Homestand Big for Huskies

For Connecticut fans, it must seem like a long time since the Huskies played football. It was Oct. 26 at Pittsburgh and UConn played perhaps its worst game of the season in that 35-20 loss to the Panthers.

Can you remember that long ago? You had electricity, water and your cable or dish was still on so you could watch the Huskies on TV (at least until you couldn't take any more)

The storm that has knocked out power to much of the state has created problems for the Huskies in their preparation for Syracuse on Saturday. The players haven't been disrupted much because UConn has had power. But the coaching staff has faced the same challenges as most residents without heat and power. And practices were moved indoors because UConn's practice fields were so wet.

Up in Syracuse, some are calling this the "Pasqualoni Bowl" because it is the first time coach Paul Pasqualoni will be facing the school where he was head coach for 14 seasons and an assistant coach for four more. The UConn players want to win this one for their coach, but don't expect Coach P to get caught up in the hoopla.

"Anything other than preparation for this game is a distraction," he said. "The fact that I worked at Syracuse, that's a distraction. It's not fair to the team. It has nothing to do with this game. It's all about the players and being prepared to play and going out and playing a Big East conference game. This will be a hard fought game and that's what it is about. Anything else takes away from that."

GAME CAPSULE

SYRACUSE (5-3, 1-2) vs. UCONN (3-5, 1-2)

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, Noon

ESPNU (Pam Ward, Dan Hawkins); WTIC 1080/UConn Radio Network (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Rentschler Field (40,000), East Hartford, Conn.

THREE KEYS FOR UCONN:

MOVE THE BALL THROUGH THE AIR

Which team can exert its will? UConn ranks last in the Big East in pass offense, averaging 200.8 yards per game. Syracuse ranks last in pass defense, giving up 286.8 yards per game. The UConn coaches are committed to a pro style offense and are sticking with Johnny McEntee, who keeps saying he needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker. Now is the time to do it. It is time for some creativity in the UConn offense. Get the backs involved with screens. Run some slant routes. Establish field position and then go for some big plays.

WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE

That means the UConn defense must create turnovers. One of the reasons the Pittsburgh game was so ugly was the fact that UConn did not force at least one turnover – the first time that has happened this season. Louisville proved a good defense could slow down Syracuse in a 27-10 win last week. UConn is ranked ninth nationally in rushing defense. The Huskies really miss cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (MCL), who was hurt Sept. 24 against Buffalo. Wreh-Wilson is doubtful again for this game. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said it is more realistic to hope for Nov. 19 against Louisville. Look for Kendall Reyes and the Huskies to put a lot of pressure on Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib.

DEFEND THE RENT

The Huskies have already lost twice at home this season – to Iowa State and Western Michigan. The game against Syracuse is the start of three consecutive Big East games at Rentschler Field. That's an advantage that has been jumping off the schedule card since the season lineup was announced. Consecutive victories over Syracuse, Louisville and Rutgers would turn the season around, give the Huskies a 6-5 overall record and a 4-2 Big East mark heading into the season finale at Cincinnati. Hard to believe but that would actually put the Huskies back on track for a possible bowl bid. Not an easy task, but not out of the question. After all, this is the Big East.

THREE QUICK FACTS:

1. Syracuse has not allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 yards in nine consecutive games.

2. Syracuse can become bowl eligible for the second year in a row with a win Saturday. Last year the Orange played in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and defeated Kansas State 36-34. The last time the Orange reached bowl games in consecutive years was 1998 (Orange Bowl vs. Florida) and 1999 (Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky).

3.UConn leads the series with Syracuse, 5-2. The Huskies have won all three meetings at Rentschler Field, including a 56-31 win over the Orange in 2009.

AND FINALLY . . .

This note from UConn: The University of Connecticut Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will once again conduct a "Winter Wear Drive" this year. The drive will take place at the UConn vs. Syracuse football game on Saturday, November 5 at Rentschler Field, which begins at noon. Donations can be dropped off at FanFest (outside of Gate B) from 8 a.m. to noon and at all entrance gates starting at 10:30 a.m. until kickoff.

Patrons are asked to bring gently-used coats, hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, etc. to the game and they will be collected as they enter the stadium. The items will be donated to the Cornerstone Foundation in Rockville, Conn.; the Windham Area Interfaith Ministries of Willimantic, Conn., and the Salvation Army of Willimantic, Conn.


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