The UConn football team will look to bounce back from three consecutive losses and take a swipe at the Memphis Tigers Friday night under the lights at Rentschler Field.
The Huskies (1-3, 0-2 the American) enter Friday’s matchup having allowed at least 38 points in their last three games, all losses. UConn’s defense has been suspect this season, leading to the lack of success in the W column. The secondary has been especially leaky, allowing opponents to kill the Huskies through the air with ease.
“One of the big things is communication,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said at the team’s weekly press conference. “You can see more communicating taking place, you see different things happening. We still have an issue giving up some big plays. … We still have some issues with our eyes not being where they belong.”
The Huskies’ offense, on the other hand, has been nothing short of spectacular. Given UConn’s recent history struggling to produce points, the fact that the team has scored 27 or more points in three of their four games is quite impressive.
“Everybody has to do their job, run their routes to the fullest and the hardest they can. And if they do that, the ball can come to them,” Edsall said. “When you have the ability to spread the ball around and you can use different numbers of guys of [the wide receiver] position, it’s very beneficial [to the offense].”
The passing game, in particular, has been outstanding. Since taking the helm of the offense in the third quarter of the Holy Cross game, quarterback Bryant Shirreffs has passed for an incredible 1165 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Shirreffs has also earned 400-plus yards passing in back-to-back games, something previously unheard-of in UConn football history.
Just four other Husky quarterbacks have ever amassed 400 yards passing in a single game and only one other quarterback managed to do it twice – Cornelius Benton in 1991. Shirreffs is the only one to hit the mark in consecutive games.
“I just think … [Shirreffs] got the message loud and clear that if you want to be a quarterback here, these are the things you’re gonna have to do,” Edsall said. “I give him a lot of credit, because he took heed to what I said and now he’s just out there doing his job… Give him credit, he changed and with that change, you’re seeing the productivity that he’s having.”
Memphis (3-1, 0-1 the American) comes to Rentschler Field having just lost its first game of the season – and first conference matchup – to a sturdy UCF team 40-13. Much like the Huskies, the Tigers’ defense has been incapable of stopping opposing offenses from scoring. However, Memphis knows how to put up points in a big way, using a high-octane offense to win three shootouts ahead of its matchup at the Rent.
The Tigers have scored at least 37 points in each of their wins this season, including a 48-point outburst against UCLA in a three-point win three weeks ago. That game put Memphis on the map as one of the favorites in the American. However, after the loss against UCF, the Tigers will be looking to prove themselves as a conference powerhouse once more in the showdown with the Huskies on Friday.
UConn will need to be wary of Memphis’ offensive capabilities if they want to steal a win against one of the most challenging conference opponents they’ll face this season. For a team that’s still learning how to win after a bad year, it will be a tough ask of the young Huskies.
“We have to learn how to win, we have to earn the wins and that’s as big a part as anything. As I watch the film each week, I see improvement,” Edsall said. “There’s progress, but there’s not the wins. But I’m not so sure we’ve earned the right to win yet.”
Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @realchrishanna.