You'd be hard pressed to find anyone outside the UConn locker room who gives the Huskies a chance of winning in Morgantown. A victory for UConn simply might mean playing better and keeping the score close. There's plenty of room for improvement. The good news? This likely is the toughest game of the season for UConn.
UCONN (2-3, 0-0) at West Virginia (4-1, 0-0)
Saturday, October 8, 2011, 12 p.m.
SNY (Mike Gleason, John Congemi); WTIC 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)
Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000/Field Turf), Morgantown, W.Va.
Three keys for UConn:
FIND SOME KILLER INSTINCT
That may be hard to do if the Huskies fall behind quickly by two touchdowns or more. Just for fun, let's say it is a close game going into the fourth quarter. It would be interesting to see some competitive fire on the UConn sideline. It would be even better to see an angry defense, intent on pressuring an opponent while not allowing a lead to get away. Toss out the Fordham game, which UConn won 35-3. The programs aren't on the same level. The Buffalo game, UConn's 17-3 win, is the only time the Huskies have shown the ability to put a game away. In losses to Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Western Michigan, the Huskies let fourth quarter leads get away. Right now, that's all on the defense for not making stops.
GET SECONDARY BACK ON TRACK
This is a challenge because UConn's best defensive back is sidelined again. The Huskies need Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who will miss his second game since injuring his knee against Buffalo. But let's not put all the blame on Gary Wilburn, who replaced Wreh-Wilson. It was the entire secondary melting down against Western Michigan, a good passing team that was converted into a record-breaking unit against UConn last week. "I think the biggest adjustment we have to make is to play the coverages better," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I think it starts there. You've got to hang your hat on fundamentals, on techniques. I think last week at times, we just tried to do too much." It's halfway through the season, shouldn't fundamentals, techniques and coverage just be second nature by now? West Virginia spreads the field out even more than Western Michigan. And QB Geno Smith is a drop-back passer who makes plays with his feet. Dangerous combination. UConn better be ready.
USE MORE WEAPONS
UConn's offense has a surprising amount of confidence after winning a game and then putting 31 points on the board against Western Michigan. Johnny McEntee is getting the job done at quarterback, throwing six TD passes in the last two games. Lyle McCombs has been a surprise at tailback. McEntee has used different receivers at different times but usually one at a time. It would be great to see the Huskies spread out a bit. Let Isiah Moore, Kashif Moore, Nick Williams, Tebucky Jones, Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt all get a chance to touch the ball. And draw up a few more screens passes for McCombs. The one last week was wide open and McCombs turned it into a TD.
And, finally, here are three quick facts:
1. West Virginia running back Dustin Garrison broke QB Patrick White's single-game freshman rushing record of 220 yards when he rushed for 291 yards against Bowling Green, the second highest rushing total in school history behind Kay-Jay Harris' 337-yard performance against East Carolina in 2004. "He was making cuts no one's ever seen before," center Joe Madsen said.
2. WVU has had seven 100-yard receiving games in coach Dana Holgorsen's first five games. They had only four in Bill Stewart's three years as head coach.
3. West Virginia is 60-4 since 2002 when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent.