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BYU vs UConn Q&A: Huskies defensive strength lies in their front seven

The September to Remember (or forget if you're a pessimist) is over and now BYU moves on the AAC portion of their schedule. First up are the Huskies of Connecticut, led by head coach Bob Diaco who is facing BYU for the third time in three years.

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Vanquish The Foe: Both BYU and UConn are coming off back-to-back losses, with the Cougars suffering one of the more embarrassing losses in recent memory. Four games into the season, where do the Huskies stand?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog:The Huskies are 2-2 now and have fans teetering on the brink of believing this could be a bowl team. That was definitely not the case before the season, but in the way they beat Villanova and Army and kept it close against Missouri, it's looking like this season will surpass most preseason expectations.

The loss to Navy was disappointing, but UConn lost that came because it couldn't stop the triple option. Every other problem was an extension of that. Against BYU, fans are confident the Huskies can avoid being blown out like in last year's game. With Taysom Hill's injury there are some who think UConn can win.

Vanquish The Foe: Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard for UConn but he doesn't make a lot of mistakes (only 1 INT this season). What should BYU fans know about Shirreffs?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog: Bryant Shirreffs has been solid through four games. He isn't the most accurate and doesn't have the strongest arm but he can make all the throws and has been developing a good chemistry with UConn's top receiving option Noel Thomas. He's also a decent threat to run the ball. Though we have yet to see any designed runs, he has done a solid job of knowing when to tuck and run. Shirreffs, who is just a sophomore, is a smart player who has been described as a student of the game, so the hope is that he can grow into a big-time difference maker by the time he is a senior. He is definitely an upgrade over the Casey Cochran/Chandler Whitmer two-headed monster you watched us trot out last year.

Vanquish The Foe: The BYU defense has been gashed the last two weeks on the ground. Will Arkeel Newsome and the rest of the UConn backfield be able to take advantage of a worn out BYU front seven?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog: The Huskies will definitely try to get the running game going, you'll probably see some Ron Johnson, our bruiser, as well. UConn's offensive line, while improved from last year, has struggled at times to create space for the runners though so it is not a forgone conclusion.

Vanquish The Foe: Tanner Mangum is hoping to bounce back after looking like a rattled true freshman last Saturday against Michigan. How will the UConn secondary match up against Mangum and the BYU WR core?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog: The secondary's first true test came against the speedy playmakers on Missouri and they fared quite well. The defense's strength though is the front seven. If UConn can get pressure on Magnum it should make the jobs of the secondary that much easier.

The safeties are both talented and experienced. Senior Andrew Adams is a captain who has two interceptions on the season and showed how complete his game is with a 17-tackle performance against Navy. His counterpart, Obi Melifonwu, is a super-athletic guy who is starting to get the mental side down as well. UConn has been good at corner, though a little inexperienced. There may be some opportunities if BYU runs a lot of 4-wide and 5-wide sets to take advantage of a relative lack of depth at corner.

Vanquish The Foe: BYU has struggled to run the ball consistently this year due to struggles on the offensive line and injuries at the RB position. Will the Cougar rushing attack be challenged once again on Friday?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog: Definitely, like I said UConn's strength is its linebackers and defensive linemen. Every member of the three-man front is dangerous and the rush end Luke Carrezola has been having a really good season. The only time this defense has struggled so far this year was against the clinical Navy triple option run by Keenan Reynolds.

Vanquish The Foe: If Bob Diaco were to make a name for the potential rivalry game between BYU and UConn, what would it be?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog: Ok I'm terrible at this, but here goes:

The "BYUConn" trophy - see it has "BYU" and "UConn" in it!

The "2000 Miles" trophy - a nod to the distance between CT and Utah. The Proclaimers would probably let Bob use the rights to their hit song "I'm gonna be (500 miles)" so we can use that for the theme song. Bob Diaco will also walk the 2,000 miles if UConn loses.

"The Friday Night Fight" - both games have been on a Friday so far...

And lastly,

The "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we were both in a power conference like we deserve?" trophy.

Vanquish The Foe: How do you see the game playing out?

Aman Kidwai, The UConn Blog: I think UConn has a big challenge ahead of itself against a very battle-tested BYU team. UConn's defense will be stout and tough to score on, especially as that unit will want to redeem itself from the Navy letdown. If the Huskies offense can get going this could be a much closer game than advertised. Ultimately, I think the late kick-off might throw off the Huskies in addition to being on the road so I'm going to predict a 21-17 BYU win.

Thanks again to Aman Kidwai and the good people of The UConn Blog.