UConn faces long odds at No. 20 Boise State in longest road trip in team history
The outcome could be about as gruesome as last week's opener.
UConn is a massive underdog once again.
Thirty-one point underdogs.
And the Huskies are traveling 2,498 miles — the longest road trip in program history — to play Saturday against No. 20 Boise State (10:15 p.m., ESPNU), which rarely loses on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium. Since 2000, the Broncos are 108-7 at home, owning the best home winning percentage in the nation.
They'll have to deal with jet lag, too.
"It's going to be a tough game and a great opponent, but that's we like to have," senior linebacker Santana Sterling said. "You can't go in every week scared to play an opponent. You've just got to come out there and play hard."
"It's definitely a big challenge," sophomore safety Tyler Coyle said. "But we should be well prepared for them."
Well prepared, but likely not yet at the stage in their development to handle the Broncos, the preseason favorite once again to win the Mountain West Conference.
While UConn stumbled to a 56-17 loss to No. 19 Central Florida in its opener, Boise State rolled to a 56-20 rout at Troy University in Alabama.
"It doesn't take long to see that they're a real good football team when you watch them on film," coach Randy Edsall said. "We're going to have to make sure that we correct some of the things that had go wrong last week to give ourselves an opportunity to win the football game."
The majority of the issues reside on defense. And some concerns — youth (freshmen and sophomores comprise 70 percent of the roster) and a lack of speed — aren't correctable right now.
But the Huskies can improve on stopping opponents on third down and limiting big plays. It was far too easy for UCF to score last week. The Knights converted nine of 11 third down chances and found the end zone on all five red zone opportunities.
There was very little pressure, as the Huskies failed to register a sack or a tackle for a loss.
"Honestly, in my eyes, that was unacceptable," Coyle said of his team's defensive performance. "We've got to get a lot better. We've got to key on some things. We knew they were going to go fast and we've just got to keep pace and get in condition."
For the second straight week, UConn faces a lethal offense led by a talented and experienced quarterback.
Senior Brett Rypien, the Mountain West preseason offensive player of the year, has some impressive credentials. He's ranked first among NCAA active leaders for career completions (755) and passing yards (10,181). His favorite target is senior receiver Sean Modster who had seven catches for a career-high 167 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. The Broncos only ran the ball for 111 yards, but have had a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last nine seasons.
"We might be playing the two best quarterbacks in the country in two straight weeks," Edsall said. "Rypien is a little bit more a pro-style quarterback. Some of the throws that he makes are just really good. They're really well-coached offensively."
Boise's defense, which returned 10 starters, is hard to crack. The Broncos had five sacks and forced four turnovers versus Troy, including two fumbles that were returned for scores by senior cornerback Tyler Horton. They reward their defensive playmakers with a seat on the Turnover Throne that is on the sidelines.
"Their guys play extremely fast and they run very well to the football," Edsall said. "They thrive on turnovers and we've got to do a good job of being smart and recognizing some of the things that they do. We're going to have a big challenge in front of us offensively."
A rare UConn football trip out West will give one Husky a chance to play before some familiar faces.
Sterling is from Chandler, Ariz., roughly 14 and a half hours from Boise. He expects about 15 family members and friends to be at the game. His former junior college teammate, Isiah Moore, is a back-up guard for the Broncos.
"I'm having a lot of people come out for that, so it will be a fun game," Sterling said.