The Mountaineers still find themselves alive in the Big East Conference title chase with two games to go. WVU needs two more wins and some help as WVU needs Connecticut to suffer at least one more league loss. UConn plays at home against Cincinnati Saturday and then will close the season next Saturday at South Florida. WVU and UConn are the two lost teams remaining in the league. Both are chasing Pitt who is 4-1 in conference play. Syracuse and South Florida each suffered a third league loss last week, knocking them back. The three loss teams are certainly not elimated from the possibility of winning the conference, but it seems we have some separation now between the top three teams in the conference standings.
Connecticut continued its late season surge with a 23-6 win at Syracuse Saturday in a game that essentially ended Orange hopes of winning the conference. UConn’s defense played its best game of the season as it held the Orange to just 63 yards rushing and to just 235 total yards while rolling up four sacks and forcing two turnovers.
Jordan Todman had another strong game as he rushed for 130 yards to lead the UConn offense on a day were quarterback Zach Frazier completed just 13 of 21 passes for 98 yards. Todman continues to lead the conference and is second in the nation with 1,306 yards and 11 touchdowns. Todman’s total is second in UConn history behind Donald Brown’s 2,083 yards in 2008. Todman, who missed a game this season due to a hyper extended left elbow, is averaging 145 yards per game. Brown averaged 160 yards per contest in ’08.
"The kids know we are still in the hunt," Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. "The most important thing is Cincinnati.
"It’s a process. You have to prepare well both physically and mentally during the week to get to game day. The ultimate is that you want to win. And when you win, all of those other things take care of themselves .
"We went up to Syracuse with two goals in mind," Edsall continued. "We wanted to get our sixth win to become bowl elidible for the fourth year in a row. We also wanted to stay in the hunt. We achieved those goals.
"Now want we want to do it get number seven," Edsall said.
Cincinnati produced 661 yards of total offense in its win over Rutgers last week. It was the second largest total in school history. Last year in the UConn game, Cincinnati rolled up a school record 711 yards. That total was the most ever by a Big East Conference team in a league game.
"We don’t have to watch the Rutgers film (from last week) to know it’s a talented offense," Edsall said. We know what it was like from a year ago. We have to play a lot better than we did last year against them."
Cincinnati’s Isaish Pead is racing up the list of rushing leaders in the conference. Pead gained a career-high 213 yards on 31 carries and scored a career-high five touchdowns during Cincinnati’s record setting 69-38 win over Rutgers.
The combined 107 points produced the highest scoring game in Big East Conference history.
The Bearcats produced 661 yards of total offense as Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros completed 23 of 39 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
Wide receiver Armon Binns caught six passes for 139 yards, his fifth 100-yard receiving game in his last six.
The Cincinnati/UConn game is the Big East Televised game of the week at noon on Saturday.
There are also two non-conference games set for noon on Saturday including South Florida’s trip to Miami.
Pitt survived 116 yards in penalties including five pass interference calls to hand South Florida a 17-10 loss in Tampa last weekend. The loss snapped South Florida’s three game winning streak and it, in effect, killed any chance the Bulls had at winning the Big East crown.
South Florida’s only touchdown was a 45-yard, second half scoring run on a reverse from cornerback-turned-receiver Terrence Mitchell.
Now it’s time to focus on the Hurricanes.
"The game is huge When you look at it from an image standpoint," South Florida coach Skip Holtz said about the Miami match up. "We are fortunate enough to play Florida, Florida State and Miami over the past few years.
"It will be a great challenge and it will be a great motivated game for our players and our fans. Florida, Florida State and Miami have all won a national championship and that is the level we aspire to.
"It’s a great opportunity," Holtz said. "We are going to have to build the product on the field before we can ever to expect everybody to give us the respect off the field that we want. There is unlimited potential here as to what we can become."
Miami is coming off a 31-17 loss to No. 14 Virginia Tech in a game that clinched the Coastal Division title in the A-C-C for the Hokies. With the loss, Miami fell out of the polls.
The Hurricanes should, however, have their quarterback return for the South Florida game this week.
Jacory Harris suffered a concussion Oct. 30. He’s been medically cleared, but he will play Saturday against South Florida only if “he does everything he’s supposed to in practice,’ Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon said Sunday.
“If everything is sound and everything is going OK, he should start,’ Shannon said.“If not, Stephen [Morris] will be the guy.’
Shannon wanted to emphasize that Harris had to have his timing and rhythm down.
Also Saturday, Syracuse will conclude the regular season with a non league game at the Dome against Boston College. The Orange already completed the conference portion of their schedule at 4-3. Syracuse became the first team in Big East history to win all of its conference road games while losing all of its league home games.
"We’ve looked at it from what has occur ed in the (individual) games," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. "When we’ve been on the road, we’ve been able to create more turnovers and take advantage of it offensively. We haven’t been able to do that at home in the Pittsburgh, Louisville and Connecticut games.
"My great disappointment is that we’ve had some great road wins at South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati and at Louisville. Our fans have not been able to enjoy those.
"That’s why it is so important that we go out this week and get our eighth win here at home," Marrone said.
Syracuse, at 6-4, is bowl elidible. Boston College improved to 5-5 with a 21-16 win over Duke last week in A-C-C play.
Rutgers hasn’t won a game since the tragic accident suffered by lineman Eric LeGrand in the Army game back on Oct. 16. that left him paralyzed.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano talked about being "embarrassed" following Cincinnati’s 69-38 win over the Scarlet Knights Saturday night. The points scored by the Bearcats were the most against Rutgers since the Mountaineers put up 80 in 2001. The only barrier between Cincinnatis and the 70 point plateau was a blocked extra point following the first Bearcats touchdown. Rutgers allowed 661 yards of total offense.
The strange thing about the defensive meltdown is that it came in a game were the Rutgers offense finally broke out after struggling for most of the last month. Quarterback Chas Dodd had career highs of 335 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver Mark Harrison had ten catches for 240 yards and a school record-tying four touchdown receptions.
"The wins and losses have not even been the half of it," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano lamented Monday. "It’s been one of those years. It’s been a challenge, but this is preparing our young people for the real world better than anything that I can imagine.
"We are learning to fight through this, and we will," Schiano said.
Rutgers will host Louisville Friday morning prior to coming to Morgantown for the season finale against the Mountaineers on December 4.
Louisville, at 5-6, is down to its final game in an effort to get back to a bowl game.
"It is a one game playoff," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "We don’t want (the players) to feel like there is pressure. If you are prepared, there is no pressure because the preparation will enable you to overcome the pressure.
"We just have to go play," Strong said. "It is a one game series. If we want to accomplish the goal that we set, then we have to go win this football game."
WVU completely smothered a Louisville ground game that was leading the league in rushing. The Mountaineers held the Cardinals to just 26 yards on 30 rushing attempts. Louisville’s previous low was 103 yards gained against Pitt back on October 30. The punter was actually Louisville’s leader in rushing in the game. Chris Philpott took a faked punt and gained 21 yards for a first down
Getting that run game back on track is the top priority for the Cardinals this week.
"We’ve run the ball well all year," Strong said. "It’s been the glue of this football team. We understand that in order to play physical, we’ve got to be able to run the football."