Photo by University of Connecticut Athletics (@UConnFootball
By Tucker Harlin
KNOXVILLE, Tenn– No. 17 Tennessee (6-2, 3-2) is set to take on Connecticut (1-7) for its homecoming matchup in Neyland Stadium Saturday. The game kicks off at 12 p.m. ET and will air on SEC Network.
When Tennessee and UConn are mentioned in the same sentence, our minds are drawn to a high stakes women’s basketball matchup and the legacies of Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma.
While that series is chalked full of history, Saturday’s matchup has no history. It is the first time these schools have met for a football game.
The Huskies’ lone win is a 38-31 road victory at Rice to start October.
The Huskies are 0-3 in Power Five matchups with a 24-14 loss to NC State in the opener, a crushing 41-7 defeat against Duke, and a 21-14 loss at Boston College last week.
The Huskies were dealt a devastating blow to start 2023 as quarterback Joseph Fagnano went down with a season-ending injury.
Ta’Quan Roberson took Fagnano’s place. Roberson’s season-high in pass yards was the 255 yards he threw for in the Huskies’ loss against Utah State. In the Huskies’ games against Duke and Boston College, he averaged 122 passing yards and completed less than 50% of his passes.
Roberson’s top targets are Cameron Ross and Brett Buckman. Both have 31 catches, and their receiving yards are nearly identical.
The Huskies will incorporate the tight end into the passing attack with Justin Joly. Joly has 319 receiving yards and a touchdown on the season.
On the ground, Victor Rosa is the top rusher for the Huskies with 405 yards. Rosa has been nursing an injury over the last two weeks, so Camryn Edwards may get the call for the Huskies.
The Huskies are very experienced on the offensive line. Center Yakiri Walker is the only new addition to the starting lineup. Guards Christian Haynes and Noel Ofori-Nyadu and tackles Chase Lundt and Valentin Senn have started in all 21 of the Huskies’ games since 2022.
The Huskies have had issues stopping the run recently, surrendering over 500 yards on the ground in their last two contests. The pass defense has been better in that stretch, but it is not immune to bad performances.
Just like the offensive front, the Husky defensive line is filled with veterans.
Edge rusher Pryce Yates and defensive tackle Jelani Stafford have been the most productive members of the front. Both have recorded eight tackles for loss, the most out of the entire defense.
Eric Watts and Dal’Mont Gourdine are the other two members of the Husky defensive front. Gourdine is in the nose tackle position and Watts is manning the other edge.
At linebacker, Jackson Mitchell is the leader of the Huskies defense.
Mitchell ended 2022 with 140 tackles. He leads the team with 81 tackles, 30 more tackles than the next Husky.
Assisting Mitchell at linebacker will be Tui Faumuina-Brown and Noah Plack. Faumuina-Brown is at the Willie position and Plack is over at the Sam spot.
Malcolm Bell and Mumu Bin-Wahad are on the corners for the Huskies. Bell was impactful in the 2022 season, and Bin-Wahad transferred in from West Virginia after a struggle to find playing time.
Malik Dixon-Williams and Durante Jones are the safeties. Jones has been the more productive of the two with 51 tackles, the most in the secondary. Dixon-Williams had 90 tackles in 2022, but he has not produced at that level in 2023.
Kicker Joe McFadden has only attempted eight field goals. McFadden has made just four of those attempts, all of the misses beyond 40 yards.
George Caratan is back again to punt for the Huskies. Caratan’s average has increased considerably since last season, moving up from just over 39 yards per punt in 2022 to just over 45 this season.
Bryan Domino is returning kicks and Brett Buckman is the punt returner for the Huskies. The Huskies are yet to bring back a return for a touchdown.