Football: Huskies need renewed defensive effort against URI

The UConn Huskies took a hard opening loss this fall season to University of Central Florida 56-17. They look to learn from this Top 20 team and bounce back on their next home game on 9/15 against University of Rhode Island. (Photo by Eric Wang)

The good news is that the winless UConn Huskies will finally face a team ranked outside the Top 25 this weekend. The bad news is they will still have a very capable and undefeated team to contend with when face the 2-0 University of Rhode Island at Rentschler Field this Saturday at 12 p.m.

The Huskies had to the misfortune of being the only team in the nation to face two Top-25 teams in the first two weeks of the season. If a combined deficit of 94 points wasn’t enough to clue you in, the Huskies didn’t look they belonged on the same field

UConn’s defense was torn to shreds in both games. During their season opener, quarterback McKenzie Milton and the UCF offense picked apart the Huskies young secondary for 346 yards and five touchdowns. Last Saturday’s game was more of the same as quarterback Brett Rypien lit up Boise’s famous blue turf. Rypien threw for 362 yards and running back Alex Mattison contributed 115 yards on the ground for good measure.

However, UConn has had a pair of defenders make their presence known on the field. During last Saturday’s game against Boise State, redshirt sophomore Tyler Coyle up a career-high 14 tackles. That pushed the defensive back’s season total to a sterling 24 tackles, the most in the American Athletic Conference and the 14th most in the country. Freshman linebacker Kevon Jones’ 18 tackles lead all freshmen in Division I.

While URI football doesn’t have the name recognition of UCF or Boise State, the Rams’ do have an offense that is starting to turn some heads. Senior JuJuan Lawson might be the best quarterback in their conference. After a subpar performance in the Rams’ 21-19 slugfest win over Delaware, Lawson caught fire against Albany; throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns with a 78.6 completion percentage.

David Pindell and Co. need to move the ball against URI (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

Rhode Island’s defense is no joke either. The box score from their Week 2, 45-26 victory against Albany can be deceiving. The Rams had only allowed 7 points going into the fourth quarter. It was only after the game was thoroughly out of reach that URI took their foot off the gas and let Albany score some pity points.

UConn’s defense hasn’t shown the ability to stop a nosebleed let alone the potential tox keep a game within shouting distance of a win. To ensure a victory on their home field, UConn will need their defense to find its’ footing. The secondary should especially be a concern after two distressing performances.

Head coach Randy Edsall did shake things up at practice this week. Linebacker Darrian Beavers was switched to defensive end, with Eddie Hahn taking over his spot in the middle of the field. Jeremy Lucien will also become the third different freshman start at corner in as many weeks. After Keyshawn Paul was on the wrong end of a couple touchdowns in the season opener against UCF, Ryan Carroll got the starting gig against Boise State. Four quarters and 818 total yards of offense later, Lucien gets the opportunity to try to help turnaround UConn’s season. Here’s hoping the third time is the charm in more ways than one.


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.