Scouting the opposition: UConn
Coming off the heart-pounding, come-from-behind 35-34 victory over the University of Memphis Tigers, the No. 13 Cougars look to move to 11-0 as they head to East Hartford for a match with the 5-5 University of Connecticut Huskies.
The Huskies enter the matchup following a much needed bye week after a hard-fought 7-3 victory over Tulane, with the lone touchdown provided by a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown by sophomore corner back Jamar Summers.
An upset over the Cougars would be their sixth win of the season, making them bowl eligible for the first time since 2010, when they won a share of the Big East Championship.
Second-year head coach Bob Diaco leads UConn. Before going to Connecticut, Diaco worked as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and won the Frank Broyles Award for his part in bringing the team to the BCS National Championship game in 2012 after an undefeated regular season.
In his first year as a head coach at UConn, Diaco steered the Huskies to a 2-10 record, but this season has already seen a three-win improvement with two games still to play.
The Huskies’ offense has struggled at times this season. They average 19 points and 336.8 yards per game and have been outscored by their opposition 190-193.
The offense is engineered by sophomore quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who has thrown for 1,988 yards this season with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Not afraid to use his feet, Shirreffs is also second on the team in rushing, with 422 yards and three touchdowns.
The Huskies’ rushing attack is led by a true three-down back in another sophomore, Arkeel Newsome. He has 36 receptions for 417 yards and two touchdowns in addition to his six touchdowns and 645 yards on the ground.
While their offense has been sluggish, the Huskies’ defense has been one of the best in the country, allowing an average of 19.3 points per game, nearly a full point better than the vaunted Cougar defense. The Huskies have also been formidable, ranking 25th in the nation and allowing only 187.5 yards per game and 11 touchdowns while holding opponents to 6.1 yards per attempt.
The Huskies have also proven to be opportunistic when it comes to forcing turnovers, forcing 17 fumbles and intercepting 15 passes on the season. Senior safety Andrew Adams leads the secondary, with a team-high of 74 tackles and two interceptions. He’s flanked by Summers, who is currently first in the AAC and tied for third nationally for interceptions.
The Huskies enter the matchup on a two-game win streak and will look to pull the upset against the Cougars in the first-ever meet between the two schools.