UConn needs to pick up a Big East road win if it wants to go bowling

Storrs - Since arriving on campus in August for the start of training camp, players have talked openly about ending a one-year bowl hiatus.

To do that, however, UConn will likely have to win a Big East road game, something that has been rather elusive (the Huskies are 5-21 since joining the conference in 2004).

UConn, which begins Big East play on Saturday with a trip to No. 22 Rutgers (noon, ESPNU), finished 3-2 during the non-conference portion of its schedule.

But the Huskies play only three conference home games in the unbalanced Big East format (Temple, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) and face difficult road tests at Rutgers, No. 19 Louisville, South Florida and Syracuse.

A 3-4 Big East finish would make UConn bowl eligible at 6-6, but one road win - provided the Huskies take care of business at home - would virtually make them a lock for postseason football at 7-5.

Upsetting the Scarlet Knights (4-0) would be a great way to start.

"Any time adversity strikes on the road it's a little bit more difficult to overcome," senior Nick Williams said. "You're in an uncomfortable environment, especially if you're a younger player, so when you're in front of a loud crowd and maybe a hostile crowd that can be difficult."

Williams, however, believes this UConn team - which features 10 senior starters - is more equipped to handle life on the road.

"I don't want to say (road wins) should be easier to come by," he said. "But we should be more comfortable on the road because guys have been there ... some for 30-plus times in their career.

"If you look at our starters across the board, the majority have played in road games, so they know what happens in that environment and how to handle themselves. I don't think it will play a factor as much as pure execution and us just going down there and doing our job."

UConn was 0-3 in Big East road games last year and has won more than one road conference game in a season just once, going 2-2 (wins at Syracuse and South Florida) during their run to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010.

The Huskies' lone Big East road win at Rutgers came during the 2004 season when they beat the Scarlet Knights 41-35 on Thanksgiving morning.

News and notes

Rutgers, which unveiled a new look this season that includes metallic silver helmets, will wear all black against the Huskies and are promoting the game as a "blackout day" at the stadium. That prompted Williams, one of 12 New Jersey players on the UConn roster, to say, "I don't know how you have a blackout at noon, but I guess anything can happen in Jersey." ... UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni hasn't made a final decision on whether to redshirt freshman quarterback Casey Cochran, but he's sure leaning that way. Cochran, who broke his left wrist (non-throwing hand) this summer, is still wearing a soft case and has yet to be cleared. "It's been a long process," said Pasqualoni, who noted that the ex-New London and Masuk star still can't take hard snaps under center. "We'll evaluate it again this week. My sense is a hand grenade would have to go off for him to play in game six." ... UConn's Homecoming Day game against Temple on Oct. 13 will start at 1 p.m., but will not be televised.

c.banning@theday.com

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