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September 16, 2013

First Look: UConn scuffling after 0-2 start

First the good news for UConn: the Huskies have had this game circled for a long time, and are determined to prove their worth against Michigan. And now the bad news: Connecticut fell to 0-2 Saturday after allowing Maryland's mobile QB, C.J. Brown, to rush for 122 yards and a touchdown.

"We didn't play consistent enough against Maryland and C.J. Brown really had a big night," head coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We had problems tackling him in space. He got the ball to [receiver] Stefon Diggs a couple times on play-action and bootlegs and that hurt us.

"We had a pick-six [against us] for a touchdown and a safety, so we gave up some points that in a game like that you can't give up."

The Terrapins averaged 5.2 yards per carry, finishing with 224 yards rushing as tailback Brandon Ross added 95 yards to Brown's performance. The quarterback also threw for 277 yards and a score on 15 of 28 passing (53.6 percent) as the Huskies had no answer for Diggs (five catches for 110 yards and a TD).

Now Connecticut prepares to play a mad Michigan team with a dual-threat quarterback, a running back and running game determined to break out and a receiver that is capable of a big day (fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon). In other words, they have a challenge very much like the one they just faced, and the Huskies have to perform better.

"We have a great team in Michigan coming in here, with great personnel on both sides of the ball," Pasqualoni said. "For the second week in a row, we will face an outstanding quarterback that can beat you two ways, with his arm and with his feet.

"They have an outstanding tailback. Maybe the best left tackle in college football and just really, really good personnel across the board."

Pasqualoni also knows Michigan will be mad when it arrives in Storrs.

"Obviously Michigan can't be sky-high emotionally every single week," he said, explaining U-M's narrow win over Akron. "They're coming off a real big game, and Akron I'm sure was able to spend a lot of time on them, and it was a really big game for them at Michigan.

"I thought Michigan showed their character in the end to keep them out of the end zone and do what they had to do to win the game.

"They just had a close call, and I'm sure their coaches are telling them, 'Too close for comfort so let's dial it in.' Michigan will be ready to play I promise that."

Saturday's loss to Maryland was especially heartbreaking for UConn because Randy Edsall dealt the blow. The former Connecticut coach left Storrs abruptly in 2010 after leading the Huskies for 12 seasons (overseeing their transition from Division I-AA to the FBS, and leading them to Big East Championships in 2007 and 2010).

"It's devastating to lose," safety Obi Melifonwu said after the 32-21 defeat, refusing to take solace in the fact UConn bested the Terrapins in 2012.

While the defense was gutted by Brown, the offense struggled to run the football against Maryland (34 yards) and is averaging only 57.5 yards per game. Redshirt junior QB Chandler Whitmer has thrown for 555 yards in two contests, and is completing 60.8 percent of his passes, but the Huskies can't seem to finish off promising drives, seeing five series this season of seven plays or more, including two of 11, end in just two field goals and six points

"To take a nice drive and then not be able to finish is frustrating," Whitmer said following the most recent setback. "That's something we harped on last year. We have to finish drives and we didn't get it done and it's frustrating."

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