East Hartford, CT – The 15th-ranked Michigan Wolverines hit the road for the first time this season, as they head east to tangle with the Connecticut Huskies on Saturday night.
Michigan is 3-0 after taking out a couple of Mid-American Conference foes in Central Michigan (59-9) and Akron (28-24), as well as Notre Dame (41-30). The recent victory over the Zips was the team's 17th straight at home -- the longest active streak in the country -- but it didn't come easily.
While obviously pleased with the result, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke knows his team has some work to do if it has any shot at achieving its goals for the season.
"It's good to win the game, that's always important and that's why you play, but we didn't play our best football, and we need to get that straightened out."
The Wolverines get a breather following this contest, and will open Big Ten Conference play against visiting Minnesota on Oct. 5.
Connecticut is playing the finale of a three-game homestand to begin the season, and the Huskies have yet to taste victory, losing to both FCS foe Towson (33-18), as well as Maryland (32-21). UConn is 0-2 for the first time since 2002, which was its first year as a member of the FBS.
Despite the early hole his team has dug itself, UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni believes his guys will be fired up for this clash.
"It presents us with a great opportunity against a very good team. We shall see. I expect our kids to be up for the challenge and come in tomorrow and begin working hard and focusing in on our next task at hand."
The Huskies will play at Buffalo next week then have two weeks to prepare for their maiden voyage in the brand new American Athletic Conference when they host USF on Oct. 12.
This bout marks only the second meeting between Michigan and Connecticut on the football field, and the Wolverines won the first encounter at home in the 2010 season opener, 30-10.
Needing a late goal-line stand to keep their perfect record and their lengthy home winning streak in tact, the Wolverines survived against visiting Akron last Saturday. Michigan had several standout stars on offense, including Devin Gardner (16-of-30, 248 yards, two TDs; 103 yards rushing, one TD), Fitzgerald Toussaint (71 rushing yards, one TD), Jeremy Gallon (six rec., 66 yards) and Devin Funchess (two rec., 65 yards, one TD).
Michigan is averaging 42.7 points and 449.3 yards per game, with the run accounting for 195 ypg and the pass 254.3 ypg. Gardner has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 704 yards with seven TDs and six interceptions, and he is also the team's leading rusher with 237 yards and four scores. Toussaint comes in at 199 yards with three TDs, and Gallon is far and away the club's top receiver with 18 grabs for 297 yards and four scores.
Defensively, James Ross III (10 tackles) led the way in the hard-fought win over Akron, while Jarrod Wilson and Blake Countess each recorded an interception. When the dust had settled, the teams were nearly dead even in yards (UM 425, UA 418), but the Wolverines committed four turnovers, including three INTs by Gardner, and the home team was just 3-of-10 on third-down conversion attempts, while the visitors went 9-of-18.
For the season, foes are averaging 21.0 ppg behind 346.0 ypg, and the Maize and Blue have been particularly stingy when it comes to allowing yards on the ground (89.7 ypg). The opposition has yet to score a rushing TD this season. Desmond Morgan owns the team-lead in total tackles (20), but Raymon Taylor and Ross III are hot on his heels with 19 apiece. Countess has three INTs, while Brennen Beyer and Cameron Gordon each have a pair of sacks.
Even though they lost, a couple of Huskies had career games against Maryland last weekend, as Chandler Whitmer completed 29-of-46 passes for 349 yards, hitting Shakim Phillips 10 times for 178 yards and a TD.
It's a good thing the passing game was working for the Huskies last week, as they couldn't muster much in the way of an effective ground attack, tallying a mere 34 net yards on 33 attempts. In addition to Phillips' efforts, UConn also got decent production out of receivers Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx, each of whom finished with 54 yards on a combined nine catches.
Maryland hammered out 224 yards on the ground and 501 total in the game, but allowed the Huskies to hang around thanks to three turnovers and a 4-of-15 effort on third-down attempts. Yawin Smallwood was all over the field for UConn, registering 14 tackles, while Ty-Meer Brown made all eight of his stops alone.
Connecticut is putting up just 19.5 ppg while allowing 32.5 ppg, and foes are averaging 112 ypg more than the Huskies on average. Whitmer is a near 61 percent passer who averages better than 277 ypg, but his TD-to-INT ratio is even at 3-3, and he has been sacked a whopping 10 times. Lyle McCombs heads the rushing attack, but with only 129 yards and a TD, while Phillips used last week's performance to catapult into the team receiving lead with 15 catches for 255 yards and three scores.
Smallwood already has 30 tackles on the season, twice as many as his closest teammate, and the Huskies have garnered four takeaways but have yet to record a sack. They are being steam rolled to the tune of 212.5 rushing ypg.