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UConn football vs. CCSU Blue Devils: How to watch, by the numbers, what to watch for

The Huskies have their home opener against an in-state FCS opponent.

Connecticut v Utah State Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

KICKOFF: 12 p.m. ET

TV: CW 20, FOX61+

ANNOUNCERS: John Fanta (play-by-play), Joe D’Ambrosio (color analyst), Randy Brochu (sideline)

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)

RECORDS: UConn (0-1), CCSU (0-0)

LAST WEEK: UConn fought hard but fell to Utah State, 31-20. This is the season opener for CCSU

POINT SPREAD: UConn -19.5 points

OVER/UNDER: 53.5 (Odds via Wynn Sportsbook)

SERIES HISTORY: The UConn Huskies and Central Connecticut Blue Devils have met three times on the gridiron. UConn holds a 3-0 record in the series and the two teams haven’t met since 1995 in the Huskies’ FCS days.


PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE(S): Jim Mora, Jake Guidone, Kaleb Anthony, Zion Turner


Fun With Numbers

1,044: Number of days between FBS wins for UConn (as of game day)

1,799: Number of days between FBS wins for the Huskies at Rentschler Field (as of game day)

200: Total yards from scrimmage (190 rushing, 10 receiving) by Nathan Carter in last week’s loss to Utah State

0: Sacks allowed by the offensive line last week. The last time this happened was in a win against UMass in 2019

16: Tackles by Jackson Mitchell in the 2022 season opener vs Utah State. He finished tied for 16th in the country in total tackles in 2021 with 120

13: Home openers won by UConn in 18 seasons

8.9: Miles driven by CCSU to Rentschler Field from their campus for this game

What to watch for

A Fully-Operational Zion Turner

Freshman quarterback Zion Turner took his lumps in the first game of his UConn career, thrust into the spotlight after a season-ending injury to the starter Ta’quan Roberson in the first quarter. Even while completing under 50% of his passes and throwing a pair of interceptions, Turner showed the ability to get the ball to his receivers on structured throws, screens, and rollouts, including a pinpoint touchdown pass to Keelan Marion.

With a full week of practicing with the first string, Turner is set to take a bigger role in the offense against Central Connecticut, according to head coach Jim Mora. We’re likely to see similarly structured passes and roll-outs for easy completions. How much more advanced the offense gets beyond that has to do with how effective the UConn offensive line is at protecting the quarterback. They didn’t allow a sack against Utah State, but Turner was often under pressure and was forced into making quicker decisions.

The Nathan Carter Show

UConn’s run game was humming along on Saturday against a solid Utah State defense. Nate Carter’s 9.5 yards per carry on 20 attempts is a great boost to any freshman quarterback, and the Huskies will look to repeat that performance on Saturday against a lesser opponent. Offensive coordinator Nick Charlton kept it simple in the rushing game with a few key plays, including an off-tackle stretch play that accounted for most of the chunk rushing plays.

No matter how well plays are drawn up, the rusher still has to execute, and Carter went above and beyond in that regard. He showcased his vision and low center of gravity while running, making himself extremely hard to bring down. Later in the game, Charlton continued to mix it up on a confused Utah State defensive front, bringing in Chris Fortin as a sixth offensive lineman to better reach the second level.

Ideally, UConn will gain chunk yardage on the ground against a weaker Central Connecticut defensive front, setting up the vertical play action pass that can be so effective when utilized right.

Defensive improvement needed

Veteran linebacker Jackson Mitchell got all the plaudits from last week’s nationally-televised game, and rightly so. Mitchell’s 16 tackles were a team- and career-high, and he and Ian Swenson made almost the entirety of UConn’s run defense against Utah State.

But UConn was hapless against Utah State’s passing offense, which became more brutal and up-tempo as the game went on. Starting corner Kaleb Anthony had an especially tough game, and Utah State quickly figured out ways to pick on him down the field for their second-half touchdown drives. The Huskies’ defensive line didn’t do their backfield any favors either, failing to get after the quarterback in a performance reminiscent of 2021’s pass rush struggles.

To help remedy this, Mora moved sophomore Collin McCarthy up in the depth chart in place of Sokoya McDuffie at defensive tackle. McCarthy was one of the few UConn rushers to successfully get after the quarterback, leading the team in QB pressures, and should see more snaps as a result.

Taking care of business

For most FBS programs, their yearly FCS game is a relaxing, early-season tune-up for the rest of the schedule, meant to get in more rotation than usual and gear up for the remaining slate. But for the past decade, UConn has had to sweat much more than usual.

The Huskies’ last convincing victory against an FCS team came in 2011 against Fordham, a 35-3 victory in Paul Pasqualoni’s first game as head coach. Since then, all games have been within one score — or worse. Highlights include a 24-21 win over Wagner in 2019, a 56-49 slugfest over Rhode Island in 2018, boring slogs in wins against Maine, Villanova, and Stony Brook, and an infamous 33-18 drubbing delivered by Towson in 2013.

If the Huskies can get their running game rolling against Central like they had against Utah State, this could be the year to break that trend. But, of course, nothing is ever certain with UConn football.