Time and Place: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Where to Watch: ESPN, channel 42.1 on Storrs TV listings.
Last Meeting: Memphis won 41-10 on Nov. 29, 2014 in Memphis. UConn won the only other meeting between the two teams, 45-10, on Dec. 7, 2013 at the Rent.
Last Time Out: The Huskies fell 49-28 to American Athletic Conference opponent SMU in Dallas, Texas. After trailing 21-10 at halftime, UConn battled back to tie the game at 28 early in the fourth quarter, but SMU ran away with three touchdowns to win.
The Tigers were drilled 40-13 at UCF last weekend.
Key Players: UConn (1-3, 0-2 the American) vs. SMU (3-1, 0-1 the American)
UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs:
Shirreffs is absolutely rolling as the UConn offense begins to find its footing under new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. His last two games: 406 yards and three touchdowns against ECU, followed by 408 yards and two touchdowns against SMU. Shirreffs is the first UConn quarterback to record 400 passing yards in back-to-back games.
UConn wide receiver Aaron McLean:
Wide receivers Keyion Dixon, Tyraiq Beals, Mason Donaldson and McLean have spent the past two weeks making plays to make up for the absence of Hergy Mayala, who is dealing with a high ankle sprain. McLean was the biggest winner against SMU, hauling in five catches for 122 yards and a score.
Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson:
Ferguson poses another challenge for the UConn secondary at the quarterback position. He has thrown for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season, although he struggled against UCF, turning the ball over four times.
Memphis linebacker Austin Hall:
Hall leads the Tigers with 33 tackles, 27 unassisted, and will pitch in to stuff a UConn running game that finished with a program-record low negative-eight yards on the ground against SMU.
Air Raid: According to ESPN’s passing efficiency rating statistics, Shirreffs currently sits fourth in the country with a 182.3 rating, behind just Baker Mayfield, Dalton Sturm and Mason Rudolph. The Huskies are slinging the ball around the park with volume and efficiency under Lashlee’s watch, a far cry from previous seasons of stagnant offensive play. Running back Arkeel Newsome leads the team with 15 catches and 311 yards.
But, The Secondary…: While Shirreffs and company torch opposing defenses, the same is done to the Huskies’ own. Quarterbacks are going for 379.8 passing yards per game against UConn, picking apart the secondary with ease to move down the field. Ferguson should have success moving the ball.
American Woes: UConn has lost seven consecutive games against American Athletic Conference opponents, their longest streak since entering the game, and their longest conference losing streak since joining the Big East in 2004.
The Randy Report
On playing Friday and dealing with a short week: “You get tired of hearing people talk about the welfare of the student-athlete but, when you have an opportunity to do something right, it doesn’t seem like it gets done because we’re at the mercy of the television people because of the money that’s involved.
On the passing game: “We’re making our reads and we’re going with the ball where we’re supposed to, and the guys are doing a good job of catching the balls. And that just has to continue, and I think we can still be better route runners than we’ve shown.”
On learning to win: “We have to teach [the UConn players] how to win, because they don’t know how to win…I’m not so sure we’ve earned the right to win yet. That’s one of the things that we’re still learning how to do, and I see the improvement every day. I saw improvement this week.”
Tyler Keating is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @tylerskeating.