Photo courtesy of South Florida Athletics
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) -
CINCINNATI: Bearcat fans had to wait a week longer than the rest of the college football world to see their squad open the 2012 season but it was certainly worth the wait. Cincinnati thrashed Pittsburgh 34-10 in front of 33,562 at Nippert Stadium on Thursday night. The Bearcats are now 1-0 to begin Big East conference play after the team tied for a share of the conference title last season. Cincinnati is 6-2 in Big East openers since joining the league. Balance was the best word to describe the offensive attack as the Bearcats racked up 259 yards on the ground and 205 through the air. Munchie Legaux was the main weapon, throwing for 205 yards and a pair of scores, while rushing for a game-high 117 yards. The 322 yards of total offense was a career-high for Legaux. Cincinnati will pause its conference schedule for the next five weeks beginning with a contest against Delaware State next weekend.
CONNECTICUT: Defense is clearly not something Connecticut is going to struggle with this season but finding consistency on offense might be. After posting a 37-0 win last weekend, the huskies fell 10-7 in a close contest against NC State in week 2. UConn held the Wolfpack to just 258 total yards but managed only 239 itself and didn't score until the fourth quarter in the losing effort. UConn was held scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2010 when the Huskies didn't score at all in a loss to Louisville. A major reason for the offensive struggles was a poor day from Chandler Whitmer, who threw three interceptions in the game. The three picks tied for the second most in a game and the most since 2008. Yawin Smallwood had another good game in just his second season to lead the defense recording 14 tackles including a pair for loss. Trevardo Williams also had 2.5 sacks for the Huskies. He now has 22.5 in his career. The Huskies are currently ranked third in the nation in yards allowed per game (158.5). UConn will try to get some revenge for the Big East when it takes on Maryland, who downed Temple this past weekend, in game 3 of the season.
LOUISVILLE: Charlie Strong's squad went into the weekend as the only nationally ranked team in the conference and will likely stay that way after a 35-7 drubbing of Missouri State. The Cardinals are now 38-18 against non-conference opponents since 2002. Getting over the 20-point mark has been a key to the team's success under Strong as the Cardinals are 15-4 under the third-year head coach when they score at least 20 points. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continued what could be a breakout season with another excellent performance. The sophomore completed 30-of-39 passes for 344 yards and two scores in the game. It was the first 300-yard game of his career. Bridgewater spread the ball throughout the game with completions to eight different receivers. After the first two weeks of the season Bridgewater is currently second in the nation in completion percentage (81.7). The Cardinals also rushed for 131 yards as a team led by Senorise Perry who had 72 yards and a score. It wasn't just the offense that played well though with the Cardinals holding MSU to 249 total yards in the game. Up next for Bridgewater and company is the final game of the current homestand against North Carolina.
PITTSBURGH: The 2012 campaign didn't get any better on Thursday night for Pittsburgh as the Panthers were routed 34-10 by Big East rival Cincinnati. The blowout loss comes after the Panthers were shocked 31-17 by Youngstown State of the FCS in the season opener. The loss came despite Pittsburgh gaining 415 total yards and having more first downs (23-18) than the Bearcats. Pittsburgh's inability to capitalize in the red zone is what did the Panthers in. The team went just 2-for-4 in those situations including a touchdown that was called back on a holding penalty and an interception thrown by quarterback Tino Sunseri in the end zone. Sunseri did throw for the only touchdown by the Panthers and finished with 278 yards, but was sacked six times. Ray Graham was solid, rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries, although other than one rush of 50 yards, he was held to a 2.9 yards per carry. It won't be any easier for Pittsburgh to try to bounce back next week as the Panthers travel to Blacksburg to face nationally ranked Virginia Tech.
RUTGERS: Defense again dominated for Rutgers, this time to the tune of a 26-0 rout of FCS opponent Howard. Rutgers is now the only team in the nation with a shutout in each of the last seven seasons. The Scarlet Knights' vaunted defensive unit allowed just 149 total yards all game to the Bison including a dominating 1.9 yards-per-carry effort on the ground. Rutgers also kept Howard from making sustained drives by holding them to a 6-for-17 conversion rate on third downs and only one red zone trip while collecting four sacks. Jamal Merrell (14) and Khaseem Greene (10) each had double digit tackle totals while Merrell had a game-high 3.5 tackles for loss. Overall the Scarlet Knights had 13 tackles for loss as a team. Jawan Jamison and the running game powered Rutgers' offensive efforts with an 111 yard rushing day that included a touchdown. Jamison is the first back since Ray Rice to post three straight 100-yard games. The Scarlet Knights racked up 191 yards on the ground as a team but only 130 yards through the air, as Gary Nova struggled (15-for-27) to complete passes consistently again. Rutgers opens up Big East conference play Thursday night with a trip to face South Florida.
SOUTH FLORIDA: Last season South Florida struggled to finish games. On Saturday the Bulls showed that they had learned from their mistakes as they pulled off an impressive 32-31 comeback victory on the road over Nevada. USF was down 15 points (21-6) at the end of the first quarter but then outscored the Wolf Pack 26-10 through the last three quarters, including 12-3 in the fourth to pull out a heart-stopping win. B.J. Daniels completed two touchdown passes of over 50 yards, including the 56-yard game winner to Andre Davis with 38 seconds remaining in the final period. The comeback was the second biggest in program history. Daniels was stellar in orchestrating the historic charge, throwing for 363 yards, his fourth career game of 350 or more yards. He is now ranked second in the conference behind Syracuse's Ryan Nassib in passing yards through the first two weeks (588). Davis capped off a stellar game (12 receptions, 191 yards, 2 TDs) with the game-winning score. Both his receptions and yards were program records. On defense, the Bulls were unable to offer much resistance allowing 549 total yards, including 278 on the ground, to Nevada. With the Wolf Pack offense constantly on the move USF ended up with 97 tackles as a team which was the most in a game since 2003. The Bulls will try to ride the momentum of this win into conference play which begins at home against Rutgers on Thursday.
SYRACUSE: No team ever wants to lose but Syracuse has to feel pretty good after going toe-to-toe with the No. 2 team in the country on Saturday. Although the 42-29 defeat was certainly not the end goal, the loss to USC certainly served notice to the skill Syracuse has. Against the Trojans' hyped offense the Orange actually out-gained (455-445) its opponent. That included a performance by Ryan Nassib (30-for-46, 322 yards, 2 TDs) that outdid the effort of Heisman favorite Matt Barkley, who despite throwing six touchdowns had only 187 yards passing. For the second straight week Nassib remains at the top of the nation in passing yards (804). Nassib was intercepted twice though which negated some of the team's impressive offensive showing. Marcus Salas was the main beneficiary of Nassib's aerial assault, catching eight passes for 104 yards and both touchdowns. After a lengthy rain delay it looked as if USC would run away with the contest as the Trojans led 21-3 early in the third quarter but the Orange stuck around. Syracuse scored two touchdowns to pull within five (the team failed on a two-point conversion) but never managed to get any closer. Syracuse will have a big drop in the level of competition in its next contest, taking on Stony Brook.
TEMPLE: The Owls had every reason to believe that they could win on Saturday. They were facing a team they beat 38-3 last season and that barely got by William & Mary of the FCS (7-6) last weekend. Temple was also coming off an impressive 41-10 victory over in-city rival Villanova. However it was not to be, as Temple could not overcome a disastrous first half in falling 36-27 to Maryland. The Owls allowed the Terps to score 23 unanswered points in the second quarter to jump out to a 26-3 halftime lead. On the day the Owls managed only 230 total yards including a weak 52 yards on the ground. Quarterback Chris Coyer threw for 178 yards on 7-of-18 passing, including two scores and also led the team with 53 yards rushing. Other than that the offense was stagnant. Matt Brown, the team's starting running back managed only 31 yards on 10 carries in the game after piling up 146 yards last week. The game was a sloppy affair with seven total turnovers combined between the two squads. Temple in fact forced five of those (four fumbles, one interception). The Owls will want to build on the success of the second half and forget the first in their next game, as Temple will travel to Happy Valley to take on in-state rival Penn State in two weeks.