The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

November 17, 2010

All Big East teams in hunt

MORGANTOWN — All of a sudden, it’s anybody’s race in the Big East.

Pitt’s loss to Connecticut Thursday made it a wide-open race for who will win — or be given — a chance at the conference title.

And West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) is right in the mix, coming off a 37-10 dismantling of Cincinnati last Saturday.

Problem is, Pitt (5-4, 3-1) is still in the driver’s seat, with games left against South Florida, WVU and Cincinnati.

And Syracuse (7-3, 4-2) is in good shape, with a win over WVU, as well Connecticut (5-4, 2-2) which also owns a win over WVU.

Even Louisville (5-5, 2-3), which hosts WVU on Saturday at noon (Big East Network, WOAY-TV locally), isn’t totally out of the picture.

But West Virginia, with games left at Louisville and Pitt, before returning home to face Rutgers Dec. 4, is back in the race.

Now, it’s about taking care of business.

“We know we have to win out,” defensive lineman Chris Neild said after Saturday’s win. “We have to take care of business.”

Lousiville, which has struggled in recent seasons, isn’t a walk in the park.

First-year coach Charlie Strong has begun to revitalize the program, which was neck-and-neck with WVU battling for conference supremacy in the mid-2000s.

The Cardinals shut out Connecticut, a team that upset WVU in overtime just three weeks ago.

“I see aggressiveness,” WVU coach Bill Stewart said of Louisville’s defense. “I see Charlie Strong’s personality. They have a wide range of players. They tackle really well in the open field. That is what I saw them do when they shut out Connecticut.”

Offensively, the Cardinals are led by running back Bilal Powell, who has rushed for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns. He was listed as questionable for the Cardinals’ game with South Florida but rushed for 140 yards in a 24-21 loss to the Bulls.

Starting quarterback Adam Froman missed that game. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has completed 132 of 218 passes for 1,633 yards and 11 scores. He was replaced by 6-3, 229-pound Justin Burke, who is 34-of-62 passing for 329 yards and six TDs.

“They both are big guys,” Stewart said. “They are bigger than our linebackers. They are both strong-armed and they both have a great feel for releasing the ball.”

Of course, WVU has struggled on the road this year, losing at LSU and Connecticut and needing a miracle to pull out a win over Marshall in overtime.

“I think that most people, generally speaking, have a better record at home,” Stewart said. “That is why the home crowd is so special to you and to the young men playing out in the arena.

“We have done OK on the road. We have won some big games and lost some heartbreakers. It has not been as pleasant as we would have liked it to have been. Maybe we can make amends to that this weekend and get back on track.”

— E-mail: demorrison@

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