What we learned: Dion Lewis needs help; so does USC’s defense

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Now that college football is back and we no longer have to spend our time over-analyzing off-field issues, let’s turn our attention to over-analyzing what we’ve seen in one night the play on the field.

The first night of games was pretty vanilla — outside of Utah’s overtime win over Pittsburgh, as Anthony pointed out earlier — but it did give us a little bit of insight into a few teams, and what we could possibly expect to see from them down the road.

Let’s take a look at three things we learned on Thursday night: Read the rest of this entry »

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On a night of blowouts, Utah’s upset over PITT was a savior

SALT LAKE CITY - NOVEMBER 22:  Head Coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Uteswatches the game against the BYU Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Just to have football on my television again was enough for me to sit through South Carolina’s 41-13 dismantling of Southern Miss and not have the goofy grin leave my face the entire game, but opening night in college football was largely a dud.

I guess that’s what you get when No. 2 Ohio State opens up with feeble Marshall, or No. 13 Miami hosts the Florida Institute for Dishwashers or whomever the hell they played last night.

But one game did live up to the hype, despite it being one top 25 team against an unranked.

Pundits knew how good Utah has been at home over the years. The Utes hadn’t lost a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in close to three seasons, winning 18 in a row while also racking up a 7-0 lifetime record against current Big East teams.

That included PITT.

The Panthers got on the board early with a Dion Lewis 3-yard touchdown run, but Utah fired back with 17 unanswered points in what looked like a potential rout. Then PITT added a Dan Hutchins 37-yard field goal with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter to make it, 17-10.

In the fourth, PITT added another field goal and Utah responded with a DeVonte Christopher 61-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Wynn. Just when you thought the Panthers would mail it in, they scored 10 unanswered points in the final 7:59 to tie the game.

Of course, that doesn’t even begin to tell what happened. PITT missed a field goal as time expired, but because Utah called a time out in effort to try and ice the kicker (which is turning out to be one of the dumbest strategies in football), Hutchins got another attempt and of course, nailed a 30-yarder to force OT.

In the extra session, Utah intercepted PITT QB Tino Sunseri (which was a great play along the sidelines), setting up Joe Phillips’ 21-yard game-winning field goal. (The final was, 24-21.)


On a night where the blowout was king, PITT and Utah’s thriller stood above the rest. Thank God football is back…

Botched extra point costs PITT in loss to Cincinnati in thrilling Big East finale

They scored 44 points, blocked a punt and saw their freshman running back rack up 194 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries. But in the end, a botched extra point cost Pittsburgh an opportunity to claim a share of the Big East championship and the shot to play in a BCS bowl.

No. 5 Cincinnati rallied to beat No. 15 PITT 45-44 on Saturday in a wild Big East finale, thanks in large part to quarterback Tony Pike’s big second half. His 29-yard touchdown pass to Armon Binns with 33 seconds remaining helped cap the Bearcats’ wild comeback.

But before Pike found Binns for the game-winning score, a botched hold on an extra point attempt gave Cincinnati the opportunity to win the game. After Dion Lewis (what an amazing day he had: 47 carries, 194 yards, 3 TDs) scored on a 5-yard run to give PIT a 44-38 lead with less than two minutes remaining, the Panthers blew the extra point and opened the door for Cincinnati’s comeback.

Of course, it’s important to remember that one play doesn’t determine the outcome of a game. At one point, PITT had a 21-point lead and couldn’t hold onto it. For as good as the Panthers’ defense has played this season, they couldn’t limit the big plays and it cost them in the end. And even though everyone will look at the failed extra point as the difference, PITT’s defense still could have stopped Cincinnati on the final drive and hung on for the win.

What an incredible victory for the Bearcats. They looked doomed from the start, but they never gave up and they kept fighting. Once again, their offense was outstanding and it’s understandable why Notre Dame is heavily considering Brian Kelly as their next head coach.

Now the Bearcats have to root for Nebraska to beat Texas in the Big 12 Championship tonight. They would still have trouble leaping over TCU in the standings even if the Longhorns do lose, but at least Kelly’s team has put themselves in position with this victory.

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