WVU vs UConn Game Preview

The Mountaineers travel to Hartford, Conn., looking to take the first step towards a Big East championship and a well-deserved BCS bid.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: First Meeting
Wed 10/13, 7:30
Hartford, Conn.

Rentschler Field
Record: 4-1
AP Rank: 16
Last Game: VT
Returning Starters: 16
Defense: 8
Offense: 8
Click Storrs forecast
Record: 4-1
AP Rank: NR
Last Game: Pitt
Returning Starters: 16
Defense: 7
Offense: 9
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2004 Schedule
First Meeting: 2004
Last Meeting: None
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2004 Schedule

Common Opponents to Date: None

Injuries:

WVU - Erick Phillips (Knee) Out, Kay Jay Harris (Ankle, Hamstring, Knee) Doubtful, Josh Bailey (Shoulder) Questionable, Justin Dziak (Hamstring) Questionable, Adam Lehnortt (Ankle) Probable, Jay Henry (Ankle) Probable

UConn - Terry Caulley (Knee) Out, Tyler King (Leg) Out, Ernest Cole (ankle) Questionable

Game Outlook:

WVU offense vs. UConn defense

The Mountaineer spread attack will have another test on Wednesday, lining up against the 14th-best defense in the nation. Connecticut's defense is allowing less than 100 yards rushing and fewer than 17 points per contest.

Leading the Huskies on defense is team captain is Alfred Fincher (6-1, 240). Fincher, a preseason All-Big East candidate, has racked up 56 tackles, one sack, one interception, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two pass breakups in five games. Basically, Fincher is Connecticut's version of former WVU All-American Grant Wiley. The senior has played in 40 games, totaling 273 stops, with 29.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage. That total puts him third in UConn history. When asked about Fincher, Huskie head coach Randy Edsall commented, "He is special. He is very determined and a proud person. He is also someone who is very unselfish."

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
WVU 4-1, 0-0
UConn 4-1, 1-1
Wed 10/13 7:30 pm
Rentschler Field
Series: First Meeting
TV: ESPN
BCS: WVU-27 UC-61
Line: WVU -7
Stats & Trends
Joining Fincher in UConn's 4-3 alignment will be Maurice Lloyd (5-11, 232) and James Hargrave (5-11, 228). Lloyd, who has been named to the Bronko Nagurski preseason watch list, has totaled 42 tackles, one sack and 5.5 tackles for a loss this season. The 2003 All-Independent performer is also second amongst active UConn players with four career interceptions. Hargrave, the Huskies strongside linebacker, has also had a solid season with 30 tackles and two sacks. The junior has a career total of eight sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. As a unit, the linebackers have racked up 128 stops, four sacks and 18 tackles for a loss this season.

Comprising the defensive front four will be Shawn Mayne (6-3, 241), Jason Ward (6-3, 296), Deon McPhee (6-2, 286) and Rhema Fuller (6-3, 296). Although lacking in playing experience (all four positions were up for grabs during spring drills), the foursome has an impressive 12 quarterback sacks, four of them coming in the Huskies'last game against Pitt. Mayne has been the most productive of the starting four, posting 15 stops, while Ward has six tackles in limited playing time. Ward, a redshirt sophomore, makes his first career start subbing for Tyler King who suffered a broken leg last week against the Panthers. Losing King is a big hit to the UConn defense considering that he already has 8.5 tackles for a loss and was an All-Big East candidate. When Ward is out of the game expect to see first team All-New Jersey performer Dan Davis (6-1, 257). Davis saw his redshirt disappear as a result of King's injury.

Manning the defensive tackle positions, McPhee and Fuller have totaled 24 tackles and two sacks on the season. McPhee is making his seventh career start while Fuller starts for the sixth time. WVU's interior offensive line will need to take advantage of the experience and size edge and create holes for the Mountaineer superbacks.

The leader of the Huskie defensive backfield is fifth-year senior Justin Perkins. Perkins has picked off three passes this season, ranking 15th nationally with .60 interceptions per game. Perkins has also posted 13 tackles and six pass breakups on the season. UConn's top cover man will be joined at the cornerback position by Ernest Cole (5-10, 183). Cole, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, has six stops and three pass breakups this season. If Cole cannot play look for Allan Barnes (6-0, 188) to see action. Barnes, a true sophomore, start the final three games of the 2003 campaign at cornerback and has 11 tackles this season.

Playing the safety positions will be M.J. Estep (6-0, 191) and John Fletcher (5-9, 187). Estep has racked up 24 tackles on the season while Fletcher has totaled 26 stops. Both are hard-hitting safeties that are solid in run support.

By the numbers:
WVU is ranked 32nd in total offense (410.00 yds/game), 10th in rushing offense (247.60 yds/game) and 98th in passing offense (162.40 yds/game).

Connecticut is ranked 14th in total defense (269.00 yds/game), 21st in rushing defense (99.20 yds/game) and 22nd in passing efficiency defense (103.46 rating).

Advantage: WVU

WVU defense vs. UConn offense

The Husky offensive is lead by much-heralded quarterback, Dan Orlovsky (6-5, 238). Orlovsky has set nearly every UConn season passing record and should break a few career records by the end of the year as well. The All-American candidate has completed 65.1% of his passes (112-172), and thrown for 10 touchdowns while suffering six interceptions. The senior averages 278 yards passing per game and has an efficiency rating of 145.21, good enough for 20th in the nation. Orlovsky is the ideal pro-style quarterback, possessing a big frame, strong arm and quick decision making ability. The Husky quarterback will not be a threat to run the ball, as he averages -2.4 yards per game, so the Blue and Gold offensive front should have a stationary target for the first time this season.

Playing the tailback position will be Cornell Brockington (6-0, 203). Brockington, who ranks 27th in the nation with 100 yards per game, has 101 totes for 500 yards and four touchdowns on the season. The Burlington, N.J. native has also caught 12 passes for 61 yards. Brockington's break out game this season came against Pitt, when he carried the ball 31 times for 185 yards in a 29-17 victory.

Paving the way for Brockington in a two back set will be fullback Deon Anderson (5-10, 240). Anderson has only two carries on the season but does have five receptions for 32 yards mid-way through the season.

Catching Orlovsky's passes will be a group of receivers that includes one of the top pass catchers in the country. Keron Henry (6-2, 217) leads the UConn receivers 29 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Henry, a Brooklyn native, was converted to wide receiver from quarterback in 2002 and is only the third player in UConn history to rush, catch and throw for a touchdown in his UConn career.

UConn's second most productive receiver is Matt Cutaia (5-11, 188). Cutaia has hauled in 21 passes for 268 yards but has yet to reach paydirt. The senior has the speed to be a deep threat and is entering his tenth game as a starter.

Another reliable weapon for Orlovsky has been tight end Dan Murray (6-5, 247). Murray has only caught eight passes but he leads the team with 16.9 yards per catch and two touchdowns.

The Husky offensive line will pose a formidable challenge to the WVU's 3-3-5 stack defense. The unit is lead by seniors Ryan Krug (6-4, 319) and Billy Irwin (6-2, 279). Krug has started for the Huskies since his freshman season and was named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy. Irwin enters his third season as the starting center and has been named to the Rimington Award's preseason watch list.

Rounding out the offensive line will be Brian Markowski (6-2, 289), Craig Berry (6-5, 315) and Grant Preston 96-5, 298). This trio has combined for 73 career starts.

By the numbers:
WVU is ranked 30th in total defense (305.80 yds/game), 55th in rushing defense (136.20 yds/game) and 15th in passing efficiency defense (98.49).

Connecticut is ranked 26th in total offense (424.20 yds/game), 74th in rushing offense (142.20 yds/game) and 13th in passing offense (282.00 yds/game).

Advantage: UConn

WVU special teams vs. UConn special teams

Of the three phases of the game, special teams is the weakest link of the 2004 Huskies. The kick and punt return teams have been solid but the kicking game has seen its struggles, as has the punt team.

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Place kicker Matt Nuzie (5-11, 200) has been solid from inside the 30, connecting on 7 of 8 tries, but has struggled from beyond 30 yards where he is 2-4. Nuzie has also made 15 of 17 extra point attempts. Additionally, the sophomore has handled the kickoffs, placing only three of thirty in the endzone.

Handling the punting duties will be Shane Hussar (5-10, 188). Hussar, a true freshamn, has averaged 35.7 yards on 23 punts this season, nine of which landed inside the opponents 20-yard line.

Returning punts for the Huskies will be true freshman Larry Taylor (5-6, 157). Taylor, who finished fourth in Florida's high school Mr. Football balloting last season, has averaged 12.3 yards per return, ranking him 33rd in the nation. This speedy playmaker has also returned two kickoffs for 45 yards.

Another true freshman, Tyvon Branch (5-11, 185), will also be returning kickoffs for UConn. Branch has averaged 22.5 yards on eight returns this season, with his long being 38 yards. The speedster won the 2004 National Indoor Track Championship in the 60 meters (6.82) and was named the Gatorade New York State Track Athlete of the Year last season.

By the numbers:
WVU is ranked 49th in net punting (36.50 yds/punt), 27th in kick returns (23.11 yds/return) and 10th in punt returns (17.62 yds/return).

Connecticut is ranked 78th in net punting (34.54 yds/punt), 74th in kick returns (19.20 yds/return) and 26th in punt returns (12.28 yds/return)

Advantage: WVU

Picks to Click:

On Offense: Rasheed Marshall

On Defense: Pac Man Jones

Useless Facts:

* Staying at home? Only 22 players on the Huskies' roster are from the Constitution State.

* Its all in the name. The University of Connecticut was known as Storrs Agricultural College until 1899 when the name was changed to Connecticut Agricultural College (The Aggies).

* Going bowling? UConn enters the 2004 season looking for its first bowl game invitation. It advanced to the Div I-AA playoffs once, in 1998 .

* Macho men? UConn is 7-2 versus various YMCA's in the New England area.

* Not so smart? UConn is 18-39 alltime versus Ivy League schools. WVU is a paltry 1-8-1.

Be sure to check out our Stats & Trends section for lots more match up information!

Prediction:

This is probably the biggest game in the history of Rentschler Field. The 16th-ranked visiting Mountaineers will have their hands full with a pumped up crowd and a fired up Husky team looking for respect. Look for the Blue and Gold to open up the passing game while the WVU defensive backs are put to the test against the best quarterback that they will face all year.

The Mountaineer experience in big games will win this one.

WVU - 31 UConn - 28


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