Anatomy of a smackdown
Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
In my first year covering this team, I haven't once been able to figure out how it'll play on any given day. When I sense a win, they lose, and vice versa. Much of that has to do with learning new offensive and defensive systems under a new head coach and new coordinators. But the Huskies picked a good time to put together their best game of the year and keep their season alive.
Remarkably, UConn put up a season-high 40 points without a 100-yard rusher or even a 100-yard passer. They did it with a defense that was supposed to be their trademark this year, a hard-hitting unit that hit Rutgers in the mouth from the opening play.
Think about this: Rutgers ran the ball 26 times for minus-9 yards. Now, quarterback sacks go into that (and UConn had six) and Mohamed Sanu's ridiculous reverse late in the third quarter went for minus-16 yards, but those are still some numbers that say a lot.
UConn forced turnovers on Rutgers' first two possessions and turned them into touchdowns to lead 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
For all intents and purposes, that about did it.
The Scarlet Knights did themselves no favors by continuing to kick to Nick Williams, who finished with 158 return yards and constantly put UConn in good field position.
The Huskies were as efficient on offense as they've been all year, and the two-quarterback system worked for four full quarters better than it has this season. Granted, it took until the 11th game for them to figure out how to make it work for a full game, but they did it. In seven red zone trips, UConn scored six times.
Defensive end Trevardo Williams was unblockable, finishing with four sacks and a forced fumble. He now has 12.5 on the year, tying him for third nationally with Houston's Sammy Brown. Williams is second in the country with 1.14 sacks per game.
If you happened to doze off or turn the channel in the fourth, consider yourself lucky. Gary Nova replaced replaced Chas Dodd at quarterback and threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns for Rutgers in the fourth alone, but that came with the game in hand. UConn led 40-10 heading into the fourth.
Now, instead of playing out the string, the Huskies have a chance to play another meaningful game and earn a bowl game for the fifth straight year. They'll have to go into Cincinnati and knock off the Bearcats, who can still win a share of the Big East title, but at least they have some momentum.
Of course, what do I know.
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