The UConn Huskies had a chance to grab a road win over an ACC opponent in their second-to-last non-conference game and struggled mightily in a big loss. Here are our main takeaways from the performance.
Oh wait, this is a rebuild
Aman Kidwai: I previously thought Randy Edsall had an outside shot at a bowl game and at the very least wouldn’t be starting from scratch upon his return to Storrs. There was decent talent on defense and untapped potential on offense which led me to believe this.
Instead, we’re getting a full-on rebuild. The offense showed some nice elements but is definitely a work in progress. Defensively, the secondary was not equipped to replace the three seniors it lost from last year’s team and the front six does not have the ideal personnel to execute their strategy.
Despite a rough start against Holy Cross, the reemergence of Bryant Shirreffs under center allowed us to elevate our belief for what this team could be. After the UVA game, we know to temper expectations of the offense and that the secondary truly is extremely vulnerable. If Virginia’s modest offensive attack can put up those kinds of numbers through the air, conference foes SMU, Memphis, Tulsa, and USF will absolutely gash them.
Daniel Connolly: Randy Edsall isn't a miracle worker but expectations were somewhat high for this team coming into the season, with some talk of 4-8 as the expectation and 6-6 as a possibility. All that talk is out the window after the loss to UVA and it looks like reaching last season's mark of three wins might even be a challenge. Edsall certainly knows how to build this program -- we've seen him do it before -- but it's not going to be the quick-fix like many of us expected it to be.
Defense Has Problems
Kidwai: We expected growing pains with so much youth and inexperience at the three safety positions. The youngsters struggled, but both seniors cornerbacks Jamar Summers and Tre Bell had rough outings as well. Letting UVA QB Kurt Benkert rack up a program record 455 passing yards while three Cavaliers caught for over 100 receiving yards is completely unacceptable. Moreover, in the front six, I have a feeling star players Luke Carrezola and Foley Fatukasi are not being properly used in the new system.
Dan Madigan: UVA's Kurt Benkert is a solid quarterback, but I think the UConn defense made him look a lot better than he really is. Tre Bell and some of the other Huskies' defensive backs were repeatedly getting burned and Benkert was good enough to make them pay.
The Offense Needs Work But Isn’t Terrible
Madigan: The score is not really representative of how UConn played for the entire game. Yes, Virginia was certainly the better team and the Huskies definitely weren't great, but those two red zone turnovers are really what let this game get away from UConn. The offense had their fair share of highlights once those two turnovers were out of the way, and it was nice to see the unit execute some plays for big gains and touchdowns. Even though the game got out of hand early, the offensive competence at least made it easier to watch.
Bryant Shirreffs was the team's leading rusher, which has happened too many times in the past and can't continue to happen again this season if UConn wants to win games. Yes, Shirreffs is a solid runner in space, but most of the time he's running for his life due to the pocket collapsing.
I was pretty impressed with freshman Quayvon Skanes, who had four receptions for 47 yards. Skanes showed good speed and hands at Virginia, and I think his emergence could really add an explosive layer to the offense.
Connolly: I think we've established it's going to be a long season. I don't think we should make it even longer by playing anybody else but Bryant Shirreffs at quarterback. Even with his two red zone turnovers, he's still clearly the best option. We've seen what throwing an inexperienced quarterback into the fire can do to their psyche (hello there, Tim Boyle and Donovan Williams) and UConn shouldn't make the same mistake again. Despite his limitations, Shirreffs has proven himself as the best option and deserves to finish his career as a starter.