Author’s disclaimer: This column is called Hot Take Tuesday. The opinions and predictions contained in this column will not all be accurate. In keeping with the hot take tradition of sports (particularly football) media, you’re probably better off taking in the spirit of the take rather than the words themselves. Don’t worry, at the end I’ll tell you how seriously to take it.
UConn scored 56 points against Rhode Island on Saturday afternoon. Forget for a moment that the Rams are an FCS team and realize that most teams outside the Top 25 aren’t scoring 50+ points against their FCS opponents. That’s a big deal for the Huskies, who haven’t exactly seen a lot of offensive success in recent years.
56 points is their highest mark since 2010, the year they made the Fiesta Bowl. The last time UConn scored more than 40 points was in the Paul Pasqualoni Era.
So yes, this is worth celebrating, even if there still might be some problems with defense and coaching. It’s a big win—it’s a win—and it puts UConn in better shape than we might have thought following two straight blowout losses to open the season.
Most of the accolades so far have deservedly gone to players like David Pindell, whose ability to extend plays and throw accurate passes has provided the backbone of the UConn offense. Kevin Mensah is also getting a lot of credit, as his productive running has taken a lot of pressure off Pindell and the passing game.
But there’s another aspect of the UConn offense that has stood out so far, one that hasn’t gotten nearly the credit of its colleagues. That’s probably because this unit has been one of the areas of weakness in recent years. I’m talking about the offensive line.
Now, I’m not willing to say the offensive line has been great, but I think everyone would agree that the unit has improved a lot from last season. What I’m suggesting is that they’ve improved by so much that the offensive line is actually good now.
Matt Peart has unsurprisingly been the leader of the unit; he’s UConn’s best offensive lineman of the decade, and his play has been commensurate to his reputation. Ryan Crozier, an intelligent redshirt senior, has been mostly healthy this season and the entire offense has benefitted. Sophomores like Cam DeGeorge and Ryan Van Demark have also slotted into their roles nicely.
They’re improving the team, too. Even though Pindell has become a scrambling quarterback, he’s only been sacked once in three games. The running game has been markedly improved too. Both Pindell and Mensah are averaging over five yards per carry this season, improvements of nearly a yard per attempt over both players’ 2017 marks.
You can’t score 56 points against anyone without a functioning offensive line, and that’s part of the reason UConn was able to do so against Rhode Island. Players like Pindell and Mensah have been great, but only because both are getting help from the offensive line. And that’s because the offensive line is good now.
Hotness of take: Pretty hot! Of course UConn’s offensive line was going to dominate Rhode Island’s; that shouldn’t have been a surprise. And although the offensive line has definitely improved (and Peart and Crozier are both genuinely good), there’s still a lot of problems with the unit, mostly a lack of cohesion that — among other issues — caused several false start penalties in the one road game they’ve played so far.
The success of the offense is still primarily due to players like Pindell and Mensah (and a good squad of wide receivers) getting more opportunities. We’ll see what happens when faced with an opponent of roughly equal talent to the Huskies.