FACTS & STATS: Site: Nippert Stadium (35,097) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: ESNPU. Home Record: UConn 0-4, Cincinnati 3-0. Away Record: UConn 0-1, Cincinnati 1-2. Neutral Record: UConn 0-0, Cincinnati 0-0. Conference Record: UConn 0-1, Cincinnati 1-1. Series Record: Cincinnati leads, 6-2.
GAME NOTES: With the first win of the season still eluding them, the Connecticut Huskies will try to put an end to their skein when they visit the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium in American Athletic Conference action.
In their first game under interim head coach T.J. Weist, who came on after Paul Pasqualoni was fired following an 0-4 start, the Huskies lost yet again. This time the Huskies were dropped 13-10 by South Florida in their league opener. The setback was the sixth straight for UConn dating back to last season.
As for Cincinnati it bounced back from a troubling loss to USF (36-20) last weekend by taking care of Temple, 38-20. With the win the Bearcats improved to 4-2 on the campaign, while remaining perfect at home (3-0). Those two games were also the first pair in league play for the Bearcats, who went 5-2 against the conference a year ago.
In last year's meeting, which closed out the regular season, the Bearcats kept the Huskies from bowl eligibility with a 34-17 win at Rentschler Field. The win was the sixth in just eight all-time meetings between the two squads.
The Huskies don't need to do much searching for why the year has gone so poorly, though finding solutions has been more difficult. UConn is second to last in the AAC in total offense (288.6 ypg) and points scored (16.4 ppg). UConn also ranks among the 10 worst teams in the country in each category.
One of Weist's biggest moves after taking over for the Huskies was inserting Tim Boyle in as the starting quarterback for UConn. In place of regular starter Chandler Whitmer (71-of-129, 896 , five TDs, six INTs), Boyle didn't really impress against USF as he completed just 15-of-43 pass attempts for 149 yards and zero touchdowns. However, Boyle did manage to avoid turning the ball over in the losing effort.
If there was one positive on offense for the Huskies against the Bulls it was the play of Lyle McCombs. The UConn running back racked up a career-high 164 yards as well as a touchdown on 20 carries. Overall, McCombs has just 364 yards total and three touchdowns, averaging 72.8 yards per game.
On the edges Geremy Davis (25 receptions, 388 yards) has been the most consistent pass catcher, while Shakim Phillips (15 receptions, 255 yards, three TDs) provides a big-play threat.
A year ago UConn remained competitive mainly because of its play on defense. This year the Huskies have struggled, allowing 28.6 points and 348.2 yards per game. All-American candidate Yawin Smallwood, who is second in the league in tackles (64), anchors the unit.
Cincinnati garnered a reputation as one of the better offensive teams in the country in the last year of the Big East and has done a solid job of continuing that in the AAC. The Bearcats are third in the league in total yards (457.3 ypg), with the only teams above them eight-ranked Louisville and Houston, who are a combined 11-0 this season.
Although head coach Tommy Tuberville wanted Munchie Legaux to be the starting quarterback entering the year, Brendon Kay has reclaimed the job because Legaux suffered a season-ending knee injury in early September. Kay, who was the starter at the end of last season has done solid work this year with 816 yards and seven scores on 67.3 percent passing, although he has been intercepted four times, all in the last two games.
Anthony McClung had a strong game against USF after sitting out in the previous game. The Bearcats' leading receiver (18 receptions, 234 yards, TD) had eight receptions for 90 yards in the losing effort. Max Morrison (12 receptions, 223 yards, two TDs) has struggled in the last couple of games, while Shaq Washington (24 receptions, 210 yards) continues to rack up a team- lead in receptions.
In the running game a trio of backs have powered the Bearcats. Hosey Williams (324 yards, four TDs) leads in yards but had just 16 against USF. Ralph David Abernathy leads in carries (64) and has 309 yards and two scores, while Tion Green has 125 yards and two scores. Each has led the team in rushing at least once this season.
Cincinnati has also been a solid team on the defensive side of the ball, ranking second in the AAC in total yards allowed (271.8 ypg) and third in scoring defense (17.8 ppg). Cincinnati also has 38 tackles for loss as a team and has let up just four touchdowns in 10 total red zone chances. Greg Blair (41 tackles), Nick Temple (32 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Silverberry Mouhon (3.5 sacks) lead a productive front seven.
Turnovers really sank Cincinnati against USF. Expect the Bearcats to do a better job taking care of the ball at home, where they have yet to lose this season. Assuming they can accomplish that feat, the Bearcats should have no trouble with the Huskies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 32, Connecticut 14
Saturday, October 19, 12 p.m. (et)