Friday, October 7, 2011

WVU-Connecticut Preview

The conference season begins this weekend with an old foe coming to town. I'm not talking about UConn (though, they are coming to town). Nope, I'm talking about Paul Pasqualoni. The former Syracuse head coach is in his first year in Storrs. It hasn't been the start the Huskies were looking for, and this weekend poses major matchup problems. Meanwhile, WVU is coming off a very strong performance, and is looking to build heading into the conference schedule.


West Virginia: Don't look now, but the Mountaineers have found a running game. At least, they did last game. Dustin Garrison ran for nearly 300 yards, and WVU went for four rushing touchdowns. Garrison is now the primary back, but expect to see Shawne Alston, Vernard Roberts, and Andrew Buie get some work. As good as Garrison was, the offensive line was even better. The rush and pass blocking was very good once again. This group has pulled a complete 180 from the beginning of the season. The receivers also continue to get stronger. The route running, blocking, and tempo are much more to the liking of Dana Holgorsen. Tavon Austin, Ivan McCartney, and Stedman Bailey should be busy tomorrow, considering the UConn's secondary has been inconsistent. It will also be interesting to see if the running game boosts Geno Smith's efficiency.

Connecticut: The Huskies have been up and down offensively this year. Lyle McCombs has had an outstanding first year running the football. The redshirt freshman has over 500 yards gained, and is the fourth leading receiver. UConn expected more depth at the running back position, but injuries derailed it. However, McCombs has been able to handle the big workload so far. Expect him to be used quite a bit on Saturday to take the pressure off Johnny McEntee. The trickshot quarterback has struggled to get into rhythm, completing just 50 percent of his passes. The Huskies also have had personnel changes at wideout, but still have good experience with Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore. The problem is McEntee just isn't very good yet. His lack of experience has shown, but should have time to throw the ball this week. The Mountaineer line has been hit and miss, and the Husky offensive line is very strong. But, UConn will have to run the ball to keep it close.


West Virginia: The unit finally created some pressure last week, even recording a few sacks. Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin did a nice job to create that pressure, while WVU could sit back in good coverage. The linebacking unit continues to battle injuries, so look for Juwone Snow to get another start. The secondary played a billion times better than the last few weeks as well. Terrence Garvin continues to play well at safety, picking up a sack and another pick against Bowling Green. WVU will look to stack the box, and force McEntee to try to beat them. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit against the run this season, allowing three teams to go for over 100 yards rushing. If WVU can slow the UConn rushing attack, look for some serious pressure sent after the quarterback.

Connecticut: The Huskies are a mixed bag on defense right now. The front line is big. Really big. Led by Kendall Reyes, UConn is keeping teams under 76 rushing yards per game. If the Huskies can cut down the Mountaineer rushing attack it will certainly give them a better chance. However, the pressure will have to be there. UConn can't afford to give Geno Smith time to find receivers. Look for Sio Moore and other backers to go after the line early to see if they can break it down. The front seven need to play an exceptional game, because the depleted secondary will be in fro a long day. With Blidi Wreh-Wilson still injured, the young secondary will be in for a long day.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are still terrible in kick coverage. They should seriously just kick the ball out of bounds. Corey Smith lost his starting job at punter. Michael Molinari will get his first start tomorrow. Tyler Bitancurt has been perfectly fine placekicking, and Tavon Austin has good history returning the ball against the Huskies.

Connecticut: Dave Teggert has been inconsistent this season. He is perfect from 50+, but has missed a few from intermediate distance. Cole Wagner has done fairly well punting, and Nick Williams can be a dangerous returner on both kicks and punts. The Huskies' return coverage has been better than in past seasons.


On paper, it's a very good matchup for WVU. A weak secondary, and an inconsistent offense plays right into the Mountaineers' hands. Even if the running game is slow to get going, Geno Smith will find open receivers. Lyle McCombs will have to have a huge game to keep them in it. At the end of the day, it won't be enough. WVU is just too powerful, and should be breezing through by the second half.

Prediction: 38-20 West Virginia

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