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Purdue at UConn Preview

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In short, they are not good.

East Carolina at Connecticut Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Could Darrell Hazell win this game?

That’s really the question in a game like this. Hazell was unquestionably awful at Purdue with nine wins in 3.5 years, but he did go 4-0 against the FCS. I mention the FCS factor because UConn is probably worse than those Purdue teams under Hazell in roughly the same amount of time. Since Randy Edsall came back in 2017 the Huskies are a dismal 6-32. Hazell, through 38 games Hazell was at least 7-31. Purdue also had not lost to an FCS team (though Hazell certainly tried against a godawful Indiana State team in 2013).

Here is who the Huskies have beaten the since 2017:

2017

Holy Cross 27-20 (FCS team)

Temple 28-24 (who had a winning record at 7-6!)

Tulsa 20-14

2018

Rhode Island 56-49 (FCS team)

2019

Wagner 24-21 (FCS team)

UMass 56-35 (arguably the worst defense in the last century of FBS, which gave up 632 points in 12 games).

Three of their six wins were over FCS teams by a total of 17 points. A fourth win was over the one team in the last 100 years of major college football that might have been worse than their own 2018 version. In the last 38 games they have given up at least 45 points 21 times. By comparison, Jeff Brohm’s famed offense has scored over 45 points only twice: vs. Illinois and Ohio State in 2018. It has yet to crack 50, while UConn has given up 50 eleven times in 38 games.

I know Purdue fans are conditioned to fear these games. I have heard the shouts of “but what about Eastern Michigan? Or Nevada? Or Rutgers?” I am here to tell you that UConn is several orders of magnitude worse than them. Arguably the worst loss Purdue has had under Jeff Brohm was Nebraska in 2017. The Cornhuskers finished 4-8, fired their coach, and made a fourth quarter comeback against Purdue for their only win in the last 6 games. They still won four games against FBS level teams. UConn hasn’t done that in total since 2017 kicked off. Nevada and Eastern Michigan were bowl teams, too.

Yes, those losses were bad. Purdue losing to UConn would be one of the worst in program history.

UConn Huskies

2020 Record: Season Cancelled

Bowl Result: None

Blog Representation: The UConn Blog

Series with Purdue: First Meeting

Last Purdue win: None

Last UConn win: None

Head Coach: Lou Spanos (interim head coach in first game)

Line: Purdue by 34

The Season So Far

UConn flew across the country for the first part of a home-and-home against Fresno State and got shellacked 45-0. They managed nine first downs, had only 107 yards, and gave up 538 yards in a week 0 game. They then came home for their home opener to face an in-state FCS school and faceplanted, losing by 10 to an FCS team that played just four games in the spring FCS season. Even worse, they got absolutely pushed around by a Holy Cross program that didn’t even offer scholarships until a few seasons ago.

Arguably, UConn is the worst FBS program in the country. They have a number of administrative issues behind the scenes (the athletic department is in massive debt), they are an independent and have no conference to bail them out, last year was a pseudo-death penalty with no season, and now they are on an interim coach who was the defensive coordinator for a team that has been very, very bad on defense.

Who to Watch on Offense

Steven Krajewski – QB – Krajewski was promoted to QB1 after two weeks of an ineffective Jack Zergiotis. He played in four games in 2019 and threw for 292 yards and a touchdown, and he got in for a few plays against Fresno State, going 2 of 6 for 11 yards. Overall the passing offense has only 246 yards in two games, but did score three TDs against Holy Cross. They have given up 7 sacks so far, and George Karlaftis is going to set up camp in their backfield until he gets tired because they have not faced a player anywhere near his caliber yet.

Keelan Marion – WR – He only has three receptions, but they are for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. One was a 50 yard reception, which… represents a significant amount of their 369 yards of offense so far and is their lone play over 15 yards. Receiver Cameron Ross leads the team with 8 receptions.

Keven Mensah – RB – Mensah is a decent running back and has rushed for 97 of their 123 rushing yards. He did rush for over 1,000 yards in both 2018 and 2019, so he has done a few things. Still, running backs are often only as good as the line in front of them.

Who to Watch on Defense

Kevon Jones – DL – The pickings are thin, but Jones does have 1.5 sacks and nine tackles. He is a bit undersized at 6’2”, 247, but so is much of UConn.

Omar Fortt – LB – Fortt has at least been productive with 16 tackles and a fumble recovery. He is a senior, so he has experience, but as a 6, 212 pound linebacker that seems very small.

Jackson Mitchell – LB – Mitchell has 14 tackles and a pass breakup as the no. 2 tackler. He had 11 tackles against Holy Cross

Who to Watch on Special Teams

Joe McFadden – P/K – McFadden has handled both punting and kicking duties and averaged almost 44 yards per punt against Holy Cross. He has had a lot of practice at punting so far.

Devontae Houston – KR – He has done decently on kickoff returns (again, they have had a lot of them).

Game Outlook

I’ll be blunt: It would take an extremely poor performance for Purdue to lose this, one worthy of firing Jeff Brohm on the spot. UConn is that bad. Purdue’s front line players are far and away better than the front line for UConn, and even the backups would likely start there except at a few positions like running back with Mensah.

Again, this is not the same as Eastern Michigan and Nevada. Yes, those were bad losses, but they were also bowl teams, plus Nevada was playing at home. This is not like Rutgers or Nebraska in 2017 because those teams were at least full of Big Ten athletes and again, had more wins over FBS teams in that one season than UConn has had in the last four. UConn’s defense in 2018 was one of the worst college football defenses of all-time. It got slightly better in 2019, but so far the results this year have not shown much.

Purdue should be able to do whatever it feels like doing on either side of the football. David Bell is going to run free all day. Karlaftis will be unblockable. There is no valid reason Purdue cannot put up 500 yards of offense and 50 points while rushing for 150. Defensively, Purdue can go for its first shutout of an FBS team since a 51-0 win over Syracuse to start the 2004 season.