Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt worried how freshman tailback LeSean McCoy would react after a costly fumble deep in Louisville territory cost the Panthers a shot at tying the game in the final minute on Oct. 27.
Wannstedt's not worried anymore.
McCoy responded by running for 140 yards on 31 carries in Pittsburgh's 20-17 victory over Syracuse, pushing him over 1,000 yards on the season. McCoy is the nation's top freshman running back, averaging 118.3 yards.
Not bad for a player who faces defenses stacked to stop him because they don't exactly fear the nation's 104th-ranked passing game.
``It hasn't been easy,'' Wannstedt said. ``People know what we're running the football and they're all doing a great job of making it difficult on us, and he still finds a way to make the yards. I think he'll just get better as time goes on.''
McCoy is just the third Pittsburgh freshman to top 1,000 yards, joining Curvin Richards (1,228 yards in 1988) and Tony Dorsett (1,686 yards in 1973). While Wannstedt would love to take credit for McCoy's success, he knows there are some things that are beyond his control.
``You can't comment on his ability, it speaks for itself,'' Wannstedt said. ``You know what I say. Let's recruit players that do things that I don't have to coach, and he does things that you don't have to coach.''
McCoy made a believer of Syracuse coach Greg Robinson, who thought the Orange did a decent job of getting into position to make plays, only to let McCoy wriggle free.
``He really can kind of feel where to go and where not to go and it really plays off his instincts,'' Robinson said. ``He had two or three plays where he got loose and made some things happen.''
McCoy and the Panthers (4-5, 2-2) are off this week and play at Rutgers on Nov. 17.
CONTROVERSIAL CALL: South Florida coach Jim Leavitt doesn't know whether to be upset about his team's three-game slide or grateful for the way the Bulls continue to fight despite a myriad of mistakes.
``I think our guys are really battling,'' Leavitt said. ``We're playing hard, but turnovers have really changed (the season).''
The Bulls turned it over eight times in last week's 38-33 loss to Cincinnati. Still, South Florida had a chance on the game's last play, but Matt Grothe's pass to Jessie Hester Jr. in the end zone fell incomplete. Leavitt, however, maintains Cincinnati strong safety Anthony Williams interfered with Hester on the play.
``I don't think there's any question there's interference, that's my opinion,'' Leavitt said. ``I watched film. I don't think there's any question about it.''
Maybe, but Leavitt also said if his team had been able to hold onto the ball, the final play wouldn't have been necessary. As it is, the Bulls (6-3, 1-3) are tied with Syracuse at the bottom of the conference, while the Bearcats (7-2, 2-2) still have a shot at the conference title.
``It was a bang, bang play,'' said coach Brian Kelly. ``He didn't grab him or pull him down. The circumstances were such that it wasn't a clear-cut call one way or the other. Of course, I'm on the other side of it (than Leavitt) and I think it was a good no-call.''
FORE-TUNATE BOUNCE FOR EDSALL: UConn coach Randy Edsall has his Huskies in position to challenge for the Big East title.
But Edsall's football career was almost derailed before it began. In high school, he seriously considered giving up football to join the golf team.
Edsall said Tuesday that football was his least favorite of the three sports that he played at Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, Pa., in the late 70s.
He was an all-state selection in baseball, basketball and football his senior season.
But as a sophomore, Edsall said he wasn't getting much playing time as a football player and thought seriously about hanging up the pads.
``I was going to quit football and play golf, because in Pennsylvania golf is a fall sport, and I was a decent golfer,'' Edsall said. ``But I didn't, and I stuck with football.''
Edsall said he played football in college, because the scholarship offer from Syracuse was the first he received.
Syracuse coach Frank Maloney asked Edsall to stay on as a graduate assistant, and that started his coaching career.
``You know there are a lot of people who did a lot of good things for me, and this is a way that I can do a lot of good things for other people,'' Edsall said.
UConn (8-1, 4-0) visits Cincinnati on Saturday.
BIG LITTLE HITTER: The smallest player on Cincinnati's defense is providing its biggest hits.
Safety Haruki Nakamura was the Big East's defensive player of the week for his rattling performance in a 38-33 victory at South Florida. He played a role in three of the Bearcats' eight takeaways.
Nakamura, who is 5 feet 10 and 190 pounds, had one of the Bearcats' four interceptions and forced two of South Florida's four fumbles with hard hits. He also had a game-high 11 tackles.
The senior free safety leads the team in tackles and tone-setting hits.
``I like the sound of big hits,'' Nakamura said. ``That more than anything gets the energy going on the field. The sound of a loud hit is just unbelievable. Even if it's the other team making a big hit, I might be on the bench and I'll hear it and that sound is so energizing. You want to get part of that. You want to lay out someone.''
He doesn't shy away from taking down a big running back or tight end who gets into the secondary.
``Absolutely, that's one of the funnest parts,'' he said. ``A lot of guys see smaller guys and they're like, 'Aw, I'm going to run this guy over.' When you get the opportunity to make a hit, it's just that much more fun. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.''
QUICK HITS: Connecticut's Tyvon Branch was the special teams player of the week. He set a school record with 184 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 97-yard return for a touchdown in the victory over Rutgers. ... When Rutgers plays Army on Friday, it will be the last nonconference game a Big East team has this season. The conference is 28-11 against outside competition this year. ... Home teams are 8-8 in conference play this year. ... Connecticut has allowed 13 touchdowns this year, the second-fewest amount in the country behind No. 1 Ohio State (11).
AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Conn., contributed to this report.

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