2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 11, WVU at Cincinnati
Big East Fearless Predictions &
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Nov. 12 West Virginia 24 … at Cincinnati 21
CFN Analysis: Eain Smith's blocked field goal didn't exactly save the season, but it was a big moment to keep the Mountaineers alive for the Big East title. The team isn't playing well, but it continues to rally late when it has to. … After losing to Louisville at home last week, the Mountaineers couldn't make it three losses in four weeks; the team is way too good to be this mediocre. The offense is too good and the defense is too athletic, but it just can't put together a full sixty minutes. … Geno Smith was Geno Smith, rallying the team back in the fourth quarter, and he got his yards again finishing with 372 yards and a score. But once again, he had to with no running game to count on. … Help is needed, but WVU will have the tie-breaker over Rutgers and UC. The wins over Pitt and USF are a must, and to get them, the team has to be smarter. The 14 penalties were a killer.
The all red uniforms and the emphasis put on getting this one win has to be ignored and fast with road games at Rutgers and Syracuse up next. The Big East title is still in UC's hands, with the trip to the BCS there by winning out. The Bearcats are better than everyone else on the schedule, but it's going to mean more Isaiah Pead than normal. He ran for 113 yards and a score. … Zach Collaros got knocked out with an ankle injury, but Munchie Legaux kept the offense moving with 77 rushing yards with a 65-yard touchdown to go along with 70 yards passing. He wasn't Collaros, but he got the team in a position to force overtime before the game-ending blocked field goal. … One of the nation's best punting games continues to be a major weapon. Pat O'Donnell averaged close to 43 yards per kick and did a nice job of bailing the team out of trouble.
(AP) CINCINNATI -- Tony Miliano's attempt at a tying field goal barely got off the ground when Eain Smith dived in from the side and swatted it away, keeping West Virginia in the Big East race.
Pretty much everybody else, too.
The Mountaineers rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit behind Geno Smith, then swatted away No. 23 Cincinnati's attempt to tie in the closing seconds Saturday for a 24-21 victory that left the conference race wide open.
A loss would have knocked West Virginia (7-3, 3-2) out of the title chase.
"As for the blocked field goal, one word: Pandemonium," Smith said. "We had our back against the wall and fought back. This game was crucial for us. It was win or go home."
The Bearcats (7-2, 3-1) lost senior quarterback Zach Collaros to an ankle injury in the second quarter on a play that changed everything. He watched the rest of the game on crutches from the sideline with his right foot and ankle heavily wrapped.
Coach Butch Jones said Collaros would have tests to determine the severity of the injury.
Untested sophomore quarterback Munchie Legaux got the 48,152 fans at Paul Brown Stadium chanting his first name when he led the Bearcats to a pair of touchdowns for a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. Legaux ran 7 yards for a score, and Isaiah Pead went 10 yards for his second touchdown.
"It's about how much energy we played with," said coach Dana Holgorsen, who had threatened to leave players back in Morgantown if they didn't give a better effort in practice last week. "We didn't get down on ourselves. We talked about it this week. We talked about not hanging our heads on the sideline. Our talks weren't about X's and O's this week."
The Bearcats lost their senior quarterback in the second quarter, when Collaros retreated from the pass rush to extend a play and got tackled by end Bruce Irvin at the goal line. Collaros lost the ball and his right leg got twisted beneath him as he went down.
Julian Miller fell on the ball in the end zone for a 17-7 lead. Collaros lay on the ground, both hands on his forehead. He put no weight on the right leg as he was helped to a cart to leave the field for an exam.
That injury changed the whole Big East race. A win would have put the Bearcats in range of their third title in four years.
On came Legaux, who had thrown only seven passes all season. His second throw was picked off and Cincinnati's offense went nowhere the rest of the half, with West Virginia playing conservatively.
"On that first series, I was kind of nervous," said Legaux, who finished 10 of 21 for 144 yards and ran eight times for 89 yards. "After that first series, I got comfortable."
For the fourth straight game, Cincinnati overcame a deficit of at least nine points to take a second-half lead. This time, it didn't stand up.
The Mountaineers have been one of the conference's mainstays, finishing first or second in each of the last nine years. The Bearcats were on quite a surge, winning six in a row. They've even come up with their own victory song, dancing to "Get The Dub" each time they come away with a "W" from a game.
They wore all-red uniforms Saturday for the first time since 1993, another indication of how much this one meant.
It started with big-play drama.
Pead weaved his way past defenders along the left sideline on a 40-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. Smith found Stedman Bailey beyond the coverage for a 59-yard touchdown pass that tied it. Pead had a 19-yard catch and 33-yard run that helped Cincinnati get to the 1-yard line, where Collaros was stopped inches short of the goal line on a fourth-down draw play.
Tyler Bitancurt's 28-yard field goal gave West Virginia its first lead at 10-7 early in the second quarter. On Cincinnati's next possession, the Bearcats lost their most indispensable player.
West Virginia (6-3) at Cincinnati (7-1) Nov. 12, 12:00, ABC
Here's The Deal … After one season in dry dock, head coach Butch Jones' first with the school, Cincinnati is back at the top of the Big East. It'll spend the next four weekends trying to stay there. As the lone remaining ranked team from the embattled league, the Bearcats have emerged as the one holding its ragged banner. The program has displayed commendable resiliency in rising up the standings, rallying in the second half of three straight wins; even better, the last two came on the road, at South Florida and Pittsburgh.
Cincy will now showcase how far it's come under Jones in front of the Paul Brown Stadium faithful. West Virginia was supposed to be the heir to the throne this season, but improbable losses to Syracuse and Louisville over the last three games have altered the landscape in Morgantown. Falling to the Cardinals at home last Saturday was a particular head-scratcher that put the Mountaineers on the brink of extinction in the conference title chase.
Why West Virginia Might Win: The Mountaineers still harbor considerable weapons, and are improving over time in Dana Holgorsen's offensive system. You can't blame an offense that's averaging 38 points a game for the program's woes over the past few weeks. While the ground game has been sporadic, the Geno Smith-led passing attack has been just fine. The junior ranks No. 7 nationally in total offense, and just got finished carving up a very good Louisville defense for 410 yards and three scores on 31-of-44 passing. Defending the pass has been the weaker of two areas for Cincinnati, which ranks 105th nationally in the category. Given time, No. 12 will survey the field in order to find one of his three playmaking receivers, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Ivan McCartney. Bailey has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the passer-friendly attack, catching passes for at least 100 yards in six of the last seven games.
Why Cincinnati Might Win: The underlying reason for West Virginia's struggles has been that the defense has not been carrying its weight, a rarity under coordinator Jeff Casteel. The Mountaineers have had ill-timed lapses in both run and pass defense that the Bearcats will be able to exploit. While Cincinnati hasn't been prolific in 2011, it has been neatly balanced behind the consistent running of Isaiah Pead and the versatility of QB Zach Collaros.
The latter should have plenty of time to operate against a pass rush that's had intermittent help from DE Bruce Irvin and little else. Cincinnati, on the other hand, has made it a habit all year of making money plays on defense, ranking sixth nationally in takeaways and eighth in sacks.
What To Watch Out For: The Bearcats brought back a ton of starters on defense, yet no one knew for sure if the unit would be a year better or simply a year older. The answer through seven games has been the former. No, Cincinnati is not impenetrable, but it has been frenetic up front, getting an unrelenting push from the likes of linemen Derek Wolfe, Dan Giordano, Walter Stewart and Brandon Mills. Which West Virginia O-line will show up in the Queen City, the one that held LSU without a sack in September, or the one that gave up three in the loss to Louisville a week ago?
What Will Happen: Buckle in for what could be the most entertaining Big East game of 2011. Cincinnati and West Virginia have arguably the two most talented rosters in the league, both showcasing a fair amount of speed on both sides of the ball. The Bearcats, though, have a considerable edge in momentum and confidence, courtesy of its six-game winning streak.
They'll trade blows with the Mountaineers in a seesaw battle, but that knack for enduring this fall when the game hangs in the balance will truly come in handy in the waning moments. In a tremendous back-and-forth duel between the quarterbacks, Collaros will lose the statistical battle, but win the war by piloting the game-winning drive in a frenzied fourth quarter.
CFN Prediction: Cincinnati 34 … West Virginia 28
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Cincinnati -3.5 O/U: 66.5
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