STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Winless Connecticut resumes its season on Saturday against South Florida with a new coach and a new quarterback leading the Huskies into their first game in the new American Athletic Conference.
T.J. Weist took over the program on an interim basis when Paul Pasqualoni was fired following the team's 41-12 loss at Buffalo on Sept. 28, which dropped UConn to 0-4.
Not surprisingly, Weist has pitched the homecoming game against the 1-4 Bulls as a fresh start for the Huskies.
"The practices were spirited," Weist said. "The players have reacted well. They've responded to our challenges of refocusing, of being, as we say, 'all in' — buying into everything that we're doing to have a successful season."
Weist, who had been in his first year as offensive coordinator, says he'll continue to call the plays for the nation's 119th ranked offense. But he has switched quarterbacks, from junior Chandler Whitmer to Tim Boyle, who turned 19 last week. Boyle will become the first true freshman to start for the Huskies since Dan Orlovsky made his debut in October, 2001.
"They don't want me to be the young inexperienced freshman," Boyle said. "They want me to be an experienced senior, who knows the game plan and can dot it really well."
Weist will face an old friend in his first game. He and USF coach Willie Taggart were assistants together at Western Kentucky for four years.
Taggart notched his first win as a head coach, when the Bulls upset Cincinnati 26-20 in their conference opener. He said USF's players are not concerned about facing a hungry UConn team.
"We're trying to get more wins. We just have one," he said. "We can't act like we've been there yet. We're still hungry. We're still trying to build our program, still trying to be the team we want to be. We can't be concerned about what's going on in someone else's program."
Here are five things to watch as Connecticut hosts South Florida:
KEY INJURIES: South Florida lost starting quarterback Steven Bench and running back Marcus Shaw to leg injuries in the win over Cincinnati. Shaw is averaging 110 yards rushing this season.
Taggart has not said whether either will play against UConn, but sounded optimistic earlier this week.
"They're questionable," he said "We heal differently around here. It's amazing."
Senior Bobby Eveld, who was 10 of 16 passing for 122 yards against Cincinnati, is likely to get the start if Bench cannot go. Michael Pierre, who ran for 61 yards against last week, is expected to fill in for Shaw.
UConn receiver Shakim Phillips is questionable with a hamstring injury, but the Huskies are expecting wide-out Kamal Abrams back from a torn meniscus in his left knee, which he suffered in warm-ups before the season opener.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: In addition to Boyle, Weist said several other freshmen will see more playing time. Those include redshirt freshman Jazzmar Clax, a reserve fullback who may get time at tailback this week, and receiver Brian Lemelle, who has been the Huskies punt returner.
"Me and Tim came in together," Lemelle said. "Me and him have a connection."
South Florida has eight true freshmen who have seen action this season, including starting linebackers Nigel Harris and Nate Goodwin.
COACH COMPITITION: Both Weist and Taggart say they were ultra-competitive after being hired onto Jack Harbaugh's staff at Western Kentucky, where they helped the Hilltoppers to a Division I-AA national title in 2002. The two faced off during their down time in basketball, table tennis or anything else that came along.
"It was always me against him, Weist said. "I'd have to say we were 50-50. But I'd have to say I won the last competition we had. Make sure he knows that."
CONFERENCE RIVALS: The two teams have played 10 times and are 5-5. South Florida hasn't won at Connecticut since 2000. The only road win for UConn came in 2010, a 19-16 win that secured the Huskies spot in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. USF won last season, 13-6.
PINK OUT: UConn fans are being asked to wear pink to the game, as the school participates in a breast-cancer awareness promotion. The Huskies will be wearing pink armbands, socks with pink stripes and will have a pink ribbon sticker on their helmets.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report from Tampa, Fla.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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