Wilburn Gets a Chance

There is no doubt the Connecticut football team is going to miss junior co-captain Blidi Wreh-Wilson Saturday when the Huskies take on Western Michigan at Rentschler Field (3:30 p.m., SNY, WTIC-UConn Radio Network). But the Huskies are lucky to have fifth-year senior Gary Wilburn ready to fill in at cornerback.


Wreh-Wilson sprained his MCL late in the first half Saturday against Buffalo and will miss at least the Western Michigan game and maybe more. That means the Huskies will be missing their third leading tackler. Wreh-Wilson has 24 tackles and was playing very well against the Bulls before the injury.

"I would say this, that I think, personally, Gary Wilburn is one of the best athletes we have on this team," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "Gary Wilburn could play offense and defense. I think he's that kind of athlete. He's an older guy. He's a senior.

"This is an unfortunate deal for Blidi for the next few weeks. But it's an opportunity for Gary Wilburn. So he needs to step up. He's fully capable of playing that position."

Wilburn said he views the situation as an opportunity as well and he wants to do whatever he can to help the Huskies win. After replacing Wreh-Wilson against Buffalo, Wilburn was burned on a 45-yard completion from Chazz Anderson to Alex Neutz.

"I think I froze," Wilburn said. "I wish I could have gotten that play back, but that's just one of the things a cornerback has to do and that's keep playing. It happens. You've got to be prepared at all times [to come into the game]. After getting my feet wet a little bit, I settled down in the game and I think I played more confident.

"I think I bring another dimension of athleticism to the team. I can go out there and, if I put my mind to it, dominate a receiver. I want to play consistent, as consistent as I can and help the team win."

Junior safety Jerome Junior will back for the Huskies after missing the Buffalo game for an unspecified violation of team rules. Junior did not travel with the team.


Tailback Lyle McCombs has been a one-man running attack for the Huskies. UConn has rushed the ball 162 times and McCombs has carried 99 times. Quarterback Scott McCummings is next with 27 carries.

The season began with so much promise for D.J. Shoemate, the transfer from USC. But he has been slowed by an ankle injury. Shoemate has eight rushing attempts for 28 yards but didn't get a carry against Buffalo.

"We're still not 100 percent," Pasqualoni said of Shoemate. "He's in the process of getting 100 percent healthy. We're just trying to be patient."

Pasqualoni seems encouraged by the return of sophomore running back Martin Hyppolite, who has been recovering from a knee injury suffered in the spring.

"Martin has been cleared to start to really go, so now we're going to get him involved in full force, full contact practice this week," Pasqualoni said. "I want to see where he is."


Linebacker Jerome Williams, who also injured a knee in the spring, is expected back in October and is making progress.

"Jerome is back and in practice," Pasqualoni said. "He's limited. I would put Jerome in the limited category. We are anxious to see how he handles [practice this week]."


Louisville coach Charlie Strong said earlier this week that recruits are asking what conference the Cardinals will be playing in down the road. The defection of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC has left the Big East in limbo.

There are reports Louisville is serious about jumping to the Big 12 as realignment posturing continues. Of course, UConn officials have made it clear the Huskies are interested in moving to the ACC. But additional invitations from the ACC may not be coming any time soon.

So how do the UConn coaches respond to inquisitive recruits, who want to know the future address of the Huskies?

"What we're saying is that, regardless, we're going to be in a BCS conference," Pasqualoni said. "Our focus is the institution. … That's really what counts. That's what is important. And that's what we're emphasizing."

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