Ferocious Defense Propelling Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights now lead the nation with a staggering 22 forced turnovers in five games so far. Rutgers forced four more turnovers in a one-sided 34-10 win over Pitt last week. Rutgers also leads the Big East and is second in the nation with 20 sacks on the season.
Rutgers has won its first two Big East Conference games and is 4-1 with a three game winning streak.
"We had as tough a year last year as we’ve ever had around here," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said of his team’s 4-8 2010 record that included six losses in seven Big East games. "There were a lot of questions that we needed to answer to ourselves. Very little of that had to do with winning and losing. They were questions about very fundamental things and about chemistry . I wanted to see us get back to who we where.
"We’re not there yet but I like the direction we are headed," Schiano said.
Sophomore defensive back Logan Ryan had two interceptions including one he returned 45 yards for a touchdown. Ryan was named Big East Conference defensive player of the week for his efforts.
On the offensive side, freshman quarterback Gary Nova threw a pair of touchdown passes in his first career start. Schiano says Nova has earned another start this week against Navy.
"As he calmed down things slowed down," Schiano said of Nova’s first start. "I have a good feeling about the way he is playing. The good thing is that we have an experienced and very good backup ready to play for us in Chas Dodd. I think it’s a good position for us."
Nova has yet to throw an interception so far in 68 pass attempts. He has four touchdown passes.
On the down side for Rutgers, starting defensive end Michael Larrow suffered a season ending ankle injury. He will be replaced in the lineup by junior Ka’Lil Glaud.
Rutgers will host a struggling Navy team Saturday night. Navy has lost three in a row following a 2-0 start. Navy was blown out by Southern Miss 63-35 last week. The previous week, Navy lost in overtime to Air Force.
South Florida and UConn Look for First Conference Wins
UConn was held without an offensive touchdown in the loss in Morgantown last week. WVU smoked the Huskies in the second half as they broke open a one point game to win 43-16. Connecticut , at 0-1 in the Big East, will host 0-1 South Florida Saturday.
"We’re taking baby steps and we’re getting better." UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I do believe our quarterback (Johnny McEntee) is getting better even though turnovers at that position is hurting us."
Top cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson was out for the second consecutive game when Connecticut came to West Virginia.
"Blidi will not be back this week," Pasqualoni said. "It will be at least another week for him. We’ve started some younger kids in the secondary. There were some positive signs there and we’ll make progress.
"The systems are still relatively new to the kids and they are getting better at them," Pasqualoni said.
South Florida is coming off a week off. The Bulls last played when they lost to at Pitt 44-17 back on Sept. 29.
"We had been playing with such confidence," South Florida coach Skip Holtz said. "Then it unraveled (against Pitt) in the second half.
"We went back to basics last week. We had a full week to try to build the confidence back. It was more like spring practice or camp. We got in about 450 reps of team. It almost seemed in the Pitt game that we were not working as a unit. It just felt like we needed to rebuild that confidence.
"It was a very productive open date for us and they are excited to get back out on the field," said Holtz.
Last year, UConn clinched its first BCS bid with a 19-16 win at South Florida as Dave Teggart hit a career high 52-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Huskies the win. UConn did not have any offensive touchdowns in that game as Teggart kicked three field goals to go along with a Lawrence Wilson interception return for a touchdown.
"This team knows (UConn beat us last year) and it was a hard way to lose," Holtz said. "That game will definitely play in the backs of the minds of the players from what happened a year ago."
Mistakes Doom Louisville
It’s been a wildly inconsistent year for Louisville so far as the Cardinals have played two of their best games on the road in winning at Kentucky and losing at North Carolina. Sandwiched in between those game was a disheartening loss at home to Marshall after which Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong changed offensive coordinators.
In the 14-7 loss at UNC last week, the Cardinals squandered scoring opportunities in the first half as Chris Philpott missed 36 and 40 yard field goals. Louisville dominated time of possession in the first half as it had the ball for over 22 minutes.
Louisville helped both North Carolina scoring drives in the second half. A 15-yard personal foul penalty started the first one, then Louisville had the drive stopped inside the ten when a player jumped offside. The Tar Heels scored their second touchdown when receiver Bryn Renner broke two tackles to score a 43-yard touchdown.
"Our players were challenged and they played better than the week before against Marshall," said Strong. "But it’s all about us and we hurt ourselves.
"We had penalties once again that (stopped) drives," Strong said. "We have to play smarter. We are not a very disciplined football team right now."
Teddy Bridgewater played the entire game at quarterback for Louisville as he was 19-30 passing for 173 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"We are not running the ball (effectively) and that is causing us to be one dimensional ," Strong said of his 94th rated offense. "Then when we go back to throw it teams are really coming after us."
Louisville has allowed 18 quarterback sacks in five games.
Now it’s a trip for to play a surging Cincinnati team on the road.
Cincinnati has outscored Akron, North Carolina State and Miami of Ohio by a combined 130-28 since it’s only loss of the season Sept. 10 at Tennessee. The Bearcats are coming off a bye week.
"Being 4-1 starting Big East Conference play is right where we need to be," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. "Now it’s a new season and it’s all about being a better football team week in and week out."
Cincinnati leads the conference with an average of 45 points per game. The Bearcats have forced 18 turnovers in five games and have committed to the fewest turnovers in the league.
Pitt Battling Inconsistencies
The Panthers appeared to have turned the corner as it snapped a two game losing streak with a 44-17 win over a ranked South Florida team. But the Panthers suffered their third loss in four games last week as they got blasted 34-10 at Rutgers.
"We turned the ball over four times and gave up six sacks," Pitt coach Todd Graham said. "We didn’t play very well."
Utah, in its first season in the Pac-12, has also lost three of four. The losses have been to conference opponents USC, Washington and Arizona State.
"Utah has a lot of similar problems that we’ve had," Graham said. "They’ve turned the ball over and that has absolutely killed them.
"We are very inconsistent," Graham admitted. "We came off a big win over a ranked opponent (South Florida) and we came back and made too many mental errors and mistakes."
Pitt has had to overcome the loss of both starting guards. Chris Jacobson is out for the season with a knee injury. Also, Lucus Nix hurt his knee in the South Florida game on Sept. 29. Nix is expected to return to the lineup at some point this season.
"We really need him back in a big way," Graham said of Nix. "He is one of the best linemen in the big east. It’s day to day right now and we hope to have him back this week. If not this week, then the next."
The orange, like WVU, have a bye week heading into the Friday night game at the Carrier Dome on Oct. 21 against the Mountaineers. Syracuse will be 4-2 heading into that game following a 37-34 win at Tulane last week. Ross Krautman hit a 21-yard field goal at the gun to win that one for the Orange after running back Antwon Bailey had 45 yards of offense in the final three minutes on that drive.
Syracuse is 0-1 in conference play after losing at home 19-16 to Rutgers in double overtime back on Oct. 1.