Sat 11/1/08 Noon
East Hartford, CT
Auburn W 34-17
Radio: Sirius, MSN
Cincinnati W 40-17
Last Meeting: 2007
WVU - Reed Williams (Shoulder) Out, Zach Hulce (Knee) Out, Josh Jenkins (Knee) Questionable, Jarrett Brown (Shoulder) Probable
Connecticut - Jarrell Miller Out, Alex LaMagdelaine Out, Steve Brouse Out, Yianni Apostolakos Out, Tyler Lorenzen (Foot) Out, Zach Frazer (Head) Probable
WVU offense vs. Connecticut defense
The Connecticut defense is ranked second in the Big East in total points allowed per game -- right behind West Virginia at 17.1. As a team they are allowing 302.3 yards per game which also ranks second in the Big East. This season they have 12 interceptions and have returned two for touchdowns , which is tops in the league. In their last two outings, the Huskies held Rutgers to 12 points and Cincinnati to 16. All these performances have been sparked by a good mix of veteran players (eight returning starters) and some talented newcomers
The two defensive ends, Julius Williams and Cody Brown, are the catalysts up front for Connecticut. Both are disruptive in the passing game and are difficult to block on the edge because of their combination of size and speed. Brown is one of the most underrated defensive players in the Big East. aT 6-3 and 246 pounds, he has recorded nine and one-half tackles for a loss to go along with seven sacks. Named a team captain in the spring, Brown is type of end that often requires multiple blockers to keep him out of the backfield.
Williams is other end and can be just as difficult to block. Williams moved up to end last year from linebacker and played has played well in his new role. This season Williams has four sacks and six and one-half tackles for a loss. Williams is quick off the snap and even quicker around the corner, he's an explosive player at 6-2, 258 pounds and has good instincts for getting after the quarterbacks.
Senior Rob Lunn really came into his own last year, and returns as the veteran at tackle. Lunn is known as hard worker more than a playmaker. At 6-4 and 279 pounds, he has 12 total tackles this season to go along with one sack. Also playing upfront is Alex Polito who burst onto the scene last year against Wake Forest in the bowl game. Polito is rangy at 6-6 and 271 pounds and has accumulated 11 tackles so far this season.
The leader of the defense is linebacker Scott Lutrus. He can do a little bit of everything, blending outstanding speed and instincts with the leaping ability of the Husky corners. Lutrus is building on his freshman all American performance last season already having racked up 60 tackles this season. Filling the other linebacker positions are Lawrence Wilson and Dahna Deleston. Both are a bit undersized but are they are two of the fasteer players on the Husky defense.
Darius Butler is the lockdown cornerback for Connecticut at 5-11 181 pounds. Butler is entering his fourth season as a starter and has good pass coverage skills, as well as good open field tackling ability. This season, he has 34 tackles and four pass breakups, a small number largely because quarterbacks avoid throwing to his side of the field. At safety Robert Vaughn returns after a good season last year. Vaughn this season has 43 tackles and one interception.
Overall this is a solid defense that likes to create turnovers. Their overall team speed is good, but it doesn't uitematch up to the overall team speed of West Virginia on offense. Against a faster North Carolina team this defense got torched for 38 points. One thing that will be interesting to watch will be how West Virginia plays on Connecticut's natural grass field which might slow them down a step or two. It all depends on which West Virginia offense shows up on Saturday, the offense that played against Auburn, or the offense that played against Syracuse.
By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Offense 23.9 ppg, Rushing Offense 231.4 ypg, Passing Offense 129.4 ypg
UConn Scoring Defense 17.1 ppg, Rushing Defense 110.1 ypg, Passing Defense 192.1 ypg
Advantage: West Virginia
WVU defense vs. Connecticut Offense
When the common fan thinks of the Connecticut offense the first name that comes to mind is Donald Brown. Connecticut likes to run the ball with Brown, and they do it with great success. The passing game however isn't nearly as potent and has been hampered by the injury-caused revolving door at quarterback, where three different QBs have taken snaps. This offense wants to control the ball by getting it in the hands of its star running back and will play a grind it out style of offense.
Regular starting quarterback Tyler Lorenzen is still out with a broken foot which does a lot to explain the lack of a passing game. Originally Connecticut used Zach Frazer, a Notre Dame transfer, who led a come-from-behind win over Louisville but went on to lose his next two starts and sustained a head injury in the Rutgers loss. Enter Cody Endres who played last week against Cincinnati. Endres completed 18 of 42 passes for 196 yards and did not throw a touchdown or an interception. Either quarterback could get the starting nod this week. So far this season Frazer has completed 58.2% of his passes for 536 yards two touchdowns and three interceptions.
With the uncertainty at the quarterback position Connecticut now relies even more on their star running back Donald Brown. Brown this season has been an absolute stud, rushing for 1,324 yards on 235 carries and 14 touchdowns. He weighs in at 5-10 208 pounds and has good burst on the outside while also displaying good power to run between the tackles. Brown's long touchdown run of the season was a 64-yard dash, so he is a home run threat as well as a back that can wear a defense down. The key to slowing down Connecticut is slowing down Brown, which has yet to be done this season.
On the outside for the Huskies are D.J. Hernandez and Kashif Moore. Hernandez is the leading receiver this year with 199 yards on 13 receptions. Hernandez is a former quarterback and at 6-1 and211 pounds he will make the tough grabs and drag tacklers like a tight end. The second leading receiver on the team is Moore, who has hauled in 18 receptions for 193 yards with one touchdown. While only 5-9 and 177 pounds, he has the quickness and change-of-direction skills to take a short slant the length of the field.
While Brown is a great back, much of his success can be credited to the physical offensive line of Connecticut. The two biggest surprises this year have been the play of the two new guards, redshirt freshman Moe Petrus at left guard and sophomore Zach Hurd at right guard. The 6-2, 283-pound Petrus soared up the depth chart in April, flashing the physicality and footwork that Edsall and his staff have been craving. Petrus is a heady player who doesn't get rattled very easily. Hurd moved to the inside of the line from tackle and routinely dominates at the point of attack. At 6-7 and 305 pounds, he's already one of the biggest Huskies, adding about 10 pounds of muscle through an intense offseason conditioning program.
Senior Keith Gray is the returning starter at center and one of the leaders of the offensive line. At 6-2 and 276 pounds, he won't overpower anyone, but he's quick off the snap and as fundamentally sound as any other Husky lineman.The favorite at right tackle, junior Mike Hicks, also spent time at left guard last season. Edsall permanently moved him to tackle in the spring, feeling his long arms and 6-6, 329-pound frame was a better fit for walling off edge rushers. Senior William Beatty is back for his second year as a full-timer at left tackle and has spent the season auditioning for pro scouts. Beatty is an outstanding athlete with the ideal 6-6, 300-pound frame for an edge blocker.
By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Defense 15.0 ppg, Rushing Defense 123.1 ypg, Passing Defense 189 ypg
UConn Scoring Offense 26.4 ppg, Rushing Offense 214.1 ypg, Passing Offense 166.5 ypg
Advantage: West Virginia
WVU special teams vs. RU special teams
Senior Tony Ciaravino set a school record last season with 22 field goals made on 27 attempts. So far this season, he handled the majority of the place kicking and is 9-15 on field goals. Ciaravino struggles on deep kicks and has only made one field goal beyond 40 yards in five attempts.
Sophomore Jasper Howard is punt returner and has done well so far this season, averaging 13 yards per return. Kick returns have been the Achilles heel for the West Virginia special teams this season, and Darius Butler can easily exploit that weakness. Butler is averaging 22.2 yards per return this season but he has the speed to break one long. Desi Cullen is the punter, and while his gross and net averages aren't great, he is averaging 39 yards per punt this season, and has impressively downed ten punts inside the 20.
By The Numbers
WVU Net Punting 41.9 yards per punt, Kickoff Returns 21.5 yards per return , Punt Returns 10.1 yards per return
UConn Net Punting 32.4 yards per punt, Kickoff Returns 19.6 yards per return , Punt Returns 11.7 yards per return
PICKS TO CLICK
On Offense: Dorrell Jalloh
On Defense: Anthony Leonard
While Connecticut has a great running game, it hasn't shown consistent productivity in the passing game thus far this season. Since starter Lorenzen went down, Connecticut is 1-2, not including the Louisville game that Frazer ended. West Virginia held Auburn's big backs to just 33 yards rushing in the second half, and if the Mountaineers can continue their success on offense, this could be a long afternoon for Connecticut.
WVU - 31 Connecticut - 14