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UConn football vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders: How to watch, by the numbers, what to watch for

The Huskies look to win two in a row for the first time since the 2017 season.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Virginia Tech Ryan Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

KICKOFF: Friday, October 22 — 6:00 P.M. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network

ANNOUNCERS: John Sadak (play-by-play), Randy Cross (color analyst)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network; Varsity Network App; 97.9 ESPN Hartford, WINE 940 AM, WGCH 1490 AM, WICC 600 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WATR 1320 AM WILI 1400 AM and 95.3 FM

ANNOUNCERS: Mike Crispino (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Adam Giardino (sideline), Bob Joyce (pregame host)

RECORDS: UConn (1-7), Middle Tennessee (2-4)

LAST WEEK: UConn finally got their first win of 2021 with a 21-15 over Yale; Middle Tennessee was off last week. They lost to Liberty 41-13 on October 9, 2021.

POINT SPREAD: Middle Tennessee -15

OVER/UNDER: 55.5

SERIES HISTORY: The UConn Huskies and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders have met twice, with the Blue Raiders winning both matchups.

DEPTH CHART: UConn; Middle Tennessee

OPPONENT PREVIEW: Middle Tennessee

WEATHER FORECAST: East Hartford, CT


Fun With Numbers

728 - The number of days between UConn football wins vs FBS teams (as of game day)

1463 - The number of days between UConn football wins vs FBS teams at Rentschler Field (as of game day)

80 - Total tackles by Jackson Mitchell which leads the country

10.0 - Tackles per game by Mitchell which is 8th best in the country

4 - How many times UConn intercepted Yale in the win

2 - Interceptions by Tre Wortham against Yale. It’s the first time since Obi Melifonwu did it in 2016 that a Husky has had two interceptions

5 - Receiving touchdowns by freshman wide receiver Keelan Marion which is tied for 30th best in the country. It is also tied for fifth-best in the country by a freshman receiver

17 - Turnovers forced by Middle Tennessee which ranks third nationally


What to watch for

Riding a high

The scenes in the postgame locker room after UConn football notched their first win of the year over Yale: Tre Wortham emerged for his interview beaming and sounding hoarse from the yelling, and head coach Lou Spanos’ couldn’t contain his excitement, dropping a gleeful f-bomb in his postgame press conference.

“It was a lot of different emotions, to say the least,” defensive back Tre Wortham said.

But it’s a new week and a new opponent for the Huskies, certainly a higher-quality one than a Yale team experiencing a difficult season with tumult at the quarterback position.

“One good thing is, we had the pep talk after the game, and we came [to practice] yesterday and the energy was good, we were focused.” interim head coach Lou Spanos said.

Middle Tennessee State might not be a whole different animal — They’re only ranked 109th in SP+, 19 spots above UConn and, like Yale, their defense is not very good. They are an FBS program, however, and will feature better athletes than what UConn saw last Saturday, when they were able to manhandle a smaller Yale line.

UConn will have to work to avoid a hangover after its first win of the season. But Middle Tennessee State has been just uninspiring enough in 2021, with wins coming over an FCS program and a flagging Marshall, it’s easy to believe the Huskies have a shot.

Symbiosis

Another reason to expect a better UConn team than the analytics suggest is the improvement of the defense. After giving up a shocking 184 points in the first four games, the Huskies gave up 96 in the next four, and it looks like they’ve finally turned a corner with the defensive-minded Spanos in charge.

The new-look defense was fully on display against Yale, where UConn’s defensive backfield came up with four picks, including two from junior defensive back Tre Wortham. But it was a two-pronged approach from the UConn defense, the defensive line had the Yale quarterbacks running for their lives and making bad decisions.

“That’s a match made in heaven. The defensive lineman and the DBs, we all go together.” Wortham said. “If we cover well, they have more time to get to the quarterback and if they rush, he makes a bad decision that we can take advantage of.”

This tandem will be put to a bigger test on Friday night, coming up against Chase Cunningham, one of the best quarterbacks the Huskies will face since Edsall’s departure. Cunningham has 973 yards passing on a 60.9 completion percentage, with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. His favorite target is Jimmy Marshall, a 6-foot-5 senior tight end with three touchdowns this year, averaging 13.2 yards per carry.

“He’s a good quarterback, he’s accurate, has good mobility, and likes to throw on the move,” Spanos said of Cunningham, and praised Marshall as “Big and athletic, a guy who can play at the next level.”

Pride game

UConn announced earlier this week that Friday night’s game will be its first ever LGBTQ Pride Night. The Huskies will wear a pride sticker on their helmet, the Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus will sing the national anthem, and the first 500 fans will receive a rainbow headband.