UConn, Pitt aim to extend seasons

Two teams' letdowns are two others' opportunities, and Connecticut and Pitt both hope to reap the rewards of knocking off the Big East's top two teams by extending their seasons.

The Huskies can do that by winning at Cincinnati, which could be playing for a share of a conference title itself. All the Panthers have to do is top a South Florida team hoping to salvage the worst season in program history.

"I love any time we get a chance to play more football," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "We’ve got to go earn it and I like that part of it. When you go to a bowl you’ve done enough to earn the right to play another game and a chance, to selfishly, to be around some of these guys for one more game.

"No doubt there’s benefit to extra practice and what you can do with the young kids. Before all that bowl talk, there’s enough [going on]. The last couple days watching South Florida, we have to lock in. There absolutely is value to it. The benefits to the program and reward to players are huge."

For Chryst, the benefits are 15 more practices for one more game with a group he joined less than a year ago. For UConn's Paul Pasqualoni, a bowl game would mark a tangible sign of progress after Year 1 fell just a win short of the postseason.

The 2011 campaign also was ended by the Bearcats, who clinched a conference title share last season with a 35-27 win at UConn.

"The margin of error is very slim," Pasqualoni said. "We've had some tough games. We've had some very, very close games this year that have not gone our way. We were fortunate the past couple have gone our way. I would give credit to the players: They've been disappointed but certainly not discouraged, and they come out every day with a great attitude and they work hard each day and they prepare well.

"I feel like we've prepared well all year: You have a routine, everybody has a routine, a process they go through, preparation for the game. Ours really doesn't change. And the kids really practice the same every week. In this league, as competitive as it is, sometimes it's a matter of who ends up with the ball last or who gets the last kick or that type of stuff."

UConn has climbed out of a four-game losing streak that started Big East play, holding off Pitt and upsetting Louisville in triple overtime. Pitt's whole season has been a year of twos — win two, lose two — and it will look to continue that streak after crushing Rutgers on senior day.

“You only go to a bowl if you’ve achieved a certain level," Chryst said. "I think it’s a lot of the football part of it. I have a tendency to hone in on that. That’s what everyone wants to do and it is certainly a goal. I’m sure there’s a lot, but we get to live in a football world and lock in on those [benefits].”