Point/Counterpoint: Which side would hold up; the UConn football defense or offense 

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The University of Connecticut football team has been dismal this year. With quarterback troubles, lackluster effort on defense and an interim head coach, the team has hit rock bottom especially after a scoreless effort in a 0-49 defeat to Purdue. While this is not a great case for the team, an interesting question arises with both sides of the team having problems. Could the current UConn football offense score on the current UConn defense? Would the UConn defense be able to score on the UConn offense? Evan Rodriguez and Stratton Stave will tackle this interesting question in this week’s point/counterpoint.  

Evan: The UConn football team has been absolutely awful this year, and the UConn defense has been a main factor in this team’s poor play. Other than the first quarter, the team has shown no ability to stop opposing offenses from getting down the field. This was shown most clearly when the Huskies allowed Purdue’s backup team to march down the field with practically no effort and score in a blowout. With this in mind, I don’t doubt that the UConn offense could score on the UConn defense. While the team was held scoreless in two out of their three games this year, the offense has shown signs of life compared to the defense who has continued to play the same throughout the year. A quarterback change has only aided in a new change of play for the Huskies as new starting quarterback Steven Krajewski had several plays where he proved his worth, regardless of his scoreless effort on Saturday. There is simply no reason for UConn’s offense to be held scoreless by this defense.  

Stratton: I agree with you to an extent, no doubt; UConn’s defense is really not good at all. But let me pose you this: In theory, UConn’s defense should be the quality of a FBS team. Many would argue they are not up to such quality, but let’s just assume they are an FBS defense. One thing that UConn’s offense has not done is score on an FBS opponent. In their two games, the offense has driven down the field countless times, even against third and fourth-string players, and come up empty. On the other hand, UConn’s defense has made stops, albeit very few. I can say with confidence that they have forced punts this year against FBS offenses–both Fresno State and Purdue. With this in mind, UConn’s defense has demonstrated an ability to stop an FBS offense occasionally. The UConn offense has not shown an ability to score even a point on an FBS defense. Once UConn scores against an FBS opponent, this is a very different conversation, but until then, the defense holds the upper hand.  

Evan: I’m going to have to disagree with you on that. If UConn’s defense was able to play as well as they do in the first quarter for the duration of the entire game, I might have to agree with you. However, a great deal of reasoning for why I believe that the UConn offense would score on this UConn defense has to be the Sept. 4th matchup against Holy Cross. Even though the team was playing a less impressive Crusaders team, they scored 28 points with Jack Zergiotis at quarterback, a player who has been wildly unimpressive this year. Krajewski has shown more life signs, and the Huskies are a better team with him leading the offense. On the other hand, the UConn defense continues to get worse, as shown by consistent mistakes in the 2nd quarter and ridiculous scoring outputs by opponents. UConn’s defense SHOULD be the quality of the FBS team, but is it really? If they continue to play as they have throughout the year, the answer is a resounding no, and improvements are needed desperately. Even with Cam Ross out for the year, a mediocre FBS defense can’t stop this team. 

Stratton: Not only is Cam Ross out, so is star WR Matt Drayton. That’s the Huskies two most talented receivers gone. On top of that, after watching three full UConn football games, it feels pretty clear that the offensive line is among the worst in Division 1, allowing over two sacks per game. UConn running backs have also only gained an average of 2.4 yards per rush, which is bottom 10 in the nation. Now this would not be an issue if UConn didn’t have a NFL prospect-level defensive lineman on their roster in Travis Jones, but they do. Jones is 6-foot-4 and 333 pounds. There is not a chance anyone on UConn’s offensive line would be able to contain the junior, who was listed in the top fifteen of The Athletic’s 2021 Freaks List, where Bruce Feldman chronicles the players who have the most insane, gifted athleticism and physical abilities. Jones would sack Krajewski frequently enough to prevent anything from getting going and would effectively be able to contain the run game as well. Lastly, I’ll close with some personal experience. I went to UConn’s open practice in August, where the offense routinely made the defense look like they belonged in the SEC. Who knows, maybe things have changed since then, but based on the factors listed, it seems unlikely that UConn’s offense would have a shot against the defense, although they are both horrible. 

Evan: While Jones is an excellent part of the defense for UConn, this hasn’t stopped them from giving up over 30+ points each game of the year. Even though Cam Ross and Matt Drayton may be out, you shouldn’t discourage the talent of Cameron Hairston, Jakhai Gill or Heron Maurisseau. They certainly pose an option for Krajewski as he looks to hit his receivers as they draw separation from defenders. I think that Spanos will look to get more running plays for Krajewski, and the scoring opportunities will certainly come as the season continues down the line. While the offensive line is not spectacular and poses a problem, it gives Krajewski just enough time to get something going against this unspectacular defense. On passing alone, I think the offense would be great against this defense. This season has proven that Jones alone can’t carry this defense and I don’t see anything changing in this instance. There are enough slipups for this UConn offense to scramble for enough to get something going on offense and score on their own defense.  

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