FIRST-HALF RECAP: UConn on top, 23-3
Exactly as the pundits predicted in the preseason, Bob Diaco's made up rivalry game is a blowout. The Huskies, who everyone knew would be overmatched in this game, are up 20 points after 30 minutes of football that was anything but pretty.
But there are no style points on the scoreboard, where UConn has built a comfortable lead. Two UCF interceptions and a few other mistakes allowed UConn to put up more points in the first half than it had in a full game all season.
The UConn offense gained 250 yards in the first half, with Bryant Sherriffs 12-17 on his attempts for 175 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came towards the end of the second quarter two plays after Justin Holman threw his second interception. Holman's other interception, which occurred on the Knights' previous drive led to a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Shirreffs, who also has 36 rushing yards.
Alec Bloom has had a solid first half, grabbing four catches for 67 yards. Arkeel Newsome has been the Huskies' primary runner, with 43 yards on nine attempts and a touchdown.
UCF was able to move the ball a little bit early, but drops and penalties hampered them. In the second quarter the Knights' offense looked completely lost.
The game has not been pretty, but UConn is winning big as it should be. So that's good. What a fun rivalry this is!
This is it. The moment we have been waiting for since the summer when this gem graced our Twitter feeds.
The mood is tense as the UConn Huskies are in Bright House Networks Stadium for today's historic rivalry showdown. As the players are warming up, you can see them glaring at each other from opposite ends of the field, overflowing with hate at every passing glance, probably.
Ok fine, probably not.
There's no dancing around it. As Bob Diaco's cavalier announcement of a football rivalry between UCF and UConn made its way across social media, it became a national punchline. UConn had beaten one FBS team the previous season while UCF was one year removed from celebrating a Fiesta Bowl win. The two schools had no previous relevant history, and are as geographically separated as any two teams in a conference can be.
But that one FBS team which UConn beat last year happened to be UCF. After that game, Diaco expressed an interest in creating a rivalry. So this summer's announcement wasn't completely out of left field. You can check out my longer defense of The ConFLiCT along with a thinly veiled troll on Syracuse here.
At AAC Media Day a few months later, Diaco would double down, explaining his respect for George O'Leary and his program (which was perhaps his actual error), offering to change the name in case "Civil Conflict" was offensive, and saying he would add the score from the game two years ago.
While UCF struck first in the rivalry by refusing to acknowledge it, causing further public lashing for Diaco, George O'Leary's Knights are currently winless going into this game. They have lost to Florida International and Football Championship Subdivision member Furman in low-scoring affairs, and were effectively blown out by Tulane last week.
Even last year's UConn team beat its FCS opponent. Advantage Bob.
This year's UConn team has surpassed preseason expectations with its performance despite losing the last two games by double-digits. The solid, though unspectacular, start to the season has people believing in the work Diaco and his staff are doing and even that a bowl game might be a possibility.
Nobody thought UConn could beat UCF before the season. Now, it seems like it would be a disappointment if the Huskies lost.
Perhaps Diaco knew exactly what he was doing by circling this specific game on the calendar. While UCF's terrible start could not have been predicted by anyone, the Knights were due for a down year as they were replacing a number of senior contributors from last year's team. So this game was already more winnable than many believed. The game is also important because it would be UConn's chance to right the ship after playing at Missouri, against Navy and at BYU with another difficult stretch waiting to end the season.
On the field, the focus for UConn will be demonstrating offensive competence, since we can probably count on the defense to be stout. The offense needs to do a better job of gaining field position, converting third downs, and getting a few more contributors involved.
Prediction: I think points will be at a premium, but UConn will prevail in the end 20-10.
This is the Open Thread, enjoy!