A turnaround at Temple is the goal for UConn football

Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs leads an improved UConn offense into Philadelphia on Saturday as the Huskies attempt to end a four-game losing streak against Temple in an American Athletic Conference game. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs leads an improved UConn offense into Philadelphia on Saturday as the Huskies attempt to end a four-game losing streak against Temple in an American Athletic Conference game. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Philadelphia — As demoralizing defeats pile up, UConn is concentrating on the daily process of building a successful football program.

Veteran quarterback Bryant Shirreffs says the Huskies have no choice but to take that approach, but he admits it isn't easy, especially in the face of a four-game losing streak that includes a 20.7 average margin of defeat.

"Luckily, I've had some people tell me to be process driven and not results driven," Shirreffs said. "So we have to keep bearing down and focusing on the process rather than being results oriented, which is extremely hard to do.

"I'm still in the process of learning how to do that. But, yeah, it's frustrating. I'm not going to lie to you and say it isn't frustrating because these aren't the results that we want. But the reality is, we have plenty of season left and we have to come together as a team and make the most of that.

"We still have the opportunity to be a really special team."

There's no doubt the Huskies (1-4, 0-3) need something good to happen to turn around a season that's careening down a dead-end street. They will attempt to begin their climb back to respectability on Saturday against Temple in an American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field (noon, ESPNEWS).

"It's tough," junior Aaron McLean said of UConn's rough start, "but at the same time we know how we can be as a team. It's just us executing for four quarters. That's the biggest problem."

It's an understatement to say the Huskies are due for a victory.

They're winless in their last nine road and last eight conference games. Among those AAC losses was a 21-0 shutout against Temple (3-3, 1-2) early last November.

For what it's worth, Temple just defeated East Carolina (34-10), a team that beat UConn 41-38 on Sept. 24.

"We've got a tough ballgame this week," coach Randy Edsall said. "We're going to play a team that's very physical, who's athletic, down in their backyard, and coming off a big win. ... We're going to have to work to play a full sixty minutes. They're a good football team."

This could be a revealing game for the UConn defense.

After losing to a pair of high-octane offenses in SMU (49-28) and Memphis (70-31) the last two weeks, the Huskies will be facing the lowest scoring team in the conference. The Owls are averaging just 19.2 points per game.

The Huskies have been shredded this season, ranking last in the country in passing yards allowed per game (399.8) and 124th out of 129 teams in scoring defense (43.6 points). They're on pace to allow a school record for points in a season.

Redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi will be the next quarterback to take aim at the porous UConn defense. Three quarterbacks — Virginia's Kurt Benkert, East Carolina's Thomas Sirk, and Riley Ferguson of Memphis) — all have thrown for more than 400 yards against the Huskies.

"You never overlook a team," Marchi said on the Temple football website. "You go in each week and you study the game plan and you take them serious. They've got good players on their defense."

Marchi, who attended St. Paul in Bristol where he threw for 3,220 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior, nearly attended UConn, but his scholarship offer was withdrawn three days before national signing day. So he headed to Temple. He passed for a career-high 321 yards and two touchdowns vs. East Carolina.

"He's a competitor and a tough kid," Edsall said. "He's got the tools that you need to be a quarterback."

Maybe it will benefit the Huskies that first-year defensive coordinator Billy Crocker is familiar with the Owls after coaching against them twice while on the Villanova staff.

The Huskies also could aid their cause if they created some turnovers. They're last in the league in turnover margin. They've forced two and committed nine.

"The turnover margin is awful," Edsall said. "You can't win that way. We're committing too many turnovers and we're not getting near enough turnovers. That's something that we talk about each and every day and we practice it. ... But we'll get better and keep working."

g.keefe@theday.com

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments