Monday, September 27, 2010

Sorry state of Big East football

After West Virginia capped the weekend with a 20-14 loss to LSU that knocked the Mountaineers out of the college football Top 25, the Big East Conference is left with as many ranked teams as the Sun Belt Conference.


It has been a terrible season for the Big East. For example:

Pitt, which was picked as the conference favorite, is 1-2 and was humiliated last Thursday at home by Miami. The Panthers have had more players arrested than wins.

West Virginia is the only Big East school receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll, but the Mountaineers needed a miracle to beat Marshall and are on their second consecutive season of poor run blocking by the offensive line.

Rutgers lost Saturday to a North Carolina team that had what seemed like half its players suspended. Cincinnati finally showed some spark offensively when playing a legitimate opponent but still lost Saturday to Oklahoma. The Bearcats have yet to beat a Division I-A team. South Florida, meanwhile, struggled with Western Kentucky.

Connecticut lost to Temple two weeks ago and needed former Trinity High School quarterback Cody Endres to come off the bench and help it pull away from Buffalo in the second half Saturday. Syracuse is 3-1, but look at who the Orange have beaten: Colgate, Akron and Maine. In other words, they've beaten nobody.

Louisville was off last week and the Cardinals' close loss at Oregon State two weeks ago looks like one of the Big East's best performances. Still, it was a loss.

While reading some newspaper articles and blog entries today about the Big East's struggles, here are some reader comments that caught my eye:

"1) Big East is an overrated basketball conference that ranks behind the ACC and Big Ten.
2) Big East is a non-existent football conference.
Any Big East school with any dignity left should just pack their bags and go to a real conference."

"pitt deserves to be in this position for being stupid enough to hire wannstedt in the first place. I will never forgive that abysmally unintelligent moron for screwing up the Bears. Wannstedt should be working a mcdonalds making fries, not behind an NFL or a college sideline."

"Its too bad the Big East had its chances to be another Super Conference. They let Boston College slip away, never landed Penn State. Unsuccessful in getting Notre Dame football, ignore the Army and Navy teams. Lost upstart Temple. I really don't have an answer for a Conference that looks like its glory days are over for the time being. There's no one left in the neighborhood of what could have and should have been."

"The ironic part is that Temple could have been the best team in the Big East this year."

"A Big East team will be in a BCS bowl. Thats all you need to know about whats wrong with the BCS."

"Based on performance on the gridiron for the last few years, BigEast should forfeit their automatic BCS bid to MWC!"

"Report: Villanova Invites Big East Football Schools To Join I-AA."

So what do you think? Are these comments on the money or is the Big East simply off to a slow start?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Endres reinstated

Former Trinity High School quarterback Cody Endres (pictured) has been reinstated to the University of Connecticut football team. Endres, a redshirt junior, and guard Erik Kuraczea were suspended Aug. 18 for a violation of athletic department policies. Both players will be in uniform Saturday when the Huskies host Buffalo.

"I talked to both young men on Sunday and told them exactly where they stood," UConn coach Randy Edsall told the Hartford Courant. "I asked them what they learned through this experience and was satisfied with their response. There was remorse. They understood in terms of how much they not only let themselves down, but they let their families down and most especially let their teammates down.

"I would expect both of those young men to be better young men for this. It should have never happened in the first place. There should have never been a suspension in the first place, but both young men will be better for this and I would be extremely disappointed if it wasn't this way."

Endres played in seven games last season, starting six. He completed 98 of 154 passes for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Edsall did not rule out replacing current starting quarterback Zach Frazer with Endres for stretches Saturday. UConn is off to a 1-2 start, losing last week to Temple.

Penn State-Temple preview

Temple (3-0) vs. No. 23 Penn State (2-1)
When: Saturday, 3:37 p.m.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network; ESPN-AM 1250
Line: Penn State by 13 1/2.
Series Record: Penn State leads 35-3-1.
Last Meeting: 2009, Penn State won, 31-6.
What's at Stake: Off to their best start since 1979, the surging Owls can get a measure of their rebuilding progress against in-state rival Penn State. The Nittany Lions have one final tuneup before Big Ten play and hope to stay free of injuries and build running game momentum. An unlikely Temple win would boost coach Al Golden’s resume and send Penn State fans into message-board hysterics.
Key Matchup: RB Bernard Pierce vs. Penn State defense. Temple is touting Pierce as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and there’s no better stage to prove his worth than against the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. If Pierce and the Owls’ experienced offensive line can wear down a defense plagued by missed tackles at times, Temple might — might — have a chance to keep things close.
Players to Watch: Temple: DE Adrian Robinson led the Mid-American Conference last season with 13 sacks. He has one sack so far this year, but did force a fumble and returned it for a touchdown last week against Connecticut. Penn State’s offensive line hasn’t allowed true freshman QB Rob Bolden to get sacked.
Penn State: RB Evan Royster. While pass blocking may be a strength, the front five has been inconsistent on the run. Royster has just 110 yards on 31 carries, with the senior splitting more time than fans expected with backups Stephfon Green and Silas Redd. Coach Joe Paterno says Royster is fine, and that he isn’t worried about his production.
Facts & Figures: Royster’s slow start has him inching away at the school career rushing record, 371 yards behind Hall of Famer Curt Warner (3,398 between 1979-82). ... Golden played tight end for Paterno at Penn State from 1987-91, while Owls defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio played linebacker. They were Penn State captains together their senior season in Happy Valley. ... Penn State has outscored Temple 154-9 since Golden took over the Owls in 2006. ... Penn State has eight turnovers, though the defense has forced just two — a pair of interceptions.

Pitt-Miami preview

No. 19 Miami (1-1) at Pitt (1-1)
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/KDKA-FM 93.7.
Line: Miami by 3.
Series record: Miami leads 21-9-1.
Last meeting: 2003, Miami 28, Pitt 14.
What’s at Stake: A national ranking — Miami will stay ranked if it wins, and Pitt assuredly would move into the Top 25 if it does. The Hurricanes’ 36-24 loss at No. 2 Ohio State wasn’t unexpected, but coach Randy Shannon was upset about the sloppiness. So upset he ordered all of his players to stop posting messages on Twitter. Pitt lost its opener at Utah, and a 1-2 start would be deemed a failure for a Dave Wannstedt-coached team that was a near-unanimous pick to win the Big East.
Key matchup: Miami’s speed vs. Pitt’s offense and defense. Speed was the one Hurricanes’ asset that Pitt consistently failed to match during its six-game Big East losing streak against Miami that ran from 1998-2003, long before any of these players arrived. The teams haven’t played since Miami moved into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Pitt has upgraded its speed under Wannstedt, but no team on Pitt’s schedule has as much speed throughout its roster as Miami does.
Players to watch: Miami LB Sean Spence. Spence already has four tackles for losses on a team that leads the nation with 25. Controlling Pitt RB Dion Lewis and backup Ray Graham on first and second downs will be a priority for Spence and the Hurricanes.
Pitt RB Dion Lewis. The nation’s leading returning rusher after gaining 1,799 yards last season, Lewis is off to a surprisingly slow start with 102 yards and a 2.9 yards per carry average. He was benched for Ray Graham during the second half against New Hampshire. Pitt is ranked 89th in the country in rushing.
Facts & Figures: Miami’s last loss to Pitt was in 1997 at now-demolished Pitt Stadium. ... Miami has won 32 consecutive games against unranked conference opponents. Pitt is 1-10 against ranked non-conference opponents since 1996.... Pitt DE Brandon Lindsey has two sacks while replacing the injured Greg Romeus (back surgery), the 2009 Big East co-defensive player of the year who will miss most of the season ... Shannon was a LB at Miami when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator from 1986-88 and later was the linebackers coach when Wannstedt coached the Dolphins. ... By winning, Miami would start 2-1 for the third consecutive season.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Players of the Week

Athletes from area small colleges who were weekly award winners:

* Waynesburg University junior cornerback Sean Hunt earned his first Presidents’ Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor after making life miserable for Thiel quarterbacks Saturday. During the Yellow Jackets’ 34-6 win over the Tomcats, Hunt intercepted two passes, running the second back 18 yards for a touchdown that put Waynesburg up 34-0.

* The Waynesburg soccer teams were front and center when the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) released their player of the week honors.

On the men’s side, junior midfielder Erick Burke was honored as the PAC Offensive Player of the Week, while junior goalkeeper Katrina Kelly was lauded as the Defensive/Goalkeeper of the Week. Kelly also was the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III South Defensive Player of the Week.

Burke led the Waynesburg men during a 2-1 week with four goals and an assist. He recorded his first collegiate hat trick during a 5-0 win at Mt. Aloysius, and followed that with an assist during the Yellow Jackets’ 3-2 come-from-behind overtime win at Hood.

Kelly didn’t allow a goal in more than 200 minutes of play, making 15 saves for the 2-0-1 Yellow Jacket women. Kelly was 1-0-1 with two shutouts during the week. She made two saves in a 4-0 win over Pitt-Greensburg, and was spectacular with 13 saves in a 0-0 double-overtime tie at undefeated Penn State Altoona.

* Washington & Jefferson was recently awarded its third consecutive Empire 8 Conference Field Hockey Player of the Week honor as freshman Alexandra Kania was selected for the Presidents.

Kania joined seniors Julianne Zackey and Kim Marcius to give the Presidents the first three conference player of the week winners this season.

Kania took seven shots and scored two goals during W&J’s 3-2 win over Wooster last Wednesday at Cameron Stadium. The forward opened the scoring at the 32:30 mark with an unassisted goal and broke a 1-1 tie midway through the second half off a feed from Marcius.

Kania is tied with Zackey for the team lead in goals with three, and is fourth on the team with 11 shots.

* The Presidents’ Athletic Conference chose Washington & Jefferson kicker Colin Kracinovsky as its football Special Teams Player of the Week.

Kracinovsky, playing in his second game in place of injured kicker Joe Kelly, was 9-for-9 on his kick attempts for the Presidents, who rolled to a 59-21 victory over Bethany Saturday night at Cameron Stadium.

Kracinovsky made eight extra-point attempts and booted a 27-yard field goal. It was the sophomore’s first career field goal.

Friday, September 17, 2010

College preview Week 2

Bethany at Washington & Jefferson

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. kickoff
Where: Cameron Stadium
Radio: WJPA (1450-AM)

The Series: Washington & Jefferson and Bethany meet for the 87th time in history on Saturday. The series is the longest in both schools' histories. W&J holds a 66-20 advantage in the all-time series and has won 27 consecutive times. The Bison last defeated the Presidents on Sept. 25, 1982, by a 28-9 margin in Washington.

The Coaches: Mike Sirianni (Mount Union ’94) is in his eighth season as the head coach at Washington & Jefferson with a 70-13 (.854) overall record. The three-time PAC Coach of the Year and 2004 South Region Coach of the Year is second among all active NCAA head coaches in winning percentage (minimum five years of experience). Head Coach Tim Weaver (Davidson '90) is in his fifth year at Bethany. He also serves as the BC Director of Athletics. The Bison have posted a 15-27 record since his arrival on campus.

Notes: W&J has posted a 46-5 regular-season record in games at Cameron Stadium since 2000. The Presidents have won 30 of their past 35 home openers. The Presidents have won 11 of their last 12 games during the second week of the season, including seven in a row. The average margin of victory during those 10 wins is 20.8 points. W&J's last week two loss was at Allegheny (28-25) in 2002.

Waynesburg at Thiel

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. kickoff
Where: Greenville
Radio: 99.5-FM WCYJ

The Series: Waynesburg leads the series, 23-8-1, including a 38-17 victory last year. The first meeting was 1913, a 20-0 victory for Thiel.

The Coaches: Rick Shepas is in his sixth season at Waynesburg and has a record of 28-24. Thiel's Kurt Reiser is in his second season and has a 3-9 record.

Notes: Waynesburg has won the last four meetings between the two schools, which is the Jackets’ longest such streak against any Presidents’ Athletic Conference. ... Dominic Moore’s two touchdown runs were the most by a Waynesburg freshman on opening day since 2007.

East Stroudsburg at California

When: Saturday, Sept. 18
Where: California, Pa.
Stadium: Adamson Stadium (6,500)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
TV: Pittsburgh CW (live) I FSN Pittsburgh (tape delayed)
Radio: WCAL (91.9 FM) I WVPO (840 AM)
Live Video: America One (PPV) I ESPN3

The Coaches: This weekend’s game will feature a meeting of 200-win coaches in John Luckhardt (Cal U; 207) and Denny Douds (East Stroudsburg; 227) for only the 29th time in all NCAA history with the last coming in last year’s Division II playoffs between Luckhardt and Mel Tjeerdsma (Northwest Missouri State).

Notes: Through the first two games of the season, the Vulcans lead the conference and NCAA Division II with a plus-eight turnover margin behind six interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Last week against C.W. Post, Cal U forced five turnovers with three interceptions and committed its first turnover of the year on a first-quarter interception after a tipped ball. … Sophomore running back Lamont Smith rushed for over 100 yards and three scores last week, as Cal U posted a 40-13 win at C.W. Post. The Vulcans scored 30-unanswered points, rushed for over 250 yards and forced five turnovers in the victory.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back surgery for Romeus

Pitt senior defensive end Greg Romeus, pictured, will undergo surgery on a disc in his lower back, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt announced Tuesday.

Romeus is scheduled for surgery on Thursday.

"Our top priority is doing what is best for Greg,” Wannstedt said. “After consulting with him, his family and our medical staff, it was determined that immediate surgery is the best option for Greg both personally and athletically. We expect him to have a full recovery and return for the conclusion of the season.”

An All-America candidate and the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Romeus started the season opener at Utah and had four tackles and a pass deflection. He did not play in the Panthers’ game Saturday against New Hampshire.

As a junior, Romeus made 11.5 tackles for loss and a team-high eight sacks.

Romeus was named a finalist for the 2009 Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award and was selected to three different All-America teams, including (second team), Sporting News (third team) and Rivals (third team).

Friday, September 10, 2010

College previews

Washington & Jefferson at Delaware Valley

When: Saturday, 1 p.m. kickoff
Where: Doylestown
Radio: WJPA (1450-AM)

PAC-MAC: 20th-ranked Washington & Jefferson and 10th-ranked Delaware Valley meet for the first time in history. The matchup is part of the "PAC-MAC Football Challenge Series." The two-year series between the Presidents' Athletic Conference and the Middle Atlantic Conference pits the top teams in each conference based on the 2009 final results.

The coaches: Mike Sirianni (Mount Union ’94) enters his eighth season as the head coach at Washington & Jefferson with a 70-12 (.854) overall record. The three-time PAC Coach of the Year and 2004 South Region Coach of the Year is second among all active NCAA head coaches in winning percentage (minimum five years of experience). Head Coach Jim Clements (Widener '96) is in his fifth season with the Aggies. He holds a 31-13 (.705) overall record and has led DVC to a pair of conference titles. Last year, Delaware Valley advanced to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.

Notes: During the 11 years Mike Sirianni has been a member of the W&J football coaching staff, the Presidents have passed for 33,991 yards (248.1 ypg) and 341 touchdowns (2.5 tpg). W&J has posted a 107-30 record (.781) since his arrival on campus as offensive coordinator in 1999. Senior Gino Rometo will become only the fifth quarterback to start a season opener for the Presidents since 1999, joining Brian Dawson '03, Chris Edwards '06 and Bobby Swallow '09 and last year's opener day starter senior Steven Shumaker. Dawson, Edwards and Swallow own all 29 school passing or total offense records and combined for 27,850 passing yards and 287 touchdowns.

Waynesburg at Wilkes

When: Saturday, Noon kickoff
Where: Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Ralston Athletic Complex)
Radio: 99.5-FM WCYJ

The Coaches: Rick Shepas is in his sixth season at Waynesburg and has a record of 28-23. Frank Sheptock begins his 15th year as head coach after being named the seventh head man in Wilkes football history in January of 1996. During his tenure on the Wilkes sidelines, he has led the Colonels to a 94-65 record, including eight post-season playoff berths.

Notes: Waynesburg quarterback Brad Dawson needs 103 yards to move into third place on Waynesburg’s all-time career passing yardage with 4,560 yards. ... The Waynesburg football team has enjoyed its share of success against non-conference opponents in recent years. The Yellow Jackets are 5-1 in games against non-PAC opponents over the last three years and have also gotten used to quick starts. The Jackets have won six of their last 10 season openers.

California at C.W. Post

When: Saturday, 1 p.m. kickoff
Where: Brookville, N.Y.
Stadium: Hickox Field (5,000)
Series Record: First meeting

The Coaches: C.W. POST HEAD COACH: The all-time winningest coach in program history, Bryan Collins enters his 13th season as head coach of the Pioneers. While a member of the Northeast-10 Conference, he guided C.W. Post to four outright league championships and three NCAA Playoff appearances.

Ninth-year head coach John Luckhardt (69-28, 206-65-2 overall) has established a winning tradition at Cal. That tradition has carried over into games against teams from the PSAC East. In the last eight seasons, the Vulcans hold a combined 17-4 record (.810) against PSAC East opponents.

Last week: Cal U rallied from down 17 points to claim a 42-41 overtime victory at then-No. 11 Saginaw Valley last week. The Vulcans scored the final 11 points of regulation, including a game-tying twopoint conversion reception by Chedrick Cherry with 6:24 left in regulation. In overtime, quarterback Josh Portis
connected with Terrance Moore for a five-yard score and senior kicker Marc
Domonkos made the PAT attempt. Saginaw Valley responded with a
touchdown in overtime, but missed the potential game-tying PAT attempt.

Notes: The Vulcans have never faced a team from New York.
C.W. Post marks the only new opponent this season for Cal U. However, head
coach John Luckhardt posted an 11-7 record against schools in the Empire State
while coaching at Washington & Jefferson. ... Junior wide receiver Chedrick Cherry was instrumental in last week’s comeback victory at nationally-ranked Saginaw Valley. The junior receiver finished the game with four receptions for 50 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing PAT attempt, Cherry caught the game-tying two-point conversion with 6:24 left in regulation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fashion makeover

When Pitt and West Virginia meet at Heinz Field in the annual Backyard Brawl Nov. 26, each team will be sporting new Nike Pro Combat uniforms. Pitt's uniforms are designed to represent Pittsbrugh's connection to the steel industry, while West Virginia's represent the state's coal industry.

Pitt and West Virginia are among 10 schools that will wear the new-style uniforms in at least one game this season. The other teams are Alabama, Boise State, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Oregon State, Texas Christian and Virginia Tech.

The new unfiorms are supposed to be 37 percent lighter than regular uniforms.