Back to Business for Bonislawski

That big, fat zero on the Heinz Field scoreboard two Saturdays ago would suggest otherwise, but the UConn football team was glad to have quarterback Matt Bonislawski running the show again after missing three games.

"You have a little bit more leadership with him out there," coach Randy Edsall said as the Huskies (4-5, 1-4) prepare to face South Florida (6-3, 4-1) on Saturday at Rentschler Field.

As a junior in his fourth year in the system, Bonislawski brings a measure of stability and an aura of confidence that perhaps his competitors, redshirt freshman D.J. Hernandez and true freshman Dennis Brown, lack.

"Guys are looking up to him," Edsall said. "It's been beneficial. He steadies the ship more than the other two kids were doing for us."

Still, Bonislawski's return was long on sneakiness and short on production. Despite not being announced as the starter against Pittsburgh until less than an hour before kickoff, Bonislawski did not surprise the Panthers much.

They had prepared for Hernandez and figured that if Bonislawski did start, he would run a similar offense to what Hernandez, who is an adept scrambler in the "Bones" mold, does. They figured correctly. Pitt blanked UConn 24-0, handing the Huskies their fourth consecutive loss.

A closer look, however, reveals that Bonislawski did lead the offense well enough to make the game much closer than the final score indicated. UConn made plenty of small plays, but Pitt made the huge ones. A field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown, resulting in a 10-point swing. Cornell Brockington was stopped at the 1-inch line to end the first half. Another field goal was taken off the scoreboard.

The result was a shutout, but not a shutdown.

"In some critical situations, we didn't do as well as we would have liked to," Edsall said. Bonislawski is hopeful that the offense will break through against the Bulls.

"We have to buckle down when we get down there," said Bonislawski, referring to the 20-yard line and in. "It all comes down to just being able to execute. Especially being down there, you have to hold your blocks a little bit, throw the ball a little bit quicker. Everything happens a little bit faster because it's tighter down there. We just have to execute better and get it done."

Bonislawski returned at least one week earlier than expected from a broken collarbone suffered Oct. 7. His passing looked rusty at times and he was forced to slide --- something new for him --- whenever he was close to taking a hit from a defender.

Bonislawski said he will be on a "no-contact" diet for the rest of the season.

"It's up to the doctors to tell me what to do," said Bonislawski, who has rushed for 230 yards in six games.

Sliding may be foreign to Bonislawski, but it still comes easier to him than skullduggery. Bonislawski watched in a sweatsuit and no pads as his teammates warmed up before the Pittsburgh game, trying his best to look like a casual, injured observer.

It wasn't an easy role to play.

"I was pacing back and forth. I was just anxious to get dressed and get ready to go," Bonislawski said. "In high school, we played Peabody, and there was a kid from Peabody for Pitt, and he came up and said something to me before the game, something like, ‘Too bad you're not playing.' That's the only person who said anything to me."

This week it will be all business for Bonislawski. He hopes he has more to show for it, on the scoreboard anyway, as well.


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