Following last week's incredible comeback at Temple, the UConn football team has a chance to come home and do something it hasn't done much of in a while – win back to back games.
Out of all the failures of the Paul Pasqualoni era (and there were many), one of the most frustrating was the team's inability to keep a hot streak going. We all remember the end of the 2010 season, when the Huskies got on a roll, won five straight games and captured the Big East championship and a Fiesta Bowl berth. Do you want to know how many times the Huskies have had a winning streak since then? Just once.
Last year, when UConn beat Pitt and Louisville back-to-back in mid-November, was the only time under Paul Pasqualoni that UConn won back to back games. Otherwise, it was a mind-numbing dance of win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose two games, win a game, end the season with a loss to Cincinnati that continued for the better part of two years.
Obviously the team hasn't had a chance to break that cycle this season, but now the Huskies do indeed have an opportunity to make something out of what has otherwise been a disastrous season. Rutgers comes to town for their final matchup as conference rivals, and like Syracuse, I'm sure the Husky players would love nothing more than to kick them out of Rentschler with a bad taste of UConn in their mouths.
Being realistic, could that actually happen? I mean, as awesome as last week was, Temple was a 1-9 team with a proven track record of blowing games and a junior high kicking game. We all knew they were potentially as bad as UConn was, so how do we figure to stand much of a chance against a much more respectable 5-5 Rutgers team.
Well, for one, Rutgers is having some major issues. Like UConn, Rutgers is also 1-4 in their last five games, and after a solid start to the season, the Scarlet Knights have absolutely imploded since the start of conference play. Rutgers famously survived a shootout with SMU in one of the season's best games early in October, but in the weeks that followed they were beaten 24-10 at Louisville and blown out 49-14 by Houston before beating lowly Temple 23-20. Did things improve after that? No. In their last two games, Rutgers has been squashed 52-17 by Cincinnati and 41-17 by UCF.
Overall, Rutgers is 2-4 in the American standings, and incredibly UConn could actually bypass them in the conference standings if the Huskies were to win out and Rutgers were to lose their finale against USF. If you look at their record closer, you'll find that they've feasted on bad teams while getting devoured by good ones. The teams that Rutgers has beaten were a combined 14-41 going into Friday, and the teams they've lost to were a combined 45-8.
So that's been Rutgers' story so far, what can we expect on the field this afternoon. Well for starters, Rutgers and UConn have both had difficulty finding the right quarterback this season, and today Rutgers will start senior backup Chas Dodd today over team captain Gary Nova in response to the quarterbacks recent struggles.
Dodd played sporadically as a freshman and sophomore before eventually losing the starting job to Nova, and the last game he started was the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl. Dodd has thrown only 46 passes on the season, completing 28 of them (60.9 percent) for no touchdowns and one interception, compared to Nova's 2,159 yards on 54.5 percent completion with 18 touchdowns and 14 picks.
Dodd will have the benefit of a depleted UConn secondary, as both starting safety Ty-Meer Brown and cornerbacks Jhavon Williams and David Stevenson are out for today's game. Brown and Stevenson are out for the season with a neck and knee injury respectively, and Williams is still recovering from a concussion.
Will that combination and the desire to become bowl eligible help propel Rutgers to a badly needed victory, or will UConn take advantage of the opportunity to claim a second-straight win over a wounded opponent? Kickoff is at noon on ESPNU, enjoy the game!