After a 637 day break since they played in a live football game, UConn began their season in the red hot sun of Bulldog Stadium. Unfortunately for UConn, the only thing that was red hot was the Fresno State offense and the game went as expected (or worse), ending in an absolute blowout 45-0. While it definitely feels like a continuation of the awful play in the 2-10 2019 season, there were reasons to be more optimistic about this season than in the past.
Let’s start by acknowledging that this Fresno State team is very talented and clearly better and deeper than UConn at almost every position. QB Jake Haener and RB Ronnie Rivers are both NFL prospects and they showed their talent once they settled in. This was never expected to be a close game, it was a 4 TD spread after all, but it’s still jarring and surprising to see a 0 on the scoreboard.
My biggest takeaway was the complete ineptitude of the offense. I was most excited to see what the offense could muster after the long layoff and they looked almost the same as when we saw them last: stagnant and unable to sustain drives. After the game Randy Edsall said “I’m not going to do what’s the most prettiest or the sexiest.” That’s fine, no one expects a high-flying, air-it-out passing attack, but you have to move the ball and score points. RB Kevin Mensah has had a great career, but if there is no chance a QB can complete a pass, there will be no holes to run through.
It felt as though QB Jack Zergiotis was struggling to place the ball with any accuracy. Twice in the game he had a WR breaking away from the defender and all he needed to do was put the ball in the vicinity and he missed both times. On one hand, he was pretty close to throwing for 2 TDs, but on the other hand, he couldn’t even hit an open receiver in space. I’m not sure if it was a timing issue, or just an issue of downfield accuracy for the QB, but both are potentially fixable issues with a little work. If he hits the first one of those plays, the momentum and feel of the game shifts dramatically. Momentum and confidence are huge on a young-ish football team.
The defense looked better than I expected despite allowing 45 points. The first quarter was a nice balance of stops and some pressure on Haener. They held the prolific Fresno State offense at bay for a while, which was somewhat of a surprise. However the inexperience shone brightly through once the scoring tidal wave began to hit. There was a clear shacking of confidence once the Fresno State offense began rolling and there were a ton if missed assignments and bad angles leading to big plays. That’s to be expected with such a young secondary. There will be mistakes, probably lots of them, but it won’t matter if the UConn half of the scoreboard still reads 0.
All-in-all it was good to see UConn back on the field in a real game that counts. No one with any sense thought UConn would win this game, so in that respect it went exactly as expected. Saturday against FCS opponent Holy Cross will be the real test of whether this team can put this game behind them and move forward. If the offense struggles against a weaker Holy Cross team, then the white flag begins it’s ascent up the flag pole and we’re in for a lot of pain this year.