It's always interesting to see what the hometown paper for UConn's opponent has to say in the days leading up to a game. The Newark Star-Ledger ran this headline in Thursday's edition: "Rutgers defense can't take Connecticut's sputtering offense lightly."
It's one of those things that should go without saying but as soon as you don't bring it up, that's exactly what happens during the game. Plus, it helps lay the groundwork for any "letdown game" scenarios should the Huskies happen to eke out a conference win on the road.
And while it's fair to call UConn's offense "sputtering" through five games, it's also not preposterous to suggest that it's improved each week. A relatively young unit with a redshirt sophomore quarterback in Chandler Whitmer who was playing in junior college a year ago, the Huskies are primed for a big game. We're not saying it's destined to happen this weekend, but Whitmer, RB Lyle McCombs, TEs John Delahunt and Ryan Griffin, and WRs Geremy Davis, Mike Smith, Nick Williams and Shakim Phillips are all capable big-play threats. It's just a matter of putting it all together.
The Star-Ledger's Dave Hutchinson writes that the key for the Scarlet Knights could be their ability to tackle in open space, something first-year head coach Kyle Flood doesn't disagree with.
"I certainly think they’re going to distribute the ball and they do that by spreading you out in the pass game, whether its by formation or the route structures that they run,’’ Flood said Thursday.
"When they do complete the passes, we’re going to have to limit them to throws and catches, not throws, catches and runs. I think their offense is progressing like ours. I think they’re at the beginning stages like I think we are.
"They certainly have the most productive running back in the league returning in Lyle McCombs. If you’re not able to minimize his effect on the game, he can win the game just by himself and they have a quarterback who is getting better every week.’’
Of course, Rutgers has their own explosive back in Jawan Jamison. He's averaging 4.8 YPC this season. We've talked about the Huskies' "sputtering" offense but the reality is that the defense has struggled the previous two weeks against lesser opponents Western Michigan and Buffalo.
Here's your obligatory highlight of what can happen if a defense loses focus, even for one play: