It may not have been the prettiest night of football, but the Big East opened the 2011 season Thursday night 3-0 -- including a thrilling come-from-behind win for Syracuse.
So what do we take away from Louisville, Rutgers and the Orange? It is hard to take away much from Week 1. Rutgers beat an overmatched NC Central team 48-0. The defense looked good, but we will know more about the Scarlet Knights after next week's game at North Carolina.
The Cardinals defense looked better than expected in a 21-9 win over Murray State, but the offense was hit or miss and made way too many mistakes. I am not sure any Louisville fan feels good about the offensive performance this morning, especially against an average FCS team.
Syracuse, meanwhile, had the game of the day. The Orange, hoping to build off an impressive bowl season in 2010, looked completely lifeless for three quarters. Fans on Twitter joked about being reminded of the Greg Robinson era. But the fourth quarter was a different game. The Orange scored 22 unanswered points to stun Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime.
The comeback was spurred, in part, when Wake Forest starting quarterback Tanner Price went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. He threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, particularly picking on cornerback Kevyn Scott. There was little pass rush, and the defense seemed flat footed. But after Price left the game, Wake managed just 59 total yards.
Despite the early struggles, Syracuse never gave up and deserves credit for that. No matter how you get it, any win is a big win.
Now here is more on the good and the bad for each team that played Thursday night.
The good: You have to start with the defense. Many thought a pass-happy Murray State would be able to pass over a secondary featuring two inexperienced starters at cornerback. But starters Anthony Connor and true freshmen Andrew Johnson held their own. Connor picked up his first career interception, and Murray State never got a consistent string of big pass plays. Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman threw for just 148 yards and three interceptions. Meanwhile, the defensive line was without B.J. Butler, Roy Philon and Brandon Dunn, and Greg Scruggs played just a handful of snaps. In their place, true freshman B.J. Dubose, sophomore Marcus Smith, Randy Salmon, William Savoy and Malcolm Mitchell all played well. True freshman receiver DeVante Parker also flashed.
The bad: The offense has to get into a rhythm. The offensive line had five new starters and remains a work in progress. Of the 10 Louisville penalties, five were false starts and one was a hold. Will Stein had good plays and bad plays and fumbled once. Victor Anderson fumbled for the first time in his career. Jeremy Wright fumbled, too. Highly touted true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater only played one series, which featured two false starts, a delay of game and his first career interception.
The good: The defense had a nice game, posting the ninth shutout under coach Greg Schiano. Rutgers had nine sacks -- the most since a nine-sack day in a 44-9 victory over Cincinnati on Nov. 26, 2005. Scott Vallone got his first career touchdown when he recovered a fumble in the end zone. Duron Harmon had two interceptions, including one he returned 37 yards for his first career touchdown. Harmon, in particular, seemed to be everywhere. Another highly touted freshman, Savon Huggins, got his first two career touchdowns but averaged just 3.2 yards a carry.
The bad: It is hard to find anything bad in a 48-0 rout. All you can really say is Rutgers did not get much of a test before a big game on the road next weekend. Perhaps Rutgers wants more consistency out of its running game. DeAntwan Williams, Jawan Jamison, Jeremy Deering and Huggins all played, and collectively averaged 3.3 yards a carry. Jamison had the longest run of the day at 14 yards.
The good: Everybody loves a come-from-behind win. The Syracuse offense finally showed its capability in the fourth quarter, when Antwon Bailey ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run to help tie the game at 29. Ryan Nassib, inconsistent early in the game, was a perfect 8-for-8 to close the game. Hard to believe it was the same offense that had fewer total yards (52) than penalty yards (56) in the first half. The defense came through with some big plays down the stretch, including an interception from Kevyn Scott. But perhaps what you love most is the moxie Syracuse showed in coming from behind to gut out a win.
The bad: In the first three quarters, the offensive line looked shaky. Receivers had drops. Bailey and Nassib could not generate much of anything. The defense looked slow, out of position and not aggressive. There were wide open Wake Forest receivers left and right. Not much of a pass rush, either. There also was a go-ahead field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter by Ross Krautman that was blocked because of a bad snap.