UConn football will be celebrating Homecoming Weekend with a Saturday afternoon matchup against conference rival University of Houston.
Head coach Randy Edsall got his hands on the aux cord during the Huskies’ (1-5) week of practice. Though many might expect Edsall to play strictly bangers, he had a different type of song stuck in his head.
The Houston Cougars’ fight song could be heard blaring on repeat from UConn football’s practice facility. According to Edsall, he wants his team to play with animosity against Houston (2-4) this weekend.
“We have to start to develop an attitude, of when you play these teams, you don’t like them,” Edsall said. “Instead of all of this other music, we are going to make sure we have the mindset to play a game. We just have to make sure we have a hate on for people.”
Edsall’s Huskies are currently on a five-game losing streak, and coach is trying to keep his team focused. He wants them playing hard through the entire season, no matter how bad the win-loss record gets.
“What we have to continue to do is work to get better at the little things, pay more attention to detail and play with confidence,” Edsall said.
Through Houston’s first four games, starting dual-threat quarterback E’Eriq King was making a fool of opposing defenses. He ran for 312 yards and six touchdowns and threw for 663 yards and six more touchdowns. That totals to 975 yards and 12 touchdowns through just four games. Luckily for the Huskies, King decided to redshirt towards the end of September.
For the two games since King made the decision to sit out the remainder of the season, Houston has been singing a different tune — Clayton Tune that is. The sophomore passer is 1-1 through his first two starts of the season and, like King, has proven to be a dual-threat of sorts himself.
In Tune’s win over North Texas, he threw 16-20 for 124 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 100 yards on nine attempts. Tune’s loss to Cincinnati was a totally different story.
Tune threw just nine completions in three times as many attempts for 184 yards, two scores and three interceptions. He was also held in check on the ground, running for just three yards.
It’s uncertain whether the Huskies will see a good or a bad Tune, but what is more certain is that Houston will try to control the game with their rushing attack.
“They get after you and run the ball very, very well,” Edsall said. “We have another challenge in front of us to take care of.”
Kyle Porter and Patrick Carr make up the one-two punch out of the Cougars’ backfield. They’ve combined for 681 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and have added 65 yards and a score through the air. Both backs provide a combination of quickness in space with enough power and size to run between the tackles.
In a game where Cincinnati’s defense made every yard a challenge, Porter was able to have a 100-yard day on just 16 attempts. In preparation for Houton’s high-powered rush attack, Edsall has decided to start freshman linebacker Jackson Mitchell.
“I’ve been impressed with him since he got here,” Edsall said. “Is he ready to play? Yes. Is he going to make some mistakes? Yes. But he gives you everything he has every single play. He likes to play. If he makes a mistake, it isn’t going to be because of a lack of effort or confidence.”
Mitchell, who has earned more and more playing time with each game, is excited to take the field with the first-string defense for the first time.
“It’s been a dream of mine to start for a college team since I was little,” Mitchell said.
What Mitchell brings to the table is defensive-back mobility and coverage ability inside of a big, strong linebacker’s body. Mitchell will thrive in a role that allows him to do a multitude of things on the field.
“I think I’m pretty versatile,” Mitchell said. “I can make tackles, cover the pass, cover running backs, cover the slot and I think I’m pretty smart. I have the keys down, and I have the plays down, so I’ll be able to call and set the defense pretty well.”
Houston has been a part of a lot of high-scoring games this season. Four of their six games played have had a combined point total of over 60.
Mitchell will look to provide a spark to a Husky defense that has allowed a whopping 153 points through their last three games.
UConn and Houston will face off Saturday at noon at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @seanjanos.