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Pasqualoni won't bite on all the hype

From Syracuse to Storrs and all ports in between, it's being hailed as The Pasqualoni Bowl, although UConn linebacker Sio Moore has his own thoughts on the matter.

"It's only the real Pasqualoni Bowl if we win the game," Moore said.

First-year UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni was the head man at Syracuse for 14 years, leading the Orange to four Big East titles. Today's game (noon, ESPNU) marks the first time he'll coach against his former team.

The hoopla swirling around that, coupled with all of the Big East realignment and expansion news, has created distractions galore for Pasqualoni.

"Anything other than the preparation for this game is a distraction," he said. "I've been through this before. We played when Miami left (the Big East) and when Virginia Tech and Boston College left. I can tell you none of that was brought up once, never mentioned, never talked about. How fans react and see it is totally outside. The fact that I worked at Syracuse, that's a distraction. It has absolutely nothing to do with this game. I'm not in that mode."

Now that that's out of the way, the Huskies (3-5, 1-2 Big East ) begin a stretch of three straight home games with little margin for error to become bowl-eligible for a fourth straight season.

UConn, which has won four straight over Syracuse (5-3, 1-2), needs to improve in both the passing game and pass defense. The Orange is coming off season-lows in points (10) and yards (246) in a loss to Louisville, just a week after their biggest win of the year over West Virginia.

Pittsburgh was able to exploit UConn's defense with short passes turning into long gains and Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib is one of the league's best passers.

"He's been at this now a little while," Pasqualoni said. "You can see his confidence and the comfort level he has with the system."

While Syracuse has the ability to put up points through the air, its pass defense is worst among Big East teams, allowing 391.9 yards per game. UConn's offense, meanwhile, is last in the Big East.

"The season hasn't gone the way we thought it would," defensive tackle Kendall Reyes said. "At the same time, we have four opportunities left and it starts with Syracuse."

A win by Syracuse would make the Orange bowl-eligible for a second straight season and mark their first win at Rentschler Field.

UConn has to get better production from quarterback Johnny McEntee and some more stability from its defensive secondary.

"We have work to do." Moore said. "There's no time to skip over and any crevices or cracks. Nobody enjoys losing. We want to win and get back to what we do. We have to put everything back together so we know how to win. I've seen a lot and been around a lot of things. It's frustrating but you can't get angry about it. You have to figure out the problem and handle it."

o.poole@theday.com

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