UConn ranked No. 8 in the Big East last season in total offense, even with a 1,000-yard rusher in Lyle McCombs.
It was obvious this team needed a major upgrade at quarterback. So the Huskies settled on junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer, in the hopes he would make the offense better. But that was not the case in a 10-7 loss to NC State last week, when the Huskies managed 239 total yards and turned the ball over four times.
Through their first two games, the offense has struggled to run and pass, and the offensive line has been mediocre. Watching that group perform has been particularly frustrating when you consider what UConn has this season on defense. If UConn wants to get back to a bowl game, the offense has to do its part. The last thing UConn wants is for its defensive players to feel as if they are not getting enough out of their teammates on offense.
"In the end, it’s all a team sport," UConn defensive end Trevardo Williams said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Yes there was a little frustration and disappointment last week, but we’re all on the same page. If one person messes up, someone else has to pick them up. The offense, they’ve made their mistakes and they’ve learned from it."
As it stands today, UConn ranks No. 7 in the Big East in total offense and scoring offense, and No. 8 in rushing offense. But it ranks first in the league in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Those impressive numbers translate into huge national rankings: UConn ranks No. 3 in the country in total defense and scoring defense, and No. 1 in rushing defense, allowing 28.5 yards per game.
In all, UConn has allowed a combined 10 points and 317 yards through two games, and given up just one trip inside the red zone. Williams once again leads the Big East in sacks, with 3.5 and linebacker Yawin Smallwood ranks second in the league in tackles (10.5 pg) and first in tackles for loss (2.75 pg).
"Last year, the defense was a little bit immature, but now we’re a bit more mature, we hustle to the ball," Williams said. "Last year, we were more on an individual case, each player was on their own island but now everyone is together, we’re playing as one."
UConn did everything it could on defense to win the NC State game. But too many mistakes on offense did this team in. Coach Paul Pasqualoni called the loss "probably one of the most frustrating games I’ve been in."
"We had 15 possessions and we managed to self destruct on 14 of the 15," he said. "We had only one drive that was clean and we scored on that drive. It was a very frustrating game, but the thing I admire about the kids is how hard they’re fighting. I think everybody is with it, they’re engaged in it, the kids are taking ownership in it."
UConn now has a very winnable game against Maryland in what is being dubbed "The Edsall Bowl," with former Huskies coach Randy Edsall on the opposite sideline. But Maryland showed last week against Temple it is not a team that should be overlooked. Nor is it a team with a pushover for a defense, either.
The Huskies may end up dominating a young and inexperienced Maryland offense. How UConn does against a good Maryland defense is the bigger story to watch.