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UConn still fighting for bowl eligibility

By Tyler Morrissey
On November 8, 2012

In order to become bowl eligible, the UConn football team needs to win their three remaining games. Tonight, the Huskies seek their first conference victory when they face the Pittsburgh Panthers at Rentschler Field.
The Huskies are coming off their fourth straight loss after falling to the South Florida Bulls 13-6. So far this season, UConn has not recorded a single win in conference play, which is something that head coach Paul Pasqualoni hopes to correct against the Panthers. In order to do so, Pasqualoni believes his offense needs to be more productive, particularly the run game.
"That's something that if we can get the run game going, especially running it a little bit better in the red zone, we could have more production in that area," said Pasqualoni. "We need to come up with some runs that will really help us in the play action game, make them commit more people and be a little bit worried about blitzing."
So far this season, UConn is ranked 120th in the nation among FBS schools in rushing yards, as the Huskies are only averaging 82 yards a game. Sophomore running back Lyle McCombs leads the Huskies in total rushing yards this year with 547. He is currently averaging 3.3 yards a carry and has found the end zone four times.
Playing quarterback for the Huskies is Chandler Whitmer has thrown for seven touchdowns and 2115 yards in his first season as a starter. However, he has also been sacked 26 times this year as well.
Pittsburgh (4-5 overall, 1-3 Big East) comes into this game after a heartbreaking 29-26 three-overtime loss to No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend. The Panthers blew a fourth quarter lead and missed what would have been the game winning field goal. Pittsburgh has also experienced difficulties with Big East opponents this yea,r as their only conference victory was a 47-17 rout of the Temple Owls.
The Panther offense is led by senior quarterback Tino Sunseri, who has thrown for 14 touchdowns and 2363 yards in his final season at Pitt. Sunseri has also only been picked off twice this year. Part of Sunseri's success this year has been due to the play of the Panthers wide receivers. Junior wide out Devin Street leads the team in touchdowns with four as well as receiving yards, with 730. Another target for Sunseri is senior wide receiver Mike Shanahan, who has averaged 16.3 yards per reception.
Senior running back Ray Graham battled back from an ACL injury he suffered in last year's game against the Huskies. So far this season Graham is averaging five yards a carry and he has pulled in two receiving touchdowns to compliment his eight touchdowns on the ground.
Pasqualoni has been impressed with the production of the Pittsburgh offense during the 2012 season.
"They're pretty good - probably the best 4-5 team in the country," said Pasqualoni. "Tino Sunseri has had a really good year, probably his best year. Ray Graham is kind of a special guy. He had an injury against us last year and he's clearly come back from that injury and I think he is playing really good football."
Kickoff between UConn and Pittsburgh is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Rentschler Field. The game is also being televised nationally on ESPN2.  


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