EAST HARTFORD – While the UConn football team’s offense has jilted to life under new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, the opposite is happening to a defense that has enjoyed scattered success stifling offenses in recent years.
The 2017 UConn defense, specifically against the pass, is very bad. Very, very bad. Historically bad.
Previously, the most points ever scored by a UConn opponent was 69, by Holy Cross in 1919. That record fell as Memphis won 70-31 Friday night in Hartford, compiling 711 yards of offense along the way.
“That was embarrassing in the second half,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said after the game. “Embarrassing.”
The individual numbers allowed were similarly eye-popping. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson: 34-for-48, 431 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Anthony Miller: 15 receptions, 224 yards and four touchdowns.
“On national TV, there’s no way in life should a team ever put 70 points on you. Just thinking about that makes me sick to my stomach,” UConn linebacker Vontae Diggs said after the game. “I can’t stress that word enough. It’s just an embarrassment.”
The record books received heavy wear and tear Friday night. Ferguson set career-highs in completions, yards and touchdown passes, while tying both the American Athletic Conference and Memphis records for touchdown passes in a game. Miller tied the American record for touchdown catches in a game and set the Memphis record.
Miller was truly spectacular, making a couple of scoring grabs up against the boundary with a defender draped all over him. Time and time again, the Huskies were beat, consistently leaving a defensive back in single-coverage against the 5-foot-11 pass catcher.
Ferguson departed the game after three quarters of slicing up the secondary, giving way to backup quarterback David Moore. Ferguson beat the coverage up and down the field, while evading pass rushers with ease to avoid costly sacks.
“That’s a good football team, and they took advantage of every opportunity they got, and I commend them, and I applaud them, but I’m very embarrassed,” Diggs said.
Edsall talked at length after the game of the challenges of installing a new defensive scheme featuring a four-man front, and the need to recruit players that fit his scheme. But for now, the coaching staff is doing the best with the pieces they have.
“What we’re trying to do is put together the best things that we can to give us a chance to win, and right now, it’s not real pretty. But guess what? This is what we have, this is who we are, and we’re just going to continue to work to get better. That’s all, pure and simple. Pure and simple,” Edsall said.
That task falls mainly on a defensive unit that has a lot of work to do after a long night at Rentschler Field.
“I got to watch the film, I got to put this one to bed, and I’m going to bring my workman and my lunch pail to work, and I’m gonna grind. And I’m gonna make sure my guys are grinding, because once again, this is an embarrassment,” Diggs said.