Maryland 32, at Connecticut 21, Sept. 14
Basically … Maryland broke open a tight game in the third quarter with 12 straight points starting with a 49-yard interception return for a score from Dexter McDougle and a safety on an intentional grounding call. C.J. Brown ran for a 41-yard score and hit Stefon Diggs for a 12-yard touchdown. Connecticut got on the board first with a five-yard Lyle McCombs touchdown run, but only managed a field goal before Shakim Phillips caught a 75-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth.
- It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but Maryland keeps on winning and keeps on generating offense. The steadiness of starting quarterback C.J. Brown, and his 122 rushing yards, has meant almost everything; there's a passing game this year.
- Connecticut bombed away with the passing game, with Chandler Whitmer throwing for 346 yards, but there were way too many mistakes. The pick six was a gamechanger, and there were a few too many misfires and errors when he tried to press. There’s potential for the passing game, but the offense needs to be more consistent.
- Yawin Smallwood continues to be a bright spot in a disastrous season. The UConn linebacker made 14 tackles and was decent in pass coverage, too.
- Maryland is finding defensive playmakers. Cole Farrand came up with 12 tackles, Dexter McDougle made two picks including the big play that broke the game open, and Marcus Whitfield and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil combined for 5.5 sacks. The Terps might not be rock-solid, but there are some nice pieces.
Towson 33, at Connecticut 18, Aug. 29
Basically … Towson running back Terrance West ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns, putting the game away in the final minute on a five-yard run. Connecticut couldn’t get the ground game going and couldn’t slow down West and the Towson running game that kept the ball for over 36 minutes. Chandler Whitmer hooked up with Shakim Phillips for two touchdowns for the Huskies.
- Yawin Smallwood tried to do his part. The run defense might have struggled a bit, but the all-star came up with 16 tackles and was in on everything.
- Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. UConn can’ do it. It’s not for a lack of trying, but Lyle McCombs couldn’t find any room to move.
- Welcome to the first day of the last year of the Paul Pasqualoni era. You can't lose to Towson at home, Ever.
Why To Be Excited ... George DeLeone is no longer calling plays on offense. DeLeone became a lightning rod for criticism for a necrotic offense that averaged only 17 points per game. In his place steps T.J. Weist, whose eight returning starters are about to get introduced to a far more attacking style of play-calling from its new coach.
Why To Be Grouchy ... the Huskies are losing a ton of talent on defense. Of last season’s five All-Big East performers, only one, LB Yawin Smallwood, is still in Storrs. While Connecticut has developed a tradition of feisty defenses over the past seasons, beleaguered head coach Paul Pasqualoni and his assistants will need to develop new stoppers at each level beginning in the spring.
The Number One Thing to Work On ... fixing the offensive line. At least three seniors are expected to man the front wall, but a veteran presence guarantees little for this unit. At the heart of last season’s offensive stumbles was an O-line that ranked 100th nationally in sacks allowed, and did a poor job of creating space for RB Lyle McCombs, the team’s top offensive threat.
Team Concerns For 2013: Will the offense ever work? The Huskies averaged a pathetic 17.75 points per game with no running game and way too many turnovers. It all starts with a line that gets four starters back, but has to be far stronger in pass protection. Turnover margin has to start becoming a positive after coming up with a mere six picks and six fumble recoveries. The special teams have to be far stronger, especially on kickoff returns, averaging under 20 yards per try, and punting, averaging under 36 yards per boot.
Non-Conference Games: Towson, Maryland, Michigan, at Buffalo
Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 5-7
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Towson, at Buffalo, at SMU, at Temple, Memphis
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: Maryland, Michigan, USF, at Cincinnati, at UCF, Louisville, Rutgers
Schedule Analysis: With a big home stretch to start the season, the pressure will be on to beat Maryland after the Opening Day layup against Towson. With Michigan to follow and South Florida to start the Big East campaign, four of the first five games are in Storrs – being 4-1 would be great, but 3-2 might have to do. However, with the road game at Buffalo, there’s a nasty stretch of three road games in four and five in seven with the two home games coming against USF and Louisville. Fortunately, UConn gets Rutgers at home, but it might come down to the regular season finale against Memphis to have a shot at a bowl game.
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