NCF Nation: Quenton Washington
- Quenton Washington will play cornerback for USF after missing last week's game against UTEP with a sore knee.
- Watch for Pitt guard Cory King, who will be starting his second game in place of veteran Chris Jacobson. Coach Todd Graham mentioned this week that he wanted King to play better than he did last week.
- USF is wearing all white for the game, and B.J. Daniels is one of the game captains for USF.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- His players gave him a collective hug, and shouted beautiful words.
“We’ve got your back,” they told him.
“We love you,” they said.
“We appreciate you.”
“This one’s for you.”
Skip Holtz never uttered one word to his players about what a win at Notre Dame would mean to him. But did he really have to? None of his players were alive when Holtz played there, but they were not born yesterday.
They understand the history, the tradition, the meaning -- even if the Irish of today are far different than the Irish of the Holtz era.
So they embraced their coach and embraced the start of what could be a rollicking season, beating Notre Dame 23-20 Saturday.
The way they did it, with a bend-but-don’t-break defense, surviving two weather delays, coming up with gigantic plays when they had to -- that spoke to Holtz more than winning at a place that has meant so much to him and his family.
So now the inevitable question comes, once we get past the sentimental meaning of this game. What does a win like this do for USF?
Surely there have been big wins in the history of the program. Miami. Florida State. Auburn. Is this the biggest?
Holtz wants to keep sight of what is ahead, but there is no question a win like this gets the Bulls much-deserved national attention. Going on the road and beating a ranked team will do that, regardless of the recent history at Notre Dame.
The Holtz story line was a nice one, and he grew emotional when asked how it felt to win there. He said it had not sunk in. But what had sunk in was the tenacity of his players.
All summer, the defense preached turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. “[The coaches] emphasized turnovers, just getting our hands on the ball, strips, interceptions, anything we can do to change the momentum of the game and make plays,” cornerback Quenton Washington said.
The game plan going into the game was to have a bend-but-don’t-break defense, to make sure it did not give up huge pass plays, specifically to Michael Floyd.
If the Irish ran 20 plays in a drive so be it. So long as they did not reach the end zone. The strategy paid off because the defensive players came up with one gigantic play after another.
It started on the first drive of the game. Notre Dame marched straight down the field, ripping off a 31-yard gain, then a 26-yard gain. The Irish got down to the USF 1-yard line when Jonas Gray got the ball. He rushed into the pile, but Jerrell Young was there. He stuck his hand onto the ball and with the strength of Midas, ripped it out. The ball came loose. Kayvon Webster was there to grab it, and he ran 96 yards for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
“I hit him and my teammates held him up and I put my hand there,” Young said. “I felt the ball and I just ripped and it came out.”
But that was not all. Incredibly, USF stopped Notre Dame two more times inside the 5-yard line. Next it was DeDe Lattimore with an interception in the end zone. Later, it was Mike Lanaris with an interception off a deflected pass to kill another drive.
In all, the Bulls got five turnovers and won the game -- despite giving up 508 yards and gaining just 254.
“We had luck. I’ll say luck of the Irish,” Young said with a laugh. “I commend my teammates to keep fighting. We kept giving them yards, but we held tight.
“We stood up in the end when it mattered.”
Now they have a victory that matters. But how the Bulls follow it up is what matters the most.
“We really wanted this win for the program,” Young said. “It’s a big step, Notre Dame with their history and all. But even if we had won or lost this game, it had nothing to do with our Big East championship goal.”
2. Jarred Holley, Pitt. A second-team All-Big East selection in 2010, Holley enters his third year as a starter. Last year, he ranked third in the Big East with five interceptions. This year, he should anchor a unit that has the potential to be among the best in the league.
3. Phillip Thomas, Syracuse. Thomas is the top returning tackler for the Orange, having made 92 stops last season. He is a physical player and brings an incredible energy to the field, but has to make sure to keep his emotions in check.
4. Jon Lejiste, USF. The Bulls have one of the best secondaries in the conference, and Lejiste is a reason why. He especially excelled last season on the safety blitz USF liked to use -- he racked up four sacks from his safety position.
5. Terence Garvin, West Virginia. Garvin led the Mountaineers in tackles last season. In fact, he had five or more tackles in nine games last season. He brings great size to the position (6-foot-3, 222 pounds), and great leadership and experience as well.
1. Keith Tandy, West Virginia. Not only is Tandy the best cornerback in the league, he is one of the best in the country. Tandy was named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list this season after a breakout 2010, when he ranked No. 5 in the nation in passes defended (17) and was named first-team All-Big East. He is moving to the left side this season.
2. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn. Wreh-Wilson found his comfort zone last season and became a force. Of his four interceptions, he returned two for touchdowns. He should be even better this year in a secondary that returns all four starters.
3. Quenton Washington, USF. With Mistral Raymond gone, Washington should step in as the team's best cornerback. USF coaches are confident he is going to have a breakout season after an impressive spring. One area he can work on -- helping the secondary get more interceptions. He had just one last season.
4. Dwayne Gratz, UConn. The Huskies overcame a shaky start in the secondary last season and should be one of the best this year. Gratz and Wreh-Wilson team to form the best cornerback duo in the league.
5. Antwuan Reed, Pitt. Reed returns as the most experienced player in the Pitt secondary. Despite missing the spring as a precaution (concussion), Reed should be full-go for fall practice and much is expected of him in his second year as a starter.
2. West Virginia. Keith Tandy returns after making first-team All Big East last season, though the Mountaineers have to replace Brandon Hogan, a second-team selection. They do have an experienced player in Pat Miller set to take over, with Brodrick Jenkins and Brantwon Bowser providing depth as well.
3. USF. The Bulls have to make up for the loss of Mistral Raymond, but have plenty of experienced players back in Kayvon Webster, Ricardo Dixon, George Baker and returning starter Quenton Washington. West Virginia gets the nod ahead of USF because of Tandy.
4. Syracuse. Both starters are gone in Mike Holmes and Da'Mond Merkerson. Kevyn Scott and Keon Lyn are penciled in to start. Scott has experience, while Lyn has plenty of potential. The problem is depth. Walk-on Joe Nassib is listed as a backup. Early enrollee Jaston George needs to show big improvement in the fall.
5. Pittsburgh. Coach Todd Graham has talked up K'Waun Williams and fifth-year senior Buddy Jackson after both had good springs. Antwuan Reed missed spring with injury but should be fine for the season, giving the Panthers three players with the potential to have a good year. The problem is that Williams is inexperienced and Jackson has failed to live up to expectations. Reed was inconsistent last season, too.
6. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lose their best cover cornerback in Brandon Bing, and David Rowe moved to safety. Both starting jobs are up for grabs. On the post-spring depth chart, Logan Ryan and Marcus Cooper were battling for one spot and Brandon Jones and Mason Robinson for another. Robinson moved over from receiver. Jordan Thomas also is in the mix after moving from running back.
7. Cincinnati. The Bearcats were pretty dismal in the secondary last season. They return everybody, and Dominique Battle should be back from a knee injury that cost him most of the season. Still, they need to tackle better and become more aggressive to help this unit improve.
8. Louisville. The Cardinals have major problems at cornerback. They lose starters Johnny Patrick and Bobby Burns, and Darius Ashley is suspended indefinitely following his second DUI arrest. Jordan Paschal, Anthony Conner and Preston Pace are in the mix. Freshman receiver Charles Gaines was moved here in the spring to provide some relief. But this is a major area of concern.
The unexpected star of the show was true freshman quarterback Matt Floyd, who finished 20-of-34 for 233 yards and a touchdown. That included 6-of-7 passing against the first-team defense, as Floyd saw more snaps than planned because Bobby Eveld got hit in the jaw early. With Jamius Gunsby taking the rest of the spring off to fix his academics, Floyd could rise to No. 3 or even higher on the quarterback depth chart.
Starting quarterback B.J. Daniels was less sharp, completing just 13 of 29 passes for 145 yards and an interception. Dropped passes marred the offense's day, and head coach Skip Holtz was not happy about it. Consistency in the passing game, of course, was a big problem for last year's team.
"It was pretty discouraging watching the passing game," Holtz said. "Defensively, they ran every blitz known the man. But I thought just the way we executed the passing game was really poor. ... We're definitely going to have to get better at that if we're going to have any shot as an offensive football team."
Demetris Murray led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 57 yards. Transfer Darrell Scott didn't get much of a chance to impress; he pulled a hamstring early on and will miss the rest of the spring.
The defense controlled things most of the way. Luke Sager had two sacks, while Quenton Washington and Mark Joyce each had interceptions.
"It was ugly to watch," Holtz said of the scrimmage.
The game drew only 2,493 fans, a staggeringly low turnout for a spring game. Perhaps fans are waiting to attend this Saturday's on-campus scrimmage.
The positions listed reflect areas of need for the 2011 and 2012 seasons and don't take into account players who have already committed at those spots, though I try to highlight some of those notable commitments below.
Offensive line: The Bearcats lose three senior starters from an offensive line that had its share of struggles in the 2010 season. Left tackle, center and right guard will all need new starters in 2011, and Butch Jones wasn't thrilled with the depth he inherited at those key positions. He needs to refill the ranks.
Running back: Isaiah Pead had a breakthrough year and might be the top running back in the Big East in 2011, but he's a senior. Backup John Goebel graduated, and Darrin Williams hasn't shown enough consistency as an every-down player. The Bearcats hope current commitment Jameel Poteat can be the next Pead.
Defensive toughness: Cincinnati returns all 11 starters from the 2010 defense, but that defense gave up the most points in the Big East. There's not a position on the defense that couldn't use more depth and more talent. The Bearcats were especially light on strength and toughness on defense, so any hard-nosed guys who can play on that side of the ball are welcome to join.
Linebacker: UConn returns most of its starting defense from 2010 but loses a pair of four-year starters in linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson. Sio Moore is a rising star at the position, but it will be hard to replace the veteran leadership and production that Lutrus and Wilson provided. The Huskies' top two recruits right now are both linebackers.
Offensive line: The Huskies lose both starting guards from 2010, including All-Big East performer Zach Hurd. The program has had an uncanny knack for simply plugging in new starters along that offensive front and not missing a beat. It remains to be seen whether new coach Paul Pasqualoni and his staff can continue that tradition.
Wide receiver: Sure, UConn returns virtually all of its pass-catchers from the Big East championship team. But the passing game was brutally bad down the stretch, and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl loss highlighted the need for more playmakers on offense. Pasqualoni has said he wants to throw the ball down the field to stretch the defense, and he'll need game-breakers to do so.
Quarterback: Adam Froman and Justin Burke split the starting duties under center last season, and both were seniors. The only other quarterback on the roster with experience at the position is Will Stein, who'll be a senior this year. Dominique Brown was recruited as a quarterback last year, but his future probably lies at another position. Incoming freshmen Teddy Bridgewater and DaMarcus Smith, if he keeps his pledge to the Cardinals, could compete for the starting job right away.
Defensive back: The secondary was a constant source of concern for Louisville last year, and the Cardinals got a surprising contribution from Big East rookie of the year Hakeem Smith at safety. But both starting cornerbacks, including likely NFL draft pick Johnny Patrick, are gone. Louisville's top recruit right now is safety Gerod Holliman.
Wide receiver: The Cardinals had an excellent running game and the top pass-catching tight end in the Big East a year ago. But they had trouble going vertical in the passing game because of a lack of explosive playmakers in the passing game. Injuries and inexperience hurt the position last season, and leading receiver Doug Beaumont graduated. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's attack will look much different when Louisville gets some star wideouts on board.
Running back: Dion Lewis bolted for the NFL as a draft-eligible sophomore, and fullback Henry Hynoski went pro early as well. That leaves Ray Graham as the only real option for handoffs. It's no surprise that Pitt has commitments from four players identified as running backs in this class so far.
Wide receiver: Jon Baldwin took his talents to the NFL after his junior year. True, the Panthers still have plenty of talent at the position, including Mike Shanahan and the emerging Devin Street. But Todd Graham's new wide-open offense is going to need a lot of targets in the passing game, especially versatile players who can do lots of things in space.
Offensive line: Pitt's problems in the middle of its offensive line to start last season exposed a shocking lack of depth at the position, which had suffered through several recruiting misses in the past. The Panthers now have to replace their All-Big East left tackle in Jason Pinkston and find a new starting center. And Graham's offense is going to require a different kind of blocking scheme.
Offensive line: This is a no-brainer for a team that gave up a nation's-worst 61 sacks a year ago. It's hard to find immediate help at this position, but the Scarlet Knights did ink a junior-college player who is expected to start at center this season. Whether it's the scheme or just the players running it, Rutgers needs a change up front.
Running back: Jordan Thomas did some nice things as a true freshman, and Joe Martinek hopes to be fully healthy for his senior year. But Greg Schiano's offense has been searching for a difference-maker at tailback since Ray Rice went to the Baltimore Ravens. He hopes Savon Huggins, the top New Jersey recruit who committed late last week, is that guy.
Quarterback: Tom Savage's transfer leaves true sophomore Chas Dodd as the only quarterback with any experience. It's hard to go through a whole year with just one quarterback, so the Scarlet Knights desperately need depth. They received a pledge from Don Bosco Prep signal-caller Gary Nova, a former Pitt recruit.
Defensive line: Three of the four starters along the defensive line were seniors last year, including starting defensive ends Jonathan Freeny and Alex Silvestro. Schiano has some promising young players at the position but needs depth there so he can rotate in fresh bodies to rush the passer.
Wide receiver: The Bulls' dearth of reliable targets in the passing game was painfully obvious most of the year. No. 1 wideout Dontavia Bogan was a senior, meaning some of the younger players at that spot need to grow up in a hurry. USF should get A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin back from injury, but it's clear that Skip Holtz needs some more deep threats.
Offensive line: Three starters are gone off the offensive line, including tackles Jamar Bass and Jake Sims and center Sampson Genus. The two returning starters will be seniors this season. The Bulls need to usher in the next wave of linemen into the program this recruiting season.
Defensive back: Mistral Raymond, who could play both corner and safety for the Bulls last season, is gone. There wasn't a ton of depth here this year, and though Quenton Washington had a great Meineke Car Care Bowl game, South Florida feels like it can upgrade its secondary through recruiting.
Linebacker: The Orange had one of the better defenses in the Big East in '10, and senior linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith were big reasons why. Marquis Spruill showed promise at the position as a true freshman this season, and Syracuse needs a couple more like him to stay strong in Scott Shafer's pressure scheme.
Wide receiver: Marcus Sales came out of nowhere to have a huge New Era Pinstripe Bowl performance, but it remains to be seen if he can duplicate that performance next year. Van Chew showed great improvement throughout the year, but he and Alec Lemon dealt with injuries down the stretch that often left Ryan Nassib without anybody to target.
Running back: Delone Carter's graduation and Averin Collier's dismissal thins the backfield significantly. Antwon Bailey returns for his senior year but has to prove he's an every-down back. No one else on the roster has proved anything at the position.
Quarterback: The good news is that Geno Smith has thoroughly established himself as The Man at quarterback. The bad news is that Smith's entrenchment at the position helped run off freshmen Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson, so the Mountaineers once again have no depth behind their starter. They have brought in an intriguing under-the-radar prospect in Paul Millard, who had ridiculous numbers in Texas.
Defensive back: Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme demands the constant need for physical safeties who can play in different spots. West Virginia also lost a pair of stalwarts at the position in Sidney Glover and Robert Sands, who left early for the NFL. Add in the loss of star cornerback Brandon Hogan, and it's time to reload the secondary in Morgantown.
Linebacker: The Mountaineers got surprisingly good contributions from Anthony Leonard at middle linebacker this season, and J.T. Thomas was as solid as everyone expected. They both depart, along with top backup Pat Lazear, and only senior Najee Goode remains among the experienced players at the position. West Virginia hopes junior-college import Josh Francis can help right away.
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.
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.
Best game: Purely for drama's sake, it has to be Rutgers' 17-14 loss to Tulane. It wasn't a game to watch if you love offense, though the Green Wave pulled off a few big plays at key moments. The Scarlet Knights had a couple of chances to go in for the lead or a tying field goal but couldn't get it done.
Biggest play and best call: Speaking of Tulane big plays, one play was the biggest and best of the weekend. In the third quarter, the Green Wave executed a double pass, with Joe Kemp throwing a lateral to his right to receiver D.J. Banks, followed by Banks returning the favor with a pass back to Kemp. The Scarlet Knights said they had studied that play on film, but it sure didn't look like it as Kemp practically walked into the end zone for a 24-yard score and a 17-7 lead.
Big Man on Campus (Offense): Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh. There's a new star running back in Pittsburgh. Subbing for an injured Dion Lewis, Graham racked up 277 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries versus Florida International. Add in his receiving and return production, and he finished with 374 all-purpose yards, which is believed to be a school record.
Big Man on Campus (Defense): Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut. Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown for the second straight week and also had a fumble recovery against Vanderbilt.
Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Quenton Washington, South Florida. Washington blocked a punt against Florida Atlantic that was recovered for a score by teammate Armando Sanchez for a touchdown. That gave the Bulls a 14-0 lead and some early breathing room in the first quarter of a 31-3 win.
Biggest hangover: Rutgers. For reasons that should be painfully obvious after the Scarlet Knights lost to Tulane on homecoming.
Now we look ahead as conference season finally begins -- at least for half the league (Games listed in descending order of interest/importance):
Pittsburgh (2-2) at Notre Dame (2-3): Pitt has won the past two meetings against the Irish. But Brian Kelly has Dave Wannstedt's number. Both teams need a win to get back on track. (3:30 ET)
Connecticut (3-2) at Rutgers (2-2): The official first game of Big East play features a Huskies team that seems to be on the rise with a Scarlet Knights squad facing all sorts of questions. (ESPN, 7:30 ET Friday)
Syracuse (3-1) at South Florida (3-1): I say this without hesitation: This is the most interested I've ever been in a Syracuse/South Florida game. (ESPN3.com, Noon ET)
UNLV (1-4) at West Virginia (3-1): Vegas comes to Morgantown. The house should win. (ESPN3.com, 3:30 ET)
Miami of Ohio (3-2) at Cincinnati (1-3): The Bearcats should get their first win over an FBS opponent. In the second weekend of October. Yes, that's weird to say. (ESPN3.com, 7 ET)
Memphis (1-4) at Louisville (2-2): Memphis is truly bad. And the Big East can't say that about a lot of other teams. (2 ET)
2. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights lost the best cornerback in the Big East when Devin McCourty took his skills to the NFL, but I still like the group that's returning. Joe Lefeged should step up and assume McCourty's leadership role as a senior safety, while Khaseem Greene looks ready to become a front-line safety. David Rowe is a solid corner, and either Brandon Bing or Logan Ryan should fill the other spot. The Scarlet Knights have a lot of talented young players here to provide quality depth, as well.
3. Syracuse: The Orange officially have five returning starters in the secondary because of injuries last year, and several players gained valuable experience during 2009. There's a good mixture of veteran leadership with guys like seniors Mike Holmes, Da'Mon Merkerson and Max Suter as well as rising stars like Shamarko Thomas and Phillip Thomas.
4. Pittsburgh: Antwuan Reed helped answer a big question with a strong spring at cornerback. The other corner spot will likely be filled by either junior college transfer Saheed Imoru or Buddy Jackson, with Ricky Gary around to add depth. The safety position should be in good shape when Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti return from their injuries, while Jarred Holley established himself as a dependable safety last year.
5. South Florida: The Bulls lost a pair of draft picks in Nate Allen and Jerome Murphy and have some young players moving into key roles this season. The good news is those youngsters have talent. The key will be whether Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster can hold down the cornerback spots.
6. Cincinnati: There's healthy competition in the secondary for the Bearcats, who increasingly gave up big plays in the passing game as the 2009 season wore on. Dominique Battle, Camerron Cheatham, Chris Williams and Reuben Johnson all vied for playing time at corner this spring. Drew Frey is a steady safety. The group needs to make more plays than it did a year ago but should embrace a more aggressive scheme this year.
7. Connecticut: The Huskies ranked last in pass defense last season and lost two senior stalwarts from the secondary. The defensive backfield was in disarray at times this spring. The return of Blidi Wreh-Wilson from his shoulder injury this summer should help out the cornerback spot with Dwayne Gratz. Jerome Junior should be solid at one safety spot, while Kijuan Dabney is trying to win the other job after moving from linebacker. The Huskies are counting on a lot of young players to improve quickly before the season begins.
8. Louisville: The Cardinals had so much trouble finding playmakers in the secondary this spring that running back Darius Ashley moved to corner to help out. Johnny Patrick is one of the league's better cornerbacks but needs help in the defensive backfield. The healthy return of safety Terence Simien would provide a boost, but this remains a trouble spot heading into the fall.
Posted by ESPN.com'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.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
8:00 PM ET 20 Duke 1 Florida State 8:17 PM ET 2 Ohio State 10 Michigan State 4:00 PM ET 5 Missouri 3 Auburn 12:00 PM ET 17 Oklahoma 6 Oklahoma State 7:45 PM ET 7 Stanford 11 Arizona State 3:30 PM ET 25 Texas 9 Baylor 12:00 PM ET 16 UCF Southern Methodist 10:00 PM ET Utah State 23 Fresno State