UConn, actually coming off of a win, will face Navy for some Friday night football under the lights of Rentschler Field.
The Huskies (2-6) earned their first win over a BCS opponent in just over two years by taking down UMass on the road. Kevin Mensah ran for a whopping five touchdowns to lead UConn to the 56-35 victory. Edsall had high praise for his workhorse running back after the stellar performance.
“He [Mensah] works extremely hard, and he’s also very prideful in terms of how he plays. He has his own standards and expectations for himself as a football player,” Edsall said. “You know that every day, whether it’s the practice field or it’s game day, he’s going to give his best effort.”
Mensah, humble as ever, gave a lot of credit to the big guys on the offensive line for his performance last Saturday.
“Without them [the offensive line], I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did on Saturday,” Edsall said. “Those five guys are very important to the offense. I try to push them every day.”
With Saturday’s performance, Mansah passed Cornell Brockington for No. 8 on the Huskies’ all-time rushing yards list. With about 2,300 career rushing yards in his time at UConn and one season of eligibility remaining, Mensah will have a shot to catch Donald Brown, who sits at the top of the list with 3,800 career yards.
The air attack also looked solid for the Huskies. True freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis threw for 198 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Cam Ross led receivers with nine catches for 120 yards and a score.
Weapons such as Mensah, Ross and receiving back Art Thompkins, who also scored on Saturday, seem comfortable working with their young signal caller.
“When you can run the ball and throw the ball well and you have balance, that helps. Hopefully that is something that we’ll be able to continue to do,” Edsall said.
That comfort also goes both ways. Zergiotis is also comfortable with his weapons, particularly Ross, who is also his roommate.
“I have a ton of confidence in Cam [Ross]. I trust him on any throw, and I think he trusts me to get him the ball,” Zergiotis said. “It’s great to have him out there. He’s so quick, it’s great to have a receiver like that.”
As for Navy (6-1), they are on a four-game win streak, with their most recent triumph being a 41-38 win over Tulane. For reference, Tulane beat UConn Oct. 12 by six touchdowns. Edsall had a lot of praise for the Huskies’ foe this Friday.
“This is probably one of the best Navy teams that I can remember,” Edsall said. “I’m very impressed with what they’re doing this year, so it’s going to be a tough ballgame for us.”
Navy is currently just outside of the AP Top 25 rankings. They are the team that has recorded the second-most votes without actually being in the top 25.
Navy’s offense, known for their play action fakes, end arounds, pitch plays and sweeps, will keep UConn’s defense on their toes all game long.
“It’s a combination of what they do and also how well they execute it,” Edsall said. “In terms of how the linemen come off and all of the different fakes, everybody has to be disciplined.”
The focal point of this Navy offense is senior quarterback Malcolm Perry. Perry doesn’t do his damage through the air like traditional quarterbacks, but rather with his legs. Among BCS schools, he currently ranks eighth in rushing yards with 934 and fourth in rushing touchdowns with 14 this season.
Navy isn’t just a purely offensively dangerous team either. Their defense is as creative and destructive as any in all of college football. They are currently No. 10 in total yards allowed this season among BCS schools.
“The thing with Navy is, you don’t know what they’re bringing. They send a lot of blitz packages and there are no tells, so you don’t know who’s coming and who’s dropping,” Zergiotis said.
Zergiotis followed up by saying that preparations for Navy’s unpredictable defense will include “film, preparing for the pressure, knowing when to be hot and knowing when I have time to throw the ball.”
Zergiotis, as young and inexperienced as he may be, was well poised in last Saturday’s victory over UMass. Navy will provide perhaps his most daunting challenge yet.
The Huskies and Midshipmen will play Friday night under the lights of Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field at 8 p.m.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @seanjanos.