We really appreciate Aman taking the time to shed some light on what Navy fans can expect to see tomorrow in East Hartford.
1. What is the UConn defense doing that is making them so effective this season?
They are doing a good job of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and playing with discipline. It's nothing too complicated. They play a "bend but don't break" style that forces you to put long drives together. Navy is well-suited to do that, but UConn has a really stout front seven and will make things tough for the Midshipmen up the middle.
Julian Campenni is a game-changer at nose guard, and he has two really good ends to each side of him in Kenton Adeyimi and Folorunso Fatukasi. Sophomore DE/OLB Luke Carrezola has broken out as a playmaker as well.
There's a lot of experience with senior Andrew Adams and super-athletic junior Obi Melifonwu at the safety positions. Senior linebacker Graham Stewart transferred from Florida a few years ago and has been a difference-maker since joining the team.
2. What specifically did the defense do to be successful against the Army triple-option earlier this season, and what adjustments were made after last season that helped limit Army's ability to move the ball this year?
The UConn front seven had a big size and strength advantage which made it easier to push blockers when they needed to. They owned the line of scrimmage. Their discipline was tested against Villanova the previous week, and many of the starters played in a game against Army the year before. They were well prepared.
This year's Army team is also young and inexperienced, with a first-year starter at quarterback and youth all over the starting lineup. I expect Navy to be a much tougher test, though the experience certainly is helpful.
3. What name will Navy fans know by the end of the game Saturday?
Noel Thomas. He's UConn's leading receiver and Bryant Shirreffs' go-to guy. He has good speed, good route-running ability and is very good at making tough catches. Defensively Junior Joseph is an inside linebacker whose name you'll hear a lot throughout the game.
4. Tell me a little bit about Shirreffs. What does he bring to the table? How comfortable is the offense with him under center?
Bryant Shirreffs is a very intelligent player who can make all the throws and has the ability to make plays with his legs as well. He does a masterful job of evading pass rushers and I can't think of a single time where he tucked and ran prematurely.
Some of his throws aren't accurate and he misses some reads, but he's a redshirt sophomore. Right now you could call him a "game manager" as a big part of his value is his ability to avoid turnovers. He has a higher ceiling than that, and hopefully he will reach it in what is hopefully two successful seasons at UConn after this year.
5. Can we arbitrarily make the Navy-UCONN game a rivalry? If so, do you have any clever rivalry names or trophies that should be involved?
Sure! How about the Coastal Collision, because both of our schools' respective states are on the coast. Or maybe the MaD CaT trophy? We could also call it the "Count as Power 5 For Non-Conference Scheduling According to the Big Ten" Bowl.
We might need some help from the rivalry genius himself, Bob Diaco.
6. After taking Mizzou down to the wire in Columbia, where is the fanbase right now on the optimism scale? Specifically, after already handling Army this season, what do you think the majority of UConn fans expect against Navy on Saturday?
I think UConn's solid start has the majority of the fanbase feeling like the Huskies can compete, but still acknowledging that getting the win will be really tough. Either way, people are excited about it more than any other home game this season, because this game is against a good team and the chances of winning are a lot higher than we thought before the season began. That should make for a lively gameday atmosphere tomorrow.
7. What's your overall take on the AAC so far this season and where do you see UConn and Navy fitting into the East and West respectively?
The West is looking like it will come down to Memphis, Houston and Navy, which will be an interesting battle to watch for sure. I see Navy finishing second behind Memphis, because I just watched Memphis score 53 on the real Thursday Night Football game. #AmericanRising
In the East, Cincinnati and Temple are the teams to beat right now. If UConn can beat Navy, they might enter the conversation, but right now those two teams are by far the most impressive in the division.
8. Prediction? X factor on offense and defense?
Navy's defense will be the X-factor. If they can stop UConn, their offense will produce enough points to win because they'll have more possessions and eventually wear UConn's defense down.
UConn's offensive X-factor will be running back Arkeel Newsome. He's a scatback-style back who can make plays in the screen game. Newsome didn't have a lot of touches in the Missouri game, but was a big part of the gameplan for Villanova and Army.
Thanks again to Aman for helping us out. I'm not so sure about MaD CaT. We have goats versus huskies and one rivalry that uses a mix of capital and lowercase letters is probably enough. I do give you mad respeCT though for Coastal Collision. I think that's something we can work with.