First Half Recap: Cincinnati beating UConn, 24-10
Cincinnati has thoroughly dominated UConn so far through the first half at Nippert Stadium today, taking a two touchdown lead into the break.
The Huskies have hardly been able to get anything going offensively, outside of the first drive which ended with an Arkeel Newsome touchdown after 50 rushing yards from Bryant Shirreffs. UConn is being outgained 305 yards to 144 and Shirreffs, who has been struggling with his accuracy has only managed 50 passing yards through two quarters.
While the Shirreffs run attack worked on the first drive, very little else materialized offensively. UConn's best receiving options were kept out of the game, including Noel Thomas, who only has two receptions for 17 yards.
Despite making a few mistakes, Cincinnati has been able to move the ball at will on its way to three touchdowns in the first half. One mistake came on special teams which allowed UConn to take possession with a very short field, but the Huskies only got three points out of it. Quarterback Gunner Kiel already has 227 yards to go along with two touchdowns. The Bearcats have 126 rushing yards from their backs, led by Mike Boone's 70.
Playcalling has been very weak for the Huskies, especially offensively. It's looking like it will take something miraculous for UConn to come back in this one.
This week, in a game where the home team is favored by 13 points by the Vegas bookmakers, Football Study Hall is projecting a 7.2 point win for the Cincinnati Bearcats over UConn today. The Huskies actually moved up in the national rankings despite last week's loss to USF, from 102nd to 94th. Cincinnati is currently ranked 84th.
Cincinnati's offense is 27th in the country in points per game, with 36.5, and 53rd in offensive efficiency. The Bearcats have a pretty balanced offensive attack, with over 1,000 rushing yards combined from three different running backs and 2148 passing yards between starting quarterbacks Gunner Kiel and Hayden Moore- who took over for Kiel after he took a ghastly hit in their game against Memphis a few weeks ago.
Kiel has been cleared to play, but nobody knows which quarterback will be starting for the Bearcats today. Luckily for them, the offense has been prolific with either. That has been due to an exceptional supporting cast in the skill positions, where a talented stable of running backs and wide receivers has been extremely productive- three running backs and five wide receivers have each posted over 250 yards on the season.
The Bearcats' relatively low offensive explosiveness ratings suggest that their overall success is due to an ability to sustain drives rather than making big plays, so it would make sense that they are one of the best teams in the country on third down, ranking 10th in 3rd down efficiency. This doesn't bode well for the Huskies, whose 3rd down defense is ranked 124th.
Defensively, the Bearcats are on the other side of the spectrum, ranking 113th in efficiency and 91st in points per game allowed, with 31.8. Despite lacking in points last week, UConn's offensive performance reflected kindly in the advanced stats, where efficiency has improved significantly. At 110th in the country in efficiency and 115th in scoring isn't going to scare anyone, but the offense should be able to put some points up today.
The Huskies need to continue their solid performance from the past two weeks but make sure not to leave points on the table in their red zone chances. Right now they are 124th in the country in points per trip inside the opponents' 40-yard line.
The Husky defense ranks 29th in defensive scoring and 74th in defensive efficiency. The Huskies are also 17th in the country in turnover margin. Their success in turnovers is going to have to continue if UConn is going to compete today. With Foley Fatukasi's playing status in jeopardy, the defense will be without its chief disruptor. After Fatukasi, Luke Carrezola is probably the most active player in the front seven, with 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and one forced fumble.
UConn's secondary will be tested. Despite being beaten a few times for big plays last week, the secondary has been able to come away with interceptions- starting cornerbacks Jamar Summers and Jhavon Williams both have three on the season and safety Andrew Adams has two. The best comparison of the Cincinnati offense out of the teams UConn has played is probably BYU, where Summers and Williams each picked off a pass. The Huskies will need a strong performance out of those two today, along with safeties Adams and Obi Melifonwu.
The most important thing for UConn today, playing on the road and having lost four of its last five games, is to make sure this season does not begin to spiral out of control with a blowout loss. Last week was a very disappointing result, but the Huskies showed signs of promise. Against a very porous defense, the Husky offense will need to keep UConn in the game, so that the defense doesn't tire late and because Cincinnati will get points on the board even with a solid defensive effort from the Huskies. If UConn can keep Cincinnati under 30, it will have a chance.
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How to Watch
Radio: WTIC 1080AM (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman, Kevin Nathan) | 91.7 WHUS | www.whus.org
TV: CBS Sports Network (Dave Ryan, Corey Chavous, Melanie Collins)
Series: This is the 12th meeting between these two teams, with Cincinnati holding a 9-2 advantage.
Fun Fact: Four members of the UConn coaching staff have ties to Cincinnati, including Diaco--who spent a year at Cincinnati as defensive coordinator--and co-offensive coordinator Frank Verducci, who was an assistant coach with the NFL's Bengals from 1999-2001.