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September 21, 2013

Keys To The Game: U-M at UConn

Keys To The Game

The Basics
Quote of the Week
The Teams: Michigan (3-0) at Connecticut (0-2)
The History: Michigan won the first game in the series, 30-10, in Ann Arbor in 2010.
The Depth Charts: Connecticut and Michigan
The Place: Rentschler Field, Hartford, Conn.
The Time: 8 p.m. EST
The Line: Michigan -18
The Broadcast: ABC Regional Coverage
The Updates: Follow the game on The Fort or follow us on Twitter: Borton, Balas, Spath, Reid and Sullivan.

"The plays that killed us were the flat-out big plays, and for the most part, they were self-inflicted. We came up with some turnovers. They fumbled the ball twice, there's an interception, two fourth-and-1 stops and a field goal.

"You start to add these things up, you're supposed to win the game when that happens. But you're not going to win those games if you give up those other [big] plays."

-- Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni on the Huskies' biggest defensive concern right now.
The Essentials
By the Numbers
  • Game Preview: TheWolverine.com speaks Huskies play-by-play commentator Joe D'Ambrosio about the game and how big this game is for UConn and its fans. Click here to hear the conversation.
  • Staff Predictions: TheWolverine.com writers looked a little silly last week, all picking blowout victories over Akron. Are their predictions more spot on this week?
  • Confidence: TheWolverine.com writer Chris Balas says a focused Michigan team should handle the Huskies. Click here to read why.
  • Hanlon: John Borton and former U-M offensive line coach Jerry Hanlon break down Connecticut and the keys to the game. Click here to listen.
5: The number of sacks Michigan has collected through three games - a number that Michigan coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are not happy with.
9: The number of sacks Connecticut has given up in their two games (four to Towson, five to Maryland). The Wolverines should be be able to get home this weekend.
78.7: Devin Gardner's average rushing yards per game. He is seventh nationally in rushing yards by a quarterback.

Five Players To Watch
1. Devin Gardner, redshirt junior quarterback: Character is judged not by a poor performance, but by how one responds to it. After Gardner turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and a fumble) in last week's 28-24 squeaker over lowly Akron, the quarterback has said all the right things and stayed focus all week. Now, he's got to show it against UConn.

2. Fitzgerald Toussaint, fifth-year senior running back: No Michigan running back has gone for over 100 yards since Toussaint had 120 against Ohio State in 2011. Connecticut has been ripped on the ground by both Towson and Maryland, giving up an average of 212.5 rushing yards in those two games. If the Toussaint doesn't have holes to run through, it's going to be very concerning.

3. Chandler Whitmer, redshirt junior quarterback: If there has been a bright spot for the Huskies through their 0-2 start, it has been Whitmer and the passing game. Whitmer is 28th nationally in passing, with 277.5 yards per game. He's completing 60.5 percent of his passes and has three touchdowns and three picks.

4. Frank Clark, junior defensive end: As we pointed out above, Connecticut has had some serious trouble keeping defenses off Whitmer, with nine sacks allowed in two games. Clark, who built so much offseason hype, has yet to record a sack, despite coming into the season with a double-digit sack total as a goal. Clark needs to get going this week.

5. Yawin Smallwood, junior linebacker: Smallwood is No. 1 nationally in tackles per game (15.0) after posting an impressive 30 takedowns in the Huskies' first two games. Michigan has to get the running game going Saturday night - and Smallwood will be the Wolverines' biggest obstacle in that challenge.

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