Three Things to Watch

Connecticut hasn't played a football game since Oct. 19. That's when the Huskies lost their third consecutive contest, falling 40-10 at Syracuse. Can anyone remember the last time UConn won? It was back on Sept. 29, when the Huskies held on for dear life and beat Buffalo 24-17.

That's right. September.

We're into November now, just in case you lost track of everything during Superstorm Sandy, the latest distraction and disturbance in a disappointing season. UConn shut down the Storrs campus on Monday because of the storm and that virtually eliminated a day of preparation for the Huskies heading into Saturday's game at South Florida (Raymond James Stadium, 7 p.m. ESPNU).

The rest of the week wasn't so great either. UConn announced Thursday that fullback Mike Osiecki, a sophomore from Seymour, has withdrawn from school for this semester. Osiecki has decided to end his football career because of so many problems with concussions.

And Wednesday in practice, defensive end E.J. Norris injured his shoulder. He will be lost for the remainder of the season. Norris is the third defensive end UConn has lost for the season. It has not been a position of luck for the Huskies.

After all of that – and the bye week after the Syracuse loss – UConn will try to recover the emotion and focus that has been missing lately. It's never easy to win on the road, but UConn (3-5, 0-3 Big East) must find a way at USF (2-6, 0-4). The loser of this game will be in bad, bad shape.

Three things to watch:

UConn's offensive line – The Huskies will be playing their first game without senior guard Adam Masters, who will miss the remainder of the schedule after injuring his ankle at Syracuse. Sophomore Gus Cruz steps in and he has gotten experience in the line rotation all season. But Masters was the guy holding things together for a unit that just hasn't performed well this season. Are things going to get even worse? UConn can't afford that.

The quarterbacks – Senior B.J. Daniels makes career start No. 42 for the Bulls. He has passed for more than 8,000 yards and 52 touchdowns in his career. Of course, UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer is just starting his ninth game at UConn. The Huskies have to worry about Daniels as a passing and rushing threat. That sets him apart. But look at the passing numbers: Daniels (146 of 261 for 1,876 yards) and Whitmer (142 of 246 for 1,831). That's close, but Whitmer has seven TDs and 11 interceptions. Daniels? Fourteen TDs and nine interceptions. UConn must contain Daniels. And the Huskies need Whitmer to have his best day of the season. It's really that simple.

The coaches: Skip Holtz is on the hot seat. If the former UConn coach stumbles against his old team, he could be in serious danger of losing his job. The Bulls were supposed to be in the thick of the Big East race and USF has had a horrible season. Paul Pasqualoni certainly must feel the warmth building as well. There is talent on this UConn team and the defense has held up its end of the bargain. UConn fans are directing most of their anger toward offensive coordinator George DeLeone, who also serves as offensive line coach.

It's safe to say both head coaches are searching for better results Saturday night.


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