We’re just one day away from BC’s matchup with the Huskies at Fenway Park. Love the series with UConn or hate it, there’s no denying that there’s still lingering bad blood between the two sides.
BC Interruption: So it seems that we will both be without our starting QB for the rest of the year, with Bryant Shirreffs opting to end his career due to a brutal history of concussions. Shirreffs didn't seem to be a very good quarterback, but when I watched UConn play Holy Cross (I like to watch UConn suffer), freshman David Pindell looked even worse. How much has Pindell improved since then and do you think he will do better than Shirreffs at this point in the season?
The UConn Blog: Promisingly, Pindell looked a lot better last week on the road against a ranked UCF team than he did in the season opener against Holy Cross. He showed good strength on his throws, even on the run, and an ability to make plays with his legs, rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown in addition to two through the air. He definitely made some mistakes, but it's clear he's learned from his time on the sideline.
Shirreffs actually did better than many give him credit for--this team is a respectable 55th in the country in S&P+ offensive efficiency. With a slightly better defense he would have won a few more games.
BCI: UConn got Arkeel Newsome back at RB last week against Central Florida, but he didn't make much of an impact on the ground (though he did have a 60 yard reception). What do you expect to see out of him, and the UConn running game in general, this week against BC?
TUB: The UConn running game relies on two freshmen in Nate Hopkins and Kevin Mensah. Hopkins is the bigger back, so he gets a lot of short-yardage but also some early-down snaps. Mensah is more of the all-around type. You're correct that Newsome is best by far out of the backfield. In UConn's ideal version of this game, he'll be a playmaker on screen and swing plays. The running game has not been an area of strength for the UConn offense, which is perennially looking for answers at the line.
BCI: If you absolutely had to guess, where do you think that Civil ConFLiCT trophy is?
TUB: I think Bob Diaco has it. He still checks on it from time to time in his personal shrine room.
BCI: Are UConn fans happy that this game was moved to Fenway? Annoyed? Indifferent? It seems to us that we got the better end of this deal.
TUB: Its a mixed bag. Some are quite mad about moving the home game while others, especially Red Sox fans or Boston residents, are really excited. UConn was guaranteed more money by the Fenway Group for this game than they would have made in a home game. Given UConn's modest revenue streams and that they're paying Diaco millions not to be head football coach, I understand why they did it. It'll be a cool novelty event and easy for fans to do fun stuff before and after given the location.
Boston College definitely gets the better end of this deal, but UConn gains from it financially and it helps for brand-building in a city where the school has a large alumni presence. Gotta do what ya gotta do.
BCI: Your defense — and pass defense in particular — is so bad it's a statistical marvel. How? Seriously, my actual question is how is it possible that it's as bad as it is? Forget just being last; the Huskies allow 70 more passing yards per game than the next worst team.
TUB: Really bad timing. While switching to a 3-3-5 defense, UConn lost three experienced defensive backs to graduation, including safety Obi Melifonwu, a 2nd round pick by the Raiders last year. The Huskies just don't have the depth or experience to fill key starting positions back there. On top of that, of the two seniors who were supposed to anchor the group, one seems to have regressed and the other has been mostly disappointing.
They've also had the misfortune of meeting explosive offenses like SMU, Memphis, USF, Missouri, and UCF on the schedule. Those are tough attacks for anyone to face.
BCI: Say one nice thing about BC. Come on, I know you can do it...
TUB: A long, long time ago, Boston College was good at football.
BCI: Which two players (one on offense, one on defense) do you expect to make the biggest impact got UConn on Saturday?
TUB: Offensively, I'll say Newsome. His home-run ability is going to have to make an appearance for UConn to have a chance at the upset. Beyond him, it has been a rotating cast of guys getting involved at the skill positions.
Defensively, Junior Joseph is a rock-solid linebacker who can make plays in the backfield and in the passing game. He's not a flashy player, but he's always around the ball and has made some big plays for UConn this season.
BCI: I met the real Jonathan once. This isn't a question; I just wanted to #humblebrag. Or actual brag. Whatever.
TUB: I once shook Doug Flutie's hand. I also rooted for him while he was in the NFL... hey can that count as my nice thing about BC?
BCI: The Huskies are 21 point underdogs. If UConn is going to win on Saturday, what is the blueprint? How would such a game play out?
TUB: The defense needs to get more stops than it has in the past. Maybe they could help swing turnover luck in their favor with a more aggressive defensive approach. If the secondary is going to get burned anyway, may as well go for it up front right? Offensively, the team has shown it can run things pretty crisply and has decent talent at the skill positions, but it remains to be seen if Pindell can lead it consistently. If he can have a breakout performance, that would also be helpful for the upset bid.
BCI: What's your prediction?
TUB: I think BC jumps out to a big early lead, then UConn "rallies" to stay within shouting distance in the middle quarters but ends up losing. I do think they cover though.
Thanks to Aman for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Be sure to check out The UConn Blog for the Husky side of things this weekend. You can also follow Aman on Twitter at @AmanfromCT, as well as the blog at @TheUConnBlog.