Pitt’s Graham Named Player of the Week
It was a (freshman) record setting performance by WVU’s Dustin Garrison on Saturday against Bowling Green, but Pitt’s Ray Graham got the nod as Big East Conference offensive player of the week.
Graham rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries and finished with 309 all-purpose yards to lead Pittsburgh to a 44-17 win against South Florida. Graham had four receptions for 42 yards and had 35 yards on kickoff returns. Pitt finished with 523 yards of total offense in the game. Graham, who is currently third in the nation in rushing (146.8 ypg), was also chosen as the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
Graham is now averaging 146 yards rushing per game. That is the third best mark in the country. He has 128 carries already this season after getting just 146 all of last year as Dion Lewis had over 1,000 yards for the Panthers.
"It is by design," said Pitt coach Todd Graham concerning Ray Graham’s work load. :We want him to touch the ball 30+ times a game and that’s what we’ve done. He is that kind of player and he is in that kind of condition."
Now it’s Rutgers’ turn to try and slow Graham.
"Some of the cuts he makes remind me of Barry Sanders when I was in the NFL coaching with the Bears," said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. "He can stop on a dime and make you miss and then accelerate and be going fast again.
"We know him well because he is a Jersey kid," Schiano continued. "His brother–Khaseem Greene–is a linebacker for us. There is no mystery there. He is just a really good football player."
A pair of blocked kicks helped Rutgers win at Syracuse in overtime last week.
Sophomore linebacker Jamel Merrell of Rutgers blocked two kicks–a field goal attempt and an extra point–swung the game in favor of the Scarlet Knights as Rutgers won 19-16 in overtime at Syracuse.
The Rutgers defense forced five turnovers allowing the team to overcome the four turnovers the offense lost. The Rutgers defense has 18 takeaways which is tied with Cincinnati for the most in the country.
"We’re not the biggest group so we have to run around and play very aggressive on defense and sometimes it backfires on us," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "But it is a group that is very close. The trust each other and they play for each other. I hope we can hang in there and continue to do what we are doing. We are creating turnovers at a pretty good clip right now and that is part of what we have to do to be good enough on defense."
On offense, Schiano has a decision to make a quarterback as backup Gary Nova completed 14 of 24 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in relief against Syracuse. Starter Chas
Dodd, meanwhile, was 14 of 31 attempts for 166 yards and an interception before being replaced early in the third quarter. The coach says he’s not sure who will start on Saturday.
The game Saturday will be the first for Rutgers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti against his former team. Cignetti was let go at Pitt when the coaching change was made with head coach Todd Graham taking over for Dave Wannstedt after last season.
"We are still trying to find the best combination up front on the offensive line," Schiano said about the offense. "Now there is a situation at quarterback with who is going to play more plays. We are still trying to understand who we are and what we do best. But I just think it’s a matter of time before it starts cooking."
Louisville Limps to North Carolina.
Cardinals coach Charlie Strong called the loss last week to Marshall "a total embarrassment ."
Marshall was in victory formation in the final seconds of the 17-13 win, still Strong was calling timeouts.
"Yeah, I wanted it to burn a little bit for them,” Strong said of his players. “That’s why I called timeout.
"We have all kinds of problems," Strong emphasized moments after the loss. "This program is nowhere, nowhere close to where is needs to be."
The offense is of particular concern. Without starting quarterback Will Stein, the Cardinals had 11 negative yardage plays of the 58 they ran. Louisville had ten yards of total offense in the fourth quarter and two of the final three passes thrown by backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater were intercepted.
North Carolina is 4-1 and is coming off a 35-20 win at East Carolina. The only loss for the Tar Heels was at Georgia Tech in their ACC opener. UNC already has a win over a Big East Conference team as it beat Rutgers 24-22 during week two of the season back on Sept. 10.
Syracuse Turns to Tulane
The Orange lost to Rutgers largely because of turnovers and missed opportunities on special teams. The Orange had committed a total of four turnovers in the first four games of the season. They had five against Rutgers. Kicker Ross Krautman had made 23 of 25 field goal attempts in his career coming in. Saturday, he had one field goal and one extra point blocked. He would miss badly on another field goal attempt.
"The theme this week is to not let one loss turn into another," said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. "Defensively, we played well enough to win the game but we have to move on. What ever game is next is the biggest game."
Syracuse will play at 2-3 Tulane Saturday night. Syracuse leads the all time series 6-1, but the teams haven’t played since 1999. Tulane beat a Big East Conference team last year as it won at Rutgers 17-14.
Syracuse wasted a second straight 100-yard game by running back Antwon Bailey who rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Rutgers loss.
Cincinnati & South Florida Enjoy Time Off
Cincinnati held rival Miami of Ohio to -3 rushing yards and the Bearcats defense forced two more turnovers giving them 18 on the season. That is two weeks in a row Cincinnati has held its opponent to negative rushing yards. North Carolina had -26 the week before. The Cincinnati rush defense is ranked 7th in the country as it has allowed just 70 yards per game.
Cincinnati will begin its stretch of seven consecutive Big East games next week at home against Louisville.
South Florida was riding high until the blowout loss last Thursday at Pitt. The South Florida defense has allowed 500+ yards in each of its two toughest games this season–at Notre Dame and at Pitt.
The Bulls hope to regroup in time to play Big East game number two of the season at Connecticut on Oct. 15.