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St. Petersburg Bowl: Don’t underestimate UConn

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Those underestimating the University of Connecticut Huskies on Saturday would be making a mistake when it takes on the Marshall Thundering Herd at Tropicana Field in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

It is easy to look at some of their losses this year and think Marshall could roll over them. There was the 37-13 rout at the hands of Cincinnati and the season-ending 27-3 pasting from Temple to look at as evidence.

But this Huskie team did something no other team accomplished this season: defeat the 18th-ranked Houston Cougars. It was no small accomplishment.

Houston beat a good Memphis team when they were playing well and handled nationally ranked Navy by three touchdowns. They defeated Temple 24-13 in the American Conference championship game.

Between those victories was a 20-17 loss to UConn on Nov. 21. How did the Huskies do it?

The first key to any upset is to avoid turnovers. The Huskies did that.

Second is to force turnovers. The Huskies forced two fumbles and intercepted two Cougar passes.

Next is to avoid costly penalties. Connecticut was flagged for 63 yards in penalties, but none came at a critical time.

Finally, a team needs to find a different way to score if they are not controlling the line of scrimmage. The Huskies pulled off a trick play in the fourth quarter when Noel Thomas hauled in a 45-yard touchdown from wide receiver Garrett Anderson, giving them a 10-point lead. That enabled them to withstand Houston returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.

It must be said that Houston was playing without their star quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. However, the Cougars still retained a lot of firepower and backup quarterback Kyle Postma threw for 190 yards and a touchdown.

The Huskies’ defense showed they can make plays and stay with a team that possesses a number of weapons. Marshall has a few weapons of their own, along with a quality defense.

Connecticut showed they can play with the big boys on any given day. We will discover whether Saturday will be UConn’s day.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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