UConn Huskies Football: Keys to Iowa State Game

Luke LavoieContributor IISeptember 16, 2011

UConn Huskies Football: Keys to Iowa State Game

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    After coming off a heartbreaking three-point loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville, the Huskies return to Rentschler field to do battle with Big 12 foe Iowa State.

    The Cyclones are coming into Hartford riding high after a triple overtime victory over rival Iowa. 2011's victory over the Hawkeyes is the Cyclones' first victory since '07, and with the Cy-Hawk trophy under their belt, the Cyclones are looking to go 3-0 tonight.

    Vegas has the Huskies as 6.5-point underdogs at home, which is motivation for Paul Pasqualoni's bunch. Here are the UConn Huskies' keys to the game.

Quarterback Play

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    After a disappointing game last week, coach Paul Pasqualoni did not hesitate to name Johnny McEntee the starter against the Cyclones.

    "It was my feeling that Johnny had a pretty good understanding of their defense," said Pasqualoni, "The mistakes that we had are correctable, and that is part of being a quarterback."

    Veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni was quick to deflect blame off his quarterback, which is one of the reasons why he was hired to be Randy Edsall's replacement.

    However, the coach has also failed to name one quarterback as the full-time starter, meaning the nightmarish quarterback carousel isn't quite over yet.

    Regardless of who is taking the snaps under center tonight, the quality of play just has to be better. Iowa State has failed to get any pressure on the opposing quarterback this season, recording only one sack in two games (four Huskies have more).

    This should give McEntee and co. the optimum circumstances to make good decisions. Hopefully, they can come through.

Run, Run, Run, and Then Run Some More

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    Okay, so we still don't know if senior tailback D.J. Shoemate's ankle is ready for game action.

    The fact that freshman Lyle McCombs has amassed 277 yards and 4 touchdowns over his first two games softens the blow if Shoemate can't go. That being said, the Huskies' best chances of winning football games definitely include Shoemate's thunderous running style.

    Just think how effective McCombs can be with Shoemate to offset him and vice-versa. With the quarterback situation being what it is, the Huskies are going to go only as far as their backfield can take them.

Repeat Defenders

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    On the whole, the defensive effort in last week's game was exceptional.

    The Huskies defense recorded 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and held the Commodores to an abysmal 12% on third downs.

    Sio Moore was exceptionally outstanding, recording 3.5 sacks, six tackles and a forced fumble. Other defensive standouts for Connecticut include Jory Johnson who leads the Big East with 19 tackles, and defensive lineman Teddy Jennings, who leads the conference in tackles for loss.

    Iowa State's offensive line is one of their strengths. UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni believes their left tackle and right guard can play for anyone in the country.

    This offensive front from Iowa State should be a good test for UConn's defense. After this game, we should have a much better idea of what the Huskies are dealing with defensively.

Extra Special Teams

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    Special Teams loomed large in the Vanderbilt game, and Iowa State has one of the better special teams units in the country.

    Iowa State's sophomore punter Kirby Van Der Kamp  is currently ranked sixth in the country in net punting with an average of 50 yards. They also have the Big 12's leading punt returner in Josh Lenz.

    Although it's early, Iowa State has utilized special teams as a weapon so far in the 2011 season. It's going to be up to coach Paul Pasqualoni and special teams coordinator Clayton White to somehow even the playing field.

Get Crowdy

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    Rentschler is definitely not an easy place to play. The stands are packed with students, alumni and just plain citizens of the state who want a college football team to cheer for.

    Iowa State is a Big 12 team, but they have a history of losing, which means if they get up early they may not have the poise to put the game away. If the quarterback play is going to improve, McEntee and company are going to need positive energy to feed off of.

    The Huskies saw first hand how having a late lead on the road can evaporate quickly, and Nashville is not as hostile as Hartford.

    The Huskies love playing in front of their home fans, and something tells me Iowa State may be in for a bit of a surprise when they take the field on Friday.