WEEKLY MAILBAG: Huskies Dropped to 1-2 After Loss to IU

Game three was not anything close to what was expected coming off a 31-23 loss to Illinois. With an extra week between games allowing both true freshman QB Jack Zergiotis to gain some extra familiarity with the offense and to also get some of the injured Huskies healthier, competitive was the expectation. Through two quarters, the game was still in reach. Then, inexperience struck with the pick-six that all but ended UConn’s chances on Saturday on the first possession of the second half.

The improvements seen over the first two weeks defensively were not as apparent in this one, as the defense gave up 13-plays of more than ten-yards from scrimmage. Not necessarily deemed ‘explosive plays,’ 13 over ten yards is still too many. The biggest factor for lack of success, however? Allowing 8-of-10 third down conversions. Not getting off the field on 3rd downs makes for a difficult time for any team and Saturday was the roughest outing of the year for a still improved unit. Injuries did hit, which did hurt, perhaps no bigger than the loss of D.J. Morgan, who initially went down

NOTE: Yesterday’s recap included a comment that RB Kevin Mensah had not played in the 1st quarter. After reviewing the film, while Art Thompkins did start, Mensah was on the field during UConn’s first possession of the game. Mensah’s first carry came with the 1st play of the second quarter.

Let’s get to your questions:

As with any position, if someone struggles or fails to do their job, they will ultimately lose it. Zergiotis, while impressive in his debut against Illinois, looked like a shell of himself his very next outing. I saw enough on film in his debut to say he has the tools to be a pretty good quarterback, but needs to become way more consistent. To me and this was watching from Connecticut on Saturday as I did not make the trip, it seemed like he didn’t trust his pocket in Indiana. Talking with Edsall on Sunday afternoon, he called out a hit Zergiotis took on the first drive of the game that may have rattled the true freshman and he never really completely settled down after that. More experience will be beneficial for Zergiotis. This is his job to lose at this point as his starting role is currently safe, but as with any position on the roster, if he continues to struggle like he did against Indiana, his leash will begin to tighten.

As far as 2020 opponents, there are rumors out there of a few schools that could appear next year, including a G5 from out west. Where UConn is in terms of the contracting phase of those scheduling agreements is information I’m not privy to. I would imagine as the season winds down, the entire schedule will be released publicly. I don’t have enough concrete information to report any games as being officially locked in, so will hold off on naming names until I get word that things have become official. Overall, I expect an exciting independent schedule, with a lot of brand names that will draw interest, much like the games already scheduled with Clemson, Tennessee, Maryland, NC State, Boston College, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Duke.

See above for the scheduling question. No need to worry on having a 12-game schedule next season. As far as wins, which UConn team shows up? The one that showed an offense capable of sustaining drives and moving the football in weeks 1 and 2, or the offense that was unable to generate more than 145-yards of total offense against Indiana? The offensive performance this week is concerning, there’s no way to spin that one. Things don’t get easier this week as the Huskies will need to play a perfect game to be competitive in Orlando. Realistic chance for wins?

Outside of UCF, I don’t really see a game where I’ll say UConn won’t at least have a chance to be competitive. Now, I had that same thinking heading to Indiana, so maybe I need to reset expectations after the performance in Bloomington, but I’ll trust what I saw against Illinois with Zergiotis, someone who can make all the throws and should learn from his performance against IU.

UConn will certainly be favored up at UMass. USF at home should be competitive, although Charlie Strong actually made a good decision switching from Blake Barnett to Jordan McCloud. McCloud gives the Bulls a legit dual-threat from the QB spot and he makes his first start against an FBS team in Tampa against SMU Saturday before coming to The Rent, so keep an eye on that one. Heading into the year, I thought Houston had a legit chance to roll through the AAC and dethrone UCF. They may still challenge UCF in the end, even after a 1-3 start (1-2 wasn’t all that surprising with Oklahoma and Wazzou, but the loss at Tulane last Thursday to open AAC play, was), but let’s see how Holgersen’s group responds after the bye. From most likely to least likely, here’s what I see after four weeks of college football: UMass, East Carolina, USF, Temple, Navy, Tulane, Cincy, Houston, UCF. The teams in bold I think UConn can at least be competitive in.

It hasn’t been good. Overall, on an A-F scale, I’d say C-/D+. There hasn’t been consistency and that’s where consistency is needed the most. Edsall replaced Cam DeGeorge at left guard during the 2nd half of the Indiana game to spark a bit of physicality up front, inserting Robert Holmes into the lineup.

“We haven’t been physical up front and whatever we need to get that, that’s what we are going to do,” Edsall said on Sunday afternoon. “If it means changing personnel, those are the things that we are going to do. You try to tell these guys every day that nobody is guaranteed anything and if there are guys that can do the things that we want done, then we are going to go ahead and do the things necessary to get us where we want to.”

Holes in the running game are not being opened up, particularly against FBS competition, where their longest run in either game was an 11-yard run by Art Thompkins against Illinois. This past week, Thompkins also held the longest run from scrimmage, just 9-yards. In total, in weeks 2 and 3, UConn has run for just 61 total yards (10 against Indiana & 51 against Illinois). That’s not good enough and puts a ton of pressure on a true freshman quarterback to get the job done through the air.

Thanks for all the questions! Stay tuned for the latest news surrounding UConn football throughout the week and will have full coverage from Orlando on Saturday!

8 months ago
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