Thursday, September 10, 2009

Big East Week One Review


Best game: This one wins by default–considering the week consisted of mostly blowouts, Minnesota’s overtime victory over Syracuse was by far the most competitive contest. Greg Paulus played a sound game under center in his collegiate football debut, going 19-for-31 with a touchdown, a strike which found a wide-open Mike Williams late in the first quarter. More impressive was how he and the Syracuse team responded after the first snap of the game sailed over Paulus’ head and was recovered by Minnesota deep in Orange territory. Despite renewed spirit and improved play, the story didn’t have a happy ending: it was Paulus’ interception, thrown in the team’s first series in overtime, which led to the Gophers’ 23-20 victory. The turning point of the game was Syracuse’s inability to move the ball on offense after halftime. They did not score any points and only managed a total of 38 yards in their six second-half possessions.

Team of the week: It was about midway through the first quarter when Cincinnati emerged as the conference favorite once again. Getting ahead of ourselves? Perhaps, but the Bearcats looked that good in their manhandling of Rutgers in a 47-15 romp. Quarterback Tony Pike was perfect on the team’s first drive, leading them 81 yards down the field for a touchdown. He and the Cats never looked back. Pike finished the game with 362 yards passing and three touchdowns. The offense was running on all cylinders, from the line to the wide-outs. Most impressive were Marshwan Gilyard, who pulled down eight receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore D.J Woods, who posted a career-high 71 receiving yards and made an outstanding reaching grab to set up the team’s first touchdown. For a defense that had a ton of question marks, Cincinnati made a lot big plays against the run and picked off three Rutgers passes. Senior Aaron Webster had one of those interceptions and laid the hit of the week on Rutgers receiver Tim Brown. It’s way too early to crown anyone just yet, but Cincinnati couldn’t have started their quest in more impressive fashion.

Laying an egg:
For Rutgers, the season opener was a chance to start off a promising season with a conference victory while they unveiled their newly-renovated stadium…but they were flat-out humiliated. The team looked unprepared and out-coached—on the opening drive the Scarlet Knights’ defense played like they had never seen a no-huddle offense before. The quarterback play was just awful and the offensive line, the unit that was supposed to be the most stable on the team, didn’t provide space for the running backs to shine. It was an all-around disaster.

Freshman Watch: Pittsburgh isn’t ready to anoint Dion Lewis the next LeSean McCoy just yet, although the 5’ 8” tailback surely looked like an all-conference player in week one, propelling the Panthers to a 38-3 victory over Youngstown State. On 20 carriers he rushed for 129 yards and his two touchdowns in the first half put the Penguins away early.

The one bright spot for Rutgers in week one was the play of freshman Mohamed Sano. The 6’ 2” receiver showed good hands and size and caught a couple of tough throws in traffic. The freshman from New Jersey finished with ten total catches for 101 yards. Sano also caught a two-point conversion thrown from fellow freshman, quarterback Tom Savage. This glimpse into the future of Rutgers’ offense was the lone positive in the game for the Knights.

Best player you never heard of: Last year, Connecticut defensive end Lindsey Witten was limited because the Huskies rotated their defensive ends. Now the team is relying on the senior to step up, and he didn’t disappoint in the team’s opener—he was a playmaker, recording two sacks and a safety in Connecticut’s 23-16 win. Expect him to be among the conference’s sack leaders by year’s end.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Cincinnati