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UConn football vs. Liberty Flames: How to watch, by the numbers, what to watch for

A win this Saturday makes the Huskies bowl-eligible for the first time since the Bob Diaco era.

Liberty v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

KICKOFF: 12 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

ANNOUNCERS: Meghan McPeak (play-by-play), Christian Fauria (color analyst), Justin Walters (sideline)

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 (5-5), Liberty (8-1)

LAST WEEK: The Huskies beat UMass, 27-10; Liberty beat Arkansas, 21-19

POINT SPREAD: Liberty -14.5

OVER/UNDER: 45 (odds via DraftKings)

SERIES HISTORY: The UConn Huskies and Liberty Flames have met once on the gridiron. The Huskies beat the Flames 59-0 on September 10, 2005.

DEPTH CHART: UConn; Liberty

PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE(S): UConn head coach Jim Mora, Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze


Fun With Numbers

1: The Huskies need to win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible. Sports Illustrated currently has UConn playing ECU in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22. Pro Football Network has them playing Memphis in the Armed Forces Bowl as well.

108: Total tackles by Jackson Mitchell, who was named a Butkus Award semifinalist last Tuesday afternoon. He’s tied for second-best in FBS.

4: Fumble recoveries by Mitchell, which leads FBS; Also the number of interceptions by Tre Wortham, which puts him in a tie for eighth-best in FBS.

6: Rushing touchdowns by true freshman Victor Rosa; also the number of consecutive wins by Liberty, including three straight road wins.

3.78: Sacks per game by Liberty’s defense, which leads FBS

128-76: Liberty’s record since losing to UConn on September 10, 2005. Ironically enough, UConn is 76-128 since that game (source: Liberty game notes)

What to Watch For

Bad weather brawling

Rentschler Field might not be a pleasant place to be for the game on Saturday afternoon. Unfavorable weather caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole is forecast to make its way through Connecticut this weekend, including rain and heavy wind gusts up to 38 mph (please, secure your tailgate tents).

The inclement weather will lend itself to both teams’ gameplan. Nick Charlton has proven that he’ll pound the rock no matter the availability of his top running back, and Devontae Houston should be closer to full health heading into the weekend, having practiced on Tuesday. Like UConn, Liberty also holds a primarily run-based offense, rushing for nearly 200 yards per game. Unfortunately for the Flames (and fortunately for their opponents), their leading rusher Dae Dae Hunter is out and Shedro Louis, their perennial change of pace back, is away from the team for personal issues and Liberty will have to look elsewhere to keep their dangerous rushing attack going.

Strong run defense

Liberty’s defense is uniquely set up to counter UConn’s run-heavy offense, with a nasty front seven that has proven key to their success this year. They have the No. 4 stuff rate in the nation, stopping opposing running backs at or behind the line of the scrimmage on over one out of every four attempts (for comparison UConn’s run defense, while relatively solid, does this just 14 percent of the time).

The Flames’ formidable rush defense is led by Dennis Osagiede and Kendy Charles, who have 53 and 43 tackles on the year, respectively. Durrell Johnson is the team’s premier edge-rusher with 7.5 sacks on the season and 16 tackles for loss, the third-most in the nation.

Liberty thrives on pushing their opponents into uncomfortable situations on offense, and has the talent to force UConn into throwing situations. Zion Turner might end up shouldering more of the burden than expected on Saturday not because the gameplan dictates, but because the Huskies could be forced into third and long situations. The good news for Turner is he (knocks on wood) should have Keelan Marion back, for real this time: UConn’s leading receiver in 2021 practiced fully with the team on Tuesday, along with Houston.