UConn, Memphis put an end to disappointing seasons
There will be a lot of goodbyes Saturday when UConn hosts
Memphis in the final game of what has been a disappointing season
for both programs.
It will be the last college game for 29 seniors, 14 from UConn
(2-9, 2-5 American Athletic Conference) and 15 from Memphis (3-8,
But It also likely will be the final game at Connecticut for
much of that program’s coaching staff. Interim coach T.J. Weist has
led the Huskies to two straight wins, but is still just 2-5 since
taking the reins from Paul Pasqualoni after UConn’s 0-4 start.
”For the players, it’s a season, for us it’s our careers,”
Weist said. ”It’s not easy. It’s never easy. But I commend them
for working hard, for staying together, for being aggressive with
”A coach can easily give up, just like a player can on the
season,” he added. ”Our guys have not done that. They’ve worked
Weist said he has not been given any indication on when a
decision will be made about his future, or who will coach the team
next season. Athletic director Warde Manuel has called a news
conference for an hour before kickoff to discuss the search for a
Linebacker Yawin Smallwood said the players are pulling for
”All the players around here, they love Coach Weist,”
Smallwood said. ”He’s done a great job. He’s a players’ coach. He
does whatever it takes for us to win.”
For some Memphis players, the season may already be over. Coach
Justin Fuente, in his second season with the Tigers, said this week
he wants make sure that he’s only taking deserving players on the
road trip after a disappointing loss last week at home against
”I think it’s important that we play better. I want to finish
strong,” he said. ”This game presents a unique set of challenges
– coming off some disappointment and playing on the road and
playing in a different climate than we’re used to against a group
of people we’ve never met. We’re going to take a group of guys that
are ready to meet that challenge.”
Here are five things to note as Memphis visits Connecticut.
HEADING NORTH: This will be just the third game Memphis has ever
played in the Northeast. The other two were at Army in 1985 and
2000. The Tigers also have played only one other game this far
north. For those who want to check a GPS, East Hartford is at
41.7614 degrees latitude, while Detroit, where the Tigers played in
the 2005 Motor City Bowl, is at 42.3314. The forecast calls for
some overnight rain or snow and temperatures Saturday in the
STREAKING: Connecticut, which began the season with nine
straight losses is looking to put three wins together for the first
time since closing the 2010 regular season with five straight
victories before losing in the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma. The Huskies
haven’t finished a season with three consecutive wins since 2000.
Memphis has lost two straight.
HARD TO RUN: On paper, it would appear the running games for
both teams might have a tough time Saturday. Memphis ranks 17th in
the nation against the run, giving up just 120 yards per game.
UConn is averaging just over 85 yards on the ground. But, the Husky
defense has given up 141 yards per game on the ground and Memphis
has run for an average of just 144.
SMALLWOOD’S FUTURE: Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood
hasn’t said whether he plans to skip his senior season and enter
the NFL draft. But the 6-foot-4 junior is in his fourth year at
UConn, having redshirted as a freshman, and is on track to graduate
in the spring. He is among national leaders with 111 tackles. He
also has two sacks and an interception, which he returned for the
winning touchdown two weeks ago against Temple. ”You know, it’s
been a dream of mine to play in the NFL but it’s a huge step,” he
said this week. ”I’ve just got to make sure it’s the right time
for me and I’m prepared to make that jump.”
Memphis (3-8, 1-6) was the Senior Day opponent at Louisville two
weeks ago, dropping a 24-17 decision to the then No. 21-ranked
Cardinals. Temple spoiled the Tigers’ Senior Day with a 41-21 win
last week in the Liberty Bowl.
MILESTONE: Memphis redshirt freshman quarterback Paxton Lynch is
already ranked 12th on the school’s single-season passing list,
with 1,887 yards. If he gets 113 against UConn, he would become
just the 10th quarterback in school history to pass for 2,000 yards
in a season and just the second freshman.