Here are some Big East news and notes off the weekly coaches teleconference today:
Coach Butch Jones has no regrets about going for it on two fourth-and-shorts in the first half against Tennessee. The Bearcats failed to convert both times, and that seemed to swing momentum. “We liked the play we had both times called," Jones said. "We just didn’t execute it. If we don’t go for it, everyone’s calling in saying, ‘Well you didn’t believe in your team.’ If I had to do it all over again we’d do it all over again. We’re going to play to win the football game. We need to make and convert on fourth-and-inches."
Dominique Battle got the start at cornerback instead of Deven Drane based on his week of practice, but the starting job is up for grabs again this week. "Whoever has the best week of preparation will be the starter," Jones said.
Redshirt freshman running back Lyle McCombs has has two straight 100-yard games while D.J. Shoemate has sat out with an ankle injury. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said he held Shoemate out as a precaution, and is hopeful he will be able to return to play against Iowa State on Friday. When Shoemate does return, the plan is to play them both and play them both early.
The Cardinals will be without starting center Mario Benavides for the third straight game, a serious blow to an offensive line that has struggled the first two games of the season. Coach Charlie Strong is hopeful B.J. Butler can come back to play.
As for his team headed into a huge game against Kentucky, Strong said his team is not playing with a lot of confidence. "The thing about it -- we’re not a very good football team," he said. "Coaches haven’t done a good job of coaching, players haven’t done a good job of playing. Our players, they have to compete and they have to stay focused and locked in for a 60 minute game."
Coach Todd Graham reiterated once again that Tino Sunseri is his starting quarterback headed into Saturday's game at Iowa. But if there are two areas where his team has to get better, it is on the offensive line and at the quarterback spot. "The main thing has been the plays where we have not executed the offense," Graham said. "We're not showing the discipline we have to have to run this offense. We haven’t played very well at quarterback. Tino’s done some great things at times and we have great potential and I have great belief in Tino and what we’re doing. But there’s a lot of pressure on that position. We’ve got to be more disciplined and work hard to get better."
Coach Greg Schiano told local reporters that he was concerned about televisions not working in the coaches box at North Carolina during a critical goal-line situation that resulted in no points. Schiano said Monday that the televisions were not working in the North Carolina box, either, and he was under the impression that two of the plays in question were reviewed, per NCAA rules.
He added that during the bye week, one of the big areas of focus would be on getting the offensive line and running game better. He did not rule out making some changes to the starting lineup, either. Depth also is an issue. "It’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube," Schiano said. "We're not at the point where we have 10 offensive linemen. We will get there, but we’re not there right now."
Coach Doug Marrone said starting defensive end Chandler Jones and safety Olando Fisher would miss Saturday's game at USC. He is hopeful Jones will be able to return next week. Marrone said Torrey Ball and Brandon Sharpe did well in place of Jones last week. But one of the big reasons the defense has struggled is all the youth. Losing Jones in such a big game is going to take a toll.
Marrone also had a bit of trivia on the call. The last Big East team to win on the road at USC was Pitt in 1957. The Panthers won 20-14.
Coach Skip Holtz was pleased with the way his team was able to respond against Ball State after an emotional week. A big reason for the big day was quarterback B.J. Daniels, who seems to have come into his own in the offense through two games. "I'm proud of how he has grabbed a hold of this. He is playing with confidence, with poise. He understands what we’re trying to do offensively, and it’s showing in his play on the field. He’s doing a great job."
Darrell Scott had 85 yards rushing and a few attempts at hurdling defenders. But Holtz said Scott has been shaking off the rust and is looking forward to his continued development. "He’s 245 pounds and thinks he’s trying to be a hurdle champion," Holtz joked. "But at 245, you run through them, you don’t jump over them. But he's doing a nice job, got a smile on his face, working hard. He has a chance to be an excellent football player and great addition to this football team."
Coach Dana Holgorsen was asked whether the offense is where he thought it would be after two games. "There’s no gauge," he said. "I still really don’t know where we’re at right now."
The Mountaineers have struggled to run the ball, something Holgorsen wants corrected quickly. Because he wants opponents to think they at least are able to run the ball well so as to not stack the deck against them. "It’s more about being efficient and not letting the defense dictate being one sided," he said. "How many yards you rush for is not nearly as important as them respecting the fact you are able to run the ball."