When the Huskies travel to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers on Wednesday, it will be a matchup of 3-4 teams that, to varying degrees, have struggled with the adjustments that come with new coaches and new systems, and in the case of UConn, the new faces at key positions have also led to inconsistent play.
Either way, the winner will move to .500 overall and 2-1 in the conference, and we have to look no further than the 2010 Huskies to know that the season is far from over. A year ago, UConn was 3-4 and they ended up winning the conference and playing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. But first things first: getting past the Panthers.
"As you think back at our season, the big what-if is, if we didn't turn that ball over; if we didn't give up that play — and there aren't many of them, there's a few of them — we might be sitting here with one or two or three more wins right now," Pasqualoni said, according to the Hartford Courant. "For me, that's the challenge and I think that's the challenge for anybody to tell you the truth. I'm not saying that that's not unique or special to a first-year coach of the program.
"I think the challenge of getting the system in is a work in progress as we go on and spend more time on the concepts of what we're doing better … protections and concepts of routes, the picking up of blitzes and the timing of the routes and the accuracy of the throws and where the receivers are in the depth of the route and all that stuff. … We'll get better and I think we are getting better as we go."
We mentioned it on Monday, but part of the new system has been hindered by an inexperienced quarterback playing behind a reshuffled offensive line. But the o-line, considered one of the conference's best before the season, now appears to be coming together after injuries created some consistency and depth concerns early.
UConn's defense, however, has had fewer growing pains under new defensive coordinator Don Brown. In fact, they're pretty much responsible for all the team's wins, including the Homecoming victory over high-powered South Florida. Typically, when the D has struggled it has been in the passing game. When they face the Panthers, they're main concern will be running back Ray Graham, who's averaging 134.1 yards, which is third i the country and No. 1 in the Big East.
"I think what he does really well besides the speed and explosiveness is the ability to put the ball in the end zone from like 70 yards away," Pasqualoni said, via the Courant. "I mean if this guy gets past the second level of the defense there's a chance that ball is all the way to the end zone regardless of the field position when the ball was snapped. The other thing I admire about him is that he can make multiple people miss on one play. He's not just making one guy miss. He's making one guy miss, another guy miss, another guy miss, puts his foot in the ground and boom. He's gone. He's a special guy in that regard."
Graham is worth worrying about, for sure, but if given the choice between facing a top-flight running back or a big-time passing quarterback, the Huskies would choose the former every time.