UConn-South Florida football preview: Can the Huskies score enough points to pull it out?

(AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

(WTNH)–It’ll be Breakfast with the Bulls.

Or #MayhemintheAM, if you follow @NoEscalators.

Either way, there’s always donuts and bagels in the press room at Rentschler Field, so the time change won’t make much of a difference there. (Your boy had a chocolate sprinkled jawn the other night before the Holy Cross game, then pounded some BBQ. I’m not proud).

UConn’s game against 21st-ranked South Florida has been moved to 10:30 a.m. at Rentschler Field, to accomodate the Bulls’ potential travel plans with Hurricane Irma bearing down on their home down south. Hopefully everyone there stays safe, and this thing ends up being a lot less damaging than is being predicted.

As for what it means for the trivial pursuit that is the actual football game, the two teams will now kick off this Saturday’s action. They’ll have their own national window on ESPNNews, a few channels up or down from College GameDay. Huskies fans can fire up some eggs and sausages on the grill in the parking lot, and those who are watching on TV will be able to catch more of the noon national games like Michigan-Cincinnati and Louisville-North Carolina.

UConn is starting fifth-year senior Bryant Shirreffs at quarterback. The only guy to lead the Huskies to a bowl game in the post-Randy Edsall era also led them on a comeback from 13 points down, with the offense looking hopeless against Holy Cross.

The Huskies’ struggles in Game 1 would feel a lot worse if USF came into East Hartford hot, but the Bulls are also off to an inauspicious start.

South Florida fell behind 16-0 in the first quarter to a bottom-feeding FBS team (San Jose State) in their season opener, and trailed Stony Brook (an FCS squad, like Holy Cross) 10-7 at halftime in Game 2.

The Bulls stormed back in the second half to win both games (42-22 over the Spartans and 31-17 over the Seawolves), but didn’t inspire much confidence in doing so.

quinton flowers UConn South Florida football preview: Can the Huskies score enough points to pull it out?
South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) is grabbed by Stony Brook defensive back Tyrice Beverette on a run during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The team is still finding its way under new head coach Charlie Strong, so that likely accounts for some of the early struggles. But USF hasn’t played well historically at Rentschler Field, especially with Edsall on the sidelines. The home team is 9-3 all-time in the series, though the difference in climate typically plays a factor late in the season. South Florida has won five straight against the Huskies.

Senior quarterback Quinton Flowers came into the season with some Heisman whispers, though they’ve been muted a bit now. Flowers is 30-for-54 with 398 yards passing and four touchdowns against one interception so far this season. He’s rushed 36 times already for 137 yards (3.8 per carry).

Strong, who was let go at Texas after infuriating Longhorns fans by not winning a national title quickly enough, is replacing Willie Taggart, who moved on to Oregon this year. USF was left with a loaded group that was expected to contend nationally and ranked No. 19 to start the season, but Stong wasn’t happy with his team’s first two games, either.

“We didn’t play well,” he said of the Stony Brook game in an AAC teleconference on Monday, according to the Hartford Courant. “We didn’t execute in all three phases. Had another punt blocked. Offensively, we need to get our quarterback on track. He’s really an outstading player. Defensively, we can’t give up the big plays.”

Big plays are what UConn will need in order to pull this one out. Freshman running back Nate Hopkins was revelatory in his college debut, rushing for 130 yards and three scores on 20 attempts. The Flower Mound, Texas native was what everyone had been hoping former Ansonia running back Arkeel Newsome would become.

Junior wide receiver Hergy Mayala also had a big opening game, particularly after Shirreffs relieved David Pindell. He finished with nine receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. He should get plenty of targets on Saturday.

Prediction, more to come on Thursday. 

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