MORGANTOWN-The more things change the more they stay the same. Or at least that is the way it seems when No. 16 West Virginia (4-1) tangles with Connecticut (2-3) in the two schools' Big East openers.
After picking up his first victory in seven attempts with last year's 16-13 overtime win in East Hartford, Conn., head coach Randy Edsall elected to take his coaching talents to Maryland following the Huskies' BCS bowl loss. Taking his place, however, was former-Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni.
A change that means little to veteran WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
"They are running similar things to what they ran last year," explained Casteel. "They have good coaches up there and they know how to attack you."
The mainstay of that attack, just as it was in 2010, will be the Huskies' running game. Gone is first-team All-Big East rusher Jordan Todman, but making that loss easier to deal with has been the play of freshman Lyle McCombs.
In his first five games for UConn, McCombs has carried the football 123 times for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
His 100.4 yards per game ranks only behind Pittsburgh's Ray Graham, who leads the Big East with a 146.8 ypg average. In UConn's 38-31 loss to Western Michigan last weekend the 172-pounder rushed for 136 yards on 24 carries, but was kept out of the end zone.
"Their running game helps set up their throwing game," said Casteel. "He (Johnny McEntee) is a good player. He throws the ball effectively in their system."
The redshirt junior completed 22-of-39 attempts for 300 yards and four touchdowns against the Broncos and is 65-of-129 for 913 yards and six scores with only four interceptions for the season.
West Virginia's defense did a pretty solid job of bottling up the Huskies' offense in last year's three-point loss, holding UConn to 112 yards on 41 rushes and 166 yards on 18-of-29 through the air. The difference in the game came down to turnovers. The Mountaineers committed seven fumbles, losing four of them.
"I thought our defense did a pretty good job against them last year," explained senior defensive tackle Julian Miller. "Turnovers were really the key part of the game. They got some and we didn't."
Turnovers have been a big part of this season's success as well. In last Saturday's 55-10 blowout of Bowling Green the defense came up with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. One week earlier it was the Tigers from LSU that made the most of WVU's miscues in a 47-21 decision.
"Coach (Casteel) talks about them (turnovers) every week," added Miller. "It's not like the defense isn't trying to get them. I know that when I'm in there I am trying to strip the ball or get after the quarterback."
If Miller and his defensive teammates are able to accomplish that feat then WVU should be 1-0 in Big East play following Saturday's noon encounter with the Huskies.