Oct. 22, 2008
Well, it’s finally back to football and finally some football weather as the Bearcats go to Connecticut for some brisk air and a Big East date with the Huskies Saturday at noon.
This is a team that UC has always beaten and that’s the scary part about this game. At this level, it’s real tough to “run the table” against anyone.
Although I won’t see this one, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the previous UConn games in person. Hopefully my son Daniel, a UC student trainer can witness another Bearcat win over the Huskies in my absence.
Rentschler Field is a pretty nice facility the Huskies built when they were amping up their program years ago. However, it’s stuck on the outskirts of town and (regardless of how many fans show up) it doesn’t really exude that big-time college atmosphere to me since it’s not near their campus.
That’s the best thing about Nippert Stadium for me—the fact that it’s on campus and you get the feel that you’re at a college game (as opposed to a concrete oval that’s stuck somewhere in the middle of an industrial section of town).
Back in 2001, when the program was still on the rise, Connecticut came to Nippert and put 28 points on the board. However, UC registered 45 and notched the win for Rick Minter.
In 2005, UConn came back with some press clippings and hype, but Mark Dantonio’s young squad came to play and sent the Huskies home with another loss. The most memorable play there would’ve been the longest TD run in Bradley Glatthaar’s career that busted the game open.
In ’06, UC had just beaten No. 7 Rutgers at Nippert for a 6th win, but really needed one more for some bowl insurance. Again, Nick Davila engineered another win (albeit much closer) and Kevin Lovell booted the game-winning field goal as UC drove off a 26-23 winner. Coincidentally, Mark Dantonio drove off with a new contract to coach at Michigan State after that.
Enter Brian Kelly (insert “applause” here)!
Again, in 2007, UConn was ranked and had a lot of national hype as they came into Nippert. In one of the more dominant games of the year, Brian Kelly’s men responded and pretty much embarrassed the Huskies 27-3.
Now, a different year, different quarterbacks, some different personnel, and another game for me to spew a few observations out (admit it, you missed me last week, didn’t you?)
WHEN: Saturday, come noontime (Big East TV time)
WHERE: Rentschler Field, Storrs, Connecticut
WHY? Per the agreed upon rules, you must play what’s on your pocket schedule
THE SERIES: Bearcats 4, Huskies nada
LAST GAME: BK’s Bearcats roll 27-3 at the Nipp last year
Ye Olde Rundown:
UC OFFENSE VS. UCONN DEFENSE
Barring the unforeseen, Tony Pike returns to QB the Bearcats with Chazz Anderson and Zach Collaros sharing clipboard, headphones and/or hand signals that may or may not be the actual plays. This is good because the Bearcats need to run the full Brian Kelly package to be successful, particularly on the road in the Big East. Obviously, you’re hesitant about Pike as he’s coming off a broken non-throwing arm. His success probably depends on how he reacts to guerrilla warfare again. If he appears gun-shy, Kelly needs to pull him and go back to Anderson. However, based on Pike’s confidence and the confidence his teammates have in him, I wouldn’t expect that to happen. Helping Pike will be an improved run game with Jacob Ramsay and John Goebel (further enhanced if Isaiah Pead gets some lugs). If Trevor Canfield can resist the personal fouls and dropping of yellow laundry, the run game will be even better. UConn’s biggest sack threat is DE Cody Brown. You also have to watch for LB Lawrence Wilson whose INT sealed a big win for UConn vs. Louisville.
NOD: Expect some sluggishness, but UC should be able to outscore UConn somehow.
UC DEFENSE VS. UCONN OFFENSE
Like UC, UConn has QB issues with starter Tyler Lorenzen out with a broken foot, and back-up Zach Frazer “feeling fuzzy” after the Rutgers loss. Frazer is a Notre Dame transfer that passed up UC for the Huskies and helped lead UConn to a win against Louisville when Lorenzen left injured. Frazer CAN throw. Thing is, UConn doesn’t do it much to their fans liking since they have a big running threat in Donald Brown. The strategy against Brown though is stuffing the box and that appeared to work in the second half last week when the Scarlet Knights held Brown to just 6 yards. He still had 100 in the first half, but it’s apparent he can be stopped. The downside for UConn fans is that if Frazer can’t go, you’re left with redshirt freshman Cody Endres who’s thrown just five passes. Combine stopping Brown with an inexperienced QB and that should be good news for the Bearcat defense.
As for the UC “D”, Connor Barwin improves and is more theatrical every week and the defensive backfield of Mickens, Smith, Underwood, etc. will make it difficult on the Huskies if they’re down to option #3 at QB.
NOD: With Frazer, give UConn the slight edge at home. Without him, look for the Bearcats to have a big day.
UConn’s Tony Ciaravino missed three field goals against Rutgers; otherwise the Huskies might be 6-2 coming into this one. Based on that, coach Randy Edsall’s given Ciaravino “the boot” in favor of Dave Teggart this week. On the other hand, Jake Rogers has suddenly turned into a model of consistently and we KNOW he has a leg. How he reacts to the first Big East crowd on the road will determine his success. Then there’s always Kevin Huber, who single-handedly won the game against Rutgers with his booming punts giving the Knights continuous crappy field position. He’s playing like the All-American he is and that’s an added weapon to the Kelly arsenal.
NOD: If it’s a field position battle like Rutgers, Huber and UC win.
THROW IT OUT AND SEE WHERE IT STICKS
Several things come into play here. Number 1: Undoubtedly, Brian Kelly would like to have a more “statement” win in the Big East. He mentioned that UC’s not ranked yet because they “haven’t beaten anybody”. While UConn is not USC or LSU by any means, they are still a marquee name to the eastern media which so dominates the polls and rankings. A big win at Rentschler will turn some heads and should put UC in or on the fringe of the Top 25.
Number 2: Todd Frazer. The difference in UConn’s offense should be night and day if Frazer plays as opposed to the untested Endres. It shapes up as a tight battle with Frazer, while the empirical evidence would tilt big-time the Bearcats way if it’s not.
Also, there’s an intangible that no one will want to bring up, (but I will because I’m somewhat skilled in the art of feather-ruffling)—Todd Frazer DID NOT come to UC. He passed up the Bearcats for the Huskies and I’m sure the message has been relayed to someone in charge of throwing QBs to the turf that Frazer “dissed the 513”. One doesn’t “diss” the Kelly man without consequences.