Coach Paul Pasqualoni and his players looked refreshed. They said they felt refreshed and ready for the final three games of the season. And they should be, when you think about it. After losing at Pittsburgh on Oct. 26, the Huskies have played just one game. That 28-21 victory over Syracuse on Nov. 5 was the precise mental pickup UConn needed going into a bye week.
And it couldn't have hurt last weekend just to sit back and watch some TV, especially when West Virginia defeated Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh knocked off Louisville. The Huskies remain 2-2 in conference play but first-place isn't so far away. That's where Cincinnati resides at 3-1. Rutgers, West Virginia, Louisville and Pitt are in between, all at 3-2.
Cincinnati lost more than a game Saturday. Starting quarterback Zach Collaros broke his ankle and had season-ending surgery on Monday. That's a huge blow to the Bearcats.
"This league can go anywhere at this point," UConn running back Lyle McCombs said. "We absolutely feel rested after the week off. We needed that. It was needed coming into the most important three-game stretch of the season."
Here's what it boils down to for the Huskies: A home game Saturday (noon, SNY) against Louisville; a home game Nov. 26 (noon, ESPN2, SNY) against Rutgers; and then the season finale Dec. 3 (SNY) at Cincinnati. The Huskies have already lost to West Virginia and Pitt, but UConn certainly could have a major say in the final standings.
"The guys all know without saying it," Pasqualoni said. "I think they know the conference standings. They know that they're going to nee to really focus and not be distracted in regards to Louisville. This is the most important game of the year because it is our next game There is no sense in looking at anything beyond this week, because it's not going to matter."
Pasqualoni said the week off allowed the Huskies to work on basics, fundamentals, techniques and assignments last week.
"We also had a chance to get some more treatments and hopefully get refreshed, from a physical standpoint, and get rested up a little bit," he said. "Hopefully we're fresh and moving in the direction of being healthy.
"I thought [the time off] was good. When you get to this point it refreshes you. We gave the team a couple of days off over the weekend. They got a chance to get a little bounce back in their legs."
Center Moe Petrus said the offense has been working on the elimination of turnovers after five giveaways against Syracuse. Linebacker Sio Moore said the defensive unit is firmly focused on bringing a strong pass rush and pressuring s]offensive lines.
"We've had some growing pains, but that happens to anyone," Moore said. "We have a solid D now."
In the next three games, the Huskies will find out exactly how solid things are – on both sides of the line.
"It's there to take," defensive end Trevardo Williams said of the Big East race. "We just have to believe it is there to take. We have to approach every game aggressively and confident."
The biggest health question remaining for UConn is the status of cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who injured his knee Sept. 24 against Buffalo. It has been a long road back and there is a possibility he could play this week, but Pasqualoni said it might be a game-day decision.
"We've been very cautious with the number of reps he's taken so far," Pasqualoni said. "He was very limited last week. We're going to ease him into it. We may not be able to make a decision until before the game. I don't want to get carried away and try to ask for too much too early. We'll see how that goes."
COMMENTING ON Penn State
Pasqualoni is a 1972 graduate of Penn State and played football as a walk-on under Joe Paterno. Once again Tuesday, he was asked to comment on the sex abuse scandal that is making national headlines out of the Penn State football program.
"I think for everybody it's been difficult," Pasqualoni said. "For me, there's a couple of sides to it. First of all, I'm a Penn State alum so I feel, as I'm sure all Penn State alums do, very bad about it.
"No. 2, I got in this business of coaching to be a college coach, to be an educator, to work with kids and young people. I started off as an elementary school teacher for seven years, taught elementary school. My core values and ideal, my philosophical approach to my career, is that of a teacher. Even when I went into the NFL, I still saw myself as a teacher. I was just teaching older guys, that's all.
"I have a 12, 11 and 9-year-old involved in sports every day. So that part of it has been very, very difficult philosophically for me, what I believe, what my core values are. Penn State is a great place, a great institution. The Board of Trustees there are made up of very special people. Typically at high-level universities like this one, the people on the Board of Trustees are big-time people. They're acting and giving their time in the best interest of what's good for the institution and higher education. The Board of Trustees at Penn State is doing absolutely what they feel is the best thing to do for Penn State.
"Penn State is much more than a football team. There's a lot more to it than that. So all the way around, I would say it's been difficult."