The UConn football team returns to Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium this Sunday, looking to remain undefeated at home and bounce back after a tough loss at Virginia.
The Huskies (1-1, 0-0 the American) moved the ball well against the Cavaliers last week, but struggled to convert on red zone opportunities and had several blown coverages on defense resulting in a 38-18 loss on the road.
This week, UConn will be back at home for the first time since August 31 when the Huskies defeated Holy Cross 27-20 on the back of a second half comeback. The team would have had a second home game against USF on September 9, but that game was rescheduled due to travel concerns amidst Hurricane Irma.
Sunday’s game will be both the Huskies’ and the Pirates’ first American Athletic Conference game of the season, meaning it will be crucial to get off to a good start in-conference to set the tone for the remainder of the season.
“[We’re] getting ready for our first conference game and we’re looking forward to that,” head coach Randy Edsall said in a press conference on Wednesday. “Again, we’re just working to try and get better this week and continue to do things that allow these young men to be the best that they can be.”
While the game against ECU on Sunday is an opportunity to start the conference schedule with a win, it is also a chance to overcome memories of a horrible 41-3 road defeat to the Pirates last season. The game was an embarrassment to the point that the Huskies would like to dish back that same feeling this season, redshirt senior linebacker Junior Joseph said.
If the Huskies’ offense performs as well as it did in the second half against Holy Cross and at least moves the ball like it did against Virginia, the team should have no problem putting up more than three points against ECU Sunday afternoon.
The Pirates (0-3, 0-0 the American) enter this game having been outscored 154-51 for the season. However, ECU has faced some really talented offenses in that time including West Virginia and Virginia Tech, who scored 56 and 64 points against the Pirates, respectively.
The Pirates have had some bright moments, despite remaining winless this season. In fact, ECU led Virginia Tech 17-7 after the first quarter before allowing 57 consecutive points. In that game, quarterback Gardner Minshew had 241 yards passing on just 11 completions, showing off the Pirates’ ability to make big plays. If the UConn defense improves on its communication and limits blown coverages – which were major issues against Virginia – then ECU’s big play potential should be limited as well.
“There’s a lot of good things we did in that game on Saturday. But as I said, there was a lot of bad things we did, too,” Edsall said. “We gotta eliminate those bad things and keep getting better and make those good things even better.”
With the Huskies’ current roster, the battle with ECU represents one of the few chances for UConn to earn a conference win this season. If they can’t manage to snag a victory and sink the Pirates this Sunday, it could be quite a while before the team wins again with matchups against SMU, Memphis and Temple looming.
Despite the tough road ahead, Edsall still wants every moment – on and off the field – to be a winning experience. There will only be improvement and no excuses.
“I wanna win every week. I wanna win every day. I wanna win every period that we’re out there practicing. I want those kids to win in the meeting room,” Edsall said. “It’s my job to eliminate all the excuses for failure. That’s part of my job as the head coach.”
The chance to see the Huskies win this week will come at noon, Sunday at Rentschler Field in one of the tightest matchups UConn will face all season.