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Know the foe: Connecticut

Veteran Connecticut quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (4) recently threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games.

Mark Mirko | Hartford Courant

Veteran Connecticut quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (4) recently threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games.

30

October

A look at Connecticut, which hosts USF on Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn.

Nickame: Huskies
Record: 3-5 (2-3 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: vs. Holy Cross, 27-20; at Temple, 28-24; vs. Tulsa, 20-14
Losses: at Virginia, 38-18; vs. East Carolina, 41-38; at SMU, 49-28; vs. Memphis, 70-31; vs. Missouri, 52-12
Coach: Randy Edsall (first season back at UConn, 3-5; 18th season overall, 99-109; 74-70 in first stint at UConn)

Offensive breakdown: Despite losing four games by 20 or more points, the Huskies have done just enough to make Bulls fans squirm. They're averaging only 25.3 points (85th nationally) and struggling mightily on the ground (130.6 ypg), but fifth-year senior QB Bryant Shirreffs has had his moments. Two weeks ago against Tulsa, he finished 23-of-29 for 372 yards, but was sacked five times and finished 19-of-39 Saturday against Missouri. Saturday's clunker notwithstanding, Shirreffs has enjoyed a resurrection of sorts under first-year coordinator (and former Auburn offensive architect) Rhett Lashlee. Earlier this season, he became the first Huskies QB to record back-to-back 400-yard passing efforts, and ranks 15th nationally in pass efficiency (156.0). Moreover, UConn is ranked 22nd in the country in pass offense (292.4 ypg). Problem is, Shirreffs is getting little support from his blockers or backfield. UConn allows three sacks a game, which ranks last in the AAC, and has run for more than 200 yards in only one game. Senior RB Arkeel Newsome, UConn's top rusher each of the past two years and a bona fide receiving threat out of the backfield, remains out with a sternum/clavicle injury.

Defensive breakdown: For a USF team in need of a solid offensive effort to regain some of its mojo, UConn seems the ideal antidote. The Huskies rank 127th nationally in total defense (548.4 ypg) and 123rd in pass-efficiency defense (160.94). Three different quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards against UConn, while two wideouts have had 200-yard performances. Senior LB Junior Joseph (68 tackles, three sacks) is the crown jewel of Edsall's 3-3-5 system, but the green secondary behind him (two true freshmen, one redshirt freshman) has struggled. The veteran of the group, 2015 first-team All-AAC pick Jamar Summers, had his first interception of the year Saturday against Missouri, then drew Edsall's ire by throwing the ball at the intended receiver. "That ain't happening in this program," Edsall told the Hartford Courant.

Odds and ends: The Bulls-Huskies game, originally scheduled for Sept. 9, was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. ... Keep an eye on the Hartford weather, which ultimately could play a factor. Saturday's forecast in Hartford (per The Weather Channel) calls for temperatures in the mid- to low-40s with a 40-percent chance of rain. ... UConn's roster features seven Floridians, but none from the bay area.

Audible: "They're a different football team, they're a better football team than they were (in early September). ... And they try so much misdirection and try to get the ball on the perimeter, and they have enough where they can run down inside. The quarterback does a great job of managing the offense and making the throws." -- Charlie Strong

[Last modified: Monday, October 30, 2017 3:28pm]

    

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