Bits and Bytes – Connecticut

The question isn't what to include, but what to leave out, as we've had much longer than usual to look at the UConn game.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: WVU 1-0
Wed 11/2/05 7:30
Morgantown, W. Va.

Mountaineer Field
Record: 6-1
BCS Rank: 17
Last Game
UL 46-44 W

Rtn Lettermen: 41
Rtn Starters: 17
Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast
Record: 4-3
BCS Rank: 84
Last Game
Rutgers 24-26 L
Rtn Lettermen: 35
Rtn Starters: 13
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2005 Schedule
First Meeting: 2004
Last Meeting: 2004
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2005 Schedule

NUMEROLOGY

UConn has never defeated a ranked team, but is getting its seventh chance when they face off against the Mountaineers on Wednesday. The Huskies last faced a Top 25 team when they lost to Georgia Tech 28-13 earlier this year. This is the first time they will have played more than one ranked team in the same season since becoming a Division 1-A squad.

Facts like this have many overlooking the Huskies, as does the lengthy injury list from Storrs. However, they do have the ability to spring an upset, should the Mountaineers not be ready to play.

VACATION TIME

WVU's 18-day break is the longest since 1908, when the Mountaineers went 21 days without a game. In those early days of collegiate football, long breaks weren't the rarity they are now. WVU also had breaks of at least 18 days in 1893, 1896 and 1899.

And if you think you're antsy now, just think about those few fans in 1893, who had to wait a whopping 49 days between contests. I think our message boards would melt down if today's fans were placed under that sort of strain!

UConn also has something of a spread-out schedule, but doesn't have the one big gap like the Mountaineers do. The Huskies' regular season schedule covers the full 94-day playing period in 2005, which allows them plenty of time between starts. UConn opened the season against Buffalo on Sept. 1, and closes the regular schedule on Dec. 3 against Louisville. The Huskies only had five gaps of seven days or fewer between games this year.

SPINNING THE DOWN MARKERS

West Virginia's running game and solid pass efficiency rating is contributing to one of the more impressive numbers on the offensive side of the ledger.

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Game Info
WVU 6-1, 3-0
UC 4-3, 1-1
Wed 11/2/05 7:30 p.m.
Mountaineer Field at
Milan Puskar Stadium
Series: WVU 1-0
TV: ESPN2
BCS: WVU-16 UC-84
Line: WVU -14
Stats & Trends
The Mountaineers have boosted their third down conversion rate to 44%, which ranks 20th in the nation. While many observers fret over the lack of balance in the West Virginia attack, WVU is making more headway in keeping the ball and sustaining drives.

The success of the running game, of course, helps create third down and short situations, which obviously contributes to the increasing rate. Also helping is the fact that third down and four or five isn't an automatic passing down for WVU, which makes opposing defenses unable to load up against either the run or the pass.

Although the Mountaineers don't throw the ball much, their improving pass efficiency rate (136.93 – 36th nationally) also is making third down more of an opportunity than a challenge. West Virginia is taking care of the ball in passing situations and is typically getting respectable gains when it does drop back to pass.

DRIVING IT HOME

The flip side of this equation, of course, is the concern over West Virginia's ability to get off the field in third down defensive situations. After starting the season with great success, the Mountaineers have yielded several lengthy drives over their last three contests, and now see their defensive conversion rate at 35%. That's not awful, but is above the standard set by the defensive staff.

UConn appears poised to take advantage of that soft spot, as the Huskies excel in reeling off lengthy drives. In the last three-plus seasons, they have 39 drives of 80 yards or greater. With one of two backup quarterbacks, (D.J. Hernandez or Dennis Brown) set to run the offense, the potential for long drives might be greater, as their coaching staff will likely lean toward a more conservative approach, which often leads to shorter gains. Hernandez, if he plays, will have a bit more latitude in the offensive game plan, but both QBs will likely feature a run-heavy attack with short and mid-range passes mixed in.

TURNING THE CORNER

It might have been better if this game was moved back to Oct. 29th, at least from WVU's point of view. UConn has struggled in that month, and lost its last two games against Rutgers and Cincinnati, giving up an average of 230.5 yards per game on the ground in those contests. However, the Huskies are 9-1 in November over the last three seasons, which likely has the visitors anxious to try their luck at Mountaineer Field as the calendar page turns.

KEEPING IT TIGHT

It seems as if WVU faces a steady diet of very good passcatching tight ends, and this week is no different.

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UConn Message Board
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Tailgating
The latest challenge comes in the form of Dan Murray, a big target (6-5, 245 lbs.) who makes the most of his opportunities for the Huskies. Twice in his career he has snared two TD passes in a game for UConn, and is currently their third-leading receiver in the 2005 season. He has caught 14 passes for 191 yards (an impressive 13.6 yards per catch, and has three scores on the year. while those numbers aren't huge, they do represent a threat to the WVU defense, which has trouble covering some routes in the middle of the field.

Again, and I know this sounds like a broken record, with inexperienced QBs manning the controls, you can expect to see Murray be a favorite target for either Brown or Hernandez on Wednesday.

FINAL WORD

While all these other numbers are interesting, I believe these are the two that will tell the tale. WVU is 21-4 in its last 25 regular season games, and 11-4 under Rich Rodriguez in night games. Six of those night game wins, (against no losses) have come at Mountaineer Field. That mojo might be tough for the visitors to overcome.


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