Over two tumultuous days, Connecticut coach Randy Edsall identified the body of slain cornerback Jasper Howard, delivered the news to his devastated teammates, and met with the 20-year-old's parents.

The Huskies coach has consoled grief-stricken athletes, choked back his own tears, received words of kindness and consolation from people too numerous to count, and sought out advice from mentor Tom Coughlin, the New York Giants coach, and others. He'll fly the team to Howard's funeral on Monday in the player's hometown of Miami.

"This is a day-by-day thing. I've got some guys who are shook pretty good," said Edsall, who admits he's been "running on fumes."

Sunday's stabbing death of the teammate nicknamed "Jazz" is still so fresh that Edsall and the Huskies (4-2, 1-1 Big East) are sure to experience a gamut of emotions at No. 22 West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) on Saturday. Distraction could certainly be a factor for UConn.

"Our biggest obstacle right now is trying to move forward from Jasper's death," said Connecticut running back Andre Dixon. "No matter who we play, it'll be just as hard."

Many Huskies are vowing to channel their emotions into inspiration.

"Every play I make, I make it for the team and for Jazz," said Huskies cornerback Robert McClain. "That's what he would want, to go out there and make plays. I promise that I will go out there and make more plays than I have ever before in my football career for Jazz."

Because of that, some on the West Virginia side anticipate a big challenge.

Mountaineers offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said he expects UConn to be "full of spirit and full of fight, and it's going to be a tough afternoon for us."

But the motivation to honor Howard won't be confined to UConn's side of the field.

Mountaineers defensive back Robert Sands ran track against Howard in high school. They communicated through a mutual friend as recently as last weekend, when Howard made it known that Sands would "need to bring my 'A' game because he's coming," Sands said.

"We're both competitors and we wanted the best for each other. He's in a better place now and I'm going to go out there and do my very best to make him proud and try to get this win."

West Virginia is 5-0 all time against UConn, tied for first place in the Big East and playing its first game as a ranked team this season.

"It's kind of tough, honestly," said West Virginia defensive back Nate Sowers. "You don't know what to expect out of them and you definitely feel for them. But we set a goal at the beginning of the season and we're definitely still trying to achieve that."

Howard led the Big East in punt returns last season and recovered a fumble in UConn's 38-25 victory over Louisville last week. He was third on the team with 35 tackles.

Redshirt freshman Blidi Wreh-Wilson is listed as Howard's replacement at cornerback on the depth chart with sophomore Gary Wilburn backing him up. McClain will likely take over Howard's punt return duties.

Edsall has given players who were with Howard at the time of the stabbing outside a university-sponsored dance the option to sit out the game. That includes wide receiver Kashif Moore, who said he held Howard until help arrived.

During interviews this week, West Virginia coach Bill Stewart offered reassurance to Connecticut and Edsall, his good friend. West Virginia fans are doing the same.

Huskies spokesman Mike Enright estimates up to 30 percent of the more than 1,100 signed condolences on a tribute page on the UConn athletic department's Web site were from WVU followers.

Both teams will wear stickers on their helmets in remembrance of Howard. A moment of silence is planned before the game and the teams will exchange handshakes.

Some WVU fans plan to wear white armbands with Howard's No. 6 imprinted on them. Postings on fan Web sites have called on the crowd at Mountaineer Stadium to cheer the Huskies when they take the field.

"I think Saturday's going to be pretty special," Enright said.