It is, as George Constanza says, go time. FBS newcomer UMass is a distant memory and the Huskies will get their first real test of the season when NC State comes to Rentschler Field Saturday afternoon. UConn is 1-0 after a convincing 37-0 win over the Minuteman while the Wolfpack are looking for their first victory of the season following last week's loss to Tennessee.
NC State's Mike Glennon is one of the ACC's best passers, throwing for more than 3,000 yards last season. He's coming off a four-interception effort against the Vols but he has too much talent and experience to not rebound quickly. Which means that the Huskies' defense will have to live up to its high-pressure reputation. That starts with Trevardo Williams, the undersized sack specialist who has his sights set on 16 sacks this season. Linebackers Sio Moore, who was around the ball on every play last week, and Yawin Smallwood, the Big East Defensive Player of the Week, must sustain their level of play. And the secondary, led by cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz have to continue their ball-hawking ways.
On the other side of the ball, we'll get to see if the Huskies offense is ready to take that next step beyond "just keep giving the ball to Lyle McCombs." There were certainly encouraging signs against the Minutemen but let's be honest: there's a chasm between UMass, newcomers to the FBS, and NC State, which has been in the ACC forever.
That means first-year quarterback Chandler Whitmer will be expected to manage the passing game and help set up McCombs when the Huskies run the ball. Geremy Davis' development will lighten Whitmer's load, although one of the Wolfpack's best players is in their secondary: cornerback David Amerson. More via CBSSports.com:
The All-American cornerback must have a short memory of his performance in the opener, when he was burned three times on touchdowns of 40 yards or more. Amerson (6-3, 194) bit on a fake by Tyler Bray on a 41-yard touchdown catch by Cordarrelle Patterson and expected safety help on a 72-yard touchdown reception by Zach Rogers. Still, Pasqualoni is wary of Amerson's length and ability to make plays on the ball. Amerson is able to plant his foot in the ground and drive on the ball as well as anyone Pasqualoni has seen in recent seasons. With Wolfpack cornerback C.J. Wilson suspended for four games, Amerson must step up.
But the Huskies can vary their run-pass ratio put the offense in advantageous situations against NC State's defensive backs. An early does of McCombs to establish the rushing attack could open things up downfield as the game progresses. There's no reason for UConn to try to win a shootout with the Wolfpack, but if they're able to control the clock on offense and get after Glennon on defense, there's every reason to believe they'll be in position to win late in the game.
It starts with the D (via CBSSports.com: In three of UConn's five wins last season, Huskies' opponents finished with a third-down conversion rate of 32 percent or less), but the offense will have to play a vital role, too.