Fresh off another surprising victory last weekend, the UConn football team will go for three in a row Saturday when they host SEC opponent Mizzouri at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
With a home victory over Tulsa last weekend on Homecoming weekend, the Huskies improved to 3-4, with a 2-3 record in American Athletic Conference play. It’s a nice turnaround from UConn’s position on the night on Oct. 6, when they dropped to 1-4 after giving up a program-record 70 points at home in a loss to Memphis.
“They should have confidence (after back-to-back wins),” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said at weekly media availability Tuesday. “Any time you prepare well, and you go out and you play, and you win, you gain more confidence. And it should give you more incentive to go out and prepare harder.”
Saturday’s game against Tulsa was won on the defensive side of the ball, as UConn shut out Tulsa in the first half, their first time doing so to an opponent since Nov. 2012. They got after the quarterback, recording six sacks, and held up nicely in the secondary, despite the Golden Hurricane’s formidable rushing attack being successful.
That’s just how Edsall likes it.
“(In) the end, defense wins games, and field position wins games. That, to me, that ain’t ever gonna change,” Edsall said.
The young secondary, which has been torched for a nation-worst 392.5 yards per game this season, has improved over the past two weeks. The numbers haven’t improved drastically, but they’ve made plays to help get the win in the end.
“We put some different people in there, and all they’ve been doing is going out and working to try and get better,” Edsall said of the secondary. “Some of it is communication, and some of it is an attitude and a belief in themselves, and guys that have confidence in themselves. It’s pretty hard as a coach to keep people on the field if you see that they don’t have confidence in themselves.”
The secondary will be challenged by the Tigers, who boast three talented wide receivers in J’Mon Moore, Emanuel Hall and Johnathon Johnson, as well as tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. The four players have combined for 1600 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
“We’re going to have to play well. We’re going to have to pay attention to detail,” Edsall said. “Our guys are a little bit smaller, so that creates a challenge as well. There’s things that you can do, which I’m not going to get into, but we’re going to have to play well. We’re going to have to execute.”
Offensively, the Huskies took a huge hit against Tulsa when pass-catching running back Arkeel Newsome went down with an injury. Edsall said Tuesday that Newsome would be out three to four weeks with a clavicle/sternum injury. Newsome is tied for the team-lead in receptions with 22 and leads with 407 receiving yards, while adding 236 yards and three scores on the ground.
“He’s been having a very good year, and I feel bad for him, but just like anything else, you gotta move forward. He’s not gonna be there, so now other guys are going to get their opportunities to step up and they have to step up,” Edsall said. “Injuries are part of the game, it’s unfortunate. He was playing very, very well.”
UConn and Missouri will kick off 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.