Football: UConn vs. Virginia preview capsule

The Huskies take on Tulane at Pratt and Whitney Stadium Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. The Huskies had a rough game, losing at the half 24-0. Although they rallied in the second half, it wasn't enough for the win with a final score of 38-13. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Time and Place: 12 p.m. Saturday, September 16 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Where to Watch: ESPN2, channel 42-2 on University of Connecticut TV listings.

Last Meeting: UConn won 13-10 at home last season on September 17. The two opponents have met just three times, with the first meeting coming in 2007. The Huskies lead the all-time series 2-1, having outscored the Cavaliers 74-37 over that span.

Last Time Out: The Huskies took on FCS opponent Holy Cross, but struggled mightily in the first half before pulling off a 27-20 win on the back of a great second-half performance from quarterback Bryant Shirreffs.

Virginia took on the Indiana Hoosiers at home last week, but lost 34-17 after a mediocre defensive performance, dropping them to 1-1 for the year

UConn (1-0, 0-0 the American) vs. Virginia (1-1, 0-0 ACC)

Key Players: 

UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs:

Having reclaimed his position as the Huskies’ starter, Shirreffs will look to continue his success as the leader of the offense after a solid second half performance against Holy Cross. Last week, Shirreffs became just the fifth UConn player to reach 5,000 total yards in his career, joining record-holder Dan Orlovsky (10,421), Matt DeGennaro, Shane Stafford and Ken Sweitzer in the Huskies’ history books.

Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert:

Benkert completed 39 passes against Indiana last week, tying for the fourth-most single-game pass completions in school history. He is unquestionably the field general for the Cavaliers and currently ranks third in the ACC in passing yards and touchdowns with 521 and four, respectively. His average of 33 completions per game ranks fourth in the nation.

UConn linebacker Vontae Diggs:

Diggs will start his first game of the season after rehabbing from a long-term knee injury. He is one of the Huskies’ most experienced and most consistent players on defense. Diggs earned 84 tackles last season as a junior, including a career-high of 12 tackles against Houston. Look for him to make a big impact in his return to the field on Saturday.

Virginia free safety Quin Blanding:

Blanding recorded 12 tackles last week against Indiana and has already played 38 games in his collegiate career. Blanding has reached the double-digit tackle mark in 20 of those games and averages 10.1 tackles per game for his career. Look for him to be a disruptive force Saturday afternoon.

Talking Points

Extra Rest: The Huskies have had an extra week to prepare for the matchup against the Cavaliers, after their game against USF was rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma travel concerns. The USF game has now been moved to November 4, while the matchup against East Carolina was moved up to September 24.

Second Half Start for Fatukasi: UConn will be without defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi for the first half after an ejection due to targeting in the Huskies’ win against Holy Cross. His empowering speech at halftime may have led to the UConn win in that game, but he’ll be happy to play in the second half of this week’s game against Virginia.

Running Back Committee: Nate Hopkins put in an impressive debut against Holy Cross, rushing for 130 yards and three touchdowns. His great start to the season may have made head coach Randy Edsall’s starting running back decision a little more difficult, with incumbent Arkeel Newsome deserving of his share of snaps as well. Expect a running back committee approach in Saturday’s game to keep the Virginia defense on its toes.

The Randy Report

On Virginia: “They do a lot of different things offensively, personnel-wise and then also defensively. We’re going to have to make sure that we’re on top of our game and communicate extremely well.”

On the importance of road games: “If you’re going to be a successful team and you want to be a really good team, then you’ve got to be able to win on the road.”


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.