Shoemate Tired of Watching

Connecticut tailback D.J. Shoemate calls it the "first game of the year." He is talking about UConn's game at Vanderbilt Saturday night. Don't take Shoemate wrong. He's not implying that the 35-3 victory over Fordham didn't count for the Huskies.

He's simply referring to his own personal schedule. And this could be the moment Shoemate has been waiting for, especially since he transferred from USC before the start of the 2010 season.

It's an opportunity to make an impact. And Shoemate couldn't do that in the Fordham game, as he stood on the sideline with sprained right ankle.

"I am a competitor, so it was very difficult to see my guys out there snap after snap," Shoemate said. "It was a big game for me since it's my last year and I really wanted to be able to go out there and contribute and help my team win.

"At this point, I understood what Coach [Paul] Pasqualoni told me before the game. I've got to think of it in the whole scheme of things. I was bummed, I'm not going to lie. But, at the same time, I was really pleased with the big win we came away with."

During his Thursday conference call with state reporters, Pasqualoni stopped short of naming Shoemate the starting tailback for the Vanderbilt game. But Shoemate might be back in that role if he is declared 100 percent healthy – and Pasqualoni said Shoemate was close.

Any decision to start Shoemate might come as a surprise to those who watched freshman Lyle McCombs slice through the Fordham defense for 141 yards and four touchdowns in the season-opening victory last Saturday at Rentschler Field. But Pasqualoni has rules.

"A player here, in our system, does not lose his position because of an injury," Pasqualoni said. "So when that player is 100 percent healthy he comes back to where he was when he got hurt. And then we go from there with it.

"The thinking behind that is he was the starting guy at the position in your judgment as a staff all through spring and preseason and all the scrimmages. I think, in all fairness, you put him back there and see how productive [he is]."

Even with that said on Thursday, there were indications Saturday afternoon that McCombs might get the start. Stay tuned. It could be interesting as we get closer to game time.

Shoemate, who started one game last year, had been the favorite to replace Jordan Todman through most of spring ball and into the fall camp. That changed in an instant last Thursday when Shomemate sprained his ankle in practice. That was the day the Fordham game had been scheduled for – until the state braced for the arrival of hurricane/tropical storm Irene.

"It happened during a little scrimmage we had against the [first team] defense," Shoemate said. [Linebacker] Sio Moore had made a good play and my foot just got stuck in the turf. It was unfortunate. I would say I was about 75 percent come game time [on Saturday]."

That had improved to about 90 percent, Shoemate said, by Tuesday. He was getting treatments three times a day, working with the coaches and trainers to get the reps he needed in practice and doing "whatever I can to get back on the field."

McCombs is a redshirt freshman and has a bright future. But Shoemate is in his last go around. McCombs admitted after the Fordham game that he hadn't won a starting role based on one performance. And Shoemate downplayed the competition between the two as well. Both have been talking about a "Thunder and Lightning" attack at tailback

"I wasn't threatened or anything by that," Shoemate said of McCombs. "I was pleased he was actually able to go out and fill that spot well. He did a phenomenal job and that's what you're supposed to do as a backup."

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