A Bull's-Eye Is On Connecticut

Not that it needed any additional motivation after a tough loss at Michigan State, but the Pitt football team gets Connecticut in Game 4 this season, and the Big East Conference matchup Saturday at 7 p.m. at Heinz Field is one that the Panthers have been pointing to since losing to the Huskies last season.

Pittsburgh (2-1) held a 31-17 advantage through three quarters, but UConn (3-0) scored 14 points in the third quarter and eventually won the game, 46-45, in double overtime. The devastating loss helped turn a once-promising season to a bowl-less campaign for the second straight year at 6-6.

"If you look at our offseason, this definitely was one of the bull's-eye games that we were looking forward to this year,'' redshirt junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "Last year, we left there without a victory, and we definitely should have left UConn with a victory. So, this was a game that we're looking forward to.''

Pitt has lost to Huskies twice in the past three seasons -- both times at UConn's Rentschler Field in East Hartford (remember the infamous slide in 2004) -- and needs a victory to move away from the Big East basement where the Huskies and Syracuse reside. UConn was tied with the Orange for the Conference's basement and finished 4-8 overall.

In their 3-0 start to this season, the Huskies won at ACC weakling Duke (45-14, and at home to Division I-AA Maine (38-0) and nearly Division I-AA Temple (22-17). That game against the Owls was close all the way.

"They're a little bit different than last year on offense, but they've got a real big offensive line,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They're committed to running the football, and they've got some real good backs.

"Defensively, I think they're quicker than they were a year ago with their front four, and they're a good football team. It's a conference game at home, so we'll come out of the chute ready to play.''

The UConn game, like MSU before it (and others later), showed how poor the Panthers were at stopping the run. The Huskies exploded for 481 total yards, including 317 rushing on an amazing 62 carries. That running attack helped UConn tie the game in the waning seconds and eventually secured a two-point conversion for the one-point double-overtime win.

Tailback Donald Brown gained 205 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries for the Huskies, and quarterback D.J. Hernandez added 130 on 17 with the two-point conversion run for the win to go with four touchdown passes.

"Last year, UConn emphasized what we didn't do,'' McKillop said. "We didn't finish games. We came out in the first half and played well. In the second half, we let them come back.

"They made some plays, and we made some mistakes. You have to hand it to them. They fought hard and came out with a victory. They were a better team on that day.''

Both teams are strikingly different than the ones who competed against each other last season, as Pitt has a new quarterback, tailback and key offensive line components, as well as the majority of its defense. UConn has a new quarterback, because Hernandez moved to wideout in the spring. He has nine catches for 164 yards, a team-high 18.2 per catch, and one TD.

Junior-college transfer Tyler Lorenzen is the starting quarterback. He has completed better than 68 percent of his passes (58 of 85) for 706 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.

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