By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press Writer
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Either Connecticut or Vanderbilt will come out of their game Saturday with the team’s first winning streak of the season.
The Huskies (2-2) ended last year with four consecutive wins and were expected to be one of the stronger teams in the Big East this year, but have struggled early. Vandy, meanwhile, had a week off after beating conference rival Mississippi on the road and is looking to win consecutive games for the first time in two years.
Cody Endres gets his first start of the year at quarterback for the Huskies. The laid-back junior came off the bench to replace senior Zach Frazer last week and led UConn from a 14-14 halftime tie to a 45-21 win over Buffalo.
Players said there was bickering in the locker room at intermission, and head coach Randy Edsall screamed and threw some things. But they said Endres, who had just returned from a monthlong suspension for an unspecified violation of school policy, was a calming influence.
“I think people might have been a little bit tight,” said Endres, who will make the ninth start of his UConn career. “I like
to come out there and have fun, play loose, and I think that’s what everybody needs to play at the highest level.”
Endres and his teammates deny there have been chemistry problems with the Huskies this season. But kicker Dave Teggart and backup linebacker Jerome Williams were arrested this week after getting into a fight in the parking lot of a campus housing complex.
Edsall hasn’t suspended either player, but redshirt freshman Chad Christen is listed this week on the first-team with Teggart, and could take over the kicking duties.
“Sometimes brothers may argue and get into a little bit, but at the end of the day, we’re family and we love each other,” said wide receiver Kashif Moore.
Edsall has moved sophomore Sio Moore into a starting outside linebacker spot, and moved Lawrence Wilson from the outside into the middle. He replaces senior Greg Lloyd Jr., who is not moving as well as coaches had hoped after returning from a serious knee injury. Captain Scott Lutrus, who has not played since the opener at Michigan with what the team said was an “upper extremity” injury, is expected to see at least some playing time at his linebacker spot.
Tailback Jordan Todman, who is averaging almost 150 yards per game, also is expected to return to the field after an arm injury kept him out of the win over Buffalo.
Edsall believes he now has all the pieces of the puzzle in the correct places.
“You don’t look at who is a senior or who is a junior,” Edsall said. “It gets down to who are the best guys, and our guys know that. They know the best guys are going to play.”
Vanderbilt (1-2) comes into the game on an upswing after starting the season with losses to Northwestern and LSU. But quarterback Larry Smith said beating Ole Miss has taken away lot of the pressure the team was feeling.
“That was huge to finally get that monkey off our backs,” he said. “It was huge for us to get that first win of the year as
well as first conference victory.”
First-year coach Robbie Caldwell hopes to build on that win, and improve an offense that has been averaging just 17.3 points and 289 yards a game.
Caldwell said running back Warren Norman, last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, has been improving after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Aug. 25. He has played in all three games and rushed for 111 yards against Mississippi.
He leads the team with 225 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Zac Stacy, who has also been trying to recover from a knee injury, has rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Caldwell, whose defense has been giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground, said ball control will be a key for both teams.
“We got to keep the ball moving and the best defense is keeping them off the field,” Caldwell said. “That has always been my goal as an offensive coach –to make our defense No. 1 in the country. I figure if we do that we are keeping them from getting out there.”
This will be the first visit for Vanderbilt to the state of Connecticut since 1948, when they beat Yale. Vandy last played UConn in 2002, winning 27-24 in Tennessee.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)