UConn embracing the opportunity against Clemson
As UConn prepares to play at Clemson on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the teams, Huskies interim head coach Lou Spanos is encouraging his players to embrace the opportunity.
“We talked about how it’s a privilege to be here at UConn and play a major sport and you have an opportunity to play against one of the premier universities in the country,” Spanos said. “Embrace it and enjoy it, it’s what college football’s all about — memories.”
Clemson (6-3) is the home team and a 40-point favorite in the game at Memorial Stadium, aka Death Valley.
“We’re really looking forward to being back in the Valley for a little stretch here,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Three of our last four have been on the road, we haven’t played here since Oct. 2, and now we’re down to our last two home games of the year. We’re focused on having a great finish.”
Despite a 2-2 start, the Tigers have rebounded to win four of their past five games and actually have a slim but mathematically possible chance at a seventh consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title and ACC crown.
Although offensively challenged compared to its recent teams and ranked 13th in the ACC in scoring offense, Clemson’s defense has remained a strength. The Tigers are second in the ACC in scoring defense, allowing only 16.2 points per game, and are coming off a victory at Louisville in which they stopped the Cardinals on four downs from the 2-yard line in the final minute.
“On defense, coach (Brent) Venables does an outstanding job year in and year out,” Spanos said. “They are attacking, make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Have relentless effort and pursuit. We have a challenge.”
Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is coming off his best game of the season. Against Louisville, he completed 18 of 30 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a third score in a 30-24 victory.
Uiagalelei suffered a sprained PCL in the game but is expected to start against UConn. But Clemson’s running game has been the team’s calling card of late. Freshman running back Will Shipley leads the team in rushing and touchdowns and is averaging 113.1 all-purpose yards per game.
Spanos, who was named the Huskies’ interim head coach after Randy Edsall and the school mutually agreed to part ways two games into the season, has a young team that has struggled to a 1-8 record.
“They’re obviously a team in transition with a coaching change,” Swinney said. “They’re probably one of the youngest teams in college football, but they have a lot of talent. They’re playing better down the stretch — they had a two-point game against Wyoming and a two-point game against Vanderbilt and you can see that the team is buying into what Coach Spanos is trying to get them to do.”
The Huskies’ offense ranks 126th out of 130 FBS teams at 281.6 yards per game. Quarterback Steven Krajewski has completed 56.3 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
UConn linebacker Jackson Mitchell is one of the top tacklers in the country, ranking fourth nationally with an average of 11.0 tackles per game.
–Field Level Media