Will he or won’t he play against Buffalo? That is the question regarding UConn junior receiver Shakim Phillips.
“Every day I’m working, we’re getting better in treatment, so I’m walking better, I’m running better,” said Phillips, who leads the Huskies with 15 catches for 255 yards and three touchdowns but didn’t play against Michigan because of a right hamstring injury. “I’m looking to give it a go this weekend, but we’ll see … ”
Coach Paul Pasqualoni said during his conference call Thursday that Phillips practiced but is questionable for Saturday’s game in Amherst, N.Y. (no TV, WTIC-AM, ESPN3.com, 3:30 p.m.)
UConn could have used him against Michigan, especially coming off a 10-catch, 178-yard, one-touchdown effort against Maryland Sept. 14. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer (four sacks, four interceptions, five TD passes) needs as many options as possible in the passing game to move the offense, which is ranked 112th in rushing.
The coaching staff will have to weigh the importance of this game vs. waiting for him to be 100 percent.
“It’s frustrating coming off the game I had but I have to let it heal rather than rush it back,” Phillips said. “We still have a long season ahead of us. Coach doesn’t want me to re-injure it [so] I’ll be sitting out toward the end of the season as well. I’m just trying to let it heal, but it’s very frustrating watching.”
Expecting The Pass
According to a story in the Buffalo News, the Bulls are expecting a pass-happy UConn offense since the Huskies have had so much trouble running (52.0 yards a game).
They are 60th in passing but 122nd in sacks allowed.
Buffalo is tied for 25th in sack average at 2.67.
UConn should expect the Bulls to bring pressure, and the Huskies could be without senior right tackle Kevin Friend (ankle) again. Sophomore replacements Xavier Hemingway and Dalton Gifford have had a rough go of it. Pasqualoni said he was optimistic but did not categorize the chances of Friend’s returning.
Pruitt Playing Well
Junior defensive end Angelo Pruitt, who leads the team in tackles for loss (three for 9 yards), was unmoved when it was mentioned that UConn’s previous three opponents are a combined 12-0.
“Yeah, but a loss is a loss,” Pruitt said. “We were capable of beating these teams, so that hurts. We sort of inflicted the pain on ourselves with the mistakes we made, but we’ve got to get better, come together as a unit and change the season around.”
Pruitt, 6 feet 3, 297 pounds, is a junior with experience at tackle and defensive end. He played in 12 of 13 games last season and started 10 times.
Pruitt, who backs up senior defensive end Jesse Joseph, sees a lot of action.
“Experience is big, a key factor in the way I’m playing right now, being able to go out on the field and before the play even begins, recognize formations, personnel, which is allowing me to play a lot faster,” Pruitt said.
Sophomore reserve tailback Max DeLorenzo might start getting the ball more. He had six carries against Michigan for 23 yards, including one for 12 yards, after just three carries against Maryland.
“They’re used to seeing Lyle [McCombs, 44 carries, 173 yards] most of the time,” DeLorenzo said.” I think we complement each other nicely. He could put his shoulder down and go into some people, too, but he’d rather make people miss, and I’d rather run it between the tackles and move the chains. That’s my goal: move the chains because we need help with that.”
The Huskies’ third-down percentage is 24 (10-for-42, 1-for-11 in the 24-21 loss to Michigan).
Boyle Would Be Ready
If his number is called, freshman quarterback Tim Boyle said he would be ready. He wouldn’t have said that just a few weeks ago.
“People ask me, would I be pressured?’ Obviously, I think the first couple of plays, if I were to play this year, I’d be a little nervous just like every other freshmen would,” Boyle said. “Once the first couple plays get out of the system, I think I’ll settle down and I’ll get in a groove. I’ve prepared and coach [quarterbacks coach Shane] Day and this coaching staff has asked me to prepare like I’m a starter, so I’ve watched film with Chandler. I’ve done everything Chandler has done, so in case I do go in a game this year, I’ll be prepared.” … Pasqualoni said cornerback Taylor Mack (shoulder), linebacker Graham Stewart (ankle) and wide receiver Kamal Abrams (knee) are questionable. … UMass did get its man after all in defensive end Sha-Ki Holines (6-4, 230), a Massachusetts native who originally committed to the Minuteman, but then committed to UConn, then changed his mind again. Holines began taking classes at UMass but cannot play this season.
Video by Freddie Matthis and Desmond Conner, Fox CT; Text by Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant.