Connecticut (3-4) at Syracuse (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 19, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carrier Dome (53,613) -- Syracuse, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UConn 2-2, Syracuse 2-1 Away Record: UConn 1-2, Syracuse 0-2. Neutral Record: UConn 0-0, Syracuse 0-1. Conference Record: UConn 0-2, Syracuse 1-1. Series Record: UConn leads 6-2. .
GAME NOTES: Seeking their first conference win of the season, the Connecticut Huskies travel to the Carrier Dome to do battle with the Syracuse Orange in a Big East matchup Friday night.
The Huskies let a 14-0 first-quarter lead slip away in a 17-14 overtime loss to Big East newcomer Temple in its most recent contest. In fact UConn led 14-7 until the final minute of the game when Temple quarterback Chris Coyer threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Fitzpatrick with 19 seconds remaining. The loss was the second straight in Big East play and leaves the Huskies 0-2 in conference play and 3-4 overall.
Syracuse has managed to earn a conference victory (a 14-13 win over Pittsburgh) but has otherwise struggled to get in the win column this season. The Orange traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey this past weekend where they dropped a 23-15 decision to a nationally ranked Rutgers squad. The Orange are now 1-2 in Big East play thus far and 2-4 overall. The team's only other win came against FCS foe Stony Brook.
The all-time series between these squads is currently led by UConn which has six wins in eight previous meetings. The Huskies and the Orange did not meet last season but in 2010 UConn won its fifth straight in the series with a 23-6 win in the Carrier Dome.
Scoring has not been a strength of the Huskies this season with the squad ranked last in the Big East in scoring offense (19.0 ppg) this season. That number has really been driven down over the last two games when the Huskies have managed only 17 total points with both games ending in losses. Connecticut is also last in yards per play (4.78) and second to last in total offense (320.6 ypg).
Without leading rusher Lyle McCombs, who was sidelined with a wrist injury, the Huskies turned to Max DeLorenzon against Temple. The redshirt freshman rushed for 91 yards on 23 carries. DeLorenzon is now averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season which is just slightly better than McCombs (3.6). This season the Huskies are the worst rushing team in the conference, managing only 701 yards on the ground.
With the run game mainly contained this season there has been considerable pressure on Chandler Whitmer to produce in the passing game, which he has had mildly successful results with at best. Whitmer is completing only 56.4 percent of his pass attempts, for 1,535 yards (third in the Big East) with 10 interceptions to only six touchdown passes. He has also been sacked 20 times in seven games, including a pair of games with six.
Whitmer has been most fond of getting the ball to wideout Geremy Davis, who has 25 receptions for 370 yards this season, both team-highs. Davis has had three different games with at least 78 yards receiving and has the only 100- yard game on the roster. Tight end Ryan Griffin doesn't have a bulk of yards or receptions, but does have a team-high three touchdown receptions.
Where Connecticut has excelled is on defense where the Huskies rank sixth nationally in total yards allowed (261.0 ypg). The strength of the unit is in disrupting the run game and getting into the backfield, with the Huskies ranked 10th nationally in tackles for loss with 52 this season. At the forefront of that effort are linebackers Yawin Smallwood (75 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks), Jory Johnson (59, 4.5 TFL) and Sio Moore (48, 9.0, 5.0). Trevardo Williams (7.5 sacks) has also been a menace to opposing signal callers.
Like UConn, Syracuse has not been very efficient in putting points on the board this season, ranking second to last in the Big East in scoring offense (22.8 ppg). However, Syracuse's scoring difficulties are not the result of poor offensive production. The Orange are tied for second in total offense (445.5 ypg) in the Big East and the most prolific passing squad in the league (318.0 ypg).
Quarterback Ryan Nassib has really taken over the offense this season, throwing for a Big East best 1,908 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nassib also leads the conference in attempts (250) and completions (162). With so many pass attempts, Nassib has fallen victim to a number of interceptions (8).
As might be expected, not only does Syracuse have the most productive pass thrower, but the most productive receiver as well. Marcus Sales leads the Big East in receiving yards (545 and is one of only two receivers in the conference to have more than 500 yards and 35 receptions. Sales is also tied for the conference lead in receiving touchdowns. Jarrod West (26 receptions, 374 yards, one TD) and Alec Lemon (24 catches, 262 yards) have also been reliable targets for Nassib this season.
Running the ball has not been a strength for the Orange. Jerome Smith (78 carries, 376 yards) is the team's most productive back, but he is averaging only 59.2 yards per game.
Syracuse is near the middle of the Big East in total defense (335.5 ypg) but closer to the bottom in points allowed, ranking better than only South Florida in scoring defense (25.7 ppg), while surrendering a league-high 20 touchdowns. The unit has done a poor job of forcing turnovers, with only five this season for a dismal -10 turnover margin.
Siriki Diabate is the team leader in tackles (44), while Dyshawn Davis (32 tackles, 5.0 TFL) and Brandon Sharpe (21 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks) have been the most prevalent in disrupting opposing offenses in the backfield.
With just one win on the road this season and an offense that has not been able to score enough, the Huskies face an uphill battle in this one against Syracuse's strong offense. The Huskies will undoubtedly be able to slow the Orange attack, but if the offense continues to sputter it might not be enough.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 21, Connecticut 17
10/17 10:54:06 ET