelly said. "And having him on our defense has elevated everybody." The only non-senior starter on defense, Webster was named Big East defensive player of the week after he recorded 13 tackles, including two for loss, in last week's win at West Virginia. Also for the Bearcats, senior Dustin Grutza is expected to serve as the No. 2 quarterback for Friday's game at Louisville. Grutza hasn't played since breaking his leg in Week 2 at Oklahoma.

Connecticut: The job of replacing the irreplaceable Darius Butler begins this week. Butler, who played cornerback, wide receiver and returned kicks for the Huskies, is out perhaps as long as the regular season with a knee injury. Junior Robert McClain will start at corner and will be backed up by Terry Baltimore. Freshman Jordan Todman will take over the primary kick-return duties. Butler had been playing about 12-to-15 snaps on offense and provided an electric presence that will be hard to match.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers' short-yardage woes resurfaced in the Cincinnati game, and some of that can be blamed on injuries. Fullback Will Johnson couldn't play because of a quad injury. Backup quarterback Jarrett Brown, who had been used as a blocker and short-yardage specialist earlier in the season, was still nursing shoulder and leg problems and couldn't go. Coach Bill Stewart said he planned to "turn him loose" for the Louisville game on Nov. 22. Center Mike Dent missed the Cincinnati game with a neck injury, and Stewart described him as "week-to-week."

South Florida: The banged-up Bulls could get running backs Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor back for the Rutgers game. Neither made the trip to the Cincinnati game because of injuries but were working out in drills earlier this week. The status of offensive lineman Zach Hermann (foot) and tight end Trent Pupello (concussion) remains unknown. Quenton Washington took over starting cornerback duties from Tyller Roberts for the Cincinnati game and is listed as the starter there again this week.

Syracuse: Orange coach Greg Robinson will stick with Cam Dantley as his starting quarterback this week against Connecticut, but backup Andrew Robinson will see time. The coach hasn't specified how much or what role Andrew Robinson would play. Third-string quarterback David Legree told the Syracuse Post-Standard that he feels he's ready to play after two years in a back-up role. Tailback Delone Carter returned for the Louisville game after a four-week absence with a hamstring problem. He did not play against Rutgers, but Greg Robinson said that was not a health issue.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Greetings from Milan-Puskar Stadium, the only place in the state of West Virginia you'd want to be when the Mountaineers are playing a big night game.

It's a chilly evening, with temperatures dipping in the low 40s tonight, but nothing that should affect the game. What will affect it is the center situation for both teams.

I told you about Mike Dent being out in an earlier blog post. Cincinnati's center, Chris Jurek, wore a boot in practice all week after spraining his ankle against South Florida. But he's expected to start. It bears watching to see how well Jurek can move around.

The good news for the Bearcats is that quarterback Tony Pike won't need to wear that soft cast on his left arm tonight. He's expected to wear a sleeve on the arm he broke in the Akron game, but he should be able to take snaps under center, unlike last week's South Florida game.

This game intrigues me not only because these are two good teams playing for first place, but because each team excels in areas the other doesn't. West Virginia is a great running team with a really strong rush defense, while Cincinnati is a terrific passing team with an excellent pass defense. So that means whoever's strength is stronger might win, if that makes any sense at all.

West Virginia certainly seems to be putting it together, but all week coach Bill Stewart sounded cautious notes about handling this success. He didn't think his team did that well early in the season, and he still sees plenty of chinks in his team's armor, particularly its slow starts. But he did agree that his players are starting to rediscover their swagger.

The Bearcats are a pretty confident group as well. They truly think they're as good as West Virginia and can walk out of this tough atmosphere with the win tonight.

We're about to find out. Much more to come throughout the evening ...

West Virginia center Dent out

November, 8, 2008

Posted by's Brian Bennett

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Senior center Mike Dent won't play for West Virginia tonight against Cincinnati because of a neck injury.

Dent practiced all week, but the team decided Friday he couldn't play. He will be replaced by sophomore Eric Jobe.

It's a key loss, as Dent is one of the best and most experienced centers in the Big East. Jobe has been the backup center all season and has played some, so the snaps shouldn't be a problem. Blocking up front and controlling the play calls, however, could be an issue. Dent's absence might prompt the Mountaineers to look for more rollouts and runs to the perimeter, which is usually their strength anyway. 

Big East internal affairs

October, 8, 2008
Posted by's Brian Bennett

Rutgers: Looking to spark his slumping offense, coach Greg Schiano made several changes to his offensive line last week at West Virginia. Only two starters, left tackleAnthony Davis and center Ryan Blaszczyk, remained at their original positions. Kevin Haslam moved from left guard to right tackle, Mike Gilmartin switched from right tackle to right guard and split snaps with true freshman Art Forst, and Kevin Haslam went from right tackle to left guard. Schiano was non-committal this week when asked if we would use that alignment again after the Scarlet Knights mustered only 72 yards rushing in Morgantown.

West Virginia: With senior Reed Williams shutting it down and planning for a medical redshirt, the Mountaineers have turned to sophomore Anthony Leonard at middle linebacker. Leonard made his first career start last week versus Rutgers and recorded a team-high nine tackles. He is the fourth different player to start at that position in five games for West Virginia. Meanwhile, a handful of Mountaineers are dealing with head injuries, including quarterback Pat White, center Mike Dent and defensive lineman Pat Liebig.

Louisville: The competition is on again for the Cardinals' backup quarterback spot. Matt Simms, son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, has returned from his four-game suspension and split reps this past week with Tyler Wolfe. Head coach Steve Kragthorpe said he would decide on a No. 2 signal-caller the day before Friday's game at Memphis. Although starter Hunter Cantwell has recovered well from his ankle injury against Connecticut, Louisville would like the peace of mind of having a reliable backup.

Connecticut: After Bruce Carter blocked three straight punts against UConn on Saturday, North Carolina coach Butch Davis said his team exploited the Huskies' new personal protector. That would be linebacker C.J. Marck, who filled in for injured tight end Steve Brouse. But Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said after watching the film that Marck wasn't to blame, and that it was another player who failed to execute his technique. He declined to identify which player was at fault. With Brouse out several weeks, Martin Bedard has moved into a starting role, and backup offensive lineman Dan Ryan has switched to No. 88 to play tight end in some packages.

Pittsburgh: One reason for the Panthers' resurgence this season is that they have avoided a rash of injuries that's plagued the program in recent years. Linebacker Adam Gunn (neck) is the only serious, season-ending injury that has struck the team through five games. Linebacker Shane Murray, who hurt his knee in preseason, hasn't played a lot of snaps this season but is nearing full strength. With a bye this week, Pitt should be close to full health as it heads into the final seven games.