Huskies Hope to Learn

Since Paul Pasqualoni was hired as football coach at Connecticut in January, there has been more losing than winning – both on and off the field. The turnover in UConn's athletic department and the concern over conference realignment is out of Pasqualoni's hands. But there is extreme frustration and disappointment over UConn's 2-4 start to the season.

"I'm doing fine," Pasqualoni said Sunday, the day after UConn lost 43-16 to No. 16 West Virginia in Morgantown. "Nobody likes being 2-4. That's not our standard – my standard as the head coach, the staff's standard, certainly not the players' standard, certainly not the fans' standard.

"I clearly understand that. But at the same time I see some positive things happening and I'm encouraged by those things. I see some things that have absolutely got to be corrected that aren't, at times, smart things to do and that's very frustrating, especially when you're playing teams that are quality teams, experienced teams. And we're inexperienced in some areas and some key areas. We'll keep growing and getting better from that."

The only other alternative is to quit and no football coach with the experience Pasqualoni has would ever consider that as an option.

"My approach to this is to keep coaching hard, be positive, learn from the experiences we've been in, move on and get it behind you, get going on the next one because there's no time to wallow around in self-pity," he said. "What players and coaches have got to understand is the fact nobody's going to feel sorry for you – that's for sure."

In fact, Pasqualoni knows just the opposite is true. After losing to Western Michigan on Oct. 1, a defeat that dropped UConn's non-conference record to 2-3, stories and columns started to appear questioning his job security.

Jeff Hathaway, the man who hired Pasqualoni to replace Randy Edsall, is no longer UConn's athletic director. The school's president, Susan Herbst, was at the press conference when Pasqualoni came on board but she wasn't officially in office yet. And it was the review process initiated by Herbst that led to Hathaway's exit.

Pasqualoni even had a shaky honeymoon when Robert Burton, the program's biggest booster, demanded his money back because he had not been consulted and was unhappy with the hire. Burton recently told the Greenwich Time that he had no regrets regarding his comments at that time.

"I felt that as a $7 million donor I had the right to make a recommendation and I did not get that opportunity," Burton told the newspaper.

To top it off, conference realignment and the unstable status of the Big East, has UConn football in a precarious position. It's almost as if the Huskies are on a tryout basis, hoping to impress BCS conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference or Big 12.

It's a lot of pressure.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to those type of things," Pasqualoni said last week. "We are working here with the kids in the program that we have and we're encouraged…we're certainly not discouraged."

The good news is that UConn just played its toughest opponent in West Virginia, which climbed to No. 13 Sunday in the Associated Press poll. The Huskies are halfway through the season and have home games remaining against South Florida, Syracuse, Louisville and Rutgers in addition to road games at Pittsburgh and at Cincinnati.

In their first three losses, the Huskies let leads get away in the fourth quarter. At West Virginia, UConn trailed 10-9 at halftime and had a chance to take the lead in the third quarter. Quarterback Johnny McEntee and the Huskies were driving deep into West Virginia territory when he scrambled and was hit by cornerback Pat Miller. Instead of going into a slide, McEntee put his head down and tried to pick up extra yardage. Miller jarred the ball loose and redshirt freshman linebacker Jewone Snow made the recovery and ran 83 yards before being pulled down at the UConn 12. Two plays later, West Virginia scored to go ahead 17-9.

"Not only was it a turnover, but it was a missed opportunity to go ahead," Pasqualoni said. "You have to understand the impact of that. What I said [to the team] was, ‘I would have liked to have been ahead, the way the defense was playing at that time.' I think when you're ahead, and you're playing them pretty decent on defense, it's a little harder to call plays on the other side and it's a little bit harder to execute."

Pasqualoni reminded reporters on the Sunday conference call that it was only the sixth game of McEntee's career at quarterback and that he is still learning – but improving. The Huskies are learning a lot of lessons the hard way. The question is when they take those lessons and apply them to a Big East victory.

The next chance comes Saturday at Rentschler Field when former UConn coach Skip Holtz brings his USF squad to East Hartford. USF is 4-1 and will be coming off a bye week. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.

"You've got another excellent opponent coming in here next week," Pasqualoni said. "So there's no time for anything but to move forward. That's my approach."

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