For the first time in five years, UConn football will play in a postseason bowl game, taking on the Marshall Thundering Herd in the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Dec. 26. The bowl game marks the first-ever matchup between the two schools.
The Thundering Herd (9-3, 6-2 Conference USA) are led offensively by Chase Litton, who threw for 2,387 yards and 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions this season. Litton has spread the wealth to his receivers this season, with four hauling in over 30 passes. Davonte Allen leads the team 56 receptions for 696 yards, and Ryan Yurachek leads Marshall in receiving touchdowns with eight.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday complements the passing attack with a rushing unit that averages 168.8 yards per game with a multitude of running backs. With leading rusher Devon Johnson out due to injury, Hyleck Foster has filled in admirably, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns in 11 games this season. All in all, the Thundering Herds’ offense ranked sixth in Conference USA, averaging 401.3 yards per game
Much like the Huskies,Marshall boasts a stingy defense that is one of the best in their conference. The Herd rank second in Conference USA, allowing just 373.1 yards per game and lead the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 18.4 points per game. Like UConn, this is primarily done by a stout pass defense. The Herd have 14 interceptions this season, and have only given up 15 passing touchdowns and just 201.5 yards per game through the air.
As it has all season, UConn (6-6, 4-4 the American) will need to rely on its defense to keep the Marshall offense at bay. The Huskies are second in the American Athletic Conference, holding opponents to just 19.8 points per game. UConn also boasts the top passing defense in the American, holding opponents to just 186.9 yards per game. The Huskies will rely on cornerbacks Jamar Summers and Jhavon Williams, as well as safeties Andrew Adams and Obi Melifonwu. Summers leads the conference with six interceptions.
The St. Petersburg Bowl marks the sixth bowl game appearance for the Huskies. UConn owns a 3-2 record in postseason bowl games, with their last win coming during the 2009-10 season, a 20-7 victory over South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Marshall has played in 12 bowl games in its history, winning nine of them. In 2011, the Herd won the St. Petersburg Bowl, then named the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, against Florida International.
UConn and Marshall will kick off the eighth-annual St. Petersburg Bowl at 11 am. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Dan Madigan is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @DMad1433.