UConn sports had a great year in 2011. They won a third men’s basketball national championship, their last under legendary head coach Jim Calhoun. Connecticut also peaked in football that January, with coach Randy Edsall leading the team to the Fiesta Bowl. What’s so special about 2011 though? That’s the last time the Huskies beat South Florida on the gridiron, doing so 16-10 at Rentschler Field. After eight games and as many losses, UConn returns to The Rent this Saturday hoping to break the 12-year drought against the Bulls.
USF brings a 3-4 record into the contest, having lost their last two. They’ve been very generous to opposing offenses in that pair of games, allowing 112 points across them.
The Bulls opened their season with a 17-point loss to Western Kentucky in a second-half collapse. The Hilltoppers outscored them 34-7 to close the matchup, a sign that even if USF gets ahead early, a comeback is attainable. They followed it up with a two-touchdown victory against FCS Florida A&M that left few convinced.
Next up was a peculiar home game against an Alabama squad figuring themselves out. After keeping a 3-3 tie into halftime, South Florida lost the second half 14-0. Losing to a program as consistently talented as the Crimson Tide is impressive, perhaps providing confidence for their next few games.
That confidence led to offensive explosions in their next two, scoring 42 and 44 against Rice and at Navy, respectively. USF pulled away from a close game versus the Owls, turning a one point deficit late in the third quarter into a 13 point win. For comparison, UConn beat Rice by seven, the equivalent mark when taking a standard plus-3 home field advantage into consideration. The Navy game was much of the same. They were tied late in the third frame and emerged with a 14 point victory.
The season got ugly for the Bulls though when they traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to take on UAB. After trying to keep up in a 35 point first quarter shootout, things quickly went south. Blazers’ running back Jermaine Brown Jr. scored three straight touchdowns to grab a 42-14 lead that effectively finished the game. Their embarrassing defeat against FAU was much of the same, but instead of a 42-14 deficit, it was 56-14. For reference, UAB and FAU have a combined 5-8 record.
Their decent offense is led in full by quarterback Byrum Brown. The freshman has done well in a variety of ways, starting with his passing. He ranks in the top 30% nationally in yards and touchdowns through the air with 1,662 and 12, respectively. The freshman has also been adequate in minimizing turnovers, with fewer than one per outing.
Brown really excels on the ground. With 512 such yards, he is third nationally among QBs and ranks in the top 50 overall. Brown’s seven rushing touchdowns also places him third among QBs and in the top 20 in the country. To do this as a freshman shows poise and could spell trouble for the Huskies who have allowed big QB rushing games early this season.
For the Huskies, they picked up their first win of the season against Rice, a contest that looked much more similar to what most people expected of the Huskies going into the year. Their success was driven by excellent defense and the offense did well enough to pick up the win. A bowl is essentially out of reach, but there are still a number of winnable games on the schedule, including this one. If things are clicking, UConn matches up well against the Bulls.
They’re hoping to take advantage of a dismal USF defensive in the bottom 10 nationally in points against and bottom six in passing yards allowed. QB Ta’Quan Roberson is hoping for another productive showing after two straight games with 200 plus passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The fifth year student is looking to finally find consistency in what will be his fifth full collegiate game if he finishes it.
Tight end Justin Joly looks to have another solid day after taking seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Owls. He was a big part of the Huskies’ scheme last year and seemed to return to form in Houston. Also keep an eye out for Brett Buckman. The senior wide receiver had nine catches in the Georgia State game but has only notched 11 in the four games since. This will be an excellent opportunity for him to get involved and put his season back on track.
UConn’s defense also has the opportunity to establish themselves. They rattled off four takeaways against Rice, much more opportunistic than they’ve been in the other five contests of the campaign. Their success largely comes from the fact that the offense was able to string together consistent drives, keeping the defense off the field. The Husky defense is capable of producing a big performance against a Brown-centric USF offense if rested adequately. If not, the QB could have a career day.
As is with all UConn FBS home games, the contest will air on CBS Sports Network and will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. EST.