Football: Huskies wrap up regular season with trip to West Point

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11/4/2022 FBALL vs. UMass by Sofia Sawchuk, Associate Photo Editor The UConn football team captures a 27-10 win over rival UMass following a Friday night matchup at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. on Nov. 4, 2022. UConn freshman running back Victor Rosa (22) ran 87 yards along with obtaining a pair of touchdowns to help the Huskies snatch the victory.

The bowl-eligible UConn football team enters their regular-season finale with six wins for the first time since 2015. Imagine typing out that sentence back in August, especially after the Huskies’ 1-11 2021 campaign.  

UConn is in the midst of a feel-good season under first-year head coach Jim Mora, but their job is far from over. Despite having enough wins to be considered bowl eligible, there is still a possibility that the Huskies do not play in December due to their status as an FBS independent. Bowl games are reserved for programs in the 10 football-sponsoring conferences. 

The defense has been the primary reason that UConn has won five of their last six games. Prior to allowing 33 points against then No. 19 Liberty, the defense had allowed 12.8 points per game in the last five. Jackson Mitchell gets involved in multiple ways as he has 117 total tackles, the second-most in the country, eight tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries. 

While Mitchell can do it all, he is second in both sacks and tackles for a loss behind Eric Watts, the anchor on the defensive line who has 9.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. Pryce Yates has been just as dominant as he has 37 tackles, seven of which are for a loss, and 3.5 sacks while consistently forcing pressure on opposing quarterbacks. 

Durante Jones, Malik Dixon-Williams and Ian Swenson have all been forces in the secondary as each of them have an interception. In addition to their picks, Jones has 81 tackles, Dixon-Williams has 79 and Swenson has 78, with the trio combining for five tackles for a loss. Opposing offenses have a hard time figuring out where to place the ball because of these three, Brandon Bouyer-Randle and Chris Shearin, who had two interceptions in his last three games. 

The Huskies’ offense had their most complete performance last weekend, as they gained over 100 yards both in the air and on the ground. The running corps has also played a significant role in UConn’s recent winning ways. While losing Nathan Carter and Brian Brewton weakened their depth, Devontae Houston and Victor Rosa have combined for over 900 yards of offense. Even Robert Burns, who Mora called “the best fullback in the country” last weekend, gets a frequent number of snaps as he has 355 yards. 

11/4/2022 FBALL vs. UMass by Sofia Sawchuk, Associate Photo Editor The UConn football team captures a 27-10 win over rival UMass following a Friday night matchup at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. on Nov. 4, 2022. UConn freshman running back Victor Rosa (22) ran 87 yards along with obtaining a pair of touchdowns to help the Huskies snatch the victory.

Zion Turner had one of the best starts of his career last weekend, but has made strides in his development as the season wears on. During the Huskies’ 5-1 stretch, Turner threw two interceptions and had one game where he threw less than 100 yards. 

Turner also has some great targets in the receiving corps whether it is Aaron Turner, Kevens Clercius or Justin Joly. All three can break out for long plays and make great catches, which increases Z. Turner’s confidence and the offense’s tempo as the game rolls along. 

The Army Black Knights (3-6), stand in the way of the Huskies winning their most games in a season since 2010. Army is coming off a game against Troy where they lost by a single point after allowing 10 unanswered points in the second half. Even if the Black Knights won their final three games, including their annual contest against Navy in Philadelphia, their status as an FBS independent program decreases their chances of becoming bowl eligible. 

Tyhier Tyler, who is listed as a quarterback, is known both for his ability to scramble, as he leads the team with 430 rushing yards, and his ability to find the endzone with seven touchdowns. When he is not scrambling, expect Tyson Riley to pound the rock on the ground as he has 396 yards and two touchdowns. 

Army heavily relies on their rushing game to get the job done, and as a result, their passing game is not as productive. As a team, the Black Knights have thrown 86 passes with 38 of them being completed through nine games. Aside from Tyler and his 234 passing yards, the Black Knights rely on senior gunslingers Cade Ballard (335 yards and two touchdowns) and Jemel Jones (250 yards and one touchdown).  

Jones is more of a scrambler than Ballard, but both can pass the ball to their limited options in the receiving department. Army has just two wide receivers with over 200 yards as Isaiah Alston has 246 and Ay’Jaun Marshall has 208. Both are decent options as they have three combined touchdowns and can break out for big runs whenever they have the space to do so. 

However, like UConn, the Black Knights can be an opponent’s nightmare on the defensive side of the ball. Both Leo Lowin and Andre Carter II have been bringing the boom in the secondary. Lowin has a team-leading 75 total tackles, five for a loss, three sacks and two interceptions while Carter II has 31 tackles, 5.5 for a loss and a team-leading 3.5 sacks. When they are not doing damage, Marquel Broughton and Quindrelin Hammonds are shutting the opposition’s passing games down, as they have seven passes broken up and two interceptions between them. Although they allow 25.44 points a game, Army’s defense is tough.  

The key in this contest, one where the Black Knights are favored by 10 at home, will be the run game. Army averages 299.4 yards on the ground per game, which is the second highest in the country behind Air Force, while the Huskies average 189.5 yards. There may be a massive disparity in those averages, but UConn’s offensive calling card has been their run game, and the team tends to succeed when it gets going. Whoever gains more yards on the ground without turning the ball over will walk away victorious. 

Kickoff at Michie Stadium between the two FBS independents is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19, at 12 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. 

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