It really comes down to this: If the Connecticut football team is going to beat No. 18 Louisville Saturday (noon, SNY, UConn IMG Sports Radio Network), the Huskies will need a drastic personality change.
That's a hard thing to expect 10 games into the season.
UConn is 4-6 overall and 1-4 in the Big East. Louisville counters at 9-1 and 4-1. The Cardinals' only loss of the season came at the hands of Syracuse two weeks ago. UConn won its most recent game, defeating Pittsburgh for the Huskies' first Big East victory this season. Louisville is trying to win the Big East's BCS bowl bid. UConn is trying to become bowl eligible – something that requires two more wins.
"You're looking at a football team that is still 9-1," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "What we wanted to do in the bye week is get that game is behind us. The Syracuse game is behind us. Get that game away and then just focus on the next two. Just focus on ourselves and making ourselves and this football team better
The Huskies also had a bye week to prepare for this, which brings us back to that personality change. Louisville is averaging 34 points a game. UConn has scored 33 points or more only once this season – with 37 against UMass back in The Opening game.
UConn's strong point all season has been defense. But can the Huskies come close to stopping Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater? UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni calls Bridgewater one of the best in the nation and Bridgewater does rank fifth nationally in passing efficiency.
"I would say that, he doesn't get rattled under duress; he keeps his composure," Pasqualoni said when asked what makes Bridgewater so special. "I think he has a good sense for sliding into what I would call soft-spots in the pocket. He feels he doesn't necessarily have to see the space, but he feels where the space is; he's able to move around, slide up, slide laterally equally to his left.
"Some right-handed quarterbacks, when they have to move, they can only go to the right. This player, Teddy Bridgewater, he'll slide equally to his left, then to his right. Then when he comes out of the pocket, his eyes are still down field, which is really the impressive part."
UConn safety Ty-Meer Brown says the key will be staying in coverage as long as possible to combat Bridgewater's ability to keep his eyes downfield.
"It's going to be tough to be disciplined in coverage and make sure nobody gets behind us while he's scrambling around," Brown said. "Our scout team quarterback does a good job every week of playing how the other quarterback plays, so while he's scrambling in practice we stay deep."
The one motivating factor remaining for the Huskies is trying to finish 6-6 in order to become bowl eligible. Without a win at Louisville Saturday, the Huskies would only be playing for pride in the final game against Cincinnati on Dec. 1 in East Hartford. Perhaps the best way to keep Bridgewater and the Cardinals off the scoreboard would be long, sustained drives built on UConn's running game. The ground game showed some signs of life against Pitt.
"We're trying to build on what we did [against Pittsburgh]," Pasqualoni said. "I think that the guys are getting a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more confident. Gus Cruz has been [at right guard] for a little while now and I think that they're working hard."