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The Huskies are 3-3 (1-2) on the season and enter this game averaging 19.8 PPG and 360.8 yards per game overall. Uconn lost the meeting last year, 28 to 20, but did put up 528 yards of offense, something the USF defense should be very concerned with going into Saturday night. Here are some of the top Uconn playmakers to watch for.
The Huskies are averaging 134.5 yards per game on the ground while the Bulls are allowing just over 200 yards a game. We should expect them to come out running early and their ground game will be led by junior running back Arkeel Newsome (5’7″ 185 lbs.). Newsome has 72 carries for 340 yards (4.7 per carry) on the season with two rushing touchdowns, he also has 8 receptions for 59 yards. He had 13 carries for 58 yards and 8 receptions for 74 yards in the game last year, hurting the Bulls in two different ways.
Another back to watch is junior Ron Johnson (5’11” 220 lbs.) who has 50 carries for 168 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and four rushing touchdowns. Johnson is their bigger back and could be a goal line weapon if called upon. It will be on the front seven of the USF defense to step up and close the running lanes up, not allowing them to gash them inside or bounce to the outside for easy yards.
Under center for Uconn is redshirt junior quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (6’2″ 220 lbs.). Shirreffs is 110 for 180 on the year (61.1%) for 1282 yards including five touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also carried the ball 102 times for 251 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and has rushed for two touchdowns. In the game last year he went off, going 28 for 41 for 365 yards including one touchdown and one interception. He had 19 carries for 100 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Shirreffs is a mobile quarterback that hurt the Bulls last year despite USF sacking him five times in the game. If USF wants to slow him down, it will again be on that front seven to get pressure and not allow him to use his legs to escape and pick up easy yards. Players like Nigel Harris who had one of those five sacks last year will have to step up along with Auggie Sanchez who recorded 10 tackles in the meeting last year.
Shirreffs will be targeting his two big receivers in the passing game starting with senior wide receiver Noel Thomas (6’1″ 202 lbs.). Thomas has 55 receptions on the season for 631 yards (11.5 per catch) and has three receiving touchdowns. He had 7 grabs for 94 yards in the game last year and will be a key player to slow down.
Sophomore receiver Hergy Mayala (6’2″ 200 lbs.) has 16 receptions for 251 yards (15.7 per catch) on the season. He had two receptions for 10 yards in the game last year, but could play a larger part in the passing game. With Ronnie Hoggins limited this week, it will be on Deatrick Nichols and veterans like Johnny Ward to step up if Hoggins is not able to go in this game.
by Matt Staton
SoFloBulls.com Columnist | @USFMatt
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