Three new Big East coaches struggle to live up to high expectations

first_img Published on September 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjr Comments Charlie Strong is not expected to turn around Louisville’s program overnight. In fact, of the three new coaches to Big East football this season, he probably has the least pressure upon him. But that thought doesn’t cross Strong’s mind. It never has. And that confidence has proven contagious. Rebuilding certainly wasn’t on any of the Cardinals’ minds when they took then-No. 25 Oregon State to the wire in Corvallis, Ore., on Sept. 18. Louisville lost by a touchdown in the end. But the potential to win now was unmasked. ‘We played hard enough, but you still like to get away with a victory,’ Strong said in a Big East coaches’ teleconference on Sept. 20. ‘That’s what you want to do, you want to win. We were given so many opportunities (and) did not take advantage of those opportunities.’ Rebuilding certainly isn’t on his mind.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text First-year coaches Butch Jones and Skip Holtz aren’t rebuilding programs, either. They took over two programs — Cincinnati and South Florida, respectively — with the expectations to contend for the Big East title. But with those great expectations come even more struggles. Once the losing starts, keeping the fan base and team from panicking so early in the season is one of the biggest. And they shouldn’t panic, considering how poorly the Big East has played as a whole. Because despite the mixed results all three head coaches have had so far this season, conference play will bring about new life and a chance to forget about the early season struggles. ‘I still think this is a good football conference and a good league,’ Holtz said in the Big East coaches’ teleconference Monday. ‘We’ll learn a little bit more about it as I get into the middle of it, because I haven’t played Cincinnati. I haven’t played Pittsburgh in a long time. I haven’t played against Connecticut, just from what I’ve seen on TV.’ While Strong’s slow start relates to his predecessor’s struggles, Jones’ and Holtz’s struggles are both completely different. Jones’ is the opposite of Strong’s, actually. And it’s not even his fault. He inherited a team Brian Kelly led to 18 consecutive regular-season wins, heightening expectations of the Bearcat faithfuls to the point that they expect a BCS bowl game every year. Now with Jones and a new starting quarterback in Zach Collaros, Cincinnati is off to its worst start since 2006 and has yet to defeat a Football Bowl Subdivision team. In its three losses, Cincinnati has given up nearly 30 points per game. Albeit the three losses were tough games at Fresno State and No. 23 North Carolina State, and home against No. 8 Oklahoma. Cincinnati showed improvement this past Saturday, losing to Oklahoma by just two points. But that doesn’t make it any less disheartening so far. ‘We’re very disappointed in the outcome,’ Jones said in a Big East coaches’ teleconference Monday. ‘There are no moral victories. We didn’t get it done at the end. But I thought our team continued to take great strides. Not only on the field, but I thought in terms of leadership.’ At 1-3, the team needs to come together fast to make a bowl. Jones is optimistic because the three losses do nothing to deter UC’s BCS hopes. Those hopes live and die with Big East play. Contrary to the other two new coaches, Holtz has led South Florida (2-1) to a winning record so far this year. But USF certainly hasn’t played like a team that could win the Big East. Western Kentucky, which owns the nation’s longest FBS losing streak at 24 games, outgained the Bulls on offense last Saturday, but USF managed to pull out the victory. The Bulls turned the ball over five times in its only game against a quality opponent this season, getting blown out at Florida. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is in the midst of a sophomore slump, throwing for just 141 yards with five interceptions in two games against FBS teams. Holtz is an eternal optimist, though. Despite the blowout loss at Florida and the passing game sputtering versus Western Kentucky, he believes there are plenty of positives to take into USF’s game Saturday against Florida Atlantic (7 p.m., ESPN3). ‘If we don’t turn the ball over in that game against Florida, that’s a classic college football game that goes right down to the wire,’ Holtz said. ‘I was really proud of our players, I thought they stood in there toe-to-toe.’ A former Gator himself, Strong is a defensive mind. He won two national championships, coaching the Florida defense to strong performances against Oklahoma and Ohio State. So he knows the defense he coaches now isn’t where he wants it to be. Not yet, at least. Oregon State’s Rodgers brothers (Jacquizz and James) exhibited that after combining for 193 total yards and three touchdowns. Strong is already making his mark on the defense, though. Give him some more of his own recruits, and a couple years down the road, it may resemble the side he ran in Gainesville. ‘We have a lot of room to improve,’ Strong said. ‘It’s all about fundamentals. It’s about defensively, just assignment football. Getting lined up on defense and making adjustments. ‘We have a good team. Our guys are beginning to listen, and I think that with success, they will understand it more, of what we’re trying to get accomplished here.’ Big man on campus RB Delone Carter Syracuse Senior Last week: 14 carries, 172 yards, four touchdowns Carter had a banner day for Syracuse on Saturday against Colgate, pleasing the home crowd to the tune of a career-high 172 yards and four touchdowns. A 24-yard run to the end zone in the first quarter by the senior running back set the tone, as the Orange cruised to an easy 42-7 victory. It was a much-needed breakout game for Carter, who was off to a slow start in 2010. After rushing for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, Carter was averaging just 82 yards per game on the ground in Syracuse’s first three games. With a week off before Big East play begins for the Orange on Oct. 9 at South Florida, it was crucial that Colgate be the game for Carter to break through. And he sure broke through. Over and over again. ‘We’ve been focusing on a couple things for him to work on,’ SU head coach Doug Marrone said after Saturday’s game. ‘I was happy to see him get the ball to the outside and take it to the end zone. We have been working on that.’ [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img


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