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UConn football vs. Ball State Cardinals: How to watch, by the numbers, what to watch for

Huskies head to Muncie, Indiana looking for their third straight win.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Ball State at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

KICKOFF: 2:00 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Jim Barbar (play-by-play), Adam Breneman (color analyst)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network; Varsity Network App; 97.9 ESPN Hartford, WGCH 1490 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WATR 1320 AM, WILI 1400 AM and 95.3 FM, WICH 1310 AM and 94.5 FM

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

RECORDS: UConn (3-4), Ball State (3-3)

LAST WEEK: UConn went on the road and beat FIU, 33-12; Ball State snuck past Central Michigan, 17-16

POINT SPREAD: Ball State - 9.5

OVER/UNDER: 48.0 (odds via DraftKings)

SERIES HISTORY: The UConn Huskies and Ball State Cardinals have met three times on the gridiron. The Cardinals have won all three matchups.

DEPTH CHART: UConn; Ball State

PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE(S): Ball State head coach Mike Neu; UConn head coach Jim Mora


Fun With Numbers

75: Overall tackles by Jackson Mitchell, which is second-best in FBS

5.00: Average number of penalties by UConn per game which is 23rd best in FBS

26: Number of wins by UConn against MAC schools (26-13)

184.5: Rushing yards by UConn per game which is 40th best in FBS

4: Rushing touchdowns by freshman running back Victor Rosa which leads the team

What to Watch For

When UConn has the ball

UConn football seemed to finally have the offense up and rolling against Florida International, continuing the trend started in the second half of the Fresno State upset win. UConn’s 402 yards of total offense were the most against an FBS team this season thanks to a dominant rushing attack led by a surging Devontae Houston, who averaged 6.9 yards per carry over that two-game stretch.

But UConn will be missing Houston, who is out due to injury, against Ball State and true freshman Victor Rosa — a player who Mora didn’t expect to get nearly as much action as he has these past few weeks — will be expected to fill the void. Rosa has proven to be a capable back especially given the circumstances but doesn’t possess the same breakaway speed and acceleration as Houston, who’s responsible for nearly half of all UConn plays over 10 yards over the past two games.

Luckily, the UConn passing attack has rumbled to life halfway through the season, led by an unlikely target. Like his running back counterpart Rosa, Justin Joly was finishing up his senior season this time last year, but he’s emerged as one of Zion Turner’s favorite targets. He owns the most targets of any UConn pass-catcher beyond the line of scrimmage in 2022, hauling in eight receptions for 96 yards over the past two weeks. Joly is listed as a tight end but lines up in the slot or out wide on most of his snaps and is functionally a big-bodied, athletic receiver, and seems to be taking to his duty as a third down target.

Ball State has a reasonably stingy defense with the emphasis on defending the pass, which would normally play into UConn’s hands with their bulldozer of a rushing attack. If Houston’s absence slows that down at all, UConn will be forced to throw into the teeth of the passing defense ranked No. 2 in the MAC and in the top 50 in the nation in yards per pass attempt allowed. The defensive backfield is led by experienced corner Nic Jones, who leads the MAC in passes defended (9) and has a pair of interceptions to his name — opposing quarterbacks have completed just 10 of 25 passes targeting him on the season.

When Ball State has the ball

The Cardinals air the ball out at an impressive rate, if not an efficient one. Their 43 pass attempts per game ranks No. 14 in the country, but their 6.6 yards per pass attempt put them all the way down at No. 95 in the country. Quarterback John Paddock is reasonable accurate, completing 63.8% of his passes, the majority of them to receiving duo Tyler Yo’Heinz and Jackson Jayshon.

Jackson is the speedy deep threat of the two: he stands just 5-foot-10, but has hauled in eight passes over 20 yards this season and is the premier touchdown threat on the team. Yo’Heinz, despite his size at 6-foot-3, is the sure-handed target on first down.

Both will be a challenge for the UConn pass defense, which has seemingly turned over a new leaf. Since giving up a combined eight passing touchdowns in the stretch from Syracuse to NC State, the UConn secondary has blanked Fresno State and FIU in that category, allowing just 413 passing yards in those two games combined. Tre Wortham in particular has had a recent resurgence in the UConn secondary. After getting picked on in games against Michigan and NC State, Wortham has three interceptions out of eight targets in the past two weeks.

Some of UConn’s success on defense as a whole may have been driven by turnover luck — it’s very hard to sustain recovering three turnovers in every game you play — so the Huskies will get their chance to prove that their new lease on life over the past few weeks is for real against a prolific Ball State passing attack.