FIRST HALF RECAP
The Huskies won the toss and elected to receive. They moved the ball nicely to start, but stalled at midfield, seemingly content to play the game of field position as Justin Wain's punt was downed by WR Bryan Coney at the Navy 4.
Unfortunately, Navy converted a 3rd and 5 from its own 20 with a 47-yard reception and then five plays later fullback Chris High scooted into the end zone to put Navy ahead, 7-0.
UConn's next possession again moved to ball but again stalled shortly after moving into Navy territory. The Huskies punted again.
On the ensuing possession, Navy completed a 40-yard pass on the first play and then swiftly drove down the field, overcoming a chop block penalty and scoring another touchdown on a fairly quick drive by its standards. Two Navy possessions, two touchdowns. 14-0 Navy.
The next UConn drive showed regression, as the Huskies netted zero yards while going three-and-out. Navy returned the ensuing punt 20 yards to start its next drive in Husky territory. The Midshipmen made it down to the one-half yard line before QB Will Worth was stuffed on a 4th-and-goal attempt by Junior Joseph.
Disaster struck on the very next play, however, as Bryant Shirreffs ran a QB sneak but fumbled the ball away. Navy's Alohi Gilman recovered the fumble and took it into the end zone to make this one 21-0 with 5:36 left in the half.
The hits kept coming, as Tyraiq Beals lost the football on the next kick return trying to stay on his feet to keep the play alive. Navy took over on UConn's 20. Luckily for the Huskies, the drive ended with a blocked field goal.
Shirreffs completed 7-of-7 attempts on the following drive to get UConn on the board for some much-needed points. He hit Noel Thomas at around the 15 and Thomas ran it in for the score. The senior receiver has 5 receptions for 73 yards to go along with the touchdown.
The two turnovers really hurt the Huskies, and play has been sloppy otherwise with two more fumbles which UConn recovered. They are within shouting distance still, but with Navy getting the ball at the half it is going to take a much more disciplined effort for the Huskies, who were mostly burned defensively in the secondary for long gains on Navy's scoring drives.
We saw this coming, but Navy is a pretty damn cool team to have in our conference.
Today UConn's players and fans get to enjoy one of college football's truly unique experiences, a game at Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium.
There is an unbelievable amount of history and tradition here in Maryland's capital. The stadium itself is a memorial to "...those who have served and will serve as upholders of the traditions and renown of the Navy and Marine Corps of the United States," according to one of many commemorative plaques on and around the premises.
The football team isn't bad either.
Navy visited Rentschler Field last season to open conference play for the Huskies. Led by star quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the eventual record-holder for career rushing touchdowns, who ran for three touchdowns and threw one, the Midshipmen comfortably captured the road win, 28-18.
UConn's defense will still have its hands full even though Reynolds and senior fullback Chris Swain have graduated. Tago Smith was waiting to take over for Reynolds under center, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. He's backed up by senior Will Worth, who will be starting today.
Hopefully, Diaco and his staff can draw from their significant experience defending this kind of offense and also prey on the inexperience of Navy's starting quarterback, the lynchpin of the triple option offense.
Typically in UConn games, we can count on the defense to do pretty well but for the offense will determine how long that lasts. The maligned offensive unit failed to impress in the season opener despite hope that it would be improved due to the return of all but one starter. It also ran a conservative version of its already conservative approach, so maybe they have an excuse.
UConn did gain over 300 yards in last year's meeting, with Arkeel Newsome combining for 120 yards from scrimmage and Bryant Shirreffs throwing for over 200 yards. So ultimately UConn's success in the game will come down to how much Diaco can live up to the "defensive mastermind" label which some have given him.
This is the open thread fam. We have a lot of material from across the week linked above. Be sure to give us your pregame thoughts and predictions and let us know what you're keeping an eye on during the game!