Thursday, August 30 • 7:30 p.m. • BIG EAST Network
Rentschler Field (40,000/Natural Grass)
East Hartford, Conn.
BIG EAST Network — Bob Picozzi and David Diaz-Infante
WTIC-AM 1080 (flagship)
Though Thursday’s game will be the first meeting between Connecticut and Massachusetts as Football Bowl Subdivision members, the schools have a history on the gridiron that numbers 71 games and dates to 1897 … Massachusetts holds a 36-33-2 series lead … The schools were longtime rivals in the Yankee Conference and the Atlantic-10 before Connecticut began its transition to FBS … Connecticut defensive coordinator Don Brown was head coach at Massachusetts from 2004-08 and was defensive coordinator for the Minutemen’s NCAA FCS championship team in 1998.
Paul Pasqualoni (Penn State ’72)
5-7, second season at Connecticut
146-83-1, 21st season as collegiate head coach
Connecticut saw a string of four straight postseason appearances end with last year’s 5-7 season — the first under coach Paul Pasqualoni … Pasqualoni, who spent 14 years as head coach at Syracuse, enters the 2012 season as the BIG EAST’s career leader in overall (112) and conference (65) wins … Connecticut has won a share of two BIG EAST titles in the past five years (2007, 2010) … RB Lyle McCombs finished his freshman season ranked second in the BIG EAST in rushing in 2011, averaging 95.9 yards per game … McCombs rushed for 1,151 yards and seven TDs … McCombs’ yardage total was the fourth-highest by a first-year player in BIG EAST history … The Huskies have named QB Chandler Whitmer the Opening Day starter …Whitmer, who signed with Illinois in 2010, spent the 2011 season at Butler Community College in Kansas, where he threw for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns … TE Ryan Griffin (33 catches, 499 yards, three TDs) is the top returning receiver … Eight starters return from a defense that tied for the BIG EAST lead and ranked eighth nationally with 31 takeaways … DE Trevardo Williams (12.5 sacks, 15 TFL) and CB Dwayne Gratz (three interceptions) were both All-BIG EAST Second Team selections in 2011.
Charley Molnar (Lock Haven ’84)
0-0, first season
Massachusetts is in its first season as a Football Bowl Subdivision member as the Minutemen join the Mid-American Conference for the 2012 campaign … The Minutemen went 5-6 last season in the Colonial Athletic Association —its final season as a Football Championship Subdivision member … The Minutemen won the NCAA FCS title in 1998 and reached the championship game in 2006 … Massachusetts will not be bowl-eligible until the 2013 season … Massachusetts will play its home games in Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots … The Minutemen return 15 starters from last year’s team … Head coach Charley Molnar spent the last two seasons as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and spent three years as the passing game coordinator at Cincinnati, where he was part of two BIG EAST championship teams (2008, 2009) … The Minutemen lost virtually all of their offensive skill position players from last year, but have eight defensive starters back.