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Big East Notebook: Could Backyard Brawl make return?

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 7:56 p.m.
Pitt's Hubie Graham celebrates Issac Bennett's first quarter touchdown at Mountaineer Field Nov. 25, 2011. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Pitt running back Ray Graham cuts back on Rutgers' Duron Harmon in the third quarter Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, at Heinz Field. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

Bringing the Backyard Brawl to Yankee Stadium appears to be more than just a dream among fans.

There is interest among college football decision-makers in matching Pitt against West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 in Yankee Stadium, according to Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl executive director Brett Dulaney.

“If WVU goes to the Pinstripe (as the Big 12 representative), it might make sense to rekindle the Backyard Brawl,” Dulaney said. “I actually talked to some guys at the Pinstripe Bowl (Monday), and they mentioned it might be interesting.”

Pinstripe Bowl officials did not return telephone calls Monday seeking comment.

Pitt would go to a bowl only if it beats South Florida on Saturday night to become eligible.

The Pinstripe gets the fourth pick among Big East schools after a BCS game, the Russell Athletic and Belk bowls make their selections. The other bowls with Big East ties are the BBVA Compass, Liberty and Beef ‘O' Brady's.

Dulaney, who met several times with bowl officials Monday, said he doubts if Pitt will make a third consecutive trip to the Compass Bowl.

“I doubt the conference office would let that happen,” he said.

Title on the line

Louisville coach Charlie Strong said nothing will change Thursday when his team visits Rutgers with the Big East championship on the line and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater playing with a broken left wrist.

“If we protect Teddy, he will be fine,” Strong said. “We just can't get him hit, just like with any quarterback. We don't need to modify (the game plan). We just need to protect him.”

Strong is watching his season spiral out of control after the Cardinals went from 9-0 to 9-2 and out of the national rankings after consecutive losses to Syracuse, 45-26, and Connecticut, 23-20, in triple overtime.

In the latter game last Saturday, Bridgewater was injured when he was sacked in the second quarter by Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore, one of four times the Huskies dumped the Louisville quarterback. Bridgewater missed most of the third quarter but returned in time to throw two game-tying touchdown passes to DeVante Parker — 6 yards with 21 seconds left in regulation and 25 yards in the second overtime.

Overall, the one-handed Bridgewater threw for 331 yards with 30 completions on 53 attempts.

“Teddy is very tough,” Strong said.

No ground game

Louisville is going into the season-defining game against Rutgers with almost no ground game.

Senorise Perry tore his ACL two weeks ago, and the Cardinals rushed for an average of less than 1 yard per carry against UConn (27 yards on 28 carries).

“The way we were blocking, no running back could have been a difference-maker,” Strong said.

Breaking a tie

The Big East has had multiple schools share the championship in the same season seven times, but only once were four teams involved (2004, with Pitt, Boston College, West Virginia and Syracuse).

This year might be No. 2.

Rutgers (9-2, 5-1) will win the title outright with a victory against Louisville (9-2, 4-2). If Louisville wins, however, it will be the Big East's BCS bowl representative because it would be the higher ranked of the two teams in the final national standings.

Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) could claim a share of the regular-season title with a victory against Connecticut. Syracuse (7-5, 5-2), whose regular season is finished, would be the fourth.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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