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UConn football vs. Holy Cross Crusaders: How to watch, by the numbers, what to watch for

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The Huskies will play their first home game in 652 days on Saturday afternoon.

Syndication: Worcester Telegram Ashley Green/Telegram & Gazette via Imagn Content Services, LLC

KICKOFF: 12:00 P.M. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network

ANNOUNCERS: Ed Cohen (play-by-play), Ross Tucker (color analyst), Tina Cervasio (sideline)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network; TuneIn; 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 (0-1), Holy Cross (0-0)

POINT SPREAD: UConn -2.5

OVER/UNDER: 53.5

SERIES HISTORY: The UConn Huskies and Holy Cross Crusaders have met 29 times on the gridiron. The Crusaders hold a 19-9-1 advantage over the Huskies. They last met in 2017 at Rentschler Field with UConn winning, 27-20.

DEPTH CHART: UConn

OPPONENT PREVIEW: Holy Cross Crusaders

WEATHER FORECAST: East Hartford, CT

Be sure to get up to speed on the Huskies’ offense and defense with our positional previews.


Fun With Numbers

652 - The number of days between UConn football home games (as of game day)

14 - Home openers won by UConn in their first 17 home games in FBS

17 - Wins over FCS opponents in 18 games

32 - Rushing yards needed by Kevin Mensah to move into fourth place on the all-time running list ahead of Lyle McCombs


What to watch for

If UConn football did one thing successfully last weekend against Fresno State in a 45-0 loss, it’s reset fan expectations. After 637 days without a competitive football game, the Huskies had some rust to shake off, and that’s putting it mildly.

Fresno State was no slouch of an opponent, but the manner in which UConn lost certainly was cause for concern. They were outgained by 434 total yards, gave up 25 first downs, and allowed far too many big plays on defense.

Holy Cross is a step down from Fresno State in terms of competition, so this Saturday could be a more accurate representation of what to expect from UConn football this season. Here’s what to look for in what should be a much more competitive game this weekend.

A Fundamental Change

To come home with a victory against Holy Cross, they will need to execute better in, well, every area of the game.

“Fresno had the best of us. As a whole offense, we’re going to just get better, execute every play and move on from there,” said Kevin Mensah, who had just 31 yards rushing on 14 carries.

One area where communication certainly was an issue was on the offense line, where UConn’s mostly-new unit did not seem at all on the same page at time.

The group had their good reps and bad in passing situations, the bad including the strip sack of Jack Zergiotis for a touchdown that led to Fresno State’s first score of the game. The run blocking, however, did not have too many bright moments. The offensive line got little to no push up front, giving Mensah little to nothing to work with. The Huskies recorded just 1.1 yards per carry, a number that will need to improve if they want any hope of gaining a convincing result against Holy Cross.

“It’s execution and using the fundamentals and techniques you learn in practice,” Edsall said. “That’s all I want to see, guys going out and executing the things you’re capable of doing. The more they work together in live situations, the better they’re gonna be.”

Limiting big plays

You know, the one key to the game that flashes on the screen during every ESPN broadcast. Limiting big plays is the goal of every defense in the nation, and UConn did not do that on Saturday, to say the least.

In the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, UConn gave up 17 points, taking it from a respectable two-score game towards blowout status in an instant. Blown coverages and missed tackles are the main culprits, likely pointing to some devastating postgame film sessions with the coaching staff.

So what do the Huskies need to do to limit big plays? Take it from defensive back Diamond Harrell, who has emerged as a leader of the defense in recent weeks according to Edsall:

“Honestly as a whole we do have to communicate better, but all the problems we had on Saturday are really fixable,” Harrell said. “It’s not stressful or anything like that, we just gotta go out there and do it, that’s it.”

Zergiotis’ second chance to make a first impression

Before we learned that he had wrapped up the quarterback competition months ago, and Edsall was only using the depth chart for competitive advantage, Zergiotis didn’t come out guns blazing in his first start of 2021.

The sophomore completed 12 of 24 passes for just 61 yards, and missed a pair of wide open receivers on deep balls. He wasn’t helped by the offensive line, who didn’t always give him a clean pocket, but will have a better chance at impressing UConn fans this weekend against Holy Cross.

His coach and teammates are certainly sticking by their man, and it would be silly not to after one game. Edsall had words of encouragement in the postgame press conference, while teammates praised his arm strength and gunslinger mentality all week leading up to UConn’s first home game

“It’s good to know coach [Edsall] has my back, but it’s obviously not what we wanted.” Zergiotis said. “Now it’s just on to Holy Cross.”

An impressive performance against a team many UConn fans expect a decisive win against would go a long way towards living up to Edsall’s, the team’s and his own lofty goals.