October 22, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The players who were with Jasper Howard when the Connecticut cornerback was fatally stabbed Sunday are ready to play this weekend against West Virginia, coach Randy Edsall said Thursday.

Edsall said on a weekly conference call with reporters that he had been concerned about the mental state of sophomore receivers Kashif Moore and Mike Smith.

Moore held Howard in his arms after he was fatally stabbed outside a dance on campus early Sunday. Edsall earlier said a player had put pressure on the wound and identified him Thursday as Smith.

The two players and everyone else on the team had a good energy level and focus in practices Wednesday and Thursday, Edsall said.

"There's nobody from an emotional standpoint who is not ready to go and play," he said.

The Huskies plan to wear helmet stickers with Howard's initials on them and will take his jersey and helmet to Morgantown for Saturday's game.

Edsall said he doesn't know how each player will respond to the emotions of the day but isn't worried about them being too amped up.

"I want our guys to go out and approach the game just like they did every other game," he said. "Everybody's going to have different thoughts in their mind and all that, but I just want us to go out and make sure we're at that emotional level of optimal performance when the ball is kicked off, and then maintain that level of emotion throughout the football game."

The funeral for Howard, who was 20, will be at 11 a.m. Monday at New Birth Baptist Church in his hometown of Miami. A viewing will be held Sunday at the city's Richardson Mortuary.

Howard was stabbed outside a university-sanctioned dance early Sunday, hours after helping the Huskies to a homecoming game win over Big East foe Louisville.

One person has been charged in connection with the fight. Johnny Hood, 21, of Hartford, was arraigned Monday on charges of interfering with an officer and breach of peace.

According to a police report, Hood was pointed out to police on the scene by Brian Parker, a sophomore wide receiver who also was stabbed but only slightly hurt. Hood has not been charged with Howard's death, and police haven't identified him as a suspect.

Police say they have made "significant progress" in the investigation but are still seeking photos and videos of the crime scene from the public.

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