UConn football finally got its first win of the 2018 season this Saturday in a 56-49 shootout against Rhode Island that featured over a half mile of total offense. At face value, any victory for the Huskies would be a positive after two consecutive blowouts against UCF and Boise State, but like the two higher quality teams before them, Rhode Island exposed some pretty serious flaws in head coach Randy Edsall’s squad. So, was Saturday’s result a positive or negative for UConn?
Luke Swanson: All I’ve ever wanted as a fan of UConn football was to be entertained.
I just want to go to a UConn game and see the Huskies put some points on the board, and that’s exactly what we saw this Saturday. We saw flashes of Edsall’s high-octane offense (yeah, that’s a thing we can say now) against UCF, they sputtered mightily against Boise State, but Saturday showed that, as running back Kevin Mensah put it, “we can score every time we get the ball.”
Pindell looked like a superhero on the field, passing for 308 yards, rushing for 137 more and averaging nearly a first down every time he touched the ball. Mensah had an under-the-radar impressive game, with 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Receiver Hergy Mayala also had a pair of scores, and freshman Heron Maurisseau had a 74-yard touchdown, just adding to the toys that Pindell gets to play with.
If you’re looking to have fun while going to a game at Rentschler Field, you got a taste of that and more on Saturday.
Neil Simmons: I personally think it’s a horrible look for UConn.
Getting lit up by UCF and Boise State is one thing – they are two of the best teams in the Group of Five – but letting an FCS team come into your house and hang 49 points on you? Yikes.
The D allowed Rhode Island to rack up 550 yards of offense, including 199 rushing yards on 7.1 yards per carry. Their quarterback threw for 351 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two more. They blew a 14-point halftime lead and let URI tie the game up twice in the second half. That is not how you win football games. This is another bad showing for a team that is supposed to be the premier school in a conference that wants to be taken seriously.
If anyone wanted to see an encouraging sign from the defense after Boise tore them to shreds, this wasn’t it.
Swanson: I don’t know in what world UConn is supposed to be a premier school in the American Athletic Conference, but they’re not that right now, and people need to prepare themselves for the fact that they might not be that in the near future. A system like Edsall’s that is based around player development takes years to rev into full gear; it’s pretty fortuitous that the offense is as ahead of schedule as it is.
Another topic to factor into this discussion is experience. You don’t need to watch hours of all-22 to know that the Huskies are just a bit inexperienced on the side of the ball that gave up 2,000 yards in three games.
Over half of their defense are underclassmen, and that group got even larger when corner Tajh Herring-Wilson went down, replaced by freshman Ryan Carroll. Of course, a defense this young is going to undergo growing pains; the question is, can the offense overcome the disadvantage on the other side of the ball.
Simmons: The lack of experience is a reasonable excuse for the UCF and Boise losses, but not for an FCS team. From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t know how well the offense will be able to overcome the defensive struggles. They’ve struggled to put up points against their FBS opponents and committed three turnovers last week. Scoring big against Rhode Island should have been expected, but whether or not that will generate momentum going forward is yet to be seen.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neil Simmons is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.