EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -Connecticut coach Randy Edsall doesn't remember which game it was, but after an early victory wide receiver Larry Taylor yelled ``Big East Champs'' in the locker room.
``I said, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop there,''' Edsall said.
UConn didn't stop. The Huskies just kept winning, taking games along the way they were expected to lose against Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers, before blowing out Syracuse 30-7 on Saturday.
Despite all the national talk of West Virginia and the Mountaineers' chances for a national title, UConn (9-2, 5-1 Big East) leads the Big East going into next week's game in Morgantown. With a win the Huskies, who completed the move from I-AA in 2002, will go to a Bowl Championship Series game.
``I knew we had it in us,'' tailback Donald Brown said. ``We have all the tools and we have utilized them to allow us this opportunity.''
Few outside the program were as confident. The Huskies were picked by the media to finish seventh in the eight-team conference after finishing 4-8 in a 2006 season that included the dismissal of several players for off-field conduct.
``I'll be truthful with you,'' Edsall said. ``I thought we'd be a better football team this year, but I didn't know where it was going to go.''
The players had a meeting two weeks after that season ended with a blowout loss to Louisville and mapped out how to make this season different, said defensive tackle Dan Davis. They set goals that included a Big East championship.
``Everybody brainstormed,'' he said. ``What is the most important factor? Focusing on those goals and doing whatever you have to do to get those goals accomplished and eliminating everything else that is going to hinder you. Once you say that, and guys understand that, and practice that every day, it's not too hard after that.''
The team selected Davis one of six captains and made each responsible for keeping their part of the team focused on their goals and out of trouble.
``When you get players on your team that are going to take care of all the things, and allow the coaches to coach, you know you've got a chance,'' Edsall said.
Respect was slow in coming. Critics said the Huskies' 5-0 start was the result of a weak schedule, and its wins over Temple and Louisville were dismissed as the result of bad calls from officials. UConn didn't appear in the Top 25 until Oct. 28.
Some players were stung last week by talk that the West Virginia-Cincinnati game would likely decide the conference championship instead of UConn's matchup with the Mountaineers.
``They heard all the stuff on the outside, but they never let it affect them,'' Edsall said.
The win over Syracuse gave UConn a 7-0 record at home, something that has only been accomplished once before in the Big East, by West Virginia in 1993.
They have been less successful on the road, with losses at Virginia and Cincinnati. The Huskies know they are not expected to win on Saturday, but then, they weren't supposed to be playing for the Big East title either.
``If you aim your goals high and you believe you can achieve them, sometimes you do,'' quarterback Tyler Lorenzen said.

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