Huskies excited to host No. 14 Michigan
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 01:09
Though UConn will enter its weekend clash with Michigan as 18.5-point underdogs, the value of the game, regardless of outcome, is unmistakable.
Coach Paul Pasqualoni was less than shy about that fact in his press conference Tuesday and touched on the importance of the matchup, which will be shown in primetime on ABC, multiple times.
“Obviously it’s exciting, No. 1,” Pasqualoni said. “I think it’s exciting for everybody in the state of Connecticut, no question about that. To have a team like Michigan, a high-level, perennial Top-20 team with tremendous tradition coming in here. So that’s exciting, they’re very excited.
“I think No. 2, for our program, where we are with non-conference scheduling, the idea of bringing in high-level, Big Ten opponents, Southeastern Conference opponents, Big 12 opponents, ACC opponents…so I think that for our program, from a recruiting standpoint, from the excitement standpoint, from the notion that you come to UConn you can have a chance to compete against the best and be the best, I think it’s important, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Running into a wall
So far this season, the run game – historically UConn’s bread-and-butter – has barely produced.
Through the first two games, the Huskies have run the ball for a total of 115 yards and Lyle McCombs, who averaged 78.2 per game last season, has tallied just 64.5.
While some of the issue has been due to injury – right tackle Kevin Friend has missed most of the action due to a high ankle sprain and center Tyler Bullock has been hampered as well – the offensive line as a unit has struggled to create space in the ground game.
But that’s not to say that others are not at fault as well.
“I think it’s a combination of the guys up front, including the tight ends and the receivers, finishing what they’re starting, finishing their blocks,” Pasqualoni said. “And it’s a combination of Lyle hitting the hole a little better or not cutting it back, keeping it front side and not trying to do too much. I think that it’s a work in progress.”
Unfortunately for UConn, they’ll try to make those corrections against a Wolverines’ defense that has been stout, especially against the run, in their three games.
While opponents average just over 250 yards in the air they have been held to just 89.7 yards on the ground, and Michigan has yet to allow a rushing touchdown on the season.
Wolverines Bouncing Back
After narrowly avoiding defeat by lowly Akron on the final play last Saturday, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke wasted little time getting his squad back to full speed.
The Wolverines held a full-pad practice on Sunday, a departure from their typical weekly routine, in an effort to refocus after the 28-24 escape job.
“I thought we needed to get back to the fundamentals and back to technique,” Hoke said on a conference call Tuesday. “Part of that also is that we want to improve every day we go out on the field…well, we didn’t do that Saturday. We had to make up some time for what we did do on Saturday.”
So far this week, Michigan players have chalked up the Zips ability stay in the game by forcing turnovers and moving the ball – they grabbed three interceptions and a fumble, gathered 311 yards in the passing game and 107 on the ground – largely to a poor week of practice preceding last Saturday.
Hoke is determined not to let that happen again.
“I think as the head coach I need to do a better job preparing this Michigan football team,” Hoke said. “For us not to take care of the football and not to do a better job in some of the aspects…those are things that start with me and our staff, so we’ve got to do a better job coaching.”