The 2022 Syracuse Orange football season is right around the corner, which means we’re diving into each of SU’s fall opponents. We already covered the season opener against Louisville. Now, let’s take a look at the first matchup outside the confines of the Dome. It’s against a team that has been reeling for years...
School: University of Connecticut
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Recommended Blog: The UConn Blog
History vs. Syracuse: UConn is 6-5 all time against Syracuse, though the Orange hold a 3-game winning streak where they have outscored the Huskies by a combined 67 points. Connecticut beat SU 5 times in a row from 2007-2011. The teams’ first matchup came in 2004, the year that UConn joined the Big East. Syracuse won that game 42-30.
Coach: Jim L. Mora, first season. Mora is the third Huskies head coach in three seasons, replacing interim HC Lou Spanos. A former University of Washington walk-on, Mora started his professional coaching career in the NFL. Following stints with the Chargers, Saints, and 49ers, Mora coached the Atlanta Falcons for three seasons and led them to the 2004 NFC Championship. He later led the Seattle Seahawks for one year. Afterwards, Mora spent six years at the helm with UCLA (2012-2017), compiling a 46-30 record with two bowl wins in four tries.
2021 Record: (1-11)
Recapping Last Season:
Being shutout 45-0 at Fresno State to start the year was a sign of things to come - as was losing to Holy Cross at home the following week. Another shutout defeat, this time against Purdue, was followed by four more losses. The Huskies finally broke into the win column with a 21-15 win over Yale. That’s the only one they’d get, as the final four contests were all lopsided losses.
There aren’t a lot of positives to talk about with a one-win team. The UConn offense was, pun intended, pretty offensive to watch. They had the second-fewest points and third-fewest yards per game in all of FBS football. A QB carousel continued all year long, making it near impossible for any chemistry building to take place. True freshman Keelan Marion at least gave the receiving core a little life; he led the team with 474 receiving yards and 5 TDs.
The defense was pretty bad as well: 8th-most points allowed on average in the FBS (38.5). LB Jackson Mitchell led the team in total tackles with 113 and forced two fumbles, and DT Travis Jones had 4.5 sacks. The secondary got cooked well-done, and the picks they had were mostly in garbage time. Kicker Joe McFadden was 12/17 on FGs: not great, but not terrible either.
2022 Season Outlook:
If there’s one positive I can give UConn, it’s that their team is very young and the top talents from last season are only going to get better. The schedule is perhaps a bit more manageable as well: Central Connecticut State, FIU, and UMass (who was a two-score loss last year) are all winnable. They’ve still got an annual “get smacked on national television” game against Michigan, but other than that, maybe Husky fans don’t have to expect blowouts. Maybe.
Nathan Carter, who was also a true freshman last season, takes over as the bell-cow RB after having a slight edge in carries last year. The QB room will look a bit different, as the guy with the most playing time last season, Steven Krajewski, transferred to Georgia State after spring practices. That leaves former Penn State prospect Ta’quan Roberson as the likely candidate to take over behind an improved o-line. Jacob Drena and Tyler Phommachanh look to give him some competition. Marion, Aaron Turner, and Kevens Clercius make up the all-sophomore starting receivers. TE Jay Rose graduated, so Brandon Niemenski should take his place.
Mitchell is back on defense, as is DB Tre Wortham. He and Jeremy Lucien both had 4 passes defended last season, though his wingman transferred to Vanderbilt. Jones is also gone, having been drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 10
Location: Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut
Odds of Orange Victory: 85%
Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:
UConn has had one respectable year since leaving the Big East, surrounded by many years of failure and cellar-dwelling. Four combined wins in three seasons keeps talks of the program either downgrading to FCS or folding all-together going. A Huskies win probably means the Orange’s season is dead on arrival. I’d have the win percentage higher, but then again, there was that basketball debacle at Georgetown last year (gotta play the games and all). Please don’t make us relive that.
(Author Note: Thanks @NutmegStOfMind for pointing out a mistake on my part. I was not aware that Krajewski transferred, though I can blame that on UConn not updating their website.)