What we've seen from the Husky defense since the Louisville game was steady improvement. Good, not great play, but far better than what we saw from the Huskies earlier in the season. Saturday night was different. This was a great defensive performance. UConn held the Orange to just 235 yards of offense, which was their lowest offensive output on the season. They also kept Syracuse out of the end zone, which no one else had done this season. Taking UConn's win over FCS Texas Southern out of the equation, this was the best defensive effort from the Huskies since their 20-7 win over South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl, where they held the Gamecocks to just 205 yards of total offense.
The linebacker play was outstanding. Sio Moore and Scott Lutrus each made nine tackles and Lawrence Wilson made eight of his own. Since being inserted into the starting line-up in week four vs Buffalo, Moore leads the team in tackles with 79. Overall he's second on the team with 86, while Lawrence Wilson paces the Huskies with 103. UConn has a chance to have two players go over 100 tackles on the season for the first time since Lutrus and Wilson did it in 2007.
The defensive line did their part as well. Kendall Reyes, Trevardo Williams and Jesse Joseph all notched sacks, and Reyes came up with his first career interception off a deflection. The Huskies did their share of blitzing last night, but the front four did an excellent job of creating pressure on their own. The good news for the Huskies is all four return next season. Reyes and Twyon Martin are both juniors, while Williams and Joseph are just sophomores.
The UConn defense faces a huge test next week in Cincinnati, who rolled up over 700 yards of total offense against the Huskies a year ago. The Bearcats are coming off a dominating performance vs Rutgers, in which they scored 69 points and tallied 661 yards of offense. Mobile quarterbacks traditionally cause the Huskies fits, we'll see if the defense is up to the task this week.
Each game is bigger than the last as the Huskies continue to stay in the hunt for a BCS bowl berth. UConn needs to win their remaining two games, and hope that Pittsburgh loses one of their remaining two. Pitt still has two very difficult games remaining, this week's "Backyard Brawl" vs West Virginia, and the season finale on the road vs Cincinnati, so the Huskies Championship hopes are very much alive.