Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Pitiful" offensive performance dooms UConn

Of all the words Bob Diaco uttered during the press conference following a 27-3 loss at Temple, the one that resonated the strongest was "pitiful."

"It was pathetic" was how Diaco referred to the offensive performance as the Huskies didn't surpass the 100-yard mark in total offense until midway through the fourth quarter and finished with just 138 yards of offense.

Diaco, to his credit, was basically asked the same question on three different occasions as some people joined the press conference a little late as I assume they went to Temple's question and answer session first. The first time he was asked about what the Owls' defense did to shut the Huskies down provided the best response.

"Guys in the backfield, pouring through the backfield. We couldn't get plays started, bad reads, poor off-target passing. It was pitiful.

"You prepare hard, everybody worked hard, the players showed up and were ready emotionally and we did a poor job of coaching them."

If anything positive could be said about what UConn tried to accomplish on offense, at least they did not stand pat.

Bryant Shirreffs, who started the first 11 games of the season, was in uniform and did some throwing in drills before the game but it was Tim Boyle who got the start. Boyle and Garrett Anderson each saw time at quarterback as did star receiver Noel Thomas as he served as the QB when UConn used the wildcat formation.

"We were not going to do a QB run with Tim so what are you going to do?" Diaco said. "It could have been something that could have created production, we were just trying to create some production.

"We had two of our best players out, outside of Noel and Arkeel (Newsome), the starting quarterback and not having him and a great, great player in (injured tight end) Tommy Myers, he is a big loss. We needed to use a lot of different things to try to create some production and it didn't work."

Myers suffered a season-ending ankle injury in last week's win over Houston. When he was injured the Huskies used Anderson at fullback as well as running backs Max DeLorenzo and Josh Marriner. There was a new wrinkle when sophomore linebacker Luke Carrezola saw time at fullback and even caught a pass. But for all the wrinkles, it still came down to the fact that Temple dominated the Huskies up front.

"They didn't do anything special other than overpower us," Thomas said. "We need to make sure we are coming if we are fortunate to have a bowl game, make sure we are confident up front and execute the way we should."

On the injury front Diaco said that Shirreffs is "still day to day. he looks way better. He is cleared for activity. I fully anticipating him practicing this week."

Junior linebacker Matt Walsh was knocked out of the game with a lower body injury. Diaco did not have specific details

"His spirits are high," Diaco said. "They (UConn's medical staff) were encouraged. I don't want to speculate but they all seem encouraged/"

A few notes, coming into the game UConn was twice held to 129 yards of total offense since making the jump to the FBS level and it looked as if that mark would fall as the Huskies had 65 yards of offense heading into the fourth quarter before finishing with 138. UConn's nine rushing yards is the lowest total at the FBS level for the Huskies.

Andrew Adams tied for the team lead with eight tackles with fellow safety. That gives Adams exactly 250 tackles as he is the 23rd UConn player to reach that mark. Also, Thomas' five catches gives him 54. Since the 2005 season Thomas and Geremy Davis are the only Huskies with 50 catches in a season. Bobby Puyol's 45-yard field goal was his 15th this season which is tied for sixth in program history.

UConn now has to wait to see which bowl it will play in. The announcement is expected to come on Dec. 7 although between now and then reports will start to surface of teams accepting bids into specific bowl games.

For those wondering, here is the list of the players with at least 250 career tackles

Player                          Seasons   Tackles
John Dorsey                   80-83          495
Lawrence Wilson           07-10         449
Troy Ashley                   86-89         428
Maurice Lloyd               01-04         412
Mike Jansen                   84-87         394
Vernon Hargreaves        80-83         393
Alfred Fincher               01-04          357
Paul Duckworth            90-93          354
Dennis O'Connell          76-78          341
Yawin Smallwood         11-13          332
Paul Zenkert                  91-94          312
Brad Keatley                 94-97          311
Uyi Osunde                  99-03           292
Mark Michaels             82-85           290
Abbott Burrell              86-89           288
Terrance Smith             00-03           280
Sio Moore                     09-12           274
Rob Belucore                89-92           274
James Hargrave            02-05           271
Jamar Wilkins               97-00          270
Rich Fenton                  73-75          266
Lou Donato                   81-84          257
Andrew Adams             12-15          250

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sophomores coming on strong for UConn's defense

Foley Fatukasi is part of a talented group of sophomore defenders
I don't recall whether I wrote this or said it to the people silly enough to put me on their radio show but I can recall making the declaration that UConn's defense would only go as far as the talented sophomore class would take it.

Well, all the sophomores did in last week's victory over previously undefeated Houston was to combine for three sacks, an interception, fumble recovery and 14 total tackles in the 20-17 win over the Cougars.

Luke Carrezola had a pair of sacks, Foley Fatukasi had a sack and forced a fumble, Cameron Stapleton recovered a fumble and Jamar Summers came up with the game-clinching interception.

When I asked UConn coach Bob Diaco about it, he merely said it was a case of the seniors on the defense led by captains Julian Campenni, Andrew Adams and Marquise Vann putting them in the right spots and making the proper calls for them to make the key plays. Perhaps that is the case but some credit should be given to these playmakers.

Thankfully I got better responses from Carrezola, who has a team-leading six sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for loss this season and Campenni when I asked them about it after Tuesday's practice.

"That is what we have been doing all season," Carrezola said. "I think we have been growing. All of those guys have been playing fantastic. We all know it doesn't matter where you are on the depth chat, you only have one mission to beat and shut down whoever we play."

There are four sophomore starters on defense and two more listed as backups in the most recent two-deep chart. The number would be even bigger if not for Cole Ormsby suffering a season-ending injury forcing him to miss the last three games.
It is hard to overlook the fact that the sophomores are averaging about four more tackles in the last four games than in the first seven contests. Leading the way is Carrezola and Summers who have four sacks and four interceptions during the current three-game winning streak.

"They have been working real hard and it is nice seeing guys like that really perform because you know you are going to leave the program off in good hands," Campenni said. "I am glad they are exceeding expectations and we knew that was what they could do, we know that was their potential."

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UConn commit leads his team to historic state title

With UConn commit Quayvon Skanes running for four touchdowns and throwing for another as Phillips Academy High School became the first team from the Chicago Public League to win a football state title.

Phillips rolled to a 51-7 win over Althoff in the Illinois 4A title game to finish with a 14-0 record while outscoring its opponents 587-90.

Skanes had scoring runs of 41, 31, 3 and 36 yards as he finished with 149 yards on 13 carries.

Closer to home, the Connecticut playoffs begin on Tuesday with the quarterfinals. Jasen Rose's Southington team is the No. 3 seed in Class LL and will host No. 6 Conard while Keyion Dixon's Glastonbury squad is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Newtown. Both games are set for 6:30 p.m.

Seven teams took the field on Thursday or Friday with a chance to either become bowl eligible or put themselves in position to play next week to pick up the sixth win needed to reach bowl eligibility. If not for some costly turnovers by Tulane resulting in a Tulsa win those teams would have gone 1-6 as Buffalo, Missouri, Nebraska and San Jose State fell to 5-7 and Texas' record dropped to 4-7 with losses.

Tulsa posted a 47-34 win to improve to 6-6 and Washington did the same with a 45-10 win over Washington State.

If my math is correct that means 73 teams are bowl eligible. Seven more 5-6 teams (East Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Old Dominion and Virginia Tech) and two squads with 4-6 records and two games left (Kansas State and Louisiana Lafayette) are in action today.

There are 81 bowl slots available so unless every team mentioned above wins out which would be beyond improbable, it looks like teams with losing records will be get bowl invitations.

Another result of note to the AAC is Toledo's loss to Western Michigan which could result in the winner of the AAC championship game getting a bid to a New Year's Day bowl. Ironically, UConn could blow up those plans because if the Huskies upset Temple it would put unranked South Florida in the AAC championship game. If USF were to beat Houston it would be rather interesting to see which of the Group of Five teams gets that bid. If Temple wins tonight I would think the winner of the Houston/Temple game gets that prime bowl spot.


Friday, November 27, 2015

UConn's Carrezola fired up to be returning home

Something tells me that UConn linebacker Luke Carrezola would be rather exuberant at the prospects of playing a game in the middle of the Sahara desert miles from the nearly water supply or in the middle of a snow-covered patch of land in Alaska. However, the prospects of playing the final regular season game of his sophomore season on the home field of the team he grew up rooting for has Carrezola counting his blessings.

Carrezola joins fellow linebacker Junior Joseph and defensive lineman Julian Campenni as the Pennsylvania natives set to start on defense for UConn in tomorrow's game against Temple. However, Joseph grew up more than an hour from Philadelphia, Campenni more than two hours and starting tight end Alec Bloom about 4 1//2 hours away. That is not the case for Carrezola, whose hometown of Langhorne is less than 30 miles from Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles and site of tomorrow's UConn/Temple game.

"I grew up an Eagles fan and I always wanted to play at the Linc," Carrezola said. "It is an awesome feeling to be around my whole family. My high school teammates, they are all going to be there. I have been excited for this one all year and it is going to be awesome. I have cousins coming in, other family, teammates so probably around 50-60 (friends and family members coming to the game)."

Temple was actually the first team to offer Carrezola but once he headed up to a camp at UConn he was sold.

"I fell in love with everything up here, the facilities are awesome, the coaching staff is awesome and I definitely made the right choice for myself,' Carrezola said

Last year at this time the Huskies were limping their way to a 2-10 season and an injured Carrezola had to watch the second half of his freshman season from the sidelines.

"I am so blessed to be healthy," Carrezola said. "It is something that people take for granted, it just happens so fast. I am just so happy to be able to play with my teammates. I feel like I am in a lot better shape than I was back then."


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Solid ratings for UConn/Houston game

Just received some ratings info on the Houston game and not surprisingly, the top market for the game was Hartford/New Haven with a 3.3.

According to ESPN, the game averaged 373,000 viewers which is right on target with what 3:30 p.m. Saturday games draw on ESPNU as usually the number is somewhere between 300,000-600,000 with some give or take either way.

In case you didn't happen to check this out yesterday, I did some checking and the last time Connecticut natives had a 100-yard rushing and 100-yard receiving performance in the same game for UConn came in 1990 against Yale and Maine as Victor Taylor ran for 121 yards in each game and Alex Davis had 105 receiving yards against Yale and 121 in the Maine game. Why is this relevant? Well, Norwalk native Noel Thomas caught seven passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns while Ansonia's Arkeel Newsome ran for 114 yards in the win over Houston.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Loss of Myers a big blow for UConn; Coney impresses

It has been a relatively quiet year in the injury department for the Huskies. Obviously, offensive lineman Ryan Crozier being lost for season before camp even started was a major loss so was losing defensive end Cole Ormsby for the season. Now comes another big blow as sophomore tight end Tommy Myers suffered a season-ending ankle injury in last week's win over Houston.

UConn coach Bob Diaco confirmed during his weekly press conference that Myers would miss this week's game at Temple as well as the bowl game.

"It will require that amount of time that he won't be able to play this weekend or be ready for a bowl game but shortly after that he will be full speed. I'd be shocked if he is not fully participating in winter conditioning."

Myers importance to the offense is deeper than his 16 receptions or 232 receiving yards would indicate. Myers delivered key blocks on many of Arkeel Newsome's most explosive runs and he could be missed more as a blocker than as a receiver.

"It is going to be committee kind of how it looked (when Myers was injured in the first quarter throwing a block on a Newsome run)," Diaco said. "There is not any other way to do it right now. The F position has been a conversation all year. Tommy, bless his heart, was fantastic. In terms of jobs, that is a huge loss because of what he did. It was a shock to everybody that he would continue to be able to do this more, more and more. He did the jobs of so many people and now we are going to have all hands on deck. Select a tool when you need a tool."

On the depth chart true freshman Chris Lee was listed as a starter followed by classmate Zordan Holman. Diaco made it clear it was not simply going to be a case of plugging Lee in at Myers' position.

"He is a big skill athlete but he does a lot of power jobs, that in-line tight end looks a whole lot like a power player and it is very hard for a true freshman to be in that role as a power player," Diaco said. "We can get him involved at some moments but not all of the moments and he is still going to need a little bit of protection."

Myers' teammates will miss having him out on the field.

"He is very good at both blocking and catching passes," UConn junior receiver Noel Thomas said. "His strength is the biggest thing we are going to miss. Chris Lee is going to do a good job."

Diaco said quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, knocked out of the Houston game after a helmet to helmet hit, is day to day.

"He was feeling much better on Sunday than he was Saturday night and better on Monday than he was on Sunday," Diaco said. "He'll be out with the offense today but the amount of exertion is to be determined but I would expect him to be very minimal (in practice) today."

While Diaco wouldn't say it, my opinion is that it will be the Tim Boyle show on Saturday but time will tell.

Finally, Diaco wasn't optimistic about having receiver/punt returner Brian Lemelle on Saturday.

"I always hope to have him back because he is doing such a good job for us," Diaco said. "I think that is going to be a stretch. We are still working day to day. We would never even come close to putting somebody in harm's way for any reason at all. Although he might be cleared to do more, if he really can't function and perform at a high level to give himself great success, we would never ask him to do the jobs."

Some walk-ons can play four years without putting themselves in position to see snaps during the games. Well, former Naugatuck High receiver Bryan Coney is clearly not your average walk-on.

I've noticed that he's been getting second-team reps in practice and when Diaco mentioned the young receivers stepping up and maturing, Coney's name came up right after scholarship receivers Tyraiq Beals, Hergy Mayala, Aaron McLean and Frank Battle.

"He is a walk-on player here, he was one of the most prolific players in the state," Diaco said. "He has had a tremendous year, made an impact on the team, he is on the "look" team because he is a redshirted player. He will be a player next year who if continues to develop the way he has been developing, he will have some role for sure whether it is on the four running teams, he will play a role on the team next year. A big, tough, smart guy who loves playing football."

Thomas is also very impressed by what he has seen from Coney.

"He is always eager to learn. from when camp started until now, he has definitely gotten better and he helps the defense out a lot on the "look" team so I could definitely see him having a role," Thomas said

"No matter what he always has a smile on his face, he stays positive and encouraging and he will make plays."


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Former UConn captain goes for Grey Cup title

Alex Mateas has been on a pretty nice run since playing his final game for UConn in 2014.

The former team captain was the first overall pick in the CFL Draft by Ottawa and now the RedBlacks will be playing for the Canadian Football League title after a 35-28 win over Hamilton in the East Conference final earlier today.

The game was tied at 28 before Greg Ellingson's 93-yard touchdown reception on a 2nd and 25 play with less than two minutes remaining provided the winning points.

It's been a remarkable turnaround season for Ottawa which was 2-16 during the 2014 season but posted a 12-6 regular-season record.

Ottawa will play Edmonton in the Grey Cup final on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

Mateas is also drawing plenty of kudos on social media as he gave away tickets to today's playoff game to veteran Craig Searle.

Thx @AlexMateas @REDBLACKS @OSEG_Media @REDBLACKSCheer @LumberJoes awesome tix for a vet, thnx so much for kindness

UConn commit Quayvon Skanes ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns and his only pass went for a 6-yard touchdown to lead Phillips Academy High School to a 47-13 win over previously undefeated Marengo in the Illinois 4A semifinals on Saturday.

Skanes, who did not play in the second half with Phillips leading 47-7, had scoring runs of 64, 49, 24 and 22 yards as Phillips improved to 13-0. Next up is the state title game on Friday against Belleville Althoff.
Ottawa will play the Edmonton/Calgary winner in the Grey Cup final on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.


Looking back at a magical day in UConn football history

This is just my fourth season handling the primary coverage of the UConn football team so I don't have the same historical perspective as others who cover the Huskies but I think you would be hard pressed to find a scene anywhere close to what happened as the final seconds ticked off the Rentschler Field scoreboard yesterday since the Huskies began playing their home games in East Hartford.

The players gathered at the center of field, letting all the emotions pour out. Speaking of pouring out, fans kept coming onto the field in waves joining the celebration after the 20-17 victory over No. 13 Houston. Wins have been hard to come by for the Huskies in recent years and this one had to taste extra sweet especially to the seniors.

"Just to see the UConn fans storm the field, it was a great feeling overall to beat a ranked opponent, to see the love that the fans provided for us," UConn senior safety Andrew Adams said. "They were loud throughout the whole game, in the end when we took it and they stormed the field it was an unbelievable sight, that is a sight that I will never forget.

"It kind of sunk in but once I go home, lay down  and it will really sink in. Once I wake up tomorrow, it will really hit me."

After leaving the field and addressing the team, a beaming Bob Diaco made his way into the press conference. The first thing he did was mention that this had to be a special moment with his wife among those in the room and then he was quick to note to appearance of UConn president Susan Herbst as well.

Diaco believes that the win could be "a catalyst" to what he is trying to build but he was also quick to stay in the moment and who could blame him because what a moment it was after the Huskies posted their third win over a ranked opponent since making the transition to the FBS level and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

"It was so great," Diaco said. "I was a little claustrophobic. I am not a big crowd type of guy but it was good. They were trying to mess my hair up."

The natural follow-up question was whether the fans were successful in that endeavor.

"It refuses to go any other way, I just whistle and it goes right back."

If Diaco was ecstatic, imagine what AD Warde Manuel was feeling. He was the one who pulled the plug on the Paul Pasqualoni era after an embarrassing loss at Buffalo (where Manuel used to work) dropped the Huskies to 0-4 at the start of the 2013 season. A national search resulted in Manuel bringing in the highly-touted former Notre Dame defensive coordinator to turn things around.

After a 2-10 season, it was clear Diaco had plenty of work to be done. Even this year when the Huskies dropped back to back games to USF and Cincinnati to fall to 3-5, the prospects of playing in  a bowl game seemed bleak. That is what made what took place yesterday all the more special to the players, coaches and administrators.
"I am happy for this team and happy for our coaches and all of our fans," Manuel said. "Part of it is to go through the process, work through it and believing as Bob said in the process and having belief in it."

Before the game the seniors were honored as they played their final game at Rentschler Field. Team leaders like Adams, Julian Campenni, Marquise Vann, Graham Stewart, Max DeLorenzo, Kenton Adeyemi and Tyler Samra walked away with a home finale none of them will ever forget.

"They have been through so much, I don't know how many head coaches, even a stadium name change I can't explain how much they have been through," said UConn sophomore linebacker Luke Carrezola, who had two sacks. "They had done such a good job and I am happy to be a part of it."

Manuel made sure to seek out the seniors before and after the game.
"I spoke to them before the game that I was proud of them and that they have one, two or three more games depending on how they played tonight to finish this off and after the game I reiterated that, they have been through a lot of changes, to transition and lead the way the seniors have done, I can't be more happy for them."

He was also happy for Diaco.

"You believe in what people are presenting and what they are telling you and the one thing about Bob is he hasn't changed in his plan and his thoughts about how to get there," Manuel said. "He has adjusted but we all need to adjust in life. He had a plan, he had a vision of what this team could accomplish and working with him has been a pleasure and a pleasure to watch he and is coaches and the student-athletes work the way they have."

Now for some notes off the game.

This is the third time since the start of the 2009 season that UConn didn't allow a sack or commit a turnover. The other two came in a 45-10 win over Memphis in the 2013 finale and in a 29-27 win over South Florida in the 2009 regular-season finale.

With seven tackles Adams moved by three players including current Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and into 23rd place on UConn's career tackles list. He needs eight more to become the 23rd UConn player with 250 career tackles and the eighth to do it since UConn's move to the FBS level.

Arkeel Newsome surpassed the 1,500-yard mark in all-purpose yards. The only other players to do it since UConn moved to FBS are Jordan Todman in 2009 and 2010 and Donald Brown in 2008.

Player                       Year   Rush Rec PR KO Total
Donald Brown          2008    2083 125     0    0   2208
Jordan Todman         2009  1188 185      0  506  1879
Jordan Todman         2010  1695 94        0   55  1844
Arkeel Newsome      2015   759  426      0  376  1561
Terry Caulley            2002  1247 205     0     0   1452
Cornell Brockington 2004  1218 231      0     0   1449

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Emotional sendoff for UConn's seniors

A year ago when the seniors on the UConn football walked off the field they did so after one of the more disappointing losses in program history following a defeat to a previously winless SMU squad,

It's safe to say that things have changed just a little bit in the last 12 months.

A spirited performance resulted in a 20-17 win over No. 13 and previously undefeated Houston team as the Huskies became bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

The victory wasn't secured until sophomore cornerback Jamar Summers cradled a pass from Houston quarterback Greg Ward in the final minute, their dreams came true with a 20-17 victory over No. 13 Houston before a crowd of 26,879 at Rentschler Field on Saturday. The win enabled UConn to become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2010 season and allow the seniors to leave victorious in their home finale.

"Once I saw Jamar catch the pick, I said 'game over,'" UConn senior safety Andrew Adams said. "I saw the No. 2 receiver running down the field kind of open so I kind of leaned towards him, they threw it the other way. I look over and I see Jamar catch the ball I said 'thank you, thank you.'
"We wanted to win the game on defense, that is what we strive for, that is what we practice for. It is a challenge but we stepped to the plate."
Whether it was a game against Michigan in 2013, losses to Boise State and East Carolina a season ago or a near upset on the road against Missouri earlier this season, the Huskies simply couldn't seal the deal.
Perhaps some of those in the stands or watching at home cringed expecting the worst when Brandon Wilson's 94-yard kickoff return pulled the Cougars within three points with 9:36 to play.

Physical runs by Arkeel Newsome (114 rushing yards) and Ron Johnson allowed the Huskies to pick up a couple of first downs and take some time off the clock. But Houston, which came into the game average 511 yards and 43.5 points per game, would still get two more chance to steal away a victory to keep their dreams of an undefeated season alive.
An 18-yard pass from Ward, who came in for an injured Kyle Postma, to Demarcus Ayers had the Cougars about 30-35 yards away from being able to attempt a game-tying field goal. On the next play Ward, who is in the midst of a spectacular season but is hobbled by an ankle injury which knocked him out of last week's win over Memphis, underthrew a pass that Summer was able to pick off.
What followed was one of biggest outpouring of emotion at the end of a UConn football game.
"You immediately go to what makes a special moment, Senior Day is a special day but it is very forgettable if you don't win so to have Senior Day with their families and with that win, I know that is going to be a catalyst to so much success in the future," UConn coach Bob Diaco said.
"On just a DNA level, you get the feeling of accomplishment in that you made a great investment and with that great investment you get a a great return. You want to put more in to get more to get that feeling of return."
Diaco joked that he drew his players a sketch of the bowl game he would like to be a part in and let's just say that sun-drenched South Florida is his preferred destination.
"We can smell the salt in the air at bowl eligibility so 'Warde (Manuel, UConn's director of athletics), here we go, let's call all of your bodies and to the beach. We will pack our bathing suits and here we go."

There were so many stars in the game.

Newsome had 158 all-purpose yards as he joins Jordan Todman and Donald Brown as the only Huskies with 1,500 all-purpose yards in a season during UConn's time at the FBS level. Noel Thomas caught seven passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Tim Boyle came on in relief of an injured Bryant Shirreffs and did not turn the ball over while fellow quarterback turned fullback Garrett Anderson threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Thomas. Defensively, sophomores Luke Carrezola and Foley Fatukasi combined for three sacks. Classmates Junior Joseph and Cam Stapleton recovered fumbles while Adams had an interception. Also, punter Justin Wain had six of his nine punts inside the 20 while Bobby Puyol had a strong day on kickoffs and had a pair of field goals.

After the final whistle fans began pouring onto the field and the players welcomed the company as they jumped up and down celebrating the first win over a ranked team at home in eight years.
"We are in the history books now. Since I stepped foot on campus we haven't been to a bowl game, now we have," Adams said. "It is great to make history, see our team be happy, have fun and have success. As a leader of this team and it is a great feeling all around."
It was a costly win as Diaco believes the foot or ankle injury suffered by starting tight end Tommy Myers will end his season. Shirreffs was also knocked out of the game after taking a helmet to helmet shot from Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts, the leading tackler in the American Athletic Conference. Roberts was ejected for the hit which was ruled as targeting. Diaco believes Shirreffs will be OK.

UConn ready to rise to the occasion?

UConn's poor track record against ranked teams has been well documented. However, recent history has also shown that the Huskies do have an ability to play up to the level of competition.

Andrew Adams, Junior Lee, Max DeLorenzo, Marquise Vann, Tyler Samra and Julian Campenni all saw time when UConn went on the road to face No. 21 Rutgers and only trailed 6-3 at halftime. Despite holding the Scarlet Knights to 280 yards of offense, the Huskies lost 19-3 as their offense turned the ball over five times.

About a month and a half later the Huskies traveled to play No. 19 Louisville and came away with an improbable 23-20 overtime victory. Campenni had a sack in the game, Lee had a couple of tackles and DeLorenzo carried the ball twice.

The following year mighty Michigan came to Rentschler Field and considering that the Huskies opened the season with a 15-point home loss to FCS Towson, not much was expected. The Huskies led 21-7 in the second half and held a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter before suffering a 24-21 defeat.

In UConn's lone game against a ranked opponent last season came on the road against No. 18 East Carolina. The game was tied midway through the fourth quarter but the Pirates scored on its final two possessions to record a 31-21 victory. Earlier in the season the Huskies also threw a scare in a very good Boise State squad as the Huskies only trailed 24-21 entering the fourth quarter. However, as was the case in the Rutgers, Michigan and East Carolina games, ineffective offense finally caught up to the Huskies in the fourth quarter as a defensive touchdown and another TD set up by an interception enabled Boise to win the contest 38-21.

Now comes the biggest test of all when undefeated and No. 13 Houston comes to town.

"This group loves to play football, we love challenges and everybody competes so I think we play up to our competition and we are going to prove we can play against anybody in the country," UConn senior safety Andrew Adams said.

The game will be the final home contest for UConn's seniors. There are 13 seniors on the UConn roster but fullback Jazzmar Clax and receiver Tony Tully (listed as juniors on the roster) are included on the cover of the game program as the seniors on the team.

The live blog for the UConn/Houston game is now up and running. Feel free to check it out