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READY TO RUMBLE

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

A lot has changed since 1999.

Since the UConn Huskies and Umass Minutemen last met 13 years ago, the college football landscape has been transformed beyond what anybody could have imagined at the time.

Now things have come full circle.

Back in ’99, UMass smacked UConn off the field with a commanding 62-20 win in a FCS matchup between the two teams. Now it’s a new century and a new era of college football.

UConn comes into tonight’s game at Rentschler Field as a near 25-point favorite. The Huskies have been in the Big East for a few years now and UMass is the new kid on the block with something to prove.

After 71 matchups, 33 of which the Huskies have won, the programs are quite familiar with one another. This year’s players, however, are not.

But now, UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni is amped and ready for the rivalry to get going again.

“We are all very excited about it and are excited for the potential of what UMass/UConn football could be,” Pasqualoni said.

Going into the game, Pasqualoni isn’t treating this game like the cakewalk it appears to be on paper. The Huskies are the heavy favorite. They’re playing at home and the Minutemen haven’t ever played a game on the FBS level.

However, he is quite familiar with the coaching staff and knows the prowess and intelligence they bring to the table.

For example, the Minutemen’s defensive coordinator, Phil Elmassion, worked under Pasqualoni at Syracuse, where Pasqualoni said Elmassion had a very impressive defensive mind.

From Syracuse, Elmassion went to Virginia Tech and then to Washington.

“I know the intensity they are going to bring,” Pasqualoni said. “I know how well-coached they are going to be fundamentally.”

Over on UConn’s defensive side, look for the Huskies to be constantly rotating linemen in and out of the game in an attempt to both keep fresh legs on the field and confuse the Minutemen offense with different looks.

In addition to the strategic advantage to playing more defenders, Pasuqaloni said that with a UMass team that plays at such a high tempo, the need for depth is going to be greater.

On offense, the Huskies are looking to see how starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer will do with his role. Historically, he’s had some problems making poor decisions with the football, but Pasqualoni said that questionable decisions are common in young quarterbacks.

“I think he’s making progress in that regard,” Pasqualoni said. “I think that Chandler, like a lot of young quarterbacks at times tries to do too much and he’s getting better at that. Sometimes it’s not the worst thing to just pull the ball down and run down the field and get down on the ground before you get killed.”

When asked if Whitmer stay as the permanent starter, Pasqualoni was a bit coy about the situation.

“Chandler will start the game and we’ll see how the game goes,” Pasqualoni said. “But right now, Chandler is the starter.”

Another change to the offensive side of the ball to look for is the Huskies’ tight end position. Last year it was Ryan Griffin who started the bulk of the time and this year, John Delahunt will be getting a lot of time as well.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know who will start the game,” Pasqualoni said Sunday. “That’s not important. What’s important is that they’re both going to play and they’re going to play a lot.”

Kickoff for tonight’s game is at 7:30. 

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