Football: Huskies look to string together wins in homecoming game against Tulsa

UConn faced a crushing defeat against Memphis on Friday Oct. 6. Although starting off strong, the Huskies couldn't keep the Tiger's offense at bay, leading to a devastating 70-31 defeat. (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

The UConn Huskies return home to Rentschler Field to battle Tulsa in their homecoming game Saturday afternoon. This comes just one week after an impressive road win over Temple, the Huskies’ second win of the season and just the first over an FBS opponent.

UConn (2-4, 1-3 the American) will take on the Golden Hurricane in the first of a three-game home stretch that includes matchups against conference top-dog USF and SEC-school Missouri. The matchup against Tulsa (2-5, 1-2 the American) will be the first game between the two schools and is the Huskies’ second time ever facing a school from Oklahoma. The last time UConn faced a school from Oklahoma, they lost to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, 48-20.

Tulsa’s 2-5 record isn’t representative of how well they have played this year. The team is extremely young, much like UConn, and has played numerous freshmen this season, contributing to less than stellar results. Still, the Golden Hurricane roster is filled with talent that can compete.

“I have tremendous respect for [Tulsa]. I mean just put on the Houston film and watch them fly around,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. “I think they’ve played like 21 freshmen…they got a lot of young guys playing.”

The Huskies offense has stood out quite a bit this season, having scored at least 27 points in all but one of their six games. A big part of UConn’s offensive explosion this year has been their success through the air with quarterback Bryant Shirreffs at the helm.

Shirreffs has reached the 400-yard passing mark twice this season and averages 263.3 yards per game, far better than his average of 223.3 yards per game last year. Shirreffs has also managed to increase his completion percentage by almost eight points to 66.3 percent and already has 12 passing touchdowns this season to last year’s seven.

Despite Shirreffs’ vast improvement as the field general on offense, the defense has quickly turned into one of the worst in the nation. In fact, UConn ranks dead last in the country with 392.5 passing yards allowed per game. That includes 400-yard showings from ECU’s Thomas Sirk and Memphis’ Riley Ferguson, along with an unbelievable 555-yard performance from Virginia’s Kurt Benkert.

The Huskies may not be facing a quarterback of Benkert’s or Ferguson’s caliber against Tulsa, but the Golden Hurricane do have two quarterbacks that UConn may need to pay attention to. Usual starter Chad President is more of a dual-threat, with the ability to take off for a big gain on the ground, while Luke Skipper is a more traditional pocket passer and can step in for a drive to get Tulsa’s passing game going.

“We got a challenge this week with Tulsa from the standpoint that they play two quarterbacks,” Edsall said. “One [President] is more of a runner, the other guy Skipper came in and started as a redshirt freshman, a good thrower. They present some problems there.”

UConn will have to be wary of Golden Hurricane’s dynamic quarterback duo if they want to earn their second consecutive win Saturday, a feat they haven’t accomplished since beating East Carolina, Tulane and Houston in three consecutive games during the 2015 season. Still, the Huskies are considered a six-point home underdog going into the game, something Edsall won’t read into too much.

“I just worry about one game at a time. I’d love to have more wins, but that’s behind us,” Edsall said. “All I want to do is just keep getting better each week. That’s all I want to do.”


Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor  for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu. He tweets @realchrishanna.