By Ralph D. Russo, AP College Football Writer
Connecticut and its fans have been looking forward to Michigan playing on their home turf for several years.
Now that the 15th-ranked Wolverines trip to Rentschler Field is here, the Huskies don’t seem to be up for the challenge.
UConn is trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 2001 when it plays Michigan (3-0) on Saturday. The Huskies rank 103rd in the nation in total offense and have already lost at home to Maryland and Towson, an FCS school.
Then again the Wolverines are coming off a close call against lowly Akron. Michigan needed a last-second goal line stand win 28-24.
“It’s just another program,” UConn defensive back Ty-Meer Brown said. “I keep telling the guys, it’s just another program. They have that, but they don’t have an “S” on their chest.”
The sloppy performance against Akron led to a rare practice in pads on Sunday for Michigan.
“I was mad Saturday and I’m still mad now,” Michigan All-American tackle Taylor Lewan said this week, “but if this team does what it’s supposed to do this could be a good thing, if we learn from it and prepare hard and never let this happen again.”
Huskies fans have been grumpy lately, too.
UConn has had two straight losing seasons under Paul Pasqualoni and two losses to start this season already have athletic director Warde Manuel, who played defensive tackle for Michigan in the last 1980s, answering questions about the coach’s job security.
“My preference is to wait until the end of the season to evaluate coaches,” he said. “Should circumstances change and I need to do something different, I reserve the right to do that. But my focus is to support our coaches and our student-athletes throughout the season and to evaluate it and make any decisions that are necessary or tweaks or changes at the end of any season.”
Five things to know about Michigan-UConn:
EXPECTING EXTRA GUESTS: Michigan is the most notable team to play at Rentschler Field, built in 2003 with the help of the state of Connecticut in East Hartford. To accommodate what school officials expected to be extra demand for tickets, 2,300 temporary seats were added, raising capacity to about 42,000. Also seven new concessions stands will be open Saturday, serving Mexican food, barbecue and fried chicken.
UCONN CAN’T RUN: The Huskies rank 122nd out of 123 full-fledged FBS teams in rushing at 59 yards per game. “It is very frustrating,” running back Max DeLorenzo said. “We’re working hard. We’re doing everything we can to win. Just things aren’t working out.” With no running game, Michigan can give extra attention to helping its shaky secondary defend quarterback Chandler Whitmer and the passing game. The Wolverines allowed 311 yards passing and plenty of big plays to Akron.
MICHIGAN’S RUNNING GAME IS A PROBLEM, TOO. The numbers look OK, 195 yards per game, but the Wolverines haven’t gotten much from tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Might Michigan use blue chip freshman Derrick Green more?
GARDNER GROWING UP: As good as Devin Gardner was as against Notre Dame two weeks ago, he was that bad last week against Akron. The junior — in his first season as the full-time starter — threw three interceptions and lost one of his two fumbles. Coach Brady Hoke said staying out of third-and-long should help his quarterback. “I think anytime you get into those situations people can make life hard on you, either by bringing pressure or dropping eight or spying a guy because of Devin’s athleticism or various things,” Hoke said. “Some of it we’ve got to not self-destruct protection-wise, not self-destruct route running ways and not self-destruct decision-making-wise.”
NO BACKSIES. The deal for this home-and-home (Michigan won 30-10 in Ann Arbor in 2010) was put together by the previous ADs for each school. Michigan athletic director David Brandon tried to convince Manuel to move the game to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, home of the Jets and Giants. UConn wouldn’t and couldn’t budge, and Brandon said buying out the game for $2 million was not the right thing to do. Rentschler Field has the smallest capacity for a stadium that Michigan has played in since the Wolverines visited Boston College in 1991
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