Defense for UConn football looking worse, unable to stop anyone yet this season

Published on Monday, 10 September 2018 20:51
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

BOISE, Idaho - The UConn football team’s defense, atrocious in 2017, switched from the 3-3-5 alignment it used last season to a more traditional 4-3-4 this year.

Through two weeks of the 2018 season, the Huskies are somehow even worse. If defensive coordinator Billy Crocker’s group is ever going to stop anyone, it will probably need to employ a 4-4-4.

Don’t hold your breath on the NCAA approving a waiver for the Huskies to use 12 defenders, of course. And it probably wouldn’t matter, anyway.

Other than sometimes being misaligned, frequently missing tackles and often simply being manhandled and out-run, the UConn defense acquitted itself rather well Saturday night against Boise State at Albertsons Stadium. The No. 20 Broncos did as they pleased all evening, rolling to a 62-7 victory over the Huskies.

Even for a program that has been somewhat accustomed to lopsided losses in recent years, this disaster of a performance was a new low.

Boise State racked up 818 total yards, the most it has ever amassed in a single game and the most UConn has ever allowed in one.

“There’s no excuses. We just didn’t play very well. And they did,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. “And that’s what happens when you have that kind of combination.”

The defense wasn’t the only problem for UConn. Its offense seemed to have a bad case of first-game jitters, even though that side of the ball has a large contingent of veteran players and was in Week 2.

On defense, the Huskies are extremely young. Five true freshmen started on D against Boise State, and even more played.

But youth can only explain a portion of the team’s struggles. To be so powerless to stop almost any aspect of an opponents’ offense shows a remarkable talent gap still exists between UConn and the upper echelon of the so-called Group of Five conferences.

The teams in the upper crust of the nation’s top-tier leagues? UConn fans should shudder to think what might be done to it if such a matchup occurred.

UConn (0-2), playing farther away from its home on Saturday than any other time in program history, suffered its worst defeat since a 66-10 loss to Middle Tennessee in 2000.

The Huskies are the only team in the country to play a ranked opponent in each of the first two weeks, and they’ve lost those games by a combined score of 118-24.

“It’s always tough when a team puts up that many points on you,” UConn linebacker Marshe Terry said. “We’re having growing pains, obviously. We have a lot of young guys.”

UConn has actually served as a plaything for those teams battling for the scraps left over by the College Football Playoff system. The highest ranked team from the Group of Five will earn a New Year’s Day bowl berth and the financial windfall that goes along with it, and Boise State and Central Florida appear to be this year’s top contenders. Each has wiped the floor with UConn already, giving Edsall a rather unique perspective.

“I think that Boise State is probably a little bit better, a little bit ahead of Central Florida right now. Defensively, I think Boise State is outstanding. But they’re two very fine football teams,” Edsall said, shying away from conference loyalty. “We got hammered by both of them, so…just trying to be honest.”

As putrid as UConn has appeared at times already this season, it’s clear some of that visual can be laid at the feet of its foes. Both UCF and Boise State are very, very good.

And there’s a chance both gave A-plus performances that won’t be matched this season.

“I’m not going to downplay what our team did tonight,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “That was a tremendous performance.”

UConn, meanwhile, would kill for a D-minus at this point.

The Huskies have lost seven straight games dating to last season and there is no guarantee they will get even one victory this year, even with FCS Rhode Island coming to East Hartford this week.

The Huskies, especially on defense and especially in the form of their young players, appears to be playing scared at times. It’s obviously a recipe for disaster.

“At times I thought we hesitated. I thought we were playing not to make a mistake, not to get beat by our guy,” Edsall said. “And when you do that, you can’t play that way at this level.”

UConn has yet to find any level it can play at so far this season. Perhaps looking into creating a 12-on-11 league is an option.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Monday, 10 September 2018 20:51. Updated: Monday, 10 September 2018 20:54.