KICKOFF: 7:30 PM
TV: SNY, ESPN3 (outside of SNY market)
ANNOUNCERS: Eamon McAnaney (play-by-play), Andy Gresh (color analyst), Taylor Rooks (sideline)
RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network (WTIC 1080 AM, WILI 1400 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WGCH 1490 AM); SiriusXM Internet 963
ANNOUNCERS: Joe D'Ambrosio (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Ken Sweitzer (sideline)
POINT SPREAD: UConn - 21.0
SERIES HISTORY: In a series that dates back to 1916, UConn is 8-18-1 against the Crusaders. This is the first time the two teams have played since 1985 when the Huskies beat Holy Cross, 22-2.
BY THE NUMBERS
11 - Since moving up to FBS, UConn is 11-5 in season openers. Their last loss came in 2014 when the Huskies fell to BYU. Notable wins include a 34-10 win over Indiana to open the Rent in 2003, a 52-7 victory over Rhode Island in 2006, and a 37-0 win over UMass in 2012.
29,377 - Rentschler Field was about 3⁄4 full for the season opener last season, with 29,377 fans filling the stands. The Hartford Courant’s Mike Anthony reported on Tuesday morning that 21,000 tickets have been distributed, so the turnout should be similar to last year.
3 - It has been three full seasons since a UConn quarterback threw for three or more touchdowns in a game. Casey Cochran did so on December 7, 2013 when he broke the school record for passing yards in a game versus Memphis. Could David Pindell beat the mark in his Husky debut?
177 - Since Deshon Foxx took a punt back for a touchdown against Stony Brook in 2014, the Huskies have fielded 177 punts without a touchdown. Over the last two seasons, they’ve returned just nine punts for 23 yards.
0 - For everything that was the Molotov Cocktail of Ugliness known as the Bob Diaco Era, UConn somehow never lost to a FCS team under his command. Since joining the Big East in 2004, the Huskies have lost just one of those games, a 33-18 drubbing to Towson in 2013 under Paul Pasqualoni.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The New QB
After a solid season at Lackawanna Community College, David Pindell is set to start under center for the Huskies against Holy Cross, replacing Bryant Shirreffs. Like Shirreffs, Pindell can make plays with his arm and his feet, and it will be interesting to see how he does against Holy Cross in his first game at UConn. Pindell’s debut combined with Rhett Lashlee’s new offense will likely be very different from what UConn fans are used to seeing, but Thursday could mark the start of a strong rebound for the offense after an atrocious 2016 season under Bob Diaco.
Which Receiver Steps Up Early
Simply put, Noel Thomas was a monster last season with 100 catches and nearly 1,200 receiving yards. It’s unlikely one player puts up a season like Thomas did last year, but wide receivers Tyraiq Beals, Hergy Mayala, Tyler Davis and Keyion Dixon will need to step up and reliable options for Pindell. Tight ends Tommy Myers and Alec Bloom will also shoulder some of the load after both were used sparingly last season.
Status of the Secondary
The defensive backs have a stud in Jamar Summers at cornerback, and should be able to count on Tre Bell, but still have some inexperience within the unit. Brice McAllister is tasked with trying to fill the shoes of Obi Melifonwu. Other than those three, the rest of unit doesn’t have much in-game experience with redshirt and true freshmen as backups on the two-deep. Their development and growth this season will be crucial to the team’s success as part of Billy Crocker’s 3-3-5 defense. They’ll need to have a solid showing against a the least challenging team on the slate.
Front Seven Pressure
While the secondary is relatively young, the front seven of the Huskies’ defense has some experience under its belt, even with some injuries. Although linebacker E.J. Levenberry is out for the season with a knee injury and Vontae Diggs is sidelined for Thursday, UConn still has talent at linebacker in the extremely consistent Junior Joseph. Up front, the trio of Luke Carrezola, Foley Fatukasi and Cole Ormsby is one of the defense’s major strengths and should be able to rack up sacks and tackles for loss against Holy Cross. Billy Crocker may not want to tip his hand too much with South Florida visiting next week, but we’ll still get a good taste for what kind of a force this new aggressive defense can be.
There will be punts from Holy Cross, and UConn will return them. Last year, the Huskies had 21 punt return yards all of last season. This year, there’s a chance freshman Jordan Swann puts up 21 yards or more on Thursday night alone. Not only are punt returns more exciting to watch than a slew of fair catches, but quality returns can give the offense better field position and most importantly, a higher chance of scoring points.