Thanks to a 40-22 victory over Rutgers Saturday at Rentschler Field, the Huskies can become bowl eligible with a victory at Cincinnati on Dec. 3. A win over the Bearcats would leave UConn with a 6-6 overall record and a 4-3 mark in the Big East.
Not the record the players and coaches wanted, obviously, but still good enough to land a bowl bid this season when there is a shortage of bowl eligible teams. There is very little doubt UConn would be selected for a bowl, despite barely qualifying with the minimum requirement of six victories.
There are a lot of pieces remaining in the Big East bowl puzzle but the most likely scenario has UConn headed to the Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl on Dec. 20 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. A source said UConn officials had preliminary discussions with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to be played Dec. 30 at Yankee Stadium - before the Rutgers game. But the Scarlet Knights might be headed to The Bronx after Saturday's loss to UConn.
UConn has played in a bowl game in five of the past seven seasons, including four in a row.
But before the Huskies can book another bowl trip remember that UConn hasn't won back-to-back games this season. And Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) has a lot at stake. With a victory over UConn, Cincinnati would clinch a tie for the Big East title with Louisville. And if Cincinnati wins and South Florida defeats West Virginia, the Bearcats would become the Big East's representative to the BCS.
"The most important thing we have to do is just simply focus on Cincinnati and get ready to play them," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said Sunday during a teleconference call with reporters. "They're obviously an excellent team. They're having a great season. I understand that they lost their starting quarterback [Zach Collaros] but they have two players [Munchie Legaux, Jordan Luallen] that are very good players at that position.
"They went into the Carrier Dome, not a very easy place to play, and came out of there with a big win [30-13] yesterday. So our focus and our attention will be on Cincinnati and getting ready to play them. And we really won't talk about or discuss anything else."
After a disappointing loss to Louisville a week earlier, Pasqualoni stripped things down to basics and told his players to look in the mirror. The Huskies were motivated and focused against Rutgers and they will need the same attitude against Cincinnati.
"I don't want to say it was easy, but I don't think anybody was expecting a win this big," kicker Dave Teggart said after the game Saturday. "Usually a UConn style of win is
pretty much close to the very end. It took a little pressure off me and I think everybody enjoyed themselves out there [Saturday]."
Senior defensive tackle Kendall Reyes set a good tone after the game Saturday, when he was asked his thoughts about a bowl game.
"We've just gotta beat Cincinnati," Reyes said.
That is the attitude the Huskies must maintain all this week.
"We've got to get to 6-6," linebacker Sio Moore said. "Before you can get to 6-6, you've got to get to 5-6. It's on us. You can't think about it. You've got to worry about getting a win."
It probably won't take Pasqualoni too long to get that message across. It was back to work on Sunday. The UConn coach said there isn't a minute to waste and the players already seem to understand that.
"I don't know about everybody else, but the seniors, I don't think we want to sit home in December and watch everybody else play their bowl games," Teggart said. "We've got to get this last win and get bowl eligible."
NOTE: The UConn-Cincinnati game will broadcast on ESPN with a noon kickoff Saturday. That means UConn will have an incredible amount of consecutive hours on ESPN Saturday. Following the football game, the UConn men's basketball team will be shown on ESPN against Arkansas in the Big East/SEC Challenge. Tipoff from the XL Center is 3:15 p.m.