The games have been ugly and yet the implications off the field are even uglier. Last season's 12-10 win for the Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Stadium was just about as ugly it gets as RU got away safely after defensive tackle Blair Bines tackled UConn's Donald Brown for a safety and a last-second shanked field goal by UConn.
But that isn't what made this game so ugly. The ugliness came when a crowd of over 42,000 turned on its starting quarterback, booing the struggling Mike Teel as he and backup Dom Natale shared playing time in the game. Of course Teel eventually changed fan's minds when strung together seven straight wins to close out last season.
Two years ago in East Hartford, it was just as bad. The Scarlet Knights - despite a 343-yard day by Teel - 236 combined receiving yards by Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood and 116 yards from Ray Rice, were simply never in the game. Connecticut jumped out to an 18-3 lead and eventually won 38-19.
But the results of the game were even more disastrous. Rutgers, despite a painful loss the week before to West Virginia, still had a shot at a great bowl game after the win over No. 2 USF, but the loss to UConn ended those hopes.
The 2008 Huskies set a school record with four NFL draft picks, meaning that a corps of talent is missing from the 2009 team. Defensive end Cody Brown will be tough for head coach Randy Edsall replace, but a returning group of linebackers should be able to pick up the slack.
Scott Lutrus, Greg Lloyd and Lawrence Wilson all return as starting linebackers and are more than talented enough to hold down the fort until the line and secondary get things down pat.
The bigger question is on offense where Edsall loses quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, running back Donald Brown and tackle William Beatty.
The guy who will be asked to step up for the Connecticut Huskies is Lorenzen's replacement comes down to potential QB starters Zach Frazer and Cody Enders, neither of which has turned any heads.
The bottom line with the Huskies is that the running game will dictate success. The defense is a tough and gritty one whereas the passing game is questionable – kind of like last year. No more Donald Brown means UConn is down 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns that running backs Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon have to make up for.
The Scarlet Knights find out exactly what that running duo can do against RU's running trio/quartet when they take on the Huskies Oct. 31 on the road.
Big East schedule preview: Connecticut
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