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October 2, 2008

Big East: Injury bug bites quarterbacks

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Connecticut and Cincinnati are having to go to backup quarterbacks because of injuries this week.

Connecticut turns to Zach Frazer now that Tyler Lorenzen is out for 6-8 weeks and possibly the remainder of the season with a broken foot. Frazer, a Notre Dame transfer, replaced Lorenzen in the third quarter of Connecticut's come-from-behind win over Louisville last week. He was 8-for-15 for 90 yards and a touchdown pass in the first extended action of his career.

He'll make his first career start on the road against North Carolina, another team using its backup quarterback, but he'll have a healthy support system behind him. Running back Donald Brown remains the centerpiece of the offense with a nation-leading 906 rushing yards. The Huskies lead the Big East in scoring defense, and the game-winning play against Louisville was linebacker Lawrence Wilson's interception return for a touchdown.

UConn coach Randy Edsall is making sure the pressure isn't getting to his new quarterback by shielding Frazer from the media this week. Frazer spoke to reporters after the Louisville win and presumably won't speak again until after the North Carolina game.

Connecticut can consider itself lucky compared to Cincinnati. The Bearcats are down to their third-string quarterback or their fourth, if you count Ben Mauk, who was denied a sixth year of eligibility after numerous appeals to the NCAA.

Dustin Grutza sustained a broken leg in the second week against Oklahoma. His replacement, Tony Pike, left last week's win over Akron with a broken left arm. Pike is expected to miss three weeks. Kelly will decide this week between two redshirt freshmen Zach Collaros, who finished the game against Akron, and Chazz Anderson. Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones, who has struggled to learn the offense, will be used "in a pinch," Kelly said.

"It is what it is. You have two freshman quarterbacks," Kelly said. "Chazz is a very cerebral kid. He understands the offense very well. He generally will not get us into bad plays. Zach Collaros is extremely athletic and very mobile. He can make plays down the field, but you like to slow him down a little bit. He gets a little too anxious at times."

Meanwhile, Louisville and West Virginia were fortunate to get out of the week without extended injuries under center. Cardinals quarterback Hunter Cantwell played the fourth quarter against Connecticut on a sprained ankle, but Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe expects him to be healthy for Memphis on Oct. 10. West Virginia's Pat White hurt his thumb last week in the third quarter against Marshall and missed the later stages of a 27-3 win.

"He practiced Sunday, took snaps Sunday, threw the ball Sunday," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "It's just a bruise is all it is. Thank God that's all it is. We don't need to get him hurt."

White's injury coincided with a greater effort to get backup quarterback Jarrett Brown into the game. Before Brown subbed for White full-time, he lined up alongside White at quarterback and split out at wide receiver. Without running back Steve Slaton and bruising fullback Owen Schmitt, West Virginia is turning to the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Brown to help in short-yardage situations.

"We're going throw the ball to him, let him run the ball and let him throw the ball," Stewart said. "He has a lot of dimensions and a lot of upside."

  • BEST MATCHUP
  • THE SCHEDULE
    Thursday
    Pittsburgh at South Florida, 7:30 p.m.
    Friday
    Cincinnati at Marshall, 8 p.m.
    Saturday
    Connecticut at North Carolina. The game will be decided by backup quarterbacks Frazer and Cameron Sexton. Neither team is afraid of adversity: Two of North Carolina's wins have come on the road, against Rutgers and Miami. Connecticut rallied from a 21-10 deficit at Louisville despite losing Lorenzen and playing with a thin defensive line because of injuries.

  • PLAYER TO WATCH
  • USF DE Craig Marshall. Marshall, a junior college transfer, stepped in for injured end George Selvie and played well in last week's rout of N.C. State. Marshall had a sack, an interception and a forced fumble against the Wolfpack. With Selvie questionable, the Bulls might call on Marshall again against Pittsburgh, which has allowed the most sacks in the Big East (two per game).

  • WHO'S HOT
  • Cincinnati's Marshwan Gilyard entered the season in the shadow of receivers Dominick Goodman and Marcus Barnett, but Gilyard leads the nation in kickoff returns (36.3 yards per return) and the Big East in receiving yards (108.8 per game). Louisville has outscored opponents 52-30 in the first half. Pittsburgh has a Big East-leading 13 sacks.

  • WHO'S NOT
  • So much for turnover margin being an indicator of success only two Big East teams, West Virginia (2-2) and Syracuse (1-4), have a positive turnover margin. Syracuse, Pitt, Cincinnati and Rutgers average fewer rushing yards per game than Connecticut running back Donald Brown. Rutgers is last in the Big East in rushing. Rutgers hasn't defeated West Virginia since 1994 and never has won in Morgantown. Pittsburgh wide receiver Oderick Turner has two catches in his past two games after having 10 in the first two.

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
  • "He doesn't hardly ever say a word. He's a guy that just goes out and performs. When you have a guy who does that, it's hard not to just keep feeding him the ball. My history with Donald is that he gets better the more carries he gets in a game."
    Edsall on Donald Brown.

    "It's been very tough for him. How would you like to back up the Big East Player of the Year for two years?"
    Stewart on Jarrett Brown.

    "Are we getting better? I've said it all along we're getting better, just not fast enough for our liking. But it is what it is. You just keep striving to get better. We'll get better this week."
    Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.

  • ETC.
  • West Virginia middle linebacker Reed Williams is "hurting," Stewart said, but will continue to play. Williams had surgery on both shoulders during the offseason. Starting WR Kenny Britt and OT Anthony Davis will return against West Virginia after being suspended for Rutgers' win over Morgan State. USF's Selvie and DT Terrell McClain likely will miss the game against Pittsburgh with ankle injuries. LB Brouce Mompremier (neck) is out. Connecticut TE Steve Brouse is out for 6-8 weeks following surgery on a broken right leg. Huskies DTs Alex Polito, Kendall Reyes and Rob Lunn are expected to be healthy for North Carolina after missing all or part of the Louisville win last week. Cincinnati's trip to Marshall will mean a visit with former coach Rick Minter, who was hired as the Thundering Herd's defensive coordinator this season. Minter went 53-63-1 as Cincinnati's coach from 1994-2003. Schiano said there is a chance RB Kordell Young could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

    MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

    David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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