Monday, September 28, 2009

Big East Week Four Review


The Big East went 5-2 this weekend lifting the conference’s season out of conference record to 21-7. Let’s take a look at some of the top individual performances, which include a breakthrough win, as well as a defense that is surprisingly struggling.

South Florida 17, Florida State 7
No Grothe No Problem – South Florida defense leads the Bulls to the biggest of wins

A ton of credit needs to be given to South Florida’s quarterback B.J. Daniels. Anytime a freshman makes his first start on the road at a place like Doak Campbell Stadium and comes out with a victory it’s impressive. He only completed 8-of-21 passes and threw two interceptions, but Daniels displayed scrambling ability, arm strength and relentlessness. On the ground, he rushed for 126 yards on 23 carries and when the Tallahassee native did connect through the air, he made it count. Daniels completed a 77-yard pass to Theo Wilson and a 73-yard touchdown connection to Sterling Griffin. But more than anywhere else, the Bulls won this game because of their defense, specifically the front four. They took down Seminole quarterback Christian Ponder five times and held Florida St. to only 19 yards rushing. The defensive line of South Florida is an extremely deep unit as they mixed in eight different players throughout the game. Defensive ends Craig Marshall and George Selvie led the bull rush. Marshall recorded two sacks and recovered a fumble, while the two-time All-American Selvie was on Ponders’ tail every step of the way. There were a total of four turnovers forced by South Florida—all coming by way of the fumble—including a couple in the red zone. Ultimately, that was the story of the game. Any time FSU would get close to scoring they would turn the ball over, either on a fumble or on downs. A third defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul, picked the perfect time to have a breakout game. The 6’ 6” junior had three tackles for a loss and had a key forced fumble to seal the deal in fourth quarter earning him Big East defensive player of the week honors.

Cincinnati 28, Fresno State 20
Pike to Gilyard – Bearcats survive upset bid and gain more national attention

Another win for Cincinnati and another big game for wide receiver Marshwan Gilyard. The senior extended his streak to six games with at least one touchdown reception dating back to last year, as he snagged two in the team’s win over Fresno State. His 177 yards and nine receptions leaves him atop the conference leader board in both categories. However, it was fellow receiver D.J. Woods who had the catch of the game bringing down an outstanding one-handed grab. The 6’ 1” sophomore is coming along nicely and developing into a solid number two target, giving the ‘Cats yet another weapon. Despite quarterback Tony Pike’s 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air, the offense stalled a bit after a quick start and needed the defense to survive the upset scare. Linebacker Craig Carey made a key interception that set up a Cincinnati touchdown early in the fourth quarter and on Fresno State’s final drive (which reached the Cincinnati 38-yard line), it was Aaron Webster who broke up a pass on fourth down to clinch the win.

North Carolina St. 38, Pittsburgh 31
What happened to the defense?

Nobody was more disappointing out of the Big East than the Pittsburgh defense in week four. They were supposed to be the strength of the team, but the defense was pushed around in Raleigh and a blew a 31-17 lead allowing three consecutive touchdowns by North Carolina St. late in the game. Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 322 yards and for the third straight game, four touchdowns. NC State gained a total of 530 yards and dominated when it came to moving the chains, converting 27 first downs compared to Pitt’s 11. This isn’t the first time this season the Panthers’ secondary has given up big yards through the air, they allowed 433 against Buffalo. Senior cornerback Aaron Berry was supposed to be the team’s lock down corner and one of the best in the Big East, but he allowed to many big plays and drew too many flags. Wilson showed no hesitation throwing the ball to his side. Cornerback Ricky Gray was also burned two times for long strikes, including a touchdown. Even after the comeback, Pittsburgh was given a great opportunity to force overtime when they recovered a botched snap on the North Carolina State eight-yard line. Four plays and zero yards later they were done. The closest they came to a tie came on a nice third down throw by Bill Stull, but Wolfpack safety Brandan Bishop knocked the potential touchdown out of the hands of tight end Dorin Dickerson. Running back Dion Lewis continues to be a freshman standout rushing for 95 yards and two early touchdowns on the day. The Panthers’ loss prevented a clean sweep of the ACC for the Big East.

Rutgers 34, Maryland 13
Here comes Rutgers..

It hasn’t exactly been against the best competition, but following their season-opening loss, Rutgers finds themselves on a three-game winning streak. The defense forced five turnovers, as linebacker Antonio Lowery had an interception and led the team with eight tackles. The player of the game was tailback Joe Martinek who rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns versus the Terps.

Syracuse 41, Maine 24
Taking care of business

A second-half surge gave the Orange a big win. Delone Carter led the ‘Cuse with four touchdowns, three on the ground and one through the air, while senior quarterback and former Dukie Greg Paulus continues to prove his transition to football was worth it, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns.

Connecticut 52, Rhode Island 10
Taking care of business – the sequel

The passing game has usually been a problem for the Huskies, but this week quarterback Cody Endres led the way throwing for 289 yards and two touchdowns.

Utah 30, Louisville 14
Cardinals fail to soar

It didn’t take long for Utah to grab hold, as the Mountain West school jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Louisville could not stop the run allowing a total of 214 yards on the ground, as Utah running back Eddie Wide led all ball carriers with 129 yards. The Cardinals couldn’t run the ball with any success, as star tailback Victor Anderson was held to 22 yards.

Photos Courtesy of USF Athletics Communications & Brian Utesch/NC State