Poor Conversion Rate

STORRS, Conn. – Statistics can be misleading. On the other hand, they can also be direct and informative. In the case of the Connecticut football team, the Huskies' offensive struggles become clearly obvious when compared against the rest of the Big East Conference.

UConn ranks seventh in pass offense (211.5 average yards per game), fifth in rushing offense (120.0), seventh in scoring offense (23.3 ppg), and seventh in total offense (331.5 yards per game).

Dig a little deeper and UConn's problems are illustrated by other measurements of futility. The Huskies rank sixth in the Big East in first downs with 104 (compared to West Virginia's best of 153 in six games.). The Huskies are tied for last in fourth-down conversions (1-for-4, 25 percent) and dead last in third-down conversions (25-for-87, 28.7 percent).

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni says the inability to convert on third down is a growing concern. UConn's season high for most third-down conversions came against Western Michigan, when the Huskies were 6-for-16 (still just 37.5 percent). Last Saturday, in a 43-16 loss at West Virginia, the Huskies were a pathetic 4-for-16.

Pasqualoni says that won't cut it.

"Twenty-five percent is not going to keep you consistently enough on the field," he said. "This is an area, when you get into third downs, where the details of the routes, the [pass] protections, the footwork of the quarterback, and the accuracy of the throw become really big issues.

"We've just got to keep after those details, keep coming up with the right plan on third down-and-whatever. Get them executed, get the protection right, get the right route, and the timing of the thing. We haven't been able to do that consistently enough."

Correcting the problem has been difficult because of the variety of mistakes.

"It's been a little thing here and a little thing there," Pasqualoni said. "It's been a little bit of everything."

The problem isn't really new for UConn. In 2010, the Huskies were seventh in the conference in third-down conversions (31.4 percent) but made up for that by leading the Big East in fourth-down conversions (11 of 19, 57.9 percent). Those were some of the biggest plays of the season.

"I think in the run game we do a pretty good job," quarterback Johnny McEntee said. "In the pass game, I need to find the guys to get the chains moving. Sometimes I'll hit the under-crossing routes and it won't be enough yards. We have to realize what the down and distance is and try to get the chains moving."

McEntee agrees the failure to convert on third down has created a roadblock to scoring. But he said he is equally concerned about UConn's problems in the red zone.

"Just having to go for all those field goals," McEntee said.

In six games, UConn's red zone percentage is 85.7 percent, tied with Cincinnati for third place behind West Virginia and Pitt in the Big East. The Huskies have eight touchdowns and four field goals in 14 opportunities. Only one Big East team has had fewer red zone chances. Louisville is last with 11. West Virginia leads the way at 93.8 percent (30 of 32, 21 TDs).

On the positive side, UConn has only one turnover in the red zone. But that was McEntee's fumble Saturday at the WVU 13 that changed the momentum of the game. McEntee ran the ball fairly well against the Mountaineers, but as he tried to get the extra yardage on that play, he left the ball exposed for the turnover. If he had gone to the ground earlier, me might have avoided the helmet to ball situation that created the turnover.

"[The coaches] have told me to get down and not take any hits," McEntee said.


UConn's secondary has been blistered the past two games with cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson out of action with a knee injury. Now the Huskies must face South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels without their top player in the secondary. Pasqualoni said Tuesday that Wreh-Wilson has shown improvement but won't be play against the Bulls. Wreh-Wilson injured his knee Sept. 24 against Buffalo. The UConn depth chart Tuesday showed Dwayne Gratz and Byron Jones starting at cornerback and Jerome Junior and Ty-Meer Brown at the safeties.

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