AP Sports Writer
STORRS, Conn. (CBS Connecticut and AP) — UConn and Cincinnati both need a win Saturday to avoid an 0-3 start in the American Athletic Conference.
Both also are looking for big improvements at key offensive positions.
The Huskies (2-3, 0-2 American) come into their game with the Bearcats (3-2, 0-2) averaging just 350 yards a game, which ranks 104th among the 128 Bowl Subdivision teams. That includes just 124 yards per game on the ground.
Their leading rusher, Arkeel Newsome, has 224 yards on 58 carries. The Huskies quarterback, Bryant Shirreffs, has run the ball 84 times for 199 yards.
“I don’t really don’t have an interest in watching Bryant run and Arkeel not, said coach Bob Diaco. “For Arkeel to have six touches, it can’t happen.”
Cincinnati is looking for more production from the quarterback position, where Hayden Moore has missed two games with a high ankle sprain. Redshirt freshman Ross Trial threw three interceptions last week in a 40-25 loss to South Florida and has six interceptions and just one touchdown this season while filling in.
“The quarterback is the key to your engine,” coach Tommy Tuberville said this week. He’s the guy that gets you going, gets you in the right plays, motivates the players, gets all that stuff done.
The two are both listed at the top of this week’s depth chart, but Tuberville has given Moore just a 25 percent chance of playing. Former starter Gunner Kiel still listed as third string, but Tuberville said he would choose his starter based on this week’s practices.
The Bearcats are averaging just under 415 yards per game.
Here are some other things to watch for as UConn hosts Cincinnati on Saturday morning:
UConn’s passing attack has so far consisted of a single threat, wide receiving Noel Thomas. The senior has 46 of UConn’s 97 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns. The second most productive receiver, sophomore Hergy Mayala, has just 15 catches for 231 yards. But Diaco said he’s pleased with the effort from the receiving corps and is not looking for anyone to step up their game.
“If we put them in situations to be successful, they’ve done the work, they’ll be successful,” he said.
Both teams are struggling to score this season. UConn ranks at the bottom of the conference and No. 117 in the nation with 19.8 points per game and has yet to put a point on the board in the first quarter. The Cincinnati offense is just above the Huskies, ranking 10th in the league scoring at 25.8 points per game.
The series between the two programs has not been very competitive. Cincinnati has won 10 of the 12 meetings and five straight including all three as members of the American. The Bearcats were 6-2 against UConn when both were members of the Big East.
The game has an 11:30 a.m. start as is being played on the same day as the Hartford Marathon, which will lead to numerous road closings in the greater Hartford area. Tight end Tyler Davis said the players actually are looking forward to the early start, because it means less waiting around in the morning.
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Both programs have been listed among the top contenders for possible expansion in the Big 12 and made pitches to the league last month.
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