You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

UConn hopes to end AAC tenure on strong note in season finale at Temple

Hartford Courant logoHartford Courant 11/29/2019 By Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant

One way or another, UConn’s 18-game losing streak in conference play will end after Saturday’s contest at Temple.

If the Huskies win, they’ll snap the streak in style. If they lose, it will expire by default as the program leaves the American Athletic Conference to compete as an independent beginning next fall.

Needless to say, players would prefer the first scenario.

“Every game is very important, but this last one, being in this conference and everything is [especially] important,” running back Kevin Mensah said. “To go out on a win would be very important.”

“We want to leave on a high note,” linebacker Omar Fortt added. “Temple, they’re a really great team and our rivals, so we’re going to try to bring it to them.”

Of course, UConn (2-9, 0-7 in conference play) won’t have an easy time Saturday. Temple stands 7-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play, with wins over three teams UConn lost to. The Owls, who crushed the Huskies 57-7 in last year’s season finale, are four touchdown favorites for the matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.

UConn players on both sides of the ball says they’ve been impressed, while watching tape, with Temple’s physical play. Defensive tackle Caleb Thomas mentioned the talent on the Owls’ offensive line (beginning with center Matt Hennessy), and Fortt described Temple as running a “power offense,” while coach Randy Edsall noted the number of accomplished veteran players on the opposing D.

In fact, Edsall said Temple represents a model for what he hopes UConn’s program might eventually look like.

“Look at how many of their [upperclassmen] are either redshirt guys or graduate guys,” Edsall said. “You can see why they have been successful. They have developed that within their program, so now they have the depth and they’re not forced to play a bunch of young kids like we are.”

To have a chance against Temple, UConn will need quarterback Jack Zergiotis to play as well as or better than he did in last week’s close loss to East Carolina, when the freshman threw for 418 yards and three touchdowns but also turned over the ball three times.

Zergiotis has seemed to struggle this season on the road, looking uncomfortable and unproductive in games at Indiana, UCF and Cincinnati. His quarterback rating at Rentschler Field this season: 129.4. His quarterback rating anywhere else: 88.8.

Barring an injury, Mensah will almost certainly hit a major milestone Saturday. He enters the game with 993 rushing yards on the season, leaving him just shy of becoming the second player in program history to have multiple 1,000-yard season.

The junior has been quick to credit his offensive linemen for his rushing totals, but this week he also expressed some pride in what he has accomplished over the past two seasons.

“It just means hopefully I can just show people: just keep working," said Mensah, who ranks fourth in the AAC in rushing. "No matter what adversity you go through, you’ve just go to keep pushing, keep doing the things you do, keep doing your job. And if you can do those things, you’ll get the results that you want.”

UConn’s task Saturday will be more difficult in light of an injury report that’s longer currently than it has been all season. Cornerback Myles Bell will miss the game after undergoing ACL surgery, while running back Art Thompkins (knee), safeties Tyler Coyle (shoulder) and Diamond Harrell (clavicle) and cornerbacks Tahj Herring-Wilson (head) and Jeremy Lucien (head) all left last weekend’s game with injuries. Edsall said many of those players would be “game-time decisions” Saturday.

Add in defensive end Kevon Jones’s suspension, and the Huskies will be notably under-manned, particularly on defense. That could mean more opportunities for players such as safeties Rob King and Jalon Ferrell, cornerbacks Abiola Olaniyan and Kyle Williams, D-lineman Justin Moore and running back Dante Black.

“It used to bother me when we had injuries a little bit,” Edsall said. “But now it doesn’t because I’m really excited and anxious to see a young man, if he has to go in and play for somebody and he’s playing for the first time, to see how he handles it. Because if you’ve recruited the right type of guys, they’ll go in there and compete.”

UConn and Temple will kick off at 3:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Alex Putterman can be reached at aputterman@courant.com.

———

©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Hartford Courant

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon