OU to face UConn's strong rushing attack, special teams in Fiesta Bowl
The Sooners are no strangers to BCS bowls, playing in their eighth in the last 11 years — including four national championship games. But OU’s opponent in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl, the Connecticut Huskies, is traveling in uncharted territory.
UConn earned its first-ever berth to a BCS bowl this season with a stunning, late win over South Florida to clinch the school’s first Big East conference championship.
The Huskies — just about a decade after jumping up to the highest college football division, the Football Bowl Subdivision — are a four-loss team amongst a BCS bowl group of seven other teams averaging just 1.3 losses, including undefeated TCU.
However, UConn finished the season by winning five straight, starting with a 16-13 overtime win over West Virginia that would eventually make the Huskies the Big East champs.
Connecticut’s offense is heavily stacked as a running attack, bolstered by junior running back Jordan Todman’s 1,574 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Todman accounts for 131.2 of the Huskies’ 179.9 rushing yards per game, the 31st-best in the country.
UConn’s passing offense, though, ranks among the worst in the league. Senior quarterback Zach Frazer has thrown for 1,202 yards and five touchdowns in the Huskies’ 112th-best passing attack.
In three years at Connecticut, Frazer’s career passing numbers are 3,199 yards and 17 touchdowns. For perspective, OU sophomore quarterback Landry Jones passed for 4,289 yards and 35 touchdowns just this season.
So if the Sooners are able to stop or slow the Huskies’ running game, OU will be in control Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.
UConn’s defense has held opponents to an average of 19.8 points, edging OU’s 21.9 points allowed — even though the Sooners faced five ranked teams, including Oklahoma State’s top-ranked offense, and the Huskies played no ranked teams or top offenses.
Connecticut’s real edge over the Sooners, though, is on special teams, an area where OU has struggled the last few seasons.
UConn junior kicker Dave Teggart made four field goals in the Huskies’ 19-16 win over South Florida on Dec. 4, including kicks from 50 and 52 yards.
Though OU’s special teams tandem of junior kicker Jimmy Stevens, sophomore punter Tress Way and junior long snapper James Winchester — with junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles on returns — have done enough to get wins for the Sooners, UConn has a strong advantage on kick coverage, returns and field-goal kicking.
If the Fiesta Bowl becomes a game of field position, the Huskies stand to greatly benefit from the matchup.
OU and Connecticut meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Glendale, Ariz., for the 40th Fiesta Bowl. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN3.com.