NCF Nation: Ross Krautman

Injury impact: ACC

October, 24, 2013
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It’s that time of year, when injuries can be devastating to a team and even change the outcome of a game. Here’s a look at which three teams in the ACC have been most affected by injuries this season:

1. NC STATE: The Pack lost starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell in the season opener when he broke his left foot. He is expected to return for Saturday’s game at Florida State, but the Pack has also been missing two key linemen in OT Rob Crisp, and DE Darryl Cato-Bishop. Safety Jarvis Byrd also suffered his third torn ACL of his career.

2. MARYLAND: The Terps took their biggest hit at FSU when quarterback C.J. Brown was sidelined with a concussion and missed the following game at Virginia, but they’ve also since lost their top two receivers in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, and linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil and defensive back Dexter McDougle are also out for the season.

3. SYRACUSE: The Orange lost starting linebacker Dyshawn Davis to an ankle injury for the second half of the NC State game and last week’s game against Georgia Tech, defensive tackle John Raymon suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 56-0 loss to Georgia Tech, tailback George Morris II also missed last week with an injury, and three-year starting CB Keon Lyn is out for the season with a lower body injury. The Orange also lost kicker Ross Krautman in late September to a season-ending hip injury. The bye week comes at a good time for Cuse.

Rutgers wins ugly against Syracuse

October, 13, 2012
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It was not the prettiest win, but No. 20 Rutgers will take the ugly victory against Syracuse 23-15 on Saturday to become bowl eligible and stay undefeated.

The game essentially turned in the third quarter.

The teams went into halftime tied at 7. But Syracuse (2-4, 1-1) came unraveled in the second half. After opening the quarter with a nice-looking drive, its momentum was stalled because of a familiar bugaboo -- penalties. Ross Krautman lined up for the 33-yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked and Duron Harmon returned it 75 yards for the touchdown.

Rutgers, of course, thrives on huge special teams plays -- it was its fourth block of the season and first blocked field goal. Since 2009, Rutgers (6-0, 3-0) has an FBS-leading 27 blocks. Things unraveled from there for the Orange, with two more turnovers leading to 10 points for the Scarlet Knights.

Syracuse had its opportunities in the fourth quarter. Down 23-7, the Orange had eight attempts to score from deep inside Rutgers territory. It started with a first-and-goal at the Rutgers 10. A penalty on Rutgers on fourth down kept that drive alive. But Syracuse could do nothing with a fresh set of downs.

After forcing Rutgers into a three-and-out, Syracuse finally got on the board in the second half when Ryan Nassib threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Christopher Clark. The 2-point conversion to Marcus Sales was good. Syracuse got one more chance with a little less than 2 minutes left, but Nassib threw an interception to end the threat.

So the grand tally on the day for Syracuse: four turnovers, one field goal attempt blocked, seven penalties and 5-of-15 on third-down conversions. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene was a menace all afternoon, forcing three fumbles and delivering a critical interception while finishing in double digits in tackles. He was the hands down defensive player of the game for Rutgers, which relied once again on its defense and special teams to win.

Rutgers' offensive play-calling was conservative for most of the game, particularly once it had the lead. But this is the formula Rutgers is going to follow for the rest of the season. The run game was not as effective today -- Jawan Jamison had 64 yards on 23 carries, the first time all season he failed to reach 100 yards.

But Rutgers did enough to win the game, and made the plays when it had to. Brandon Coleman had six catches for 104 yards, and Gary Nova was efficient, throwing for 152 yards and a touchdown without an interception.

Syracuse outlasts Stony Brook

September, 15, 2012
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There was not much for Syracuse to brag about after its 28-17 win over Stony Brook, but at least the Orange picked up their first victory of the season after tough losses to Northwestern and USC.

This team may have been feeling the effects of playing No. 2 USC down to the wire last week. The Orange came out flat and uninspired. The offensive fireworks of the first two weeks were missing for most of the game, although Syracuse did end up with 549 total yards. Meanwhile, the defense struggled to contain Stony Brook on offense and there were several costly special-teams mistakes, including two missed field goals by Ross Krautman.

The result: Stony Brook led 17-14 at halftime. But the Orange were able to generate enough in the second half to pull out the win, though there was some cause for concern. Twice in the second half, Syracuse faced fourth-and-goal -- once from the Stony Brook 3 and once from the Stony Brook 1 -- and decided to go for it. Both times, the Orange failed to punch the ball in.

Despite those failures, Jerome Smith had a career day, with 95 yards rushing. Ryan Nassib also had his third consecutive 300-yard game, going 22-of-35 for for 335 yards with three touchdown passes. His two second-half touchdowns came in the third quarter. The first, to Jarrod West, gave Syracuse the lead for good. He added another to Marcus Sales, who ended up with 117 yards on five receptions.
We have come to the final group in the 2011 postseason position rankings: special teams. This one is all encompassing -- kickers, punters, returners, and team coverage -- which has made it quite the task to evaluate as one group. Some teams had returns that excelled and kickers that were so-so. Some had great kickers but a so-so return game.

I tried to give equal weight to all parts. In the end, I took the rankings in several special-teams categories and used an average ranking to help determine these. Special weight was given to game-changing plays as well.

1. Cincinnati. The Bearcats ranked in the top two in four of the five statistical categories I used to evaluate special teams as a whole. The only area lacking was field goals, but I thought overall Tony Miliano had a decent year for a true freshman, even considering his missed kick against West Virginia. Ralph David Abernathy IV emerged as a dynamite kickoff man, and Pat O'Donnell was the best punter in the Big East again. Kickoff coverage was solid as well. Preseason ranking: 5.

2. UConn. Nick Williams averaged just 5.6 yards a return on punts. He was not particularly dynamic on kickoff returns, either, ranking No. 4 in the Big East after going into the season as one of the top returners in the league. UConn was one of two Big East teams without a kickoff return for a touchdown. But still, the Huskies were solid in every other category. Dave Teggart once again was the Big East first-team kicker, and Cole Wagner averaged 41.1 yards a punt. Preseason ranking: 1.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireTavon Austin had two kickoff returns for touchdowns last season.
3. West Virginia. Tavon Austin was hands down the best returner in the Big East this season, and one of the best in the nation. But since this is an evaluation of special teams as a whole, everything is taken into account. West Virginia had the worst punting situation in the Big East, and ranked last in kickoff coverage. There were several critical blocked field goals as well. Special teams absolutely improved as the year went on, and some players made big plays -- Eain Smith comes to mind. But Austin alone wasn't enough to elevate the group higher. Preseason ranking: 7.

4. Rutgers. Once again, the Scarlet Knights were highly effective at blocking kicks -- a staple under coach Greg Schiano. Jeremy Deering was solid in the kickoff return game as well. But San San Te had the worst field goal percentage in the Big East (64.5 percent), and kickoff coverage ranked No. 7 in the conference. Rutgers only had an opportunity to return 16 punts last season, averaging about 6 yards a return. Preseason ranking: 6.

5. Pitt. The Panthers lost their punter and field goal kicker from a year ago and did perhaps better than expected in special teams overall. Punter Matt Yoklic was second in the league in punts, though Kevin Harper did struggle at times with his field goals. Losing Cameron Saddler really hurt the punt return game as well. Preseason ranking: 8.

6. Syracuse. Ross Krautman led the Big East in field goal percentage (78.9) but he only had 19 attempts on the season, second fewest in the Big East. Punt returns were essentially nonexistent -- with only 12 attempts for an average of 3.1 yards a return. Jeremiah Kobena was a nice addition at kickoff returner, but the Orange still ranked No. 6 in the Big East in that category and kickoff return coverage as well. Preseason ranking: 4.

7. Louisville. Chris Philpott had a disappointing season, ranking No. 7 in the league in field goal percentage (66.7). He and Josh Bleser averaged 37.3 yards a punt. Punt returning ranked No. 7 in the Big East as well, and aside from Adrian Bushell's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, that category was just average for the Cardinals. Preseason ranking: 3.

8. USF. I think the Bulls were the biggest disappointment in this category. Lindsey Lamar, who was the first-team Big East selection at returner last year, had zero this year and ranked No. 9 in the league in kickoff return average. His average was down some six yards from last season. When Terrence Mitchell got hurt and missed the second half of the season, no one was dynamic at punt returner, either. Maikon Bonani ranked No. 3 in field goal percentage but fairly or not is going to be remembered for missing a field goal that would have beaten Rutgers, and eventually gotten the Bulls bowl eligible. Preseason ranking: 2.

Halftime: Pitt 20, Syracuse 10

December, 3, 2011
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In the battle for bowl eligibility, Pitt has a 20-10 lead on Syracuse going into halftime thanks to several Orange mistakes.

Syracuse turned the ball over twice in the first 2:25 of the game, leading directly to 10 points for Pitt. The first half has been all about mistakes for the Orange, who have nine penalties for 90 yards. One of them -- a personal foul on Ri'Shard Anderson -- helped Pitt score its lone touchdown on a prolonged offensive drive, when Anthony Gonzalez scored on a 17-yard run out of the Wildcat.

The Orange have been able to move the ball, but their drives stall. They had one first-and-goal at the 9 but settled for a 22-yard field goal from Ross Krautman.

Pitt has not exactly looked crisp on offense, either. Running back Zach Brown and receiver Ronald Jones are both out. Tino Sunseri has taken several sacks as well, including one in the red zone that forced the Panthers to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Kevin Harper.

The winner of this game becomes bowl eligible. Syracuse has lost four straight. Running back Antwon Bailey has 30 yards in the first half, getting him to over 1,000 yards on the season.

Top kickers struggling so far

October, 5, 2011
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Ross Krautman and Dave Teggart went into the season as the top two kickers in the Big East. But so far, both have had some early season struggles.

Teggart, who made the all-conference first team last season at UConn, has made just 6 of his 10 field goal attempts this season -- a 60 percent success rate. Krautman, who made the all-conference second team at Syracuse, has made 6 of his 9 field goal attempts -- with a long of just 33.

Both have had critical misses in games that could have helped determine the outcome. Teggart missed two against Iowa State, from 41 and 43 yards, and UConn lost 24-20. Krautman missed a 39-yarder and had a 44-yarder blocked in a 19-16 double-overtime loss to Rutgers last week. An extra-point attempt also was blocked.

Consider Krautman missed just one of his 19 attempts last season. Coach Doug Marrone said a reason for his struggles against Rutgers was because of problems along the line, and specifically with right guard Andrew Tiller. Zack Chibane is now being moved to the right side.

"We'll switch the two interior linemen, and what we're going to do is probably interlock the tight end so that he had one movement instead of two," Marrone said. "That will help our wing, and then we're going to decrease our time by 0.01 seconds. That's exactly what went on."

Teggart did miss six kicks last year, but he came up clutch with game winners against West Virginia and USF.

So who is the top kicker in the conference so far?

None other than Tyler Bitancurt of West Virginia. The same Tyler Bitancurt who had massive struggles last season. Bitancurt has missed just one of his 10 attempts this season and already has made a career-long tying 45-yarder, better than his 2010 best of 43 yards. His 90 percent success rate leads the Big East.

This is the same player who had no field goals in the final four games of last season -- going 0-for-4 in those games. He struggled during the spring, and went into the fall competing with Corey Smith for the kicking job. Something clicked for him in the fall, and Bitancurt was named the starter after a week.

He says he is playing with a renewed sense of confidence, and now he also has picked up kickoff duties after Smith struggled in the first four games.

With the heart of conference play approaching, we will see how this position plays out.

Weekend Rewind: Big East

September, 26, 2011
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Let us take a look back at Week 4:

[+] EnlargeMohamed Sanu
AP Photo/Mel EvansRutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu, right, had 16 catches for 176 yards against Ohio.
The good: Cincinnati forced three more turnovers in a 44-14 win against NC State last Thursday night. That brings its nation-leading total to 16 takeways. But maybe even better -- the defensive line had its best performance of the season with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The defense held NC State to minus-26 yards rushing, the third-lowest rushing total in school history and the fewest since allowing minus-37 yards to Wichita State in 1974. ... You already know what a tremendous performance Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu had against Ohio. But a little overlooked was its performance on third down. Rutgers converted 11 of 18 third-down attempts (61.1 percent) against an Ohio defense that had held its previous opponents to 33.3 percent on third down. Greg Schiano might have not liked being in 18 third downs, but when you convert at that clip, you take it. ... Connecticut has held its opponent to three points in each of its two wins. ... USF had three scoring plays of 50 yards or more in the win against UTEP. Last season, the Bulls had three 50-yard scoring plays. Total.

The bad: Big East officiating had a bad weekend, after the league admitted its officials blew a call in the Syracuse-Toledo game that impacted the outcome. An extra point from Ross Krautman appeared to go wide, but it was called good on the field. That call was upheld on review. The point gave Syracuse a 30-27 lead late in the game. Toledo tied it with a field goal to send the contest into overtime. But the league now says the extra point was no good. Had that point come off the board, Syracuse would have led by 2 and not 3, giving Toledo a chance to win rather than tie. ... West Virginia allowed a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against LSU after cutting the deficit to six. That was the start of 21 unanswered points for the Tigers in a 47-21 win. The Mountaineers added four turnovers after committing three in the first three games combined. The 47 points were the most West Virginia has given up since losing 48-22 to Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl in 2002. ... Pitt was held to just 268 yards of total offense in its 15-12 loss to Notre Dame.

Stat sheet:

  • West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin had 11 receptions for 187 yards, and receiver Stedman Bailey had eight catches for 115
    yards against LSU. It was the second straight game in which West Virginia had multiple 100-yard receivers.
  • Quarterback Geno Smith had school records for completions (38), attempts (65) and passing yards (463) yards against LSU. He finished with 468 total yards of offense, a program single-game record.
  • UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee threw the first two touchdown passes of his career against Buffalo.
  • Pitt has not allowed a point in the first quarter this season.
  • Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib leads the Big East in completion percentage (71.4).
  • Syracuse receiver Van Chew now has 1,012 career receiving yards.
  • Cincinnati receivers Anthony McClung (94) and Kenbrell Thompkins (72) set career highs for yards.
  • Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley had carrer highs with 10 carries and 66 yards.
  • Sanu set school and Big East records with 16 receptions for 176 yards.
Week 5 schedule
USF at Pitt, Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN
Rutgers at Syracuse, Saturday, noon, Big East Network
Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio), Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN3
Western Michigan at UConn, Saturday 3:30 p.m., Big East Network
Marshall at Louisville, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big East Network
Bowling Green at West Virginia, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big East Network
The Big East admitted that its officials made a mistake when failing to overturn an extra-point attempt Ross Krautman made in the Syracuse-Toledo game Saturday.

The extra point gave Syracuse a 30-27 lead over Toledo late in the fourth quarter. The attempt was called good on the field and upheld on video review. That extra point ultimately allowed the game to go into overtime -- and the Orange won 33-30.

Here is what Big East coordinator of football officiating Terry McAulay said in the statement issued Saturday night.
"After studying the videos of the Syracuse extra point attempt at 2:07 of the fourth quarter, we have concluded that the ruling on the field that the kick passed between the uprights was incorrect, and that the replay official made an error in failing to reverse that ruling. In reviewing the video, we have determined that the angle from behind the kicking team shows conclusively that the ball passes outside the right upright.

"Our review of the process determined that the replay official mistakenly focused his attention on the sideline angle, which proved to be distorted. We are confident that our officiating staff will learn from this situation in order to prevent a reoccurrence."

Final: Syracuse 33, Toledo 30, OT

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
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While I was on the road to Morgantown, Syracuse pulled out a 33-30 win against Toledo in overtime -- the second overtime win for the Orange this season.

But the win was not without its share of controversy. After Ryan Nassib threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Alec Lemon to put the Orange up 29-27 with 2:07 left in the fourth, the extra point from kicker Ross Krautman underwent an official review to determine whether it went wide. The extra point was called good on the field, and allowed to stand -- giving Syracuse a three-point lead.

Toledo tied it up and put the game into overtime, but Rockets quarterback Austin Dantin threw an interception in overtime, and Krautman kicked a 27-yarder to win it.

The victory was yet another ugly one for the Orange. Syracuse has played inconsistently on offense and defense all season. Krautman ended up kicking four field goals after several failed opportunities in the red zone. The defense allowed Toledo to gain 438 yards -- including a career-high 158 from receiver Eric Page. There have been injuries in the secondary and the defensive line, but it is clear there is much work to do for Syracuse before conference play begins.

Big East opens play 3-0

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
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It may not have been the prettiest night of football, but the Big East opened the 2011 season Thursday night 3-0 -- including a thrilling come-from-behind win for Syracuse.

So what do we take away from Louisville, Rutgers and the Orange? It is hard to take away much from Week 1. Rutgers beat an overmatched NC Central team 48-0. The defense looked good, but we will know more about the Scarlet Knights after next week's game at North Carolina.

The Cardinals defense looked better than expected in a 21-9 win over Murray State, but the offense was hit or miss and made way too many mistakes. I am not sure any Louisville fan feels good about the offensive performance this morning, especially against an average FCS team.

Syracuse, meanwhile, had the game of the day. The Orange, hoping to build off an impressive bowl season in 2010, looked completely lifeless for three quarters. Fans on Twitter joked about being reminded of the Greg Robinson era. But the fourth quarter was a different game. The Orange scored 22 unanswered points to stun Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime.

The comeback was spurred, in part, when Wake Forest starting quarterback Tanner Price went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. He threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, particularly picking on cornerback Kevyn Scott. There was little pass rush, and the defense seemed flat footed. But after Price left the game, Wake managed just 59 total yards.

Despite the early struggles, Syracuse never gave up and deserves credit for that. No matter how you get it, any win is a big win.

Now here is more on the good and the bad for each team that played Thursday night.

Louisville
  • The good: You have to start with the defense. Many thought a pass-happy Murray State would be able to pass over a secondary featuring two inexperienced starters at cornerback. But starters Anthony Connor and true freshmen Andrew Johnson held their own. Connor picked up his first career interception, and Murray State never got a consistent string of big pass plays. Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman threw for just 148 yards and three interceptions. Meanwhile, the defensive line was without B.J. Butler, Roy Philon and Brandon Dunn, and Greg Scruggs played just a handful of snaps. In their place, true freshman B.J. Dubose, sophomore Marcus Smith, Randy Salmon, William Savoy and Malcolm Mitchell all played well. True freshman receiver DeVante Parker also flashed.
  • The bad: The offense has to get into a rhythm. The offensive line had five new starters and remains a work in progress. Of the 10 Louisville penalties, five were false starts and one was a hold. Will Stein had good plays and bad plays and fumbled once. Victor Anderson fumbled for the first time in his career. Jeremy Wright fumbled, too. Highly touted true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater only played one series, which featured two false starts, a delay of game and his first career interception.
Rutgers
  • The good: The defense had a nice game, posting the ninth shutout under coach Greg Schiano. Rutgers had nine sacks -- the most since a nine-sack day in a 44-9 victory over Cincinnati on Nov. 26, 2005. Scott Vallone got his first career touchdown when he recovered a fumble in the end zone. Duron Harmon had two interceptions, including one he returned 37 yards for his first career touchdown. Harmon, in particular, seemed to be everywhere. Another highly touted freshman, Savon Huggins, got his first two career touchdowns but averaged just 3.2 yards a carry.
  • The bad: It is hard to find anything bad in a 48-0 rout. All you can really say is Rutgers did not get much of a test before a big game on the road next weekend. Perhaps Rutgers wants more consistency out of its running game. DeAntwan Williams, Jawan Jamison, Jeremy Deering and Huggins all played, and collectively averaged 3.3 yards a carry. Jamison had the longest run of the day at 14 yards.
Syracuse
  • The good: Everybody loves a come-from-behind win. The Syracuse offense finally showed its capability in the fourth quarter, when Antwon Bailey ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run to help tie the game at 29. Ryan Nassib, inconsistent early in the game, was a perfect 8-for-8 to close the game. Hard to believe it was the same offense that had fewer total yards (52) than penalty yards (56) in the first half. The defense came through with some big plays down the stretch, including an interception from Kevyn Scott. But perhaps what you love most is the moxie Syracuse showed in coming from behind to gut out a win.
  • The bad: In the first three quarters, the offensive line looked shaky. Receivers had drops. Bailey and Nassib could not generate much of anything. The defense looked slow, out of position and not aggressive. There were wide open Wake Forest receivers left and right. Not much of a pass rush, either. There also was a go-ahead field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter by Ross Krautman that was blocked because of a bad snap.
We wrap up our look at team position rankings with special teams. There are plenty of strong kickers and returners in the league. I did not separate them, though, because those would be more like individual rankings. Those are coming soon.

[+] EnlargeNick Williams
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireNick Williams led the NCAA in kickoff return average last season.
1. Connecticut. The Huskies have one of the best kickers in the league in Dave Teggart and one of the best kickoff returners in the league in Nick Williams putting them in the top spot here. Williams led the NCAA in kickoff return average last season with 35.3 yards per kick. Teggart was the Big East first-team selection, making 25 of 31 field goals. They should be better this year, even with the loss of Robbie Frey.

2. USF. The Bulls also have an excellent kicker-returner duo in Maikon Bonani and Lindsey Lamar. Bonani made 17 of 21 kicks last year, while Lamar was the first-team All-Big East selection, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaging 26 yards per return. Add in punt returner Terrence Mitchell and this is one of the best units in the league.

3. Louisville. The Cardinals have one of the best in the league in Chris Philpott, who punts and kicks. Josh Bleser is solid in splitting the punting duties with Philpott. Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright are back as kickoff returners -- both averaged 30-plus yards per return last season. Wright's kick return helped the Cardinals win the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl last year. Doug Beaumont is gone as punt returner, but he is the only loss. This unit has a chance to be No. 1 at year's end.

4. Syracuse. The Orange have one of the best kickers in the league in Ross Krautman, who missed just one of his 19 field goal attempts last season. They do lose their top punt returner in Mike Holmes, along with punter Rob Long so there are questions at some of the most important spots on special teams. But Krautman, and the return of Dorian Graham and Prince-Tyson Gulley returning kicks puts this unit just ahead of the Bearcats.

5. Cincinnati. This is a mixed bag for the Bearcats. They have the best punter in the league in Pat O'Donnell, who also happens to be a physical freak in the weight room. They should be decent in the return game with the return of D.J. Woods, who will compete with Anthony McClung, Shaq Washington and Kenbrell Thompkins to return kicks and punts. Darrin Williams is in the mix for kickoff returner, too. But kicker is a huge question mark. Jacob Rogers was solid last season. Now there is uncertainty in the competition between Tony Miliano and Danny Milligan. Coach Butch Jones says he won't name a starter until game week.

6. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights also have question marks here. Kicker San San Te returns, but he needs to be better from longer distances (2-of-7 from 40-plus yards). Punter Teddy Dellaganna is gone and so is kickoff returner Joe Lefeged. True freshman Anthony DiPaula enrolled early and takes over at punter. Mason Robinson is back at punt returner, and Jeremy Deering and Mark Harrison make a good combo returning kicks.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers need more consistency from kicker Tyler Bitancurt, who missed his final four kicks of last season. He made just 10 of 17 attempts and looked shaky in the spring. West Virginia has a new holder and a new punter in Corey Smith, and hopes for improvement in the return game.

8. Pittsburgh. The Panthers have to replace both kicking specialists, including Big East first-team punter Dan Hutchins. At punter, you have walk-ons Matt Yoklic and Drake Greer, neither of whom has punted in a collegiate game. Kevin Harper takes over as kicker and had a good spring game. The Panthers also replace their long-snapper, so there will be a period of adjustment for this unit when the season starts. Cameron Saddler is a bright spot at returner.

Previous rankings
You could say that Big East freshmen were special. Or, you could say that the best freshmen in the Big East were specialists. Or something like that.

Two Big East players were named to the Football Writers Association of America's freshman All-America team on Monday, and they are both special teams performers.

South Florida's Terrence Mitchell was recognized for his work on punt returns, and Syracuse's Ross Krautman was the team's kicker.

Krautman tied the Syracuse single-season record for field goal percentage, connecting on 18-of-19, field goals made in one season with his 18th against Kansas State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and for consecutive field goals made (16). He tied Gary Anderson’s marks from 1981 in all three categories.

Mitchell returned 27 punts for 232 yards (11.0 yards per return) to lead the nation's rookie punt returners. The mark also ranked 23rd nationally and second in the Big East. Mitchell’s long return of the season, a 67-yarder, came against WKU. He also had a 47-yard return against Rutgers and a 34-yarder in USF’s Meineke Car Care Bowl victory against Clemson.

Week 11 review/Week 12 preview

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
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The Week (11) that Was:

Team of the week: Connecticut. Every other Big East team cheered on the Huskies as they knocked off Pitt 30-28 on Thursday night. That was the second straight big home win for UConn, following the upset of West Virginia two weeks ago.

[+] EnlargeSouth Florida's Dontavia Bogan
AP Photo/Garry JonesThis TD grab by Dontavia Bogan helped South Florida to an important win against Louisville.
Best game: Three of the four games were decided by three points or less. But I'm a sucker for overtime games, so I'm going with South Florida's 24-21 win against Louisville, which featured a late touchdown, field goal intrigue in the final seconds and a controversial coaching decision in OT.

Biggest play: Ross Krautman's 24-yard field goal with 1:07 left in Syracuse's 13-10 victory against Rutgers. It wasn't the most exciting play or the prettiest game to watch, but that field goal meant the Orange will be going bowling for the first time since 2004.

Best call: Randy Edsall doesn't normally have a reputation as a riverboat gambler. But on 4th-and-1 from his own 19, and his team clinging to a two-point lead with 2:50 left, Edsall decided to go for it. Jordan Todman picked up four yards, Pitt never got the ball back and the Big East race got a lot tighter.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Todman, RB, Connecticut. Todman rushed 37 times for 222 yards in the win against Pittsburgh.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut. Wilson had 11 tackles and a sack in the Huskies' big win.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Krautman, K, Syracuse. In addition to his game-winner, the freshman from New Jersey helped sink Rutgers with a 48-yarder in the third quarter of a game where points were scarce.

Strangest moment: According to West Virginia players, Cincinnati receiver D.J. Woods woofed to them in pregame warm-ups, saying Milan Puskar Stadium "is my house and my field." Why Woods would want to fire up the Mountaineers defense on the road is anybody's guess. West Virginia linebacker J.T. Thomas told teammates that he wanted Woods' head "or I'll go get it myself." Woods was held well below his average, with just three catches for 32 yards, as Cincinnati got blasted 37-10.

Worst hangover: Rutgers. Yeah, Pitt lost a game it shouldn't have, but the Panthers still have a one-game lead. The Scarlet Knights have now lost three straight games and could only muster 10 points at home. The offense continues to be one of the worst in the nation, and now the program is in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time in six years. And Saturday was its second straight loss to Syracuse.


Now let's look ahead to Week 12, where we actually have all Saturday games and even some night contests. (Games listed in descending order of interest and importance):

˙˙Pittsburgh (5-4, 3-1 Big East) at South Florida (6-3, 3-2): Can Pitt maintain its first-place lead? Or will the red-hot Bulls move into a first-place tie? (ESPN2, Noon ET)

Connecticut (5-4, 2-2) at Syracuse (7-3, 4-2): Something's got to give, as UConn is winless on the road and the Orange are 0-2 at home in Big East play. Winner remains in the BCS hunt. (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET)


West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) at Louisville (5-5, 2-3): The Cardinals try to get that elusive sixth win in their home finale, while the Mountaineers try to build some momentum. (ESPN3.com, Noon ET)

Rutgers at Cincinnati (3-6, 1-3): It's a basement bowl! Rutgers can't score, and Cincinnati can't stop anybody. (ESPN3.com, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Syracuse is going bowling after win

November, 13, 2010
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The game may not have been the prettiest. But the result is a thing of absolute beauty to Syracuse fans.

The Orange nipped Rutgers on the road 13-10 to gain their seventh win and clinch bowl eligibility (they needed seven because of two FCS victories this year) for the first time since 2004.

Ross Krautman hit a field goal in the final 67 seconds for the win. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said making a bowl game this year was the goal, and he turned all non-believers into believers.

That may not be all for these Orange, either. They're now 4-2 in the Big East with just one conference game left: next week at home versus UConn. If they can finally play well at the Carrier Dome, they could finish with a 5-2 record and possibly tie for the league title.

We can talk about Rutgers' brutal offense another time. The Scarlet Knights' path back to a bowl game became a lot tougher with their third straight loss, dropping the team to 4-5.

But right now is time to congratulate Syracuse on a monumental win for the program.
Here's a question I've gotten in my mailbag and on my chat this week: Is this weekend's Syracuse-Rutgers game big for recruiting purposes?

It's an interesting and pertinent question, since Doug Marrone has said that recruiting the New York-New Jersey area is a priority for the Orange as it should be. The Garden State in particular is one in which Marrone would like to build more bridges. Syracuse currently has only eight players on the roster from New Jersey, with four of them -- linebacker Marquis Spruill, defensive back Da'mon Merkerson, kicker Ross Krautman and offensive lineman Zack Chibane -- playing major roles.

"I think we have to do a better job of recruiting in New Jersey," Marrone said on Monday's Big East teleconference. "I think we haven't done a very good job in years past since Coach Pasqualoni and Coach DeLeone left because they had such a good foundation and good relationships in New Jersey. We've been fighting to get back that foundation."

Syracuse's current class of 2011 includes no New Jersey players, while last year's class had only one -- receiver Dyshawn Davis, who didn't qualify. The Orange have gotten some New York players that Rutgers wanted, like linebacker Malcom Cater and offensive lineman Andrew Tiller, but for the most part the schools haven't gone head to head much for high-profile prospects. (And the Scarlet Knights have landed their fair share players from New York, such as true freshman running back Jordan Thomas, who went to the same high school as Chandler and Arthur Jones).

Lots of factors go into a recruit's choice, but I'm not sure a head-to-head matchup between the schools does the job. Look at Pittsburgh, which has lately been getting top prospects out of Rutgers' backyard despite the fact that the Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak to the Scarlet Knights just last season.

It's more important for the Orange to rebuild their brand and gain positive publicity, which they have done this year by getting to the edge of bowl eligibility. Syracuse is getting to be cool again, and a strong finish and postseason trip will only help that. Then it takes building relationships in the state.

"We just try to sell our school on what we have to offer," Marrone said. "I don't really look at is if we win, we get kids. I think schools are who they are. They get the kids they should get."

This Saturday's game might be a battle for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and if this grows into a strong rivalry that will only help the Big East. But I doubt this one game makes a huge impact in recruiting.

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