Inside Slant - 10/27

After a week of chaos that cost the Huskies their starting quarterback and a starting offensive lineman and subsequently ended with a shutout loss at Louisville, the Huskies probably would prefer that this weekend either be a bye or feature a game against a lower-level opponent. No such luck.

Instead, Connecticut takes on West Virginia, the only Big East school it has never beaten. And one thing the coaching staff would like to see emerge this week that would make ending that losing streak a little easier is some leadership.

Coach Randy Edsall said his team needs an enforcer, someone who has the personality and the talent to get in the faces of teammates who aren't sticking to the game plan or seem to be taking plays off. Previous UConn teams have had that player -- he cited Andre Dixon of the 2009 squad as one example -- and perhaps the lack of one is part of the reason why this team appears to be drifting.

Lest anyone think that the coach isn't pointing fingers at himself as well, he said he's been out there at 6 a.m. with players who were sentenced to do early-morning conditioning runs for various infractions.

Whatever the reason, the Huskies as a team don't seem to be playing with the confidence or the aggressiveness they showed a year ago, and at times earlier in the season. For the team to start turning things around this weekend, something will clearly have to change, because if UConn keeps playing as it did in its first two games in conference play, it's going to have a tough time beating anyone in the Big East.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Despite being held to 80 yards by Louisville, Jordan Todman is still averaging more than 140 yards per game, the fifth-best mark in the country. He's also moving up the school record book in both rushing yards and touchdowns, and he could finish his career as the record holder in both categories if he comes back for his senior season.

--Mike Box became the third quarterback to start this season for the Huskies. Zach Frazer began the season as the starter, then was demoted to third string when Cody Endres got the nod. Endres started two games before his suspension, which gave Box the job. Frazer is back on the two-deep as Box's backup.

SERIES HISTORY: West Virginia leads Connecticut, 6-0 (last meeting 2009, 28-24 West Virginia)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Mountaineers have a very good run defense, but they gave up 183 rushing yards last week. With a redshirt freshman quarterback getting the start, standout running back Jordan Todman will be the focal point both of the UConn offensive game plan and the West Virginia defensive strategy.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: West Virginia got overwhelmed last week by the Syracuse defense, which sacked Geno Smith five times and forced three interceptions. Smith has been lethal this season when he's had time to settle in the pocket and run through his progressions, so the Huskies likely will take a page from the Orange's handbook and make an effort to get to the quarterback. That will leave the secondary with a lot of one-on-one coverage, so it's going to have to rise to the challenge for the Huskies to win.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The people that I have to worry about are these players and the people here at the university, because I didn't get dumb overnight. I didn't get stupid overnight. Some years, you have pieces for the puzzle, some years you don't. You just try to work each and every day to try to make these kids the best you can in their life, especially on the football field." -- Coach Randy Edsall, in The Hartford Courant.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: West Virginia at Connecticut, Oct. 29 -- Connecticut (3-4, 0-2 in the Big East) needs a win at home if it hopes to have any chance at all of capturing a share of the Big East title. The Huskies enter the game on a two-game losing streak. UConn, the only team winless in Big East play, faces a team it has never beaten.

KEYS TO THE GAME: UConn needs to grow up. The Huskies will start six sophomores and a redshirt freshman on defense this week, and a redshirt freshman quarterback making his second career start. To beat a team as talented as the Mountaineers, those players are going to have to perform like veterans.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Mike Box -- His first career start came at the last minute and ended early. He got the top position on the depth chart late last week thanks to Cody Endres' suspension, and he left the Louisville game in the third quarter with what looked like a concussion. However, he's been cleared to play, and he will get his second career start against a tough West Virginia defense.

LB Scott Lutrus -- Injuries have sapped Lutrus of much of the explosiveness he showed early in his UConn career, but he's still a key to the defense. That's why the coaches have expressed concern that he isn't as aggressive as he was a couple of years ago, and they are hoping he can play more freely.

RB Jordan Todman -- With a young quarterback under center, the Huskies will be counting even more on Todman to move the chains. He's fifth in the country in average yards per game at 140.17, but he was held to 80 by Louisville a week ago. The Cardinals focused their defense on stopping the run and dared the Huskies to pass the ball, and West Virginia likely will use a similar strategy against him.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB Mike Box left the Louisville game with what looked like a concussion, but he has been cleared by the team doctors and expects to get the start under center this week.

--LB Scott Lutrus is back in the lineup, but he seems to be playing more tentatively as he recovers from the aftereffects of stingers. Coach Randy Edsall said Lutrus would get some time on special teams this week as well in an effort to get him to cut loose.

--S Kijuan Dabney is still out with a head injury, and he isn't on the depth chart this week. John Yurek is listed instead as the backup to Jerome Junior.


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