At 3-6 and mired in a four-game losing streak, it's not a surprise that few people have anything in the way of expectations for UConn in their game against Pitt Friday night. Like it or not, barring a miracle there is little left to play for beyond pride.
But stranger things have happened (we can't point to any specific examples but we're sure of it), and if the Huskies are going to have any chance at a three-game winning streak to end the regular-season and qualify them for a bowl game, it's going to fall to the defense.
And we don't mean that the D will have to pitch shutouts from here on out (it would be nice but that ain't happening), but in addition to playing like one of the nation's best units, they'll also need to score some points. Yep, it's come to that.
The offense is a hot mess, the o-line is banged up, the passing game is inconsistent and the rushing attack is non-existent. So if UConn is going to score points, the defense will have to help out. A lot.
"We always harp on getting turnovers and this season we haven't been as productive as last season," linebacker and captain Jory Johnson said earlier this week via the Hartford Courant. "But we do know that in certain games we need to make big plays on defense and even score on defense, to change the game, because we have struggled scoring offensively. So one thing we can do to help that out is score on our side. We're trying to do that, force fumbles, make interceptions, so we're kind of focusing on that more in practice for these last few games."
The offense has managed just 33 points during the four-game losing streak. By comparison, Syracuse dropped 44 on the Huskies back on Oct. 19.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst knows just how good Don Brown's unit can be.
"They are a heck of a defense, overall they are ninth in the country," he said. "You take the major categories and they rank highly in that. It is a combination of good players, a good scheme and it is another great challenge for our offense. If you throw on the tape, they jump out at you right away; they have gotten our attention. We look forward to going up there, it is kind of fun playing against the best. This is one of the best defenses in the country, we are looking forward to that. They have personnel, a well-thought out scheme."
Now it's a matter of if the UConn D can take on the additional burden of scoring some points. Because that looks like the only way the Huskies will have a shot at winning out.