Football: Huskies host Temple in attempt to end slide

UConn's Arkeel Newsmen makes a bid for the end zone during UConn's 24-16 loss to UCF on Saturday Oct. 22, 2016 at Rentschler Field. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn football team will look to end a three-game losing streak Friday night at Rentschler Field as they host American Athletic Conference rival Temple. The Huskies (3-6, 1-5 The American) are coming off a 41-3 loss to East Carolina last Saturday, which is their worst defeat since a 41-0 loss to Cincinnati in 2014.

If UConn seeks to make a bowl appearance for the second consecutive season, they will need to rip off three wins in their final three games, which include meetings with Boston College and Tulane after this Friday’s showdown with Temple.

Rallying back this season will be difficult, after the Huskies were routed comprehensively by the Pirates a week ago.

“Everybody’s so spectacularly disappointed,” UConn head coach Bob Diaco said of the team’s attitude after the ECU loss, at his weekly press conference Tuesday.

The loss led to changes within the UConn coaching staff this week, as offensive coordinator Frank Verducci was demoted and running backs coach David Corley was promoted to take Verducci’s place.

“It’s obviously not something I wanted to do,” Diaco said of Verducci’s demotion. “But very necessary, very necessary.”

Verducci will move into a smaller role, as Corley steps up to play calling duties this weekend to command the UConn offense. Diaco downplayed the possibilities of significant offensive changes over the remaining weeks of the season.

However different the Huskies’ look may be on Friday night, they will have their hands full with Temple. The Owls (6-3, 4-1 The American) were a revelation last season under head coach Matt Rhule, winning their first seven games on their way to a berth in the American Athletic Conference Championship game, and they have looked quite good this season as well. Currently, Temple is riding a three-game winning streak.  

“They’re a great football team,” Diaco said of the Owls. “Returned a lot of guys, run the same brand of ball. Not much has changed.”

Temple is led by senior quarterback Phillip Walker, who is averaging 221.1 passing yards per game, with 13 touchdown passes. Walker is the program’s all-time leader in touchdown passes, completions and total offense.

Keith Kirkwood and Ventell Bryant are the primary pass catchers for the Owls, each with over 400 receiving yards. On the ground, Ryquell Armstead and Jahad Thomas are both threats, as they combined to average 156 rushing yards per game, with 20 touchdowns between them.

Diaco also had high praise for the Temple defense, which is allowing 23 points and just 164 passing yards per game.

“The defense plays hard, plays fundamentally sound,” Diaco said. “They’re a darn good football team.”

The Owls pose a huge challenge for Corley in his first game handling the reigns of the UConn offense, which ranks 106th of 128 FBS teams for total offense. Last week, they couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t pass protect and they struggled to throw to anyone except senior wide receiver Noel Thomas. It will be tough sledding on Friday night for the new offensive coordinator and his unit.

“David is really, really talented, and he’s going to be a real icon in our profession, but he’s not a magician,” Diaco said.

UConn and Temple will kick off at 7 p.m. at Rentschler Field on Friday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.


Tyler Keating is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering football and men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.