Date: Saturday, Oct. 27
Kickoff Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
Watch it here: ESPNU
Line: UMass -4.5, O/U: 65.5
Series: UMass 34-32-2
The Once and Future Rivalry That Should Be Annually.
Sure, it’s not a catchy title for a college football rivalry matchup. Regardless, UMass vs. UConn must, must, must become an annual event again.
The two teams played in 2012—the first game ever for UMass as an FBS team. And then five years of no matchups until now.
Yes, Boston College is big brother in New England, but Storrs, CT and Amherst, MA are only a short 80-minute, foliage-drenched ride from each other. They are scheduled to play the next three seasons as well, but what better time than now to lock up this rivalry for a decade to come.
Here’s to hoping this rivalry is extended soon and for years to come.
Until then, I’ll keep work-shopping names for this rivalry.
Minutemen turn to Comis
UMass is giving up 42.5 points per game and have been extra liable on the road (which they will be on Saturday). The heart of the issue for UMass has been an inability to stop the run. UMass is allowing 273 yards per game rushing.
Stopping UConn quarterback David Pindell will be the key. It’s not every day you gameplan to make the other quarterback throw the ball, but Pindell has seen a surge in production on the ground.
Offensively, UMass has used a two-QB approach this season with varying levels of success. However, senior Andrew Ford suffered a leg injury in last week’s loss and is done for the season.
That means Ross Comis will see the lion’s share of time under center. It will be interesting to see if Michael Curtis, who started a game earlier this season against Charlotte and played a bit in another due to early-season injuries, will spell Comis to keep the dual threat going.
Whomever is doing the passing, objective #1 is clear: find Andy Isabella. The senior wideout is currently tied with John Ursua for most receiving yards in the country (1,013). Sadiq Palmer also had his best game of the season last week, so if the Huskies tilt the field too far to Isabella’s side, Palmer is a very capable #2 wideout who could put up, dare I say, Isabella-ish numbers.
That said, after reading about UConn’s defense below, feeding running backs Marquis Young, Jordan Fredericks and Bilal Ally would be a smart approach.
Huskies covet progress
UConn is perfectly balanced in their defensive futility.
The Huskies are allowing 325.7 yards per game on the ground and 325.7 yards per game via the passing game—second worst in FBS for both.
All in all, UConn’s FBS-worst 51.4 points allowed is nearly four points more yielded per game than the next-to-last team.
Yet, anyone watching their game against South Florida last week could see the front-seven starting to contain the run and provide more pressure on the opponents’ backfield.
The UConn defense needs to contain Young on first down and force the Minutemen into long panic-stricken downs.
Pindell has had modest numbers throwing (just under 60 percent completions, 1,255 yards, nine touchdowns, six INTs) for the Huskies. Lately, Pindell has been a force on the ground. He (197 yards, two touchdowns) and running back Kevin Mensah (19 carries, 120 yards, two TDs) turned in great performances against a tough, ranked South Florida team last week.
Since stopping the run, especially at the line, has been an issue for the Minutemen, the Huskies would be smart to continue riding Pindell and Mensah on long, deliberate drives to eat up the clock and keep that defense as fresh (and unused) as possible.
Football in this part of New England has been lackluster this fall. With bowl aspirations firmly in the rear view mirror for both, a chance for pride and an extra leg up on the recruiting trail is the prize here.
Despite the numbers discussed earlier, both defenses showed some improvement in losses last week. Expect that trend to continue with both teams looking to the running game.
The Huskies look to be trending upwards just a notch more than UMass at the moment. Expect special teams to be the difference.