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Saturday, October 22, 2005

WVU to start preparing for UConn game

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s football team returns to the practice field Monday, well rested after having the entire weekend off.

The welcome break, created by postponement of the South Florida game to Dec. 3, came after the 20th-ranked Mountaineers had played seven games in as many weeks.

With some key players sidelined with injuries, coach Rich Rodriguez believes the layoff is a timely benefit from a health standpoint.

WVU, 6-1 overall and 3-0 atop the Big East, now will begin preparations for their Wednesday night, Nov. 2, conference clash with Connecticut.

It will be the Huskies’ first-ever football visit to Morgantown. WVU won the only previous meeting between the schools, 31-19, last year at Storrs, Conn.

UConn’s record slipped to 4-3, including 1-2 in the Big East, after Saturday afternoon’s heartbreaking 26-24 loss to Rutgers at home.

An interception with 10 seconds left sealed UConn’s fate.

The Huskies’ earlier two defeats came on the road, 28-13 at Georgia Tech on Sept. 17 and 28-17 at Cincinnati on Oct. 15.

They now are 8-2 in games following a loss since Oct. 26, 2002.

UConn lost an astounding eight starters to injuries in a 26-7 victory over Syracuse on Oct. 7 and the defeat at Cincinnati.

Two of those sidelined were quarterbacks, Matt Bonislawski (collarbone) and D.J. Hernandez (wrist).

The other six were cornerback Ernest Cole (arm), defensive end Dav Davis (ankle), linebacker Danny Lansanah (stinger), linebacker Taurien Sowell (ankle), kicker/punter Larry Taylor (knee) and wide receiver Brandon Young (ankle).

Some reportedly will be out for the remainder of the season.

In addition to those eight, starting free safety M.J. Estep saw only limited action against Syracuse, Cincinnati and Rutgers with a broken thumb.

Five other members of UConn’s preseason two-deep missed the first six games. So younger players have been getting experience.

However, the Huskies continue to put up impressive numbers. Going into Saturday’s game, they were ranked first nationally in both total defense (227.8) and pass defense (129.9) and third in scoring defense (9.6).

Among Big East teams, UConn was first in time of possession (32:51 avg.), rushing offense (237.3 ypg), pass defense efficiency (81.8), opponent first downs (83), opponent penalties (76.7), opponent third-down conversions (15.7 pct.) and red zone defense (5-8, 62.5 pct).

Tickets remain available for the Connecticut game at 1-800-WVU-GAME.

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