We want 'Bama!
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but for the first time since 2008 UConn football is 2-0.
We might not get the Crimson Tide, but that's OK, because No. 22 Missouri will give the Huskies all they can handle and then some when UConn visits Faurot Field Saturday. While we all have a prediction on what will happen, let's focus on what has been working for the Huskies thus far. In two games, we have seen the emergence of quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who led UConn to a 22-17 victory over Army on Saturday at Rentschler Field. Shirreffs completed 19 of 25 passes for 270 yards much to the delight of the 28,000-plus fans in attendance.
Last week, I discussed his ability to lead the Huskies, which was on full display against the Black Knights. However, there is more to this UConn offense than the guy under center. Nine different receivers saw the ball Saturday, most notably Noel Thomas, who recorded 83 yards on four receptions. At the start of the season head coach Bob Diaco pegged Thomas to have a breakout season and so far the 6-foot-1-inch junior from Norwalk has lived up to expectations.
UConn's solid passing game (I still can't believe we're talking about this) has also opened up an improved ground game. In the season-opener, it was Ron Johnson who saw most of the action, but Saturday, Husky fans got a chance to see what Arkeel Newsome can do. Newsome scored from 10 yards out toward the end of the first half to highlight his 73 yards on 13 carries and was entrusted with the ball as UConn needed to make first downs and run clock at the end.
On the other side of the football UConn's defense has looked good, but not great. Playing against a team like Army is not easy. The triple option, in my opinion, is one of the hardest offenses to defend against. However, the Huskies did not seem fazed, holding the Black Knights to just nine first downs.
My biggest concern with the defense is its inability to stop the home run play. Both of Army's touchdowns were the result of a long pass downfield. If the Huskies can't find a way to defend these types of plays, it will spell disaster no matter how good Shirreffs and company are. UConn linebacker Matt Walsh, who may start if Marquise Vann is out due to injury, told members of the media Tuesday playing a nationally ranked team will not rattle the Huskies.
"We treat every week the same," Walsh said. "You go and prepare. Both teams, doesn't (matter) who they are or whether one is ranked and one is not ranked, everybody always expects to win. You go in and everybody has the same mindset. You just treat it like another week. It doesn't matter who we are playing."
The next three games will show us what this team is made of and if they are in the right mindset. After Missouri, the Huskies get a second dose of the triple option when UConn hosts Navy. I like the Huskies' chances in that one after seeing how they handled the Black Knights. However, the Midshipmen field a much better team than their service academy rivals from West Point.
Following Navy, UConn will visit No. 19 BYU, a team that has captivated the country this year after two incredible come-from-behind victories. Backup quarterback Tanner Mangum has shown impeccable athleticism under center and has proven he can throw the ball deep.
It's going to be a tough stretch, so let's take it one game at a time. I'm sure if you asked around the campus of Jacksonville State last Friday they would have told you beating SEC powerhouse Auburn was unthinkable, but it almost happened. For now let's just enjoy being 2-0.
"It's awesome," senior linebacker Graham Stewart said after practice about UConn's strong start. "Unbelievable, guys are so happy and excited, not only in the locker room, but you walk around campus and you look at the people and they're happy and they're excited and they say 'man I had so much fun at the game' and that's what winning does, it brings an overall aura that's just contagious."