|Cincinnati wide receiver Damon Julian (16) makes the game-winning catch with 13 seconds left as teammate Travis Kelce (18) is ready to celebrate on Saturday. (AP)|
Big East scoreboard
Connecticut 24, Buffalo 17: It wasn’t pretty, but the Huskies (3-2, 0-0 Big East) avoided a second-straight loss to a Mid-American Conference opponent. Sophomore QB Chandler Whitmer looked to be on the cusp of another breakout game but struggled to move the offense in the second half. The Bulls put eight defenders in the box and dared Whitmer to beat them. The close win may be disconcerting considering the Bulls allowed more than 34 points per game heading into this week.
Cincinnati 27, Virginia Tech 24: The Bearcats (3-0, 1-0 Big East) pulled off a thrilling win on a sprawling 39-yard catch by WR Damon Julian with 13 seconds left. The win is a shot in the arm for the young Bearcats. Cincinnati lost the lead twice in the fourth quarter, but QB Munchie Legaux and the offense didn’t panic in the high-pressured final moments. The defense limited Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas on the ground and made a key interception near the goaline in the third quarter. Virginia Tech (3-2) converted just 4 of 13 third-down attempts.
No. 4 Florida State 30, South Florida 17: The Bulls (2-3) had no answer for Noles QB EJ Manuel, who efficiently shredded the USF defense. Manuel, a chic Heisman pick, was 19 of 26 for 242 yards and a score. Florida State (5-0) controlled the game throughout, and led 30-10 heading into the fourth quarter. Senior QB B.J. Daniels led the Bulls with 215 total yards and two touchdowns. (For more on the game, check out CBSSports.com's Eye on College Football blog here)
No. 19 Louisville 21, Southern Mississippi 17: It wasn't easy -- in fact, Southern Miss (0-4) had plenty of chances to ice this one -- but the Cardinals pulled it out. It was really, really rainy in Hattiesburg, but the Louisville (5-0) running game was just enough. (For more on the game, check out CBSSports.com's Eye on College Football blog here)
Play of the week: Cincinnati RB Ralph David Abernathy IV scored on a 76-yard reception from Legaux midway through the fourth quarter to give the Bearcats a 20-17 lead. Legaux executed the read-option flawlessly and found Abernathy IV in the left flat. The running back made a Hokies' defender miss on a cut-back and raced down the sideline for the touchdown.
They said what?: UConn LB Jory Johnson on a gimmick, hook-and-ladder 50-yard touchdown by Buffalo in the third quarter: “The hook and ladder play caught us off guard,” Johnson said. “They executed it well, it gave them momentum moving forward.”
And, also, from Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, on his team's win over Virginia Tech: “It’s a credibility win. Virginia Tech is a very, very talented football team. I’m Coach Beamer’s biggest fan. I told him I want to spend some time with him -- the way he’s built that thing. That’s the way I envision us having it at Cincinnati. It’s confidence. It’s belief in how we play. It’s belief in how we practice. It’s belief in how we lift weights. I think the more you win, the more confidence [you have]. Now we can’t let complacency set in."
RapidReports defensive star of the week: Johnson. Though others on the Huskies’ front seven -- LBs Yawin Smallwood and Sio Moore and DE Trevardo Williams -- receive most of the headlines, Johnson arguably had the best game of any defender Saturday. The redshirt senior had 14 tackles and 2 TFLs. If the Huskies can consistently receive stellar play from Johnson, UConn might finish the season ahead of Rutgers as the top defense in the Big East.
RapidReports offensive star of the week: Cincinnati WR Kenbrell Thompkins. The senior had seven catches for 134 yards -- both career-highs. Thompkins gave the Bearcats a 13-7 lead with a 29-yard catch on a crossing route in the third quarter. Faced with physical press coverage from Hokies DB Antone Exum, Thompkins managed to consistently gain separation downfield. The strong effort could be a harbinger of an impressive senior season for Thompkins.
A possible spot on the bench for: UConn RB Lyle McCombs. The Huskies' sophomore won’t be benched but could see his carries decline. McCombs had 103 yards against Buffalo but needed 33 carries. He's averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season. McCombs hasn’t shown the burst he demonstrated in his freshman year. He could be pushed by junior RB Martin Hyppolite, who had a 50-yard touchdown Saturday.
Why you care about these four stat lines:
- UConn pass defense: Although the Huskies allowed 220 passing yards, 50 came on the hook-and-ladder touchdown by Buffalo in the third quarter. Discounting the play, Buffalo QB Alex Zordich had just 12 completions for 170 yards. Entering this week, UConn ranked fifth in FBS in total defense (213.0 ypg) and 11th in pass defense (155.5 ypg).
- Logan Thomas rushing yards: The Bearcats held the Hokies’ dual-threat quarterback to 10 yards on nine carries. It could provide the Bearcats with confidence when facing the league's dangerous scrambling quarterbacks.
- Munchie Legaux second half passing: After starting 9 of 23 for 110 yards and an INT, Legaux finished with a career-high 357 yards and three touchdowns. Legaux’s continued development could determine if the Bearcats play in a high-level bowl game.
- South Florida, 53 yards, 17 rushes: Discounting B.J. Daniels, the Bulls only managed 53 rushing yards against Florida State Saturday. Of course Daniels is what makes USF go, but Skip Holtz's team will need some contribution from running backs Demetris Murray and Lindsey Lamar. Daniels can't do it all, and it showed Saturday against the 'Noles.
Key number: 4. Despite the victory, the Huskies were 4 of 14 on third downs against the Bulls. UConn entered the game ranked 80th in FBS in third-down conversion percentage (38.8). The Huskies will have to be better next week against Rutgers’ stout defense.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.