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Q&A With TheUConnBlog

Jonathan wishes he were the Washington Huskey.
Syracuse takes on Connecticut this Saturday in East Hartford, so Kevin from TheUConnBlog and I traded questions and answers this week. My responses to his questions are here. Enjoy.
1. Orange::44: Connecticut had a nice upset win against Notre Dame in overtime. What was the reason for the team's success against the Fighting Irish?

The running game, very simply - UConn's offensive line pounded Notre Dame up and down the field. Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon combined for 245 yards on the ground, and only Navy rushed for more yards against the Fighting Irish this year. It's telling that, with UConn down by 3 and the ball at midfield with 5:00 to go, Randy Edsall called 11 straight running plays to score the game-winning touchdown twice, despite the homer referee job set up the tying field goal.

The second-overtime drive was perfectly fitting: run all the time, run all the way. It's exhilarating to think that UConn's big guys beat the hell out of the Irish up and down the field with two and three-star offensive line recruits.

One other note is that despite a slow start, UConn just sort of slowly grinded its way back into the game. And it was nice that the biggest play of the game (regulation edition) was a Jordan Todman kick-return TD. Special teams has cost us more than one game this season (and almost did again Saturday, seeing as Dave Teggart missed the game-winning FG), so it was nice to get some positive out of that group.

2. Orange::44: What do you see is the strength of this team that people that don't normally follow UConn could possibly miss?

Kevin: Well, it's not exactly a secret that UConn's strength is the running game, but what seems to have been overlooked is that the offensive line is a fairly elite unit.

Here are the sizes of UConn's offensive line: LT Mike Ryan (6-5, 324), LG Eric Kuraczea (6-2, 333), C Moe Petrus (6-2, 288), RG Zach Hurd (6-7, 315), RT Mike Hicks (6-6, 323).

They are monstrous. And they're young. Four of those five starters from last week's game will be back next season, along with Jimmy Bennett, one of UConn's better recruiting gets over the last couple years, and Mathieu Oliver, a left guard who got the offensive game ball last week.

It's not a coincidence that the running game is as productive as it is (174 yards per game, despite Edsall discovering the forward pass sometime in the last 12 months) even after losing a first-round NFL Draft pick like Donald Brown (UConn had an otherworldly 216 rush yards per game last year).

Dixon and Todman are good backs, for sure, but they get a lot of help from the big guys in front of them.

3. Orange::44: Syracuse is coming off it's own impressive win. What are your impressions of Syracuse and the direction the program is going?

Kevin: You suck and I hate you. But you beat Rutgers last week, who sucks and I hate them more, so I approve.

But seriously, the 'Cuse has looked like something resembling a football team this year. We all appreciate you not embarrassing the Big East in the OOC. And the fact that y'all are a play or two away from being 6-5 with the bare cupboard left by Greg Robinson is pretty outstanding and a credit to Marrone. I hope you guys get good again - while it's nice to have the automatic W most years, it's much more fun for us to play you when you have a pulse. (Besides, Louisville can still be our automatic W.)

Not that we don't enjoy beating the hell out of you, like the last two years. But those wins are like how we all love beating the hell out of St. John's in basketball - are you really accomplishing anything? The "Beat St. John's Club" is extremely non-exclusive.

Unlike St. John's though, you seem to have the right guy in charge, so I think you guys will be right back in the mix within a few years.

4. Orange::44: The key match up in this game on Saturday is?

UConn offensive line vs. Syracuse front seven. I'm harping on the O-line, yeah, but I was rather surprised to see that Syracuse is allowing just 92 yards per game on the ground. That's a little less worrisome than it might have been last year, because the passing game is now utterly competent.

But still, if UConn can establish the run against a solid run defense, things will be looking really good for the Huskies. Also, if that happens, beware the Tyler Lorenzen Memorial Play-Action Pass. It works at least once a game.

5. Orange::44: How do you see Connecticut's season ending?

Two more wins at home, and then a satisfying bowl win in St. Petersburg or Toronto. After all the tragedy and heartbreak of this season, they deserve a happy ending. Syracuse is a winnable game, and South Florida in a cold East Hartford night game is a dream matchup. I believe 7-5, 3-4, would be enough to send UConn to those prestigious non-Pizza Bowls.

As for me, if that happens, I will be leading the charge on the "UConn as Big East favorite in 2010" front. You heard it here first.

6. Orange::44: Do you think Cincinnati will win the league, or is Pitt going to pull the upset?

I'm in awe of Cincinnati's offense. The UConn-Cincinnati game reminded me of when the Jets play Peyton Manning and the Colts. Frustrating yet beautiful to watch the other team's precision, fluidity and excellence.

If anyone could slow them down in this league, it'd be Pitt, though. And UConn did show that you can score on the Bearcats.

Still, I think Cincinnati's the better team, and I can't imagine a world in which the Wannstache adorns the Orange Bowl program cover, so I'll say Cincinnati 41, Pitt 34.

7. Orange::44: Finally, basketball is under way. How will Connecticut do this season and when is Calhoun going to crawl in a hole and die?

I'm cautiously optimistic that UConn will be OK this year. We've got some young, talented kids and a nice returning core from last year. The big veteran three of Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson will rock other teams' world and then not call them the next morning. Our freshman center Alex Oriakhi looks like a keeper, and there's some potential among the freshmen. You will hear Dickie V use the word "athletic" 754 times tonight when we play Duke in the Preseason NIT final.

The real key is 6-10 Ater Majok, who joins the team in about three weeks. Calhoun's been hyping this kid up forever, and the book on him is that he's a wing with center size. That being said, just about no one has seen him play in a game in the two years since he committed to UConn and thus we're all clueless about what to expect. Majok tried out for the NBA Draft, but found out he was not anywhere close to ready.

If Majok is as good as Calhoun says he is, I think this team could have Elite Eight/Final Four potential. If he's nowhere close, I still think there's enough talent to get out of the first weekend, but it'll be tough to move on past that.

And I'm getting pretty confident that Calhoun will never die. Alternatively, when the day ultimately comes, I think he'll wake up 30 seconds into his embalming and demand a substitute undertaker.

Thanks again to Kevin and here’s hoping that Calhoun retires soon!

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