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at West Virginia 43 … Connecticut 16

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 8, 2011


Week 6 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Connecticut at West Virginia


2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 6 - UConn at West Virginia

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Oct. 8 at West Virginia 43 … Connecticut 16
CFN Analysis: The West Virginia offense has its pattern, and as long as it keeps working, everything will be fine. It takes a half for the attack to get warmed up, and then when it does … boom. Connecticut kept the game interesting for the first thirty minutes, and then down 10-9, the Mountaineers went to work as Geno Smith came up with three third quarter touchdown passes, on the way to 450 yards, and Stedman Bailey was brilliant with seven catches for 178 yards and two scores to make a tight battle a blowout. The defense did a better job of dialing up the pressure, but as long as the offense is throwing like it did in the second half, all the D has to do is hold serve.

The Huskies didn’t have a chance after halftime. The defense did a great job of holding firm early, but the offense didn’t do its job to get up and couldn’t make the Mountaineers sweat. Johnny McEntee wasn’t bad, throwing for 193 yards, but he couldn’t keep the chains moving and the running game couldn’t take control. UConn has to own the time of possession, and averaging 2.3 yards per carry isn’t going to get it done. Against South Florida and its rested, swarming defense, McEntee will have to be flawless.

(AP) MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Geno Smith always seems to pull West Virginia out of a rut.

Smith threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns in navigating No. 16 West Virginia through another slow start to beat Connecticut 43-16 in their Big East opener Saturday.

West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) struggled to a 10-9 halftime lead before scoring 23 points in a 7:35 span of the third quarter to take control.

The Mountaineers struggled out of the gate for the fifth time in six games, mustering little early against a Connecticut defense that gave up 479 passing yards a week ago to Western Michigan. The 10 first-half points were the fewest for West Virginia this season.

"We may have been pressing (in the first half) because we all want to make plays," Smith said. "When we try to do too much, we make uncharacteristic mistakes. But when we just go out, have fun and just play the game and do what we're coached to do, the offense is dynamic and we can strike on anyone at any time."

During a timeout early in the third quarter, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen waved his hands while lecturing his skill-position players at the back of the bench.

"That's coach Holgorsen to the max," Smith said. "That's the way he handles things. He's that kind of coach and that's what we love about him. He's a straight-forward guy."

West Virginia responded -- with a nudge from the defense.

Quarterback Johnny McEntee was driving UConn toward a go-ahead score midway through the third when he was hit on the run by cornerback Pat Miller. The ball popped loose, redshirt freshman linebacker Jewone Snow grabbed it and went 83 yards down the right sideline before being caught at the Connecticut 12.

"I just tried to score," said the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Snow. "But by the time I got to the 30, they started catching up with me."

Snow, the son of former Michigan defensive back Garland Rivers and a nephew of ex-Michigan State stars Percy Snow and Eric Snow, got his second start in place of Doug Rigg, who is out with a broken wrist.

Snow's return was the spark the Mountaineers needed. Smith, who completed 27 of 45 passes, found Tavon Austin on a post pattern in the back of the end zone two plays later for a 17-9 lead.

Connecticut (2-4, 0-1) got two first downs the rest of the game and managed 97 yards after halftime. McEntee was sacked five times -- once for a safety -- and was chased around the field all game. He finished 21 of 37 for 193 yards.

"That was a heck of a second half," Holgorsen said. "That was a dominating performance from our defense."

For West Virginia, the points kept coming.

After the Mountaineers got the ball back at their 16 on the next series, Smith hit Stedman Bailey with a pass at the West Virginia 36. Bailey sidestepped Ty-meer Brown and went the rest of the way untouched to put West Virginia ahead by double digits for good.

"That really took the wind out of our sails," Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said.

Bruce Irvin sacked McEntee in the end zone for a safety late in the third. West Virginia got the ball back at midfield and scored in eight plays, with Brad Starks making a leaping catch over Dwayne Gratz for a 22-yard TD for a 33-9 lead.

Bailey later added a 27-yard scoring catch. He finished with seven catches for 178 yards, his fourth straight game of more than 100 receiving yards. Ivan McCartney had six catches for 131 yards.

Connecticut's only touchdown was a gift. Paul Millard relieved Smith in the fourth quarter and promptly threw an interception that Brown returned for a 48-yard score.

Heavy-underdog Connecticut was effective moving the ball early. The Huskies' held the ball for 11 minutes of the first quarter and their first four drives went into West Virginia territory.

"We focused on starting fast," Holgorsen said. "But UConn had something to do with that, too."

But Connecticut failed to find the end zone after three drives reached the West Virginia 20. Dave Teggart kicked first-half field goals of 40, 53 and 22 yards.

Connecticut's Byron Jones was called for holding on a second-quarter interception he made in the end zone. Three plays later, West Virginia freshman Dustin Garrison burst through the line for a 14-yard scoring run to put the Mountaineers ahead 10-6.

Garrison, who last week ran for 291 yards against Bowling Green, had 80 yards on 18 carries.

Connecticut (2-3) at West Virginia (4-1) Oct. 8, 12:00, SNY

Here’s The Deal … When these two programs met last fall, Connecticut used a 16-13 overtime victory to jumpstart its run toward a Big East title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. Suffice it to say, this edition of the Huskies is not thinking about championships as it approaches the halfway point of the season. The program is struggling mightily in head coach Paul Pasqualoni’s first year, opening 1-3 versus FBS opponents. The losses have come to Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Western Michigan, which does not bode well for the start of league play. West Virginia, on the other end of the spectrum, handled its MAC foe last Saturday, blowing out Bowling Green, 55-10, the week after a draining loss in primetime to LSU. Now that their offense has begun to show signs of clicking for rookie coach Dana Holgorsen, the lone ranked Big East squad is aiming to make early statements that it belongs at the top of the conference heap.

Why Connecticut Might Win: The one area of strength that the Huskies will continue to rely upon is the play of its lines. The D-line, in particular, loaded with all-star-caliber talent, such as DE Trevardo Williams and tackles Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes. When adding in the range of linebackers Sio Moore and Jory Johnson, it’s no surprise that Connecticut ranks in the top 10 nationally in run defense, sacks and tackles for loss. Now, Connecticut isn’t LSU, but when West Virginia faced an aggressive defense at home two weeks ago, it turned the ball over four times in an inconsistent effort.

Why West Virginia Might Win: While Connecticut harbors a nice collection of individual parts on defense, it collapsed against QB Alex Carder and Western Michigan last Saturday. The Huskies were gutted for 479 yards and five touchdown passes, consistently getting whipped by the Broncos receivers. The Mountaineers will go right after that beleaguered secondary with an even better passing attack than the one that hails from Kalamazoo. QB Geno Smith is adjusting well to Holgorsen’s system, throwing four times as many touchdown passes as interceptions. The junior is forming a nice bond with top receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney, who’ll stretch the Connecticut defense vertically and horizontally.

What To Watch Out For: So, who is Dustin Garrison anyway? West Virginia spent the first four games hunting unsuccessfully for a feature back. It turns out he was right under its nose. The 5-8 rookie from Pearland, Tex., and former Hurricane Katrina evacuee, exploded on to the scene Saturday night with 291 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 32 carries. Despite his size, he seemed to get better with more touches, zipping in and out of the Bowling Green D. If he can consistently provide some pop on the ground, the Mountaineers offense will be poised for an entirely new level of offensive production.

What Will Happen: While league games can always be a little tricky, these two schools headed in opposite will continue on those disparate paths. West Virginia is building a head of steam. Connecticut, on the other hand, is ducking for cover. And a trip to Morgantown will hardly remedy the Huskies’ situation. The Mountaineers will take their new-found balance out for a test drive, peppering their visitors with a potent blend of Smith’s passes and Garrison’s gallops. Unlike a year ago in East Hartford, the ‘eers will have considerable success extending drives and putting the ball in the end zone.

CFN Prediction: West Virginia 40 … Connecticut 16
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