EAST HARTFORD—Despite a late push from Army, UConn held on for a 22-17 win Saturday afternoon at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. The win moves the Huskies to 2-0 for the first time since the 2008 season, which ended with a win over Buffalo in the International Bowl.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday's victory.
1. This defense is GOOD.
Except for two big scoring plays, Army could not get much going offensively. UConn displayed a strong defensive effort against the triple option, which bodes well for the Huskies' home date with Navy in two weeks. The defense did a great job holding the edge and forcing everything outside, and the defensive line shed blocks well. Army only mustered nine first downs in the game.
2. What's a passing game? Because I think we have one.
Bryant Shirreffs completed 19 of 25 passes and threw for 270 yards. He had a couple chances for touchdowns, as Frank Verducci called two fades on short-yardage opportunities near the end zone, but Noel Thomas and Tommy Myers could not come down with Shirreffs' well-placed passes. Shirreffs attempted more deep passes than he did in the Villanova game. His accuracy could use some tightening, but overall, he has been stellar through two games.
Shirreffs hit nine different receivers in the game after only hitting four different targets in the opener. Thomas Lucas, Tyraiq Beals and tight end Alec Bloom featured more in Saturday's game than they did in the opener. The Huskies' main receiving weapon was Thomas, who caught every pass thrown his way and drew a couple important pass interference penalties.
3. The offense is unpredictable (in a good way).
UConn is so multiple in the things it can do out of base formations and how it can use its skill position players that it is hard to predict what the Huskies are going to run on a given play when they line up. Ron Johnson had the bulk of the carries against Villanova, but Arkeel Newsome led the way in production Saturday. Freshman Tyraiq Beals showed what he is capable of with a 32-yard catch-and-run, one of three receptions in the game, that set up a touchdown. Myers had a quiet day receiving, but it could be his turn again next week. He leads a big, strong and versatile tight end group which allows the Huskies to be this way.
4. The scoreboard won't show it, but this was a dominant performance.
UConn dominated possession, holding onto the ball for 39 minutes while making 23 first downs. The Huskies gained 415 yards offensively, and out of 265 yards gained by the Black Knights, 127 of them came on two plays. Those two broken plays and a couple UConn drives which stalled near the end zone kept this from being a blowout.
Many UConn fans thought the Huskies would lose to Villanova. Now they are 2-0 with two solid, non-flukey wins, matching their win total from last year. The Huskies are facing a difficult four-game stretch, but they have all the confidence they need to make those games competitive. Missouri is going to be a tough game, especially on the road, but the possibility of a win against Navy at home or at UCF for the #conFLiCT is looking better with each passing week.