Connecticut (2-1) at Western Michigan (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 2:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dwight B. Waldo Stadium (30,200) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UConn 1-1, Western Michigan 1-0 Away Record: UConn 1-0, Western Michigan 0-2. Neutral Record: UConn 0-0, Western Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: UConn 0-0, Western Michigan 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Connecticut Huskies will try to win for the second time on the road in as many weeks when they invade Kalamazoo to square off with the Western Michigan Broncos in a non-conference affair at Waldo Stadium.
After its first two games were at home, UConn traveled to College Park to take on Maryland and former head coach Randy Edsall last week. The Huskies came away with a 24-21 win in the contest and are now 2-1 in the early season. Connecticut played a game on the road against a MAC foe in week four last season, posting a 17-3 win against Buffalo.
Western Michigan will be playing its second home game of the season and will hope to recapture the offensive firepower of that 52-21 win over Eastern Illinois in this matchup. The Broncos did not fare as well in two road games against Big Ten foes Illinois and Minnesota. In the loss to the Golden Gophers last weekend, the Broncos fell 28-23 to put them at 1-2 on the campaign.
Last season the Broncos came into Rentschler Field and downed the Huskies 38-31 despite a 300-yard passing performance from Johnny McEntee. The win evened the series at 1-1.
Consistency was the key for the UConn offense in its win over Maryland. The Huskies scored in each quarter of the game and had seven different drives of at least five players including a 10-play, 76-yard drive that took up nearly 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and ended with what turned out to be the game winning score.
Despite last week, UConn's offense has not been very effective in terms of yards production. The Huskies are ranked last in the conference in yards per game (278) and that includes Temple and Cincinnati, which have each played only two games this season.
Running Lyle McCombs is the squad's one star player and the back currently ranks sixth in the conference with 236 rushing yards on the season. He is coming off a season-high 94 yards rushing in the win over Maryland. Nick Williams has been a dynamic backup for McCombs as well as a dangerous return man. In the game against Maryland, Williams had 112 all-purpose yards on just four touches.
The rushing attack accounted for most of the offense in the contest, as the Huskies managed only 70 yards passing, led by Chandler Whitmer, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 68 yards.
While the offense has been near the bottom of the league it has been Connecticut's defense that has pushed it to an early 2-1 record. The Huskies are allowing only 10.3 points per game and an impressive 174.0 total yards per game, which is tops in the Big East and third in the nation. The Huskies are especially tough against the run, allowing only 153 yards to opponents on the ground this season.
In the win over Maryland, UConn allowed 205 total yards, a 4-for-14 conversion rate on third down, while collecting six sacks. Yawin Smallwood led the attack and continued his strong season with 14 total tackles, including a game-high four for loss, three of which were sacks. Smallwood was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Sio Moore also had three sacks in the game as he and Smallwood have combined to form one of the best linebacking tandems in the country.
Western Michigan came up just short in a 28-23 loss to Minnesota but still had a solid offensive showing. Although it was off the squad's normal clip for the season (421.3 ypg), the Broncos finished with 374 yards in the loss to the Gophers.
The Broncos like to pass the ball and keep the ball in the hands of quarterback Alex Carder. The senior is currently second in the MAC with 812 passing yards after he completed 24-of-44 passes for 209 yards and a score last time out. Carder also threw an interception, an issue he has struggled with this season, with five picks already.
Running the ball has not been as big a priority for the Broncos but after last week that strategy may have to be rethought. Dareyon Chance ran the ball 29 times for 144 yards and a score, while the team as a whole had 165 yards on the ground. It was Chance's first career 100-yard game and the first by a Bronco this season.
Jaime Wilson launched himself to the top of the MAC in receiving with a 10-reception, 117-yard game against Minnesota. The wideout now has 330 receiving yards and 29 receptions this season both good enough for the top spot in the conference. He is also tied for the national lead in receptions with Marqise Lee of USC.
Western Michigan has been the best team in the MAC in terms of yards allowed this season (329.7) but that hasn't translated into wins. Against Minnesota the Broncos surrendered 397 total yards and a perfect 3-for-3 conversion rate in the red zone. All three attempts resulted in touchdowns for the Gophers.
Although the team had six tackles for loss in the game, led by a pair from Travonte Boles, the Broncos were unable to get consistent pressure and finished with just one sack. Justin Currie led the team with nine tackles.
So far UConn's defense has made up for the shortcomings of the offense, but that weakness could get exploited in the near future. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they do not have the type of offense or defense to take advantage of the Huskies' lack of firepower.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 26, Western Michigan 21
09/19 10:45:03 ET