Conference Notebook: Big East

I’m going to take a weekly look at the Big East and SEC on the blog (minus the home teams, who we do plenty with).

CINCINNATI: The Bearcats led 14-0 at Fresno State, then were overwhelmed in the second half to lose 28-14, ending their streak of 18 straight regular-season wins. The concern is how much they were physically dominated by Fresno State, which — after Cincinnati scored to go up 14-0 just 15 seconds in the second quarter, held the Bearcats scoreless the rest of the game. It was a total meltdown. QB Zach Collaros was sacked eight times (UC gave up only 15 sacks all last season). RB Isaiah Pead had just 36 yards on 10 carries. Cincinnati coach Butch Jones told The Cincinnati Enquirer: “I don’t look at first game, second game. All I know is that it’s just disappointing. You expect to win. We have very high expectations and standards and we didn’t meet those standards and expectations. But we’ll get those corrected.” Next game: vs. Indiana State, Saturday at noon (FoxSports Ohio)

CONNECTICUT: UConn simply had no answer for anything Michigan did in a 30-10 loss. It gave up TD drives of 96, 77, 74 and 89 yards. Michigan converted 14 of 19 third downs. Wolverines QB Denard Robinson looked like a Heisman candidate against the Huskies, rushing for 197 yards and a touchdown and completing 19 of 22 passes. A day after the game, UConn coach Randy Edsall refused to disclose injury information to the media. Perhaps because of the bruised egos, it might’ve taken up the whole conference call. Edsall to the Hartford Courant: “I thought we got whupped on both sides of the line of scrimmage. We didn’t win the battle of the trenches. We’ve got to get more physical.” Next game: vs. Texas Southern, Saturday at noon (Big East Network local)

PITTSBURGH: Utah outgained the Panthers 405-266 in its 27-24 overtime win over the Big East favorite. Pitt had 12 penalties. Pitt’s Heisman candidate Dion Lewis ran 25 times for only 75 yards. Three times in the red zone (at the 4, 8 and 13) it settled for field goals. Despite three Utah turnovers in the first half, Pitt still trailed. Am I leaving anything out? The Panthers’ offense showed some second-half improvement, but inexperience in the secondary could be an ongoing issues. Two Utah touchdowns were the result of miscommunication by Pitt defensive backs. Pitt coach Dave Wannstadt told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “I thought tonight our lack of maturity showed up; we were undisciplined and we did not handle things well. We knew we had to play a clean game that meant avoiding penalties and turnovers and, when you do those things, you give yourself no chance.” Next game: vs. New Hampshire, Saturday at 1 p.m. (

RUTGERS: The Knights led just 6-0 at the half over Division I-AA Norfolk State. Sophomore QB Tom Savage wasn’t sharp, hitting on just 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards in a 31-0 win. The offensive line struggled, but will remain intact for this week’s trip to Florida International. Troubled North Carolina visits Piscataway after that. Greg Schiano told the Newark Star-Ledger: “Like I’ve said all along, we’re going to be a much better team in November than we are in September. I hope what we grow here in September is going to be good enough.” The following video shows one thing that helped Rutgers pull away — Norfolk State cramps. Next game: at Florida International, Saturday at 8 p.m. (Big East Network local)

SOUTH FLORIDA: Skip Hotlz’s first game as Bulls coach was a bright spot for the Big East. USF beat Stony Brook 59-14, and now turn their attention to beating Tinseltown (it’s a Louisville joke, you out-of-towners, just keep moving). The Division I-AA Seawolves actually had a 14-7 lead in this game, but South Florida reeled off 52 straight points for their highest-scoring season-opener since 1997. All attention now, however, turns to the Bulls’ matchup with Florida, which struggled offensively against Miami of Ohio. Freshman QB Bobby Evald told The St. Petersburg Times: “We’re going to treat it just like any other week. Obviously, people are going to jack the game up like it’s the biggest game in the world, but we’re just going to do what we did to get ready for Stony Brook. I don’t think we’re going to focus too much on the Florida vs. USF thing.” Next game: at Florida, Saturday at noon (SEC Network)

SYRACUSE: The Big East media release had an Orange tint this week. That’s because Syracuse had conference’s offensive and defensive players of the week after a season-opening 29-3 win at Akron. Sophomore QB Ryan Nassib passed for 229 yards and ran for 58 in the win, while linebacker Mike Holmes had six tackles and a sack. The Orange rolled up 431 yards of offense, but now face a much tougher test at Washington. Still, with games against Maine and Colgate following that, the Orange should be 3-1 heading into Big East play, with hopes higher than they’ve been in years. Coach Doug Marrone told The Syracuse Post-Standard: “Not to say we put everything into (this game), but we did bring up some statistics about, ‘Hey, this hasn’t happened in quite a bit here,’ so nice job. I like this football team. I really do. I told them in the locker room that I love them. I wouldn’t want to coach anywhere else. I’m excited for them, because we’ve got to start learning to win. That was a big thing we started talking about after the (2009) season, and winning helps that.” Next game: at Washington, Saturday at 7 p.m. (Fox Sports Network)

WEST VIRGINIA: It’s the week of the big in-state rivalry game against Marshall, and West Virginia isn’t committing when it comes to the future of the series. What the Mountaineers are committed to, however, is defense. After years of being identified with fast-break offense, folks around Morgantown think this could be the school’s best defensive team in more than a decade. WVU certainly had no trouble putting away Coastal Carolina 31-0, its first home shutout since 1997. WVU allowed only 71 yards in the second half and 186 in the game. Coach Bill Stewart to the Charleston Daily Mail: “I was very pleased with the way our defense, adjusted, reacted and took control of the football game.” Next game: at Marshall, Friday at 7 p.m. (ESPN)


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