Time For Improvement

Forgot there was a game this week? Don't feel bad. It was easy to get caught up in all the realignment talk, especially when it appeared the Big East was on the verge of collapse as a football conference. I'm sure the UConn players were fascinated by the ACC discussion, the reversal of thought by the Pac-12, and the wishy-washy actions of teams like Oklahoma and Texas.

But don't consider it a distraction. The Huskies are focused on Buffalo and getting back to .500. How does UConn get back on the right track? Here are three keys to the game:

UCONN (1-2, 0-0) at BUFFALO (1-2, 0-1)

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, 6 p.m.

SNY (Jim Barbar, John Gregory); WTIC 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

University of Buffalo Stadium


UConn can probably beat Buffalo with all three quarterbacks contributing something, kind of like the Fordham game. But is that the desired outcome four games into the season? Isn't it time for one of these guys to step up and become the top signal caller?

Immediately after the Iowa State game, coach Paul Pasqualoni hinted that he might be ready to pick one after grading the game film. The guess at that time was Scott McCummings, who ran for one TD and threw for another against the Cyclones. Johnny McEntee has been given more than enough time to establish himself. The coaching staff stayed with him at the end of the Iowa State game and he threw passes behind his receiver and too low. The Huskies have missed a ton of open receivers and that must stop.

The best thing that could happen in Buffalo is someone stepping up and grabbing the role. A win over Buffalo, a win next week over Western Michigan – and confidence in one quarterback – would be a huge step forward heading into the Big East opener against West Virginia on Oct. 8.


It's not that hard to imagine the Huskies at 3-0. Take away a few big plays given up by the defense. Eliminate some fumbles, interceptions, bad reads, or poorly run routes by the receivers and UConn is undefeated.

Pasqualoni said it best, earlier this week.

"We've got to execute better on both sides of the ball," he said. "We've got to be consistent in the run game. We've got to stop these self-inflicted wounds and if we can do that, we're going to be very pleased with the outcome because the effort is there. The enthusiasm, passion, the play, the effort, those things are there. We've just got to improve and execute."

There is one plus in the area of execution. UConn has been penalized only nine times for 63 yards. That's best in the Big East.


UConn's offense is a mess. There, we said it.

Points scored by the defense are a bonus. But a football team that can't score consistently on offense isn't a very good football team. UConn is averaging 25.3 points. Only Syracuse and Louisville are worse among Big East teams.

The red zone has been the chaos zone for the Huskies. Offensively, the Huskies haven't gotten there enough times. They are 7-for-8 scoring in the red zone (5 TDs, 2-for-3 FGs) but among Big East teams, only Louisville has fewer red zone opportunities. And as good as UConn plays at times on defense, the red zone defense needs to be better. Opponents are 4-for-4 in the zone. Three of those scores have be been field goals, but that's still 100 percent. And that's last in the Big East.

Buffalo has been in the red zone six times this season and scored touchdowns on five trips. That's a success rate of 83 percent, way up from 48 percent last season for the Bulls.

Finally, here are three quick facts:

1. UConn leads the series 14-4.

2. Buffalo running back Branden Oliver leads the Mid-American Conference in rushing and is 14th in the nation with 358 yards in three games.

3. Sophomore linebacker Khalil Mack leads Buffalo with 24 tackles and has 7.5 tackles for loss.

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