Searching for Ground Game

This is a big game for Connecticut. The Huskies would like to close out non-conference play above .500 and take some momentum into the Big East portion of the schedule. Conference play begins Oct. 8 at West Virginia and then Skip Holtz and South Florida visit East Hartford on Oct. 15.

The Huskies aren't thinking about those games yet. Western Michigan is another competitive team from the Mid-American Conference, just like Buffalo last week. UConn would love a second consecutive steady performance from quarterback Johnny McEntee and a return to balance on offense with a better running attack.

GAME CAPSULE

WESTERN MICHIGAN (2-2, 1-0) at UCONN (2-2, 0-0)

Saturday, October 1, 2011, 3:30 p.m.

SNY (Bob Picozzi, John Bunting); WTIC 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn.

Three keys for UConn:

ESTABLISH RUNNING GAME

Sounds strange for UConn, a team that has had so many great running backs in recent years. Where have you gone Jordan Todman? (San Diego, of course.) Lyle McCombs has been a pleasant surprise but the Huskies need to get other backs involved and better second efforts from anyone carrying the ball. Establishing the pass in order to run is risky business but the Huskies had to pass against a Buffalo team last week that had nine or 10 defensive players within seven yards of the line of scrimmage. The Huskies must tear down that wall. "You've got to get them to respect the pass a little bit, so then you don't have to block them," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We've got to execute better. That's why backs who can make something happen after the first guy hits them are so valuable."

DEFENSIVE COMPENSATION

UConn's defense has been good. Very good. UConn ranks 14th in the country in total defense and 12th in scoring defense. But the Huskies will miss cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who sprained his MCL against Buffalo. Redshirt senior Gary Wilburn will start in his place and the Broncos will likely pick on Wilburn early. But it's not all on Wilburn. The rest of the defensive backfield needs to be on alert today and compensate for the absence of Wreh-Wilson, a leader and UConn's third-leading tackler.

HARNESS THE BRONCOS

Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder won't be intimidated by playing at UConn. In 16 starts, Carder has recorded six 300-yard passing games. The most recent came last week when he threw for 306 yards against No. 24 Illinois. Carder had season highs for attempts (48) and completions (30). His completion rate has not been less than 60 percent in any of Western Michigan's four games this year. The Huskies can't become confused or rattled by the Broncos quick-tempo offensive style. It is throw first, run second, and spread the field out. "They've got a high octane offense," Pasqualoni said. "They'll come in here wide open and throw the ball around pretty well."

And, finally, here are three quick facts:

1. The only other time UConn played Western Michigan was on Nov. 1, 2003 at Rentschler Field – the stadium's first season. The Huskies won 41-27.

2. Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit played at Delaware from 1971-74. His Delaware teams beat UConn three times, including games in Storrs in 1972 and 1974.

3. Rich Nagy coaches the Broncos safeties and is a 1987 Trinity graduate. He is a Fairfield native and his brother, Charlie Nagy, was an All-American pitcher at UConn before going on to a 14-year career in Major League Baseball.


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