COLUMN: Silencing the critics
After UConn's 24-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers on Nov. 9, senior defensive tackle Ryan Wirth told members of the media that this UConn football team was going to silence the critics.
Wirth and the Huskies have delivered on this promise.
After a disappointing 13-6 loss on the road to South Florida, this Husky team beat a Pittsburgh Panther squad that nearly upset the No. 1 team in college football, Notre Dame. UConn followed that performance by knocking off No. 19 Louisville in a stunning three overtime victory. Just when everybody was counting UConn out of the postseason, the Huskies won their first two games in a row under Paul Pasqaloni and are now just one win away from reaching a post season bowl game.
Since their loss to USF, the ground game has seen quite the improvement, as the Huskies have recorded 100+ yards on the ground in back to back games. Before the Pittsburgh game, you have to go all the way back to UConn's win against Buffalo for the last time the Huskies recorded 100+ rushing yards. Part of this is due in part to the success of sophomore running back Lyle McCombs. McCombs rushed for 120 yards against Pittsburgh and season high 133 yards against Louisville.
The most consistent component of this UConn football team all season has been a solid defensive front. With the exception of the game against Syracuse, where the Huskies were routed 40-10, this defense has kept the Huskies in every game this season. UConn has lost five games by a total of only 35 points, which includes two games where the Huskies only lost by a margin of three points.
At the start of the season, sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood was an early Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He has anchored this UConn defense with his 100 total tackles, including five games with 10 or more. Senior defensive end Travardo Williams leads the Huskies in sacks with 11.5. Williams recorded three sacks alone in the game against Louisville. Senior corner back Blidi Wreh-Wilson reeled in his first interception of the season against the Cardinals, which just goes to show how other teams have respected his presence in the secondary and have thrown the ball away from him all year.
Since the South Florida game, the UConn football team had one goal and that was to win their next game, which is exactly what they accomplished. However, there are still some statistics that show the Huskies will need to bring their "A" game when Cincinnati comes to the Rent on Saturday. For example, UConn has only scored three points in the second half against all Big East opponents they have faced this season. In order for the Huskies to go bowling this winter, they will need to find a way to score points in the second half, plain and simple. All year the Huskies have struggled to put teams away in the second half.
When UConn takes the field at home for one last time this season, I really don't know what to expect. Will we see more of the same, a UConn offense that comes out strong in the first half and then all but disappears in the second half? Or will UConn silence the critics once again and give us an offensive performance that will help fans forget about the struggles this team faced earlier in the season. When the clock hits 0:00 in the 4th quarter Husky fans will have that answer but until that moment comes, sit back and enjoy the game. It could be the last football game we see until next fall.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey
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