"The Conflict" week. Two teams on different roads.
STORRS: What started as a means in which to spark some interest between two teams that are not normal rivals has really turned into something else and in the case of the team that started the conversation, the landscape could not be more different.
When UConn football second year head coach Bob Diaco came up with the idea of a “Civil Rivalry” between the Huskies and the University of Central Florida, most scoffed, some laughed, some didn’t get it and some didn’t care.
After all, with UConn coming off a 2-10 campaign a year ago, the last thing you thought anyone might do would be to stir the pot against a team you have played but twice and are more than 1200 miles away from.
Since the much talked about trophy and rivalry game was talked up, a funny thing happened on the way to Saturday’s game in Florida.
UCF has not won a game (0-5) in 2015 while the Huskies have matched their win total with their 2-3 record.
I’m not sure anybody saw that record coming from a team that appeared in a bowl game a year ago after winning their second consecutive American Athletic Conference championship.
UConn on the other hand was 1-4 at this time last season, having snuck by Division 1A Stony Brook for their only win in game two of the campaign.
Their other win came against the Knights at The Rent in an upset, 37-29.
Flash forward to this season and even though the Huskies have lost three straight since wins against Villanova and Army, they are greatly improved, especially on the defensive side of the ball where they rank second in the AAC and 41 in the country.
UConn put a real scare into 22nd ranked Missouri before falling 9-6 and led BYU 10-7 on the road in the fourth quarter before the wheels came off.
They dropped a 28-18 decision to a Navy team that was firmly in control all game but the Huskies hung in there.
One would think that after all the good things UConn has experienced, even in losing those three games would have them in good shape as they head south.
Think about it. A win against UCF and another against USF the following week at home puts them over the .500 mark at 4-3.
It only takes six wins to become bowl eligible with nothing but conference games left on their schedule.
A 2-3 record gets it done with home games left against East Carolina (3-2) and Houston (4-0) on tap and road visits to Cincinnati (3-2), Tulane (2-2) and Temple (4-0).
None of that seems out of the realm of possibilities but it all starts on Saturday against a Knights team that is certainly not playing well but is still just 0-1 in league play.
On Tuesday, Diaco changed the name of the rivalry to “The Conflict”, dropping the Civil part of the name so as not to offend anyone.
At this point you have to figure the buzz may have died off from the rivalry angle with so much more at stake for both teams.
….UConn needs its offense to catch up to the defense which is giving up just under 20 points per game while the “O” has averaged just under 16 per game.
….UConn is rushing for nearly 100 yards per game, a vast improvement from a year ago and are also plus one in the turnover column while UCF is minus nine.
….Arkeel Newsome leads the team with 221 yards rushing while Noel Thomas leads the receiving group with 299 yards.
….Red shirt sophomore Bryant Shirreffs has passed for more than 200 yards in three of his first five starts. He has thrown for 1015 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
….UConn has seen their fair share of clouds from above them so far this year. After the Orlando trip, the team would have covered 8,240 miles round trip since visiting Utah, Missouri and Florida so far this season.