UConn football was in a BCS bowl game a few years ago. As I'm writing this, they are winless and in the midst of a coaching search that is getting very little attention by the media. The Huskies were also passed over in the conference realignment sweepstakes that helped boost Louisville's amazing athletic run over the last year. Instead, UConn's athletic department lost it's hall of fame basketball coach to retirement and Paul Pasqualoni continued to kill any momentum Randy Edsall left when he went to Maryland. T.J. Weist has been tasked with finishing out the season and hopefully creating some sort of buzz that will help the Huskies get back on track.
The Huskie offense has never been dynamic, but it typically has been successful. Short on star power, it has always just seemed to work. One or two good running backs and offensive lineman that open holes for those backs to run through. Quarterbacks that protect the ball pretty well and complete enough short passes to keep the chains moving and let the defense win the game for them.
This year's offense is a far cry from the ball control offenses described above. Chandler Whitmer was the top JUCO quarterback when he signed with UConn, but he hasn't lived up to expectations at all. He is one of three guys the coaching staff has tried under center this season and none of the three have been unbelievably impressive. True freshman Tim Boyle has started the last two games and he has a solid arm and solid presence. The issue is that he has been turnover prone and he doesn't have much to help around him. Casey Cochran has played well in his limited time, but he has played in nothing but garbage time so far. It's hard to really give him much credit when he's playing against second team defenses.
Lyle McCombs lit up Louisville for 165 total yards last year and put the offense in position to get points throughout the entire game. The Huskies won the game with their defense, but McCombs is the sole reason the offense was able to even get into field goal range to put enough points on the board to win the game. As we all know, Louisville struggles with smaller, quicker backs that can exploit cutback lanes. The defense is based on pressure and pursuit and McCombs preys on teams that over pursue. Louisville will focus on stopping the run game. But they must get McCombs to the ground or he will have a big game. He hasn't had a great season so far, but there's no doubt this offensive staff remembers what got them a win last year.
UConn is throwing the ball more than they have in the past but they still don't have any dynamic athletes to make big plays outside. Geremy Davis has made a handful of big catches over the last couple of years but outside of that, none of the receivers on UConn's roster have done much. They have decent size but not much speed to get behind a defense. The Huskies spread the field a lot and don't shy away from plays that take a while to develop so Louisville's defense will have to stick to their coverages to make sure they don't give away uncharacteristic big plays.
The offensive line is flat out bad. It's impossible to sugarcoat. They have given up more sacks per game than anyone in the country and they struggle the worst against edge pass rushers. Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin should have a field day. The line has been decent in the run game, but they aren't consistent enough to allow the offense to be the run first team they've been in the past. I don't really see that changing Friday.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Lyle McCombs, WR Geremy Davis, WR Shakim Phillips
Earlier this season, we witnessed what it was like when you lose a bunch of talent to the NFL when we played Rutgers. UConn got hit much worse. Seven starters from last year's game are gone. Four of them are active on NFL rosters right now. Programs like UConn don't just reload when they get hit like that. However, they don't typically become terrible like the Huskies have.
The defensive line has done nothing to put pressure on opposing offenses. The unit as a whole has three of the teams five total sacks on the season. Yes that's the least amount of sacks in the country. They are big and slow with no real athletes to chase down plays away from them. That leads to offenses having way too much time to turn small plays into big plays. Louisville will more than likely try to get the ball down the field in the passing game seeing as Teddy will have more time than he already usually has.
Another week, another stellar linebacker to go against. Yawin Smallwood is the best linebacker in the AAC (love you Preston). Smallwood surprisingly stayed in school last year after putting up 120 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. He hasn't skipped a beat this year and he is just everywhere. He hasn't made as many plays behind the line because of the lack of help from the guys around him, but he really is an unreal talent. Smallwood will likely help the defense take away some of the things Louisville likes to do in the middle of the field, especially the running back check-downs. It will be up to the guys around him to really have a chance of stopping anything else.
Ty-Meer Brown and Byron Jones were a formidable tandem at safety last year and did a great job teaming up with two stellar, future NFL corners. This year Jones has moved to corner and Brown has been needed to be more of a run stopper. Those two things have led to issues in pass coverage. UConn is respectable from a yardage standpoint when it comes to pass defense. The efficiency numbers aren't as great though. UConn is giving up nine yards per attempt. That's absurd. When the pass is actually completed it's for fifteen yards on average.
They are giving up a ridiculous amount of big plays and the lack of a pass rush is the reason why. These defensive backs are good. They can't cover receivers forever and that's what they've been asked to do all year. Louisville has done a great job protecting Teddy this year so things should be about the same this Friday. Two freshman will line up at the other two defensive back spots. Teddy will look to exploit their inexperience if the UConn defense of old somehow shows up.
KEY PLAYERS: MLB Yawin Smallwood, S Ty-Meer Brown, CB Byron Jones
- Other than Whitmer, UConn doesn't have a single 4-star player on it's roster.
- UConn has the least amount of sacks in the entire country. They also have given up the second most sacks.
- Paul Pasqualoni beat us last year.
- Three of UConn's five biggest offensive plays have come in garbage time.