Bowl a Homecoming for Moe Petrus

Moe Petrus isn't really into hockey. In fact, he has been on skates only once in his life. If Petrus grew up in Florida that wouldn't be such a shock for someone who is 6-2 276 pounds.

But the freshman guard for the University of Connecticut football team grew up in a suburb of Montreal and not skating there is hard to fathom considering the hockey crazed nature of French Canada.
Petrus however is a football player, always has been since he was a teenager, and he didn't let geography get in his way. He wanted to play college football and nothing was going to stop him.

Petrus first season of true American football left those watching wandering how good a second season is going to be as the redshirt freshman was named to the Sporting News freshman All-American team and became a stalwart on the line.

It's only fitting that Petrus ends his first season back in his native land when UConn takes on Buffalo in the International Bowl on Saturday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Petrus was a key member on the line lining up next to Will Beatty and he had a lot to do with Donald Brown leading the nation in rushing with 1,822 yards. Petrus did it with physicality and toughness that overcomes his lack of experience playing the American game.

"I only played lineman for one20year until I got here," Petrus said. "I have been working out longer to get adjusted. There is a physical adjustment, I find the players quicker."

Petrus is the proverbial diamond in the ruff found by the UConn coaching staff at a place called Vanier Prep. The Huskies have had a steady stream of players from Canada and have three currently on the roster in Petrus, senior tight end Martin Bedard, and true frosh tight end John Delahunt.

Coming from Canada gives Petrus and others a unique perspective on the American game. He knows nothing of the high school pageantry of places such as Texas, Florida and California. Petrus instead had to play for district and city teams and it wasn't until prep school at Vanier did he play for a school.

"Only private French schools have high school football," Petrus said.  "I played for my district for two years and went to Vanier Prep. I spent three seasons there. We played a hybrid of the American sport. We played with 12 guys, and we had the large field. It was a mix of Canadian and American rules."
A mix?
There were 12 players in the field, the field was larger and there were four downs. The motion rules were relaxed allowing forward movement before the snap. The game was much different that what Petrus was used to playing.

The way Petrus has played however would make you think he is a seasoned pro.

Petrus switched to offensive line his last year at Vanier and when he came to UConn immediately impressed the coaching staff. At the end of last season, Petrus was singled out by the coaching staff as a player that had impressed and one to watch out for. He has delivered.

While senior Keith Gray is the anchor at center and Will Beatty is an NFL prospect at tackle, it's been the infusion of Petrus into the lineup that has done wonders to the game. Petrus is aggressive and athletic and tough, exactly what a big, but sometimes soft line needed. The word most associated with Petrus was "nasty." He is athletic, physical and plays with a chip on his shoulder. It seems he brought a hockey mentality to the offensive line.

The Huskies offensive line was one of the best in the Big East and with brown's record breaking year people are starting to notice. Buffalo coach Turner Gill, whose teams is going to focus on the running game Saturday, marveled at the physical nature of the offensive line.
"They are a physical football team and very talented," Gill said.  "We are going to have to play the best game we have played all year. They are very talented and a physical football team. They run the heck out of the football."

If the Huskies are going to do that on Saturday it's going to start up front where Petrus is expected to be his nasty self.

Fun and business

It's a business trip for the Huskies to Toronto, but Randy Edsall isn't about to make his team big down and eat, drink and breathe football. Heck, it's a bowl game after all.

The Huskies were set to arrive by bus after flying into Buffalo on Tuesday. They will practice Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and will have the rest of the days to themselves.

Curfew for New Years in Toronto is 1 a.m on Jan. 1and gradually decreases until 10 o'clock the night before the noon game.

For Edsall, it's important for the players to feel like the bowl game is a reward. He has been to numerous bowl games as an assistant and has tried to take something from each coach.

"Each coach has their own philosophy how they handle bowls," Edsall said. "We are working, but I want them to enjoy why they are here and getting things done. They earned the right to go up there and enjoy themselves."


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