Tony's Mid-Term Report Card
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Students across college campuses are either taking or getting ready for mid-term exams. We’ve also reached mid-term for members of the Big East football conference. Each of the league’s eight schools have played six games so let’s grab our red marker and do some grading.
Scoring Offense: Connecticut leads the conference in scoring, which is not a surprise considering their returning cast. The fact that Louisville is second is a very big surprise. The Cardinals averaged 18 points per game last season. Under first-year coach Charlie Strong, a defensive specialist, the Cards’ are averaging an impressive 31 points per game.
Give much credit to quarterback Adam Froman, who is currently second in total offense and third in passing yards and efficiency.
Scoring Defense: Say hello to your West Virginia Mountaineers. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s group is currently leading the league in scoring defense (12 ppg.), total defense, pass defense, rushing defense, and pass defense efficiency.
If defense truly wins championships the Mountaineers are in a good position. However, keep in mind that Cincinnati was dead last in total defense last season and still won the league.
Despite some third-down conversion issues against South Florida, the Mountaineers earn an “A” in that category so far this season. WVU leads the Big East in third down conversions at 43 percent. Cincinnati is second, followed by Saturday’s opponent Syracuse.
On the other side of the ball, WVU’s defense is the stingiest group in the conference allowing a third down conversion. Opposing teams have converted just 23 percent of their third down attempts.
The Mountaineers are also number one in converting on fourth down. WVU has successfully made five of seven attempts for 71 percent. Second place Rutgers has made 46 percent of its fourth-down tries.
Penalties: Connecticut, South Florida and West Virginia are the least penalized teams. All three have been flagged an average of five times per game. Rutgers is the most penalized with a whopping 54 infractions (nine per game).
Individually, Jordan Todman leads the league in rushing (152 yards per game) followed by Louisville’s dangerous Bilal Powell (150 yards per game). The biggest surprise is that WVU’s Noel Devine is sixth overall with an average of 84 yards per outing. Devine’s streak of 1,000-yard seasons is in jeopardy unless he rediscovers his magic.
Jock Sanders and Keith Tandy are the only two Mountaineers currently leading the conference in any individual categories. Sanders’ six receptions per game is number one. Tandy is tops in interceptions and passes defended.
Extra Credit: A tip of the cap to these Big East performers for outstanding individual performances.
* Syracuse running back Delone Carter, who we’ll see on Saturday, owns the mark for most points in a game this season. He scored four touchdowns against Colgate. WVU’s Brad Starks is tied for second with his three-touchdown effort against UNLV.
* Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib’s five touchdown passes against Maine is a single game best. Nassib and Geno Smith aren’t afraid to chuck the oblong spheroid. Nassib had a season-high 46 pass attempts against Pitt last Saturday while Geno fired 45 throws against Marshall. Smith completed 32 of those attempts, which is the highest completion total this season.
* South Florida’s Dontavia Bogan caught a conference best 11 passes against WVU last Thursday. However, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders are right behind. Devine caught 10 passes against Marshall while Jock hauled in 10 against the Bulls.
One final atta boy goes to Sanders. His 66-yard punt return against Maryland is one yard short of the best return this season. South Florida’s Terrence Mitchell had a 67-yard return against Western Kentucky.
Staying on the mid-term academic theme, here are my grades for the Mountaineers after six games.
Offense: I like the passing game and the emergence of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey. I’m concerned about the lack of a consistent running game. You have to be able to run the ball when you want to run the ball. Overall B
Defense: I like it all. Overall grade: A
Special Teams: Kick coverage much improved. Kick and punt returns average.
Overall grade: B