This past week without football in Storrs has given everyone a chance to gain some perspective on the Huskies’ season. Without football, nobody’s been screaming about cutting the program on social media and the national press about the historic badness of their defense has died down.
With First Night last week, the bright lights and cameras have been fixed on the women’s basketball team, the new men’s coach Dan Hurley and all the promise surrounding that program, and off football and their woes.
This, along with the whole “less actual football to scheme for” part, has given head coach Randy Edsall and his squad some time to look back at the season so far.
“When you’ve got a young team, and they’ve been going at it since August, September, two and a half months, their season’s almost over in high school,” Edsall said. “I thought it was good from a mental standpoint for them to get away.”
On paper, UConn’s game this Saturday against South Florida should present more of the same for the worst per-yardage defense in the post-war era (now down to 679.8 yards per game thanks to only giving up 634 against Memphis), but with the Bulls’ style of play, it might not be that cut and dry.
“We’re gonna face a team that’s fast, a team that’s athletic and has guys that can make plays,” Edsall said.
The Bulls’ offense has been hilariously inconsistent, ranging from averaging just 5.8 yards per play against the 103rd-ranked Georgia Tech defense and 5.6 against Tulsa’s 104th-ranked unit, to thoroughly dominating Elon and Illinois.
Starting quarterback Blake Barnett, an Arizona State grad transfer by way of Alabama and Palomar Community College, has mirrored the rest of the offense with his ups and downs.
Barnett lit up Illinois with 411 and two touchdowns, had his worst game of the season against a bad ECU defense, threw the ball 39 times and led the team back to win on the road at Tulsa. He might have had some inefficient games in the green and gold, but you can’t really argue with the results.
“He’s an undefeated quarterback, so that tells you right there about him,” Edsall said. “He’s a guy that has experience, he’s been around, seen it all, and knows where to go with the ball.”
The rock of South Florida’s offense has been the running game. Junior running back Jordan Cronkite (great name, by the way) has averaged 8.1 yards per carry so far this year, another transfer by way of Florida.
USF’s defense has suffered a bit after losing All-American Conference nose tackle Deadrin Senat, linebacker Auggie Sanchez and safety Devin Abraham. To compensate, defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary has had to get a little more creative, and has loaded the box to stop the run first and foremost.
This strategy has worked out for stopping the run game, certainly. The Bulls have the 35th-best stuff rate in the nation (percentage of plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage).
Linebacker Khalid McGee has slid into Sanchez’s role nicely, leading the Bulls with 40 tackles this season, including 3.5 of them for loss, and 6.5 run stuffs.
UConn quarterback David Pindell will hope to effectively use the bye week to make sure he’s 100 percent heading down to Tampa. Pindell has struggled in the past few weeks, throwing two interceptions in his last game against Memphis, and he hasn’t broke 200 yards passing since week three against Rhode Island.
The bye week also helped the Huskies rest up and ease some injuries, Edsall said. Tajh Herring-Wilson, Marshe Terry, Eddie Hahn, Santana Sterling and Hergy Mayala are either on pace to play this weekend or are already cleared and participating in practice.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.