UConn football did exactly what was expected on Friday night against UMass, earning a comfortable 27-10 win, making adjustments to both shut down the Minutemen offense and finish drives in the red zone in the second half to pull away from a floundering UMass team.
Here’s what we know after the Huskies’ fifth (!) win of the season.
Keeping it clean
Luke Swanson: UConn’s surprise 4-1 stretch in the middle of this season can be chalked up to a number of factors, but an undeniable part of it has been the Huskies’ turnover margin. Despite getting outgained in total yardage in four out of the last five games, UConn has turned the ball over just five times to their opponents’ 15 in that 4-1 stretch. As long as an immense positive turnover margin like that exists, there will always be a concern that the Huskies will come crashing back to earth. But there’s also reason to believe that UConn can keep up this streak: The best way to keep lost possessions to a minimum is to simply take care of the ball, and the Huskies do that in two ways.
First, their running backs have coughed it up just four times this season so far. For an offense as run-heavy as UConn’s, that’s essential. Second, Zion Turner has now thrown much and kept mistakes through the air to a minimum as well, with just one interception in the back half of the season.
One win away
Dan Madigan: Against all odds, UConn is one win away from bowl eligibility in year one of the Jim Mora era. It won’t be easy, as they welcome a tough Liberty team and then head to Army to close out the season. But if they can win one, David Benedict will have his work cut out for him to get the Huskies into a bowl game as an independent without an affiliation. The fact that a bowl game is even a possibility is a testament to what Mora has done to rebuild the team, culture, and fan base, and even if the Huskies fall short, they’re in a good position to continue to compete for bowl games in the future.
UConn is asking fans to commit to attending a bowl game if the Huskies make it. Benedict said in a letter to fans that this commitment could help make the case for a bowl committee to choose UConn.
Madigan: UConn only passed 13 times last night, as the run game was good enough to take down UMass, but I would really like to see Justin Joly get more targets. The connection between him and Zion Turner is obvious, and Joly has already come up big in clutch situations countless times this season. There is no reason Nick Charlton shouldn’t take advantage of his size and design more plays for him, especially in the red zone area.
All he does is
catch run for touchdowns
Luke: Devontae Houston has been UConn’s best big-play threat this season. His 75-yard run got UConn on the board in the first quarter, and was their only play over 30 yards on the night. Houston offers breakaway potential every time he touches the ball, and UConn would be smart to move him to lead-back status when healthy. Victor Rosa is a hard runner with a low center of gravity, but Houston offers the Huskies another dimension to their rushing attack, with 7.4 yards per carry to Rosa’s 3.8.
Madigan: Cam Ross and Keelan Marion came back, but got hurt again and played sparingly in their debuts over the past few weeks. Devontae Houston made his return known Friday night with his long touchdown run.
While it’s too early to tell if Ross and Marion will be able to really come back and make an impact, it’s a reminder of how impressive this team has been despite all of the preseason/early season injuries. As the season goes on, their improved health could spark the offense late in the season.