Two young programs meet for spot atop the Big East Print
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Thursday, 25 October 2007 10:49
NCAAF Headline News

 STORRS, Conn. (AP) -It's for first place in the Big East. It's on network television. It's Connecticut and South Florida?
Less than a decade after both teams left Division I-AA for the big time, the Huskies and the Bulls face off Saturday in East Hartford, Conn., with a lot on the line.
South Florida hopes to bounce back from its first loss of the season, 30-27 to Rutgers and return to the top 10, while a win for the Huskies would almost certainly earn them their first Top 25 ranking.
UConn (6-1, 2-0) stands alone in first place in the Big East, but will be the underdog against the No. 11 Bulls (6-1, 1-1), who still hope for a shot at the national title this year.
``We still control our own destiny,'' South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe said Tuesday. ``We're still on top. Yeah, UConn is 2-0 in the conference but if we beat them this week, we're right back up on top.''
Connecticut also controls its own fate, but the pundits have been more skeptical of the Huskies.
While USF has victories over No. 6 West Virginia and No. 23 Auburn, this will be UConn's first game against a ranked team. The Huskies loss came at Virginia 17-16, before the Cavaliers were in the Top 25, and two of UConn's six wins came with big assists from the referees.
Larry Taylor scored Connecticut's first points in last week's 21-17 win over Louisville on a 74-yard punt return after an official failed to see him make a fair-catch signal.
Earlier this season, the Huskies beat Temple 22-17 after a back judge ruled that Owls receiver Bruce Francis came down out of bounds with what would have been the winning touchdown. Replays appeared to show he had one foot in the end zone, but the call was not overturned.
``Every week they always say something, 'This is the reason why they won, this is why they won, the fair catch thing is why they won,''' running back Andre Dixon said. ``They don't know, they are just giving us more fuel to the fire. It's making us play harder.''
The Huskies come into the game ranked No. 6 in the nation in total defense, giving up just over 272 yards per game, and just under 13 points. The Bulls, meanwhile, are ranked 12th, giving up about 300 yards per game.
There are a lot of other similarities between the programs.
On offense, South Florida puts up an average of 389 yards, while UConn averages 365. Both teams are led by mobile, efficient quarterbacks in Grothe and UConn's Tyler Lorenzen. Grothe has 1,368 yards passing, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Lorenzen has 1,389 yards passing, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
South Florida completed the move from Division I-AA in 2001, and Connecticut did the same in 2002.
But the Bulls have made a bigger splash, sooner, something that doesn't surprise UConn coach Randy Edsall.
``I made a comment when they joined the league that I thought that was the team that could make the biggest and the quickest impact in the conference, based on the area where they are located and in terms of talent they can recruit from,'' Edsall said.
The Huskies have enjoyed their role as conference underdogs and hope to show on Saturday that talent alone does not make the better team.
``If we win games based on will and heart and desire, I'll take that before if we were a bunch of guys that were the most skilled in the world,'' Lorenzen said.
 

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