Whatever problems Connecticut is having — and an 0-3 record generally means trouble is brewing — at least it has made its opponents sweat a little before the end of the game.
The Huskies average 238 yards in passing offense, which means the University at Buffalo’s secondary will be challenged on Saturday when UConn visits UB Stadium.
That’s not to say the Bulls, 1-2 overall coming off a bye week, should fear an all-out aerial assault because UConn’s offense overall hasn’t shown much bite. The Huskies rank 115th among 123 FBS schools in total offense. It ranks 122nd in the rushing, is tied with Boston College for 115th in first downs, and is 122nd in sacks allowed. The result has been consecutive losses to Towson (FCS), Maryland and Michigan last weekend.
But the Bulls have lost 12 of the last 13 meetings against the Huskies and haven’t defeated UConn since a 37-20 win in 2001. The Huskies built their program around the run but have added a new wrinkle with an emphasis on the pass.
UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni ran the freeze option during his time at Syracuse University and longtime assistant George DeLeone — the man credited with creating the scheme — is Pasqualoni’s associate head coach. But after back-to-back five-win seasons the freeze option was placed on ice and UConn has joined the pass-happy, no-huddle fraternity under first-year offensive coordinator T.J. Weist, who came from the University of Cincinnati.
Weist has primarily coached wide receivers during his tenure — 16 of his former players have reached the NFL — but he was the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky from 2003-06.
“He’s a throw-first guy, and you can see the emphasis in that,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “They’re a lot different than what we remember from the UConn team in the past.”
The UConn offense is the responsibility of junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who is 61 of 105 for 714 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. The Huskies’ passing game ranks 60th in the FBS.
“He’s got a strong arm and completes the ball down the field well,” Quinn said.
Whitmer’s favorite target is wide receiver Shakim Phillips, the one-time four-star recruit who transferred from Boston College. Phillips, however, did not play against Michigan because of a hamstring injury and it is unknown if he’ll be available for Saturday’s game. He leads the Huskies with 15 receptions for 255 yards and three TDs.
Whitmer has a reputation for throwing interceptions at inopportune times as well as taking drive-killing sacks.
He’s been picked off at least once in the Huskies’ last eight games dating back to 2012 and been sacked 14 times in three games this season.
The Bulls, tied for 25th in the country in sack average per game at 2.67, will bring the pressure.
“During practice in our bonus week we’ve been working on pursuing the ball, tackling and making turnovers,” UB senior strong safety Okoye Houston said. “We know that UConn is a good team so we have to come out and focus on our fundamentals.”
Back-up long snapper Marcus McGill is out for the season with a hand injury.
The sophomore from Rochester who also plays wide receiver was the backup to true freshman Corbin Grassman, the cousin of punter Tyler Grassman.