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October 22, 2009

Weekend breakdown of the Big East

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Rutgers at Army, 8 p.m.
Connecticut at West Virginia, noon
USF at Pittsburgh, noon
Akron at Syracuse, 3:30 p.m.
Louisville at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m.

For Connecticut, Saturday could be the most difficult day of this week. Or it could be the easiest. For most players, it probably will be both.

Saturday's game against West Virginia could be the most difficult because it will be the first without starting cornerback Jasper Howard, who was stabbed to death early Sunday during an on-campus fight. At least two teammates were with him when he died. It could also be the easy part of the week because it will give the grieving team a needed diversion and outlet.

"Its tough to focus but that is what we have to do," said quarterback Cody Endres, who had a locker in the same corner as Howard. "We have to get out there because that is what 'Jazz' would have wanted. He was a fierce competitor, and he would have wanted everyone to go out there and get this win for him and for us."

Connecticut will honor Howard with a "JH" sticker on their helmets and will leave his helmet and jersey in his locker for the rest of the season. West Virginia will wear a sticker bearing Howard's No. 6 on their helmets Saturday, and both teams will observe a moment of silence and shake hands before and after kickoff.

Huskies coach Randy Edsall said postponing the game never was discussed. Edsall said Howard's family did not want to delay the game in Morgantown.

Howard will be honored in other ways across the country. Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor, who played with Howard at Miami Edison, and Boston College cornerback DeLeon Gause, a Miami native who played against Howard in high school, will wear No. 6 for their games this weekend.

"He's never going to be forgotten," cornerback Robert McClain told UConnReport.com. "Every play that I make, I want to make for the team, I want to make for 'Jazz' because that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to go out there and make plays. I promise you all, I will make more plays than I ever made before in my career playing football."

Among the coaches who reached out to Edsall this week was Texas-San Antonio's Larry Coker, who was the coach at Miami when defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed in November 2006.

Edsall also received a call from New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whom Edsall worked with at Boston College. While Coughlin was the coach at Boston College, safety Jay McGillis died in 1992 of leukemia and lymphoma. Coughlin was with the McGillis family when Jay died.

"[Coughlin] gave me advice, which he always does and always good advice, and just said some things that I'll keep to myself, keep private," Edsall said Tuesday. "Now it is time to go practice and take these four hours that we have and channel all of our energy into trying to beat West Virginia, which is a tremendous task in itself."

KEY MATCHUP: Pittsburgh's offensive line vs. USF's defensive line. Pitt's offensive line manhandled Rutgers last week and has been one of the strongest lines in the country this season. The Panthers will be tested by USF DEs George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul. Selvie's production has dropped, but he demands enough respect to sometimes free up Pierre-Paul, who has seven tackles for loss in the past two games.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Syracuse QB Greg Paulus. Coach Doug Marrone pulled Paulus in the 34-13 loss to West Virginia on Oct. 10 for redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib. The Orange should handle Akron this week, but what will happen to Paulus? Nassib looks likely to enter 2010 as the starter, so could Marrone start looking to the future?

NUMBERS GAME: db]Brian Kelly[/db] has used five starting quarterbacks in his 34 games at Cincinnati. Zach Collaros could be No. 6 if he starts Saturday against Louisville. The five quarterbacks who have started are Tony Pike (16 starts), Ben Mauk (11), Dustin Grutza (four), Chazz Anderson (two) and Nick Davila (one).


"It's going to fall on the offensive play-calling. It's going to fall on making sure we get the right kind of calls for whoever the quarterback is. We're going to have to do some things to protect him a little bit more. We've got enough in our library [of plays] that we can work on whoever the quarterback is. I don't believe anybody in that locker room is concerned about it. We'll find a way to get it done." - Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, on his quarterback situation

"If you hadn't told me, I wouldn't have remembered, to be quite honest with you. We hadn't beaten Louisville since 1983 on the road. We hadn't beaten Rutgers in five years. And we did it. So this is a different football team. It's a different year. Those things really have no bearing on what we're doing." - Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt, on being reminded the Panthers started 6-1 in 2006 only to finish the season on a five-game losing skid

"I'm not sure who that is. My dad might know." - USF QB B.J. Daniels, to the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, on comparisons of his scrambling ability to that of former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton

Etc.: Pike had surgery on his left (non-throwing) forearm Tuesday to repair a plate that was inserted when he broke the same arm a year ago. He is expected to return to practice today in a cast, and he could play Saturday against Louisville. ... West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown is hopeful he can play against Connecticut after sustaining a helmet-to-helmet hit in last week's win over Marshall. True freshman Geno Smith would start in Brown's place. Meanwhile, West Virginia suspended DT Scooter Berry indefinitely after he was arrested Sunday on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct. ... Connecticut RB Andre Dixon is averaging 123.8 yards per game, with seven touchdowns, in the Past four games. Jordan Todman has averaged 69.8 yards with four touchdowns in the same span. ... Cincinnati is the only Big East team that has not lost a fumble. Louisville RB Victor Anderson has topped 15 carries and 100 yards only once in the past nine games. The Cardinals are 2-7 overall and 0-5 in the Big East in that span. ... The Big East had three teams (No. 5 Cincinnati, No. 20 Pittsburgh and No. 23 West Virginia) in the first BCS standings. It had no teams in the preseason polls.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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