Bumped from Diaries
OK, so during Mike’s AWOL, I decided to pick up the ball on the upcoming UCONN game and run for it This is the Cards first Big East test, and it’s shaping up to be a good one. I think we’re going to go ahead and call this the “Vengeance Bowl” even though Larry Taylor won’t be there. Wherever he is, somebody should run up behind him and throw a big hit at the same time UCONN receives their first punt.
But seriously, this is a big game. The Big East is wiiiiiiide open right now (obviously, as everybody is 0-0 in-conference……even you Syracuse) as evidenced by the out-of-conference defeats by just about every team.
UConn is looking to crack the top-25. Louisville would love nothing more than to foil the Huskie’s plans.
So in the Mike format of previews:
2008 Record: 4-0
2007 Record: 9-4 (5-2) good for a share of the Big East crown
Starting off strong against Hofstra, the Huskies edged out Temple with a field goal in overtime. Virginia was next on the chopping block as the Huskies dealt out a 45-10 rout of the Cavaliers (1-2). UCONN extended its undefeated season to 4-0 with some 4th quarter heroics in a close one with Baylor (2-2). The Baylor offensive attack was fairly fierce as the dual-threat Robert Griffin was 14/25 with 208 yards passing, 23 rushes for 85 yards and 3 TDs. UConn weathered the storm with Donald Brown grinding out 34 carries for 150 yards and two TDs.
Running Game (on Everybody) There are no questions about Connecticut’s running game. Only answers from Donald Brown who ran in the game-winning sprint to the end zone against Baylor. So far in his junior season, the experienced Brown, has amassed an NCAA-leading 716 yards on 113 carries and 10 touchdowns. Bulldozing (new word) his way to almost 2500 career yards and 25 TDs , Brown looks to remain a force in the Big East for the next season and a half. Brown is to the Huskies what Adrian Peterson is to the Vikings. Maybe we should just replace the term “Husky Offense” with “Donald Brown-fense” as the Huskies have only one touchdown through the air so far this year. The Huskies coaching staff says they are looking to take some of the load off Brown using the passing game and getting some reps in with RBs Dixon and Todman, but come crunch time on Friday, look for Brown to run the football down the Card’s throats.
Quarterback QB Tyler Lorenzen has been hard-pressed to keep his balls from the hands of the defenders (see what I did there?) as he has thrown 6 interceptions to one lowly TD - and these are against mediocre defenses. Lorenzen has tried to zing some throws into tight coverage, resulting in INTs. What Lorenzen will do against upper-echelon teams remains to be seen this year. But, as the new Huskies’ saying goes, “when in doubt, run the ball.” Lorenzen has scrambled his way to 222 yards and two touchdowns on the ground thus far. Louisville has historically faltered against semi-mobile quarterbacks (ala Pat White) on teams with a good running game, but in all likelihood will stay home and force Lorenzen to make some throws, which may be trouble for the Huskies.
Wide Receivers Lorenzen’s downfield targets, besides the hopeful UofL secondary, have included 13 different receivers this year for a total of 519 yards. Sr Ellis Gaulden and talented redshirt freshman Kashif Moore have been targeted the most (17 receptions between the two) while CB Darius Butler might be the “Devon Hester-like” gamebreaker (16 yards per catch) as he ran a WR reverse in for a TD against Virginia. Louisville’s defense against KSU showed us how the middle can open up for a big play every once in a while, so expect Lorenzen and company to exploit this. Not much else to say here.
O-Line The front five is comprised of 2 seniors, 1 junior, 1 soph, and a freshman. With the experienced guys at the tackle positions and center, its easy to see why Brown has had his way with defenders early on. Last year, the Huskies gave up 30 sacks on Lorenzen. Look for much better protection this year.
Connecticut has some experience and quickness on the other side of the ball. Their depth chart boasts 5 senior starters on defense with most of that anchoring the defensive line. Look for the athletic CB Darius Butler to impose his will against the young Cardinals receiving corps and take away the deep threat. The huskies seemingly plug the gaps well with some talented linebackers. Greg Lloyd and Scott Lutrus both each had 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in the win against Baylor. Junior Robert Vaughn and senior Dahna Deleston lock down the safety positions.
Coach Randy Edsall has sensed some ensuing problems: “Five (big plays given up) is too many but we just didn't make some proper reads on defense and when you go back and look at the film. If guys just executed what they were supposed to execute then we wouldn't have had some of the plays we had against us. Guys made some mistakes. That's what happens. If they didn't make the mistakes we would have been able to limit the number of yards that [Baylor] got.
Connecticut will shut down the short inside passes and run, but have had trouble against spread offenses. Connecticut had 4 sacks against a very mobile quarterback, so watch for them to attack Cantwell all game. Conversely look for Louisville’s go-to WR Doug Beaumont to get some open holes in the middle of the field for medium gains. The Husky cornerbacks may also have some difficulty matching up with Louisville’s Josh Chichester, as he will have almost a full foot of height advantage over their corners.
SPECIAL TEAMS Virginia had 219 yards of total offense and 209 on kickoff returns. Troubles remained for the Baylor game. UCONN gave up 133 yards on five returns to Baylor. This puts them right near the bottom, statistically, of Div I-A teams. The problems have not come in the kicking game, but rather the coverage. Blowing downfield assignments has led to some big plays for receiving teams. What’d you say Coach Edsall? “It hasn’t been the kicks, the kicks have been good. It’s been a problem with people executing what we want them to do in terms of the returns that we’re seeing. In kickoff coverage, you’re trying to avoid people in a certain way based on the returns you see. We had a couple breakdowns with some people not reading correctly and executing their assignment.”
Tony Ciaravino remains upbeat about the kicking game, however, as he is 15/15 on extra points and 4/7 on field goals for the year with 3/4 coming in from 30-39 yards and perfect from inside 30. Ciaravino’s solid foot may come into play again if another defensive battle occurs at Papa John’s on Friday.
STATISTICS TO THINK ABOUT UCONN has forced 6 INTs while the UofL running game has coughed up 4 lost fumbles. Big stat of the day (borrowed from SI.com or FoxSports.com): Louisville statistically fields the #2 rushing defense in the nation in terms of rushing yards/game (42.0) and 17th overall in total yards/game (243.0). The Huskies, meanwhile, are giving up more yards, yet holding opponents to a measly 12.5 points/game to UofL’s 22.0.
Expect this to be a grinding running-laden game with a few big plays sprinkled in for fun. Donald Brown might get a carry or two. The winner here might be the winner of the turnover battle. Turnover stats for the year: UCONN: -2 Louisville: + 1. Advantage UofL. Get pumped for Big East play. Like Reebok Pumps big.