The road hasn’t been easy so far for the UConn Huskies football team. They demonstrated this in their 59-0 loss at No. 4 Michigan last Saturday. At least in the near future, it’s not getting any easier either. This week, the Huskies will venture into ACC territory to take on the No. 12 North Carolina State Wolfpack, where they will try to minimize the damage in what looks like a near-impossible game to win.
The spread sits at an even 39 points in favor of the Wolfpack, eight points lower than the line for last week’s game. NC State is currently 3-0, although they haven’t been playing like a top team. They opened the season with a lucky win over East Carolina, a team that barely ranks in the top half of the FBS. The game was poised to go to overtime after a late Pirate touchdown, but the bid was snuffed when their kicker shanked the PAT. Their other FBS win wasn’t much better–a 13 point win over Texas Tech. The Wolfpack defense was on point, but their offense had trouble converting, only managing a pair of touchdowns.
According to ESPN’s FPI, NC State ranks 33rd, just a slot ahead of Syracuse, who blew UConn out at Rentschler Field 48-14. Even if NC State actually is 20 spots worse than their AP ranking suggests, that still puts them dozens of points ahead of UConn.
The impact player for the Wolfpack is QB Devin Leary, a Northeast product out of New Jersey. So far this year, Leary has thrown for 570 yards with five touchdowns and just a single pick. It is important to note that his best game came in the 55-3 win against FCS Charleston Southern, where he recorded four of his five scores and nearly half his yards. At the same time, UConn won’t be too much more of a challenge.
One of the major storylines and reasons why the Huskies will be an easier matchup is the absence of Nathan Carter. The star back was hurt against the Wolverines, suffering a second-degree shoulder separation. It doesn’t seem too serious, but the idea is that pushing him through this injury is not worthwhile with a game projected to be so lopsided. Now
, the Huskies are missing their starting quarterback, running back and top two wide receivers to injury, which is pretty historically unlucky.
They will likely have to rely now on their younger players to continue to step up and grow earlier than scheduled. QB Zion Turner now has 3.5 games under his belt and is still very clearly growing. His completion rate is just north of 50% and he has one more touchdown than interception. Offensive coordinator Nick Charlton has elected to keep him to throwing primarily screen passes, which have demonstrated to be of limited value when opposing defenses know they’re coming.
Victor Rosa is another player who’s going to need to step up, as the clear RB1 with Carter out. The freshman and Connecticut Gatorade POTY has only rushed 20 times on the year, collecting a total of 38 yards for an average of 1.9 per carry. 11 such yards came in his lone touchdown run, where he broke free and muscled his way into the end zone against Central Connecticut. The offensive line will have another mighty challenge this week against a strong NC State front that has five sacks so far. Holes will be hard to come by, so Rosa will need to make the most of his chances as they come. If he and Turner can’t make plays, it’s going to be a long day for the Huskies as they trudge through the hardest part of their schedule.
The game will be broadcast on YES and can be streamed on ESPN3 and NESN+ at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday.