2007 Big East Lookbacks/Recaps
Rutgers RB Ray Rice
Rutgers RB Ray Rice
Posted Jan 29, 2008

Taking a look back at every team's 2007 Big East season.

2007 Big East Lookbacks/Recaps

- 2008 Big East Early Lookaheads
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

2007 Pages
2007 Big East Season 
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

Recap: In his first year at the helm, Bearcat head coach left no doubts that he was the right man to replace Mark Dantonio, leading Cincinnati to a bowl victory and its first 10-win season since 1951.  Kelly’s spread offense, a stark contrast to Dantonio’s conservative running game, was a smashing success, cranking out 36 points and 434 yards a game.  Cincy’s three losses came by a total of 16 points, a testament to how much the program grew in such a short period of time, and how close it was to really doing something special.             

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Ben Mauk

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Terrill Byrd

Biggest Surprise: Waxing Oregon State, 34-3, on Sept. 6.  Still a mystery outside the Queen City, the Bearcats gave a glimpse of its potential in front a national TV audience, blocking a punt for a touchdown and picking off six passes, a degree of thievery that would become their trademark in 2007.  

Biggest Disappointment: Unbeaten and ranked in the Top 25 on Oct. 13, Cincinnati allowed struggling Louisville to temporarily find its footing in a sloppy 28-24 loss.  The Bearcats moved the ball well, but committed four turnovers and 11 penalties in a heartbreaking home defeat. 

Looking Ahead: The foundation is in place for Cincinnati to build on last season, and contend for a Big East championship.  The Bearcats are clinging to the hope that Mauk, the heart and soul of the offense, will be granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.       

Recap: The hands-down surprise of the year in the Big East, Connecticut defied the odds by going 9-4 and winning a share of the league title.  With a win over West Virginia on Nov. 24, the no-frills Huskies would have been the outright champs, earning a BCS bowl berth that was unimaginable just three months earlier.  Connecticut won plenty of games the old-fashioned way, snuffing out opponents with a no-name defense and controlling the clock with talented sophomore backs Andre Dixon and Donald Brown.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Donald Brown

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Danny Lansanah

Biggest Surprise: The defense.  Not a whole lot was expected from a unit that lacked star power or high-profile recruits.  Opportunistic and air-tight against the pass, Connecticut allowed just 19 points and 194 yards passing a game behind anonymous players, such as Lansanah, LB Lawrence Wilson, and DE Julius Williams. 

Biggest Disappointment: Connecticut wasn’t supposed to beat West Virginia in Morgantown with so much at stake, but a 66-21 loss robbed the program of earning the national respect that it sorely craves.  After taking a 7-0 lead, the Huskies were never competitive, a stark reminder how far they must travel before measuring up with a team like the Mountaineers. 

Looking Ahead: With so much of last year’s squad, including coveted head coach Randy Edsall, returning in 2008, there’s no reason to believe Connecticut won’t be right back in the bowl hunt again next November.  Unlike this past fall, however, the Huskies won’t be able to sneak up on the rest of the Big East. 

Recap: Louisville belongs right in the same discussion with Nebraska, Notre Dame, and UCLA as one of the most disappointing programs of 2007.  The Cards, a Big East favorite and fringe national title contender in August, squandered QB Brian Brohm’s final year in school, failing at 6-6 to even attract a bowl invitation.  Louisville’s demise can be traced to a leaky defense that allowed 38 or more points seven times, and was helpless against opposing quarterbacks.      

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Brian Brohm

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Lamar Myles

Biggest Surprise: With very little to play for in the regular season finale, Louisville dug real deep against Rutgers, rallying from an 18-point, second-half deficit to pull out an improbable 41-38 victory.  The Cards displayed more heart in two quarters than it had in the previous 11 games combined, getting a spark from a future star, freshman RB Bilal Powell.

Biggest Disappointment: Where do you begin?  In a season marked by disappointments, none was bigger than the 40-34 loss to Kentucky on Sept. 15.  In a microcosm of all that went wrong in Steve Kragthorpe’s debut season, Louisville somehow allowed WR Steve Johnson to get behind the secondary for a game-winning 57-yard score with 28 seconds left on the clock.  The loss wasn’t quickly forgotten by the Cards, who were shocked by Syracuse the following Saturday.       

Looking Ahead: Kragthorpe has already shaken up his coaching staff like a snow globe, but it’s going to take some time before the changes have an impact.  Louisville needs to replace a ton of offensive firepower in 2008, namely Brohm, receivers Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia, and back Anthony Allen, who’s transferring.    

Recap: If not for a spate of injuries, the past fall might have become the breakthrough season that Dave Wannstedt has been craving since returning to his alma mater.  Despite finishing out of the bowl picture for the third consecutive year, Pittsburgh will remember 2007 as the year it broke the seal on franchise RB LeSean McCoy, and ruined rival West Virginia’s season in a one-for-the-ages Backyard Brawl.  The defense, ranked No. 7 nationally, kept the Panthers in plenty of games, but could have used a lot more help from an offense that sputtered too often in the red zone.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB LeSean McCoy

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Scott McKillop

Biggest Surprise: Stunning No. 2 West Virginia, 13-9, in the regular season capper as a four-touchdown underdog.  Even in a zany season that was marked by upsets, no one could have seen this bombshell coming.  The Panthers got enough from the defense and the running game to throw the BCS into its familiar state of chaos as the year came to a close. 

Biggest Disappointment: Some poor officiating got in the way of Pitt’s upset bid at Rutgers on Nov. 17.  On the brink of evening its record at 5-5, Panther WR Oderick Turner got flagged for a questionable pass interference after catching the apparent game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.  The loss dropped Pitt to 4-6, crushing any hopes for a bowl game.

Looking Ahead: Okay, we’ve heard this before, but this really could be the year Pittsburgh challenges for the Big East championship.  All signs point to a promising 2008 for the program if it can find a playmaker at quarterback out of injured veteran Bill Stull and sporadic rookie Pat Bostick.

Recap: Although the Scarlet Knights didn’t win the Big East title that they crave, eight wins and a second straight bowl victory were still building blocks for a program that’s just a couple years removed from being a laughingstock.  Rutgers was tough to get a read on all year, finishing fifth in a league of nine teams, yet beating South Florida when it was No. 2 in the country, and thrashing Ball State in the International Bowl.  RB Ray Rice solidified his spot as one of the greatest players in school history, rushing for 2,012 yards and scoring 25 touchdowns to top an outstanding sophomore season.         

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ray Rice

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Eric Foster

Biggest Surprise: It’s hard to imagine today, but South Florida looked borderline invincible when it descended upon New Jersey on Oct. 18.  The Scarlet Knights ended the Bulls’ brief plans for a national championship with a second-half rally and some gutsy play-calling from Greg Schiano.

Biggest Disappointment: Back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Cincinnati following a cushy non-conference got Rutgers booted from the Top 25, drastically changing expectations for the program.  Losing to the Terps was especially difficult because the Knights got manhandled by a school that played most of the game with a backup quarterback.       

Looking Ahead: Whether Rutgers is a contender for a BCS bowl game or another second-tier postseason game depends on how the program can get past Rice turning pro early.  The 2008 team belongs to QB Mike Teel, who made strides as a junior and will be welcoming back 1,000-yard receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood.

South Florida
Recap: The streaky nature of South Florida’s 2007 season was a reminder that this is still a neophyte program that lacks the consistency of schools that have been at this for more than just a decade.  The Bulls rose to No. 2 in the country with a 6-0 start, but lost three consecutive games to fall completely out of the Top 25.  After seemingly regrouping with lopsided wins over Syracuse, Louisville, and Pittsburgh, USF got bombed by Oregon and rookie QB Justin Roper in one of the worst performances of the postseason.  Such is life at a school that’s clearly headed in the right direction, yet still has some growing up to do.       

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Matt Grothe

Defensive Player of the Year: DE George Selvie

Biggest Surprise: Everyone pointed to South Florida as a possible landmine for Auburn, but few really expected the Bulls to win this game on the road.  Grothe’s touchdown pass to Jessie Hester in overtime gave USF its biggest win in school history and a level of national attention that’s usually reserved for Florida, Miami, and Florida State.

Biggest Disappointment: Playing a Pac-10 team in the Sun Bowl was actually a pretty big deal for a South Florida program that’s only played in the less prestigious Meineke Car Care and Papajohns.com Bowls.  The heralded Bull defense, however, got shredded by Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart in a 56-21 loss that set the program back a bit.         

Looking Ahead: It’ll be interesting to see how South Florida reacts in 2008 to such a disappointing conclusion to 2007.  While a number of key losses on defense will make the unit more vulnerable, the offense returns enough starters to make a quantum leap next fall.

Recap: The Orange maintained, even enhanced, its growing reputation as the worst program in the Big East, going 2-10 and winning just a single league game.  There was very little to cheer about at Syracuse, which lost 10 games for the second time in three years, and was routinely abused at the point of attack on both sides of the ball.  For Orange fans hoping to see a head or two roll in December, even that didn’t go their way, as beleaguered head coach Greg Robinson was given another year to get the program back to respectability.    

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Mike Williams

Defensive Player of the Year: NT Arthur Jones

Biggest Surprise: The Orange sure weaved a doozy of an upset on Sept. 22, flooring heavily-favored Louisville in one of the biggest upsets in Big East history.  Syracuse nabbed its first win of the season behind sophomore QB Andrew Robinson, who turned 17 completions into 423 yards and four touchdown passes.

Biggest Disappointment: The Orange’s encore to picking off Louisville?  Losing to Miami University, 17-14, the following weekend in a listless effort that encapsulated why the program is in such a state of disrepair.  Syracuse got out gained 436 to 302, fumbling an opportunity to build on the school’s flashiest win this decade.

Looking Ahead: Well, on a positive note, Robinson’s return for 2008 means the players won’t have to spend a chunk of the offseason, learning a new staff, a new offense, and new terminology.  Although the Orange is a mess in the trenches, the skill position players offer a hint of hope, especially if touted RB Delone Carter can make it all the way back from a dislocated hip. 

West Virginia
Recap: In the 33 days between Dec. 1 and Jan.2, the West Virginia program aged about 33 years.  During that brief time span, the Mountaineers bumbled a chance to play for a national title, lost head coach Rich Rodriguez, sued Rodriguez to collect a $4 million buyout, shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and hired an assistant that no one expected to succeed Coach Rod.  Exhale.  Oh yeah, West Virginia got to Glendale by winning the Big East title for the second time in three years, despite dropping a couple of games in league play.    

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Pat White

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Johnny Dingle

Biggest Surprise: The defense.  A disappointment in 2006, defensive coordinator did a magnificent job with this group, molding a more athletic unit that led the league in scoring and rushing defense, and collected a ton of turnovers and plays for minus yardage.

Biggest Disappointment: In what was likely the most deflating loss in school history, West Virginia inexcusably lost to Pittsburgh, a four-touchdown underdog, with a spot in the BCS Championship game hanging in the balance.  White sat out most of the game with an injured hand, but no one was making excuses after the Mountaineers fell to their bitter rival, 13-9, in the regular season finale.

Looking Ahead: If new head coach and life-long assistant Bill Stewart is going to be exposed, it might not happen until 2009.  Even with Steve Slaton and Darius Reynaud gone, with White back for one final year in Morgantown, West Virginia will be favored to win the Big East and be right back in a BCS bowl game next January.