UCONN't Count on this One: N. C. State Faces Another Tough Task in Connecticut

EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 26: As little Lyle McCombs goes, so go the Huskies (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

If N. C. State could strap in to the time machine and alter the ugly history of the 222 yards Tennessee amassed in its 4 big plays Friday, the game would end up looking pretty good from a defensive standpoint. Only one team, national champion Alabama, allowed less than 4 yards per play last season. Throw out the pair of long runs and the pair of long passes, and the Pack yielded just 4 yards per play in their season opening 35-21 loss to the Volunteers and just 13 points after their worst opening quarter in 15 years.

But there are no do overs, and State's defensive gaffs, when added back in to the box score, show that the Pack gave up an average of 6.63 yards per play, a number that would have ranked 116th out of 120 teams last year. What a difference a couple of missed tackles/blown coverages make.

From the perspective of the average fan, playing an SEC opponent in primetime on the U in the Georgia Dome sure beats travelling to Hartford for a nooner against the Connecticut Huskies on something called the Big East Network. But, even if this game doesn't have quite the same je ne sais quoi of the much-anticipated opener, it is by no means an easier task. If State did have a time machine, it would do well to fast forward to that point in the season when it starts getting its shit together because, despite coming off a 5-7 campaign (4 losses by 8 points or less), the Huskies are not an easy out.

As noted in one of the myriad of N. C. State-Tennessee previews, we are going to look at the Football Outsiders' metrics that are akin to basketball's "four factors" before each of the Pack's opponents inflicts misery upon us (or offers a hearty thank you after we inflict is upon ourselves). Sure, UT is a sexier matchup, but according to the advanced metrics UCONN was a better team than BOTH UT and State last year.

N. C. State Ranking

Football Outsiders Metric

UCONN Ranking

50th

FEI

48th

58th

OFEI

91st

25th

DFEI

23rd

92nd

STE

24th

Paul Pasqualoni is in his second year at the helm of the Huskies after replacing Randy Edsall and his pyramid. Pasqualoni, in somewhat of an oddity, supplanted Frank Beamer as the winningest coach in Big East history last season. Of course Beamer's Hokies left the Big East years ago and Pasqualoni has done nearly all of his Big East winning with Syracuse, where he took the Orange bowling 9 times in 14 years.

Pasqualoni is a defensive-minded coach and served stints with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins as a defensive coordinator. His unit was a top 25 defense last year according to Football Outsiders, and the Huskies lead the nation in total defense in the small sample size of this year. They held UMASS, making its FBS debut, to a grand total of 59 yards, just 3 of which came on the ground. Local kid Trevardo Williams had a sack for the Huskies, his 10th in his last 6 games, and UCONN had a defensive score via a pick 6 in the 37-0 rout of the Minutemen.

The Huskies also got a special teams score in their opener, so each of the team's 3 units put points on the board. Football Outsiders loved the UCONN special teams last year, but mainly because of David Taggert's field goal efficiency. Taggert was a perfect 4-4 from beyond 50 yards last year and was the 5th best kicker in the nation according to Football Outsiders, but he has exhausted his eligibility, making the place kicking an area of uncertainty for Pasqualoni's pack.

UCONN's offense was really bad last year (108th in yards per game), and Butler (KS) CC transfer Chandler Whitmer did little to inspire confidence that he will be the guy to turn things around, tossing 2 INTs against undermanned UMASS. Wee workhorse Lyle McCombs (5-8, 166) was a freshman sensation last season, running for 1,151 yards on an impressive for a little guy 275 carries. McCombs is on the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch lists, but managed just 3.6 yards per carry in the season opener.

In commiserating in the comments section of the UT game recap, I opined that losing in embarrassing fashion is probably the best thing that could have happened as far as the UCONN game goes. Had State won, this would be a classic trap game WTF loss scenario. Had State lost a nailbiter, it would have probably pouted its way to an 0-2 start. But, the Pack lost on the big stage largely by beating themselves. Pride has got to be gnawing away at the sanity of Amerson and his teammates, and I am sure they cannot wait to get back on the field to earn a bit of redemption and respect. Hopefully that motivation will help the Wolfpack prove to be the better pack this weekend.

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