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MSNBC: South Florida-Connecticut Preview

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South Florida-Connecticut Preview



Associated Press Sports

South Florida's surprising surge towards the top of the poll was halted with its first loss. The team looks to rebound on Saturday when it visits conference rival Connecticut, a team looking to crack the Top 25.

The Bulls (6-1, 1-1 Big East) dropped nine spots in the AP rankings to 11th after a 30-27 defeat to Rutgers on Oct. 18. They had never been in the Top 25 before this season and reaching No. 2 created talk about potentially playing for the national title in January.

"We talk about adversity all the time and this is another part of (dealing with) adversity," Bulls linebacker Brouce Mompremier said. "It will show what type of team we have. It will show the true friends we have. We're not worried about the ranking and all that."

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South Florida can still move up in the BCS race and winning the Big East can help.

"We know it is a huge possibility, so we just have to play football," Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe said. "We went out, we believed that we are going to win it. We are just going to have to play football like we have and get a little more sound in each part of the game and we'll be all right."

Against Rutgers, Grothe was sacked a career-high seven times. He also completed 17 of 34 passes for a season-high 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 58 yards and another score.

The Bulls need a strong performance from Grothe, who has 1,368 passing yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He also is South Florida's leading rusher with 404 yards and his five rushing TDs ties him with Benjamin Williams for second. Mike Ford has a team-high six TDs on the ground.

Groethe was outstanding in his only career contest against Connecticut, a 38-16 win on Oct. 7, 2006. He ran for three touchdowns, while going 12-for-15 with 146 passing yards and another score. That victory was the Bulls' third in four all-time meetings with the Huskies (6-1, 2-0), the last remaining unbeaten team in the Big East this season. South Florida's lone loss to UConn was a 15-10 road defeat on Nov. 26, 2005.

South Florida also needs to tighten up its defense after allowing a season-high in points to the Scarlet Knights. Connecticut's offense, meanwhile, is averaging 365.3 yards per game to rank sixth in the conference.

"The Big East is a big-time conference right now," said South Florida wide receiver Amarri Jackson, who's second on the team with 21 receptions but has only two catches for 44 yards in the last two games. "A lot of teams in the Big East are hot right now.

"If you look back at the Rutgers game, then we'll lose this one. UConn is just as good. They play good football. We've got to be ready for UConn, we can't keep looking back at Rutgers."

Connecticut, which went 4-8 overall and 1-6 in the Big East last season, rebounded from its only loss of the season by rallying from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit on Oct. 19 to beat Louisville 21-17 as running back Andre Dixon ran for the winning score with 1:32 to play.

That moved the Huskies into the BCS ranking for the first time at No. 23, but they are still unranked in the AP poll.

"It is a nice milestone for our program to be included in the BCS standings for the first time," UConn coach Randy Edsall said.

The Huskies, though, have not won in 11 all-time meetings with ranked opponents, and Saturday's contest is their first against a Top 25 opponent.

Dixon had 115 rushing yards to give him a team-high 443 with two scores.

Huskies quarterback Tyler Lorenzen has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1,389 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He was 9-of-18 passes for 130 yards and a score in the win over Louisville.


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