Huskies Need Strong Pass Rush

No one will confuse this with the upcoming biggie between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. The BCS implications simply aren't there. This is not even a Top 25 battle. Not even close. But UConn and Pitt are tied in the Big East standings and the winner moves into a tie for second place with Rutgers, so there's definitely something to play for.

And it is Wednesday night football on ESPN. What else are you going to watch, Game 6 of the World Series?

GAME CAPSULE

UCONN (3-4, 1-1) vs. Pittsburgh (3-4, 1-1)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 8 p.m.

ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Lou Holtz, Mark May); WTIC 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Heinz Field (60,500/Grass), Pittsburgh, Pa.

THREE KEYS FOR UCONN:

PRESSURE THE QB

The formula for success against Pitt is pretty obvious. Opponents have 33 sacks (worst in the nation) against the Panthers for negative yardage of 210 yards. UConn's defensive line needs to be aggressive, get to quarterback Tino Sunseri and force him to make bad decisions. The more Sunseri is hurried, the more likely he is to throw the ball into the wrong hands. Sunseri has five touchdown passes but has been picked off seven times. UConn's defense can control time of possession and field position by establishing a good pass rush early and then maintaining steady pressure.

GET INTO THE END ZONE

Senior placekicker Dave Teggart is a great weapon for the Huskies. But the offense can't rely on Teggart and forget about getting the ball into the end zone. It appears that has become the case. Why settle for three when you can score six? Teggart has multiple field goals in four games this season and 18 in his career. He has 10 career games with three or more field goals. That's nice for his resume, but the Huskies must buckle down and get into the end zone more often. A touchdown refresher course in the first quarter would be a great idea for the Huskies.

GIVE McENTEE TIME

Quarterback Johnny McEntee isn't a Heisman candidate. He won't capture the Davey O'Brien award for QBs. But he has grown into a more confident quarterback and has erased that notion of UConn using three quarterbacks. McEntee is a walk-on who has been asked to learn a new system under coach Paul Pasqualoni. He still makes some bad reads and throw behind receivers, but when the offensive line gives him time, McEntee can run through his checks and throw with accuracy. Pass protection can make all the difference in the world. UConn should give it a try. Add in another productive game from tailback Lyle McCombs and UConn might discover the winning formula.

THREE QUICK FACTS:

1. UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni had a 12-2 record against Pittsburgh during his days as head coach at Syracuse. Not sure what that means for this game, but it is impressive.

2. Pitt's Ray Graham ranks second nationally in rushing, averaging 134.1 yards per game. He has already totaled 939 yards and nine touchdowns on 162 carries. Only San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman (138.8 ypg) is ahead of Graham.

3. Last week, West Virginia fans began planning for an "Occupy Heinz" event. The idea was to cheer against rival Pitt, cheer for UConn, get the WVU banner on ESPN, and stir things up for the Backyard Brawl on Nov. 25. Part of the edge to the whole idea was Pitt's plan to leave the Big East for the ACC. With West Virginia now headed for the Big 12, who knows if the plan will be executed. If they make that drive, this might be the first game with the interests of three conferences represented. Crazy.


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