Football: UConn vs. SMU preview capsule

UConn will take on SMU in Texas on Saturday. (File photo/The Daily Campus)

UConn will take on SMU in Texas on Saturday. (File photo/The Daily Campus)

Time and Place: 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in University Park, Texas.

Where to Watch: ESPNews, not available on University of Connecticut TV listings. Can also watch on the WatchESPN app.

Last Meeting: UConn closed out the 2014 regular season on December 6, 2014 with a 27-20 loss at home to the Mustangs after blowing a 20-6 halftime lead. The two opponents have met just twice since the Huskies became an FBS program and SMU has won both. The first meeting came in 2013, when SMU defeated an 0-9 UConn team 38-21 at home.

Last Time Out: The Huskies took on conference opponent ECU in a shootout at Rentschler Field Sunday afternoon. The UConn defense struggled to cover the deep ball and trailed early, but came back in the second half only to lose 41-38 on a missed game-tying field goal as time expired.

The Mustangs battled the Arkansas State Red Wolves and came away with a 44-21 home victory on the back of running back Xavier Jones, who gained 146 yards on just 19 carries. However, star wide receiver Courtland Sutton was kept quiet in the win.

UConn (1-2, 0-1 the American) vs. SMU (3-1, 0-0 the American)

Key Players: 

UConn running back Kevin Mensah:

Freshman running back Kevin Mensah appears to be the lead back on first and second downs, or in rushing situations in the Huskies offense. He is more of a between-the-tackles kind of back compared to the electrifying Arkeel Newsome who excels in third-down passing situations. In just two games, Mensah has a touchdown and 22 attempts for 156 yards, good for 7.1 yards per carry. Look for him to continue in that role and provide a spark for UConn’s running game.

SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton:

Sutton is almost everything to the Mustangs’ offense. At 6-foot-4 with freakish athletic ability, the junior receiver was named to a boatload of preseason award watch lists, including the Heisman and Biletnikoff awards. Sutton led his team in receptions (76), receiving yards (1,246) and touchdowns (10) last season. His average yards per game has dropped this season, but Sutton is still a threat to score with already five touchdowns in four games.

UConn linebacker Junior Joseph:

Junior Joseph is a redshirt senior linebacker and unquestionably one of the biggest leaders of the defense. This season, Joseph has amassed 22 total tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. His ability to disrupt an offense from the front seven is key when the secondary has struggled to contain deep throws.

SMU defensive back Jordan Wyatt:

No man on the SMU defense is more dangerous than Jordan Wyatt. He is fourth on the Mustangs with 20 total tackles and leads the team with two interceptions and four pass breakups. Wyatt also has two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to his name. He is a force to be reckoned with, one that the Huskies’ offense will have to be wary of at all times.

Talking Points

Hergy’s Hurting: The Huskies’ No. 1 wide receiver will be out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain he suffered on the second play of the game against ECU, according to head coach Randy Edsall. Young receivers Mason Donaldson and Keyion Dixon will likely step up in his place after respectable performances in the last game.

Offense Improving: The team is getting more comfortable with what the coaches are asking of them offensively, Edsall said.

“I think the one thing is…we’re executing. We’re executing the things that are being called. And if we can continue to do that and continue to stay ahead of the chains, then…[we] can continue to grow and continue to get better which we will do,” Edsall said. “But…we’re still nowhere near or even close to where we want to be from an offensive standpoint.”

Newsome in the Open Field: Despite putting up outstanding numbers against ECU last week, running back Arkeel Newsome will not be the feature back in UConn’s offense, Edsall said. The senior back will stay in the passing-down role and will have the opportunity to excel in that position.

“He reminds me of a third-down back in the NFL,” Edsall said.

The Randy Report

On Courtland Sutton and SMU receivers: “Those are guys that are really good wide receivers. They got good speed and…you better make sure your eyes are in the right place defensively, cause if not…then you’re gonna give up big plays,” Edsall said.

On responding to a tough loss: “I thought they did a good job of just putting it behind them…When you come back in that next day, you gotta move on. You gotta move on,” Edsall said. “They don’t have nine more opportunities. Nine more, guaranteed. And if you can’t get yourself up to play, then you shouldn’t play the sport. Shouldn’t play…It doesn’t matter what happened the week before.”


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.