UCF faces UConn in what may or may not be a rivalry game
STORRS, Conn. (AP) UCF visits UConn on Saturday for what may or may not be an annual rivalry game.
UConn coach Bob Diaco received plenty of ridicule when he created a trophy for the series last year after the Huskies upset the Knights in 2014, handing UCF its only conference loss.
UConn won again in Florida, routing UCF 40-13, and celebrated on the field with the trophy, winning what Diaco initially called the Civil Conflict and later revised to the ConnFLiCT (note the capital FL and CT). The Huskies (3-4, 1-3 American) have won two of the three games between the programs.
''It adds a little bit of excitement to the practice week itself,'' said UConn tight end Alec Bloom. ''It's different playing for a trophy in the regular season than it would be any other time. So, I think it adds a little bit of excitement, gets everyone a little more excited to play.''
But Diaco has been downplaying his creation this week, saying he planned to keep the discussion of the matchup internal.
UCF (3-3, 1-1), meanwhile, simply does not consider this game to be special.
''Before I came here I was not aware of whatever they are calling the game,'' said first-year UCF coach Scott Frost. ''Listen, this is another game to us. Every single one of them is important. We're going to prepare for this one like we prepare for every one.''
Here some things to watch for as the Knights and the Huskies play the ConnFLiCT game:
BOUNCE BACK: Both teams are coming off conferences losses. UConn is looking to bounce back from a 42-27 defeat at South Florida. UCF, meanwhile, blew a 25-7 lead and lost in the final second at home to Temple, 26-25. ''Character doesn't show up when things are going right, but in times like this,'' Frost said.
SLOW START: Diaco said UConn has changed some things in practice and team meetings in an effort to address its slow starts. The Huskies have scored just three points in the first quarter of games, a field goal during their opening drive last week. Diaco said part of the problem may be the emphasis coaches put on finishing games this year. ''We built the drills that way. We built the mentality that way,'' he said. ''And now we've come to a situation where you put your fingers and toes in the dam over here and then all of the sudden another little spurt starts squirting out on the other side.''
RUN AND RUN STOPPING: UCF comes into the game ranked No. 33 in the country in rushing, averaging almost 208 yards a game. The Huskies have the nation's No. 26 run defense, giving up just 130 yards per contest.
WEATHER OR NOT: UCF spent time this week discussing how to play in cold weather. The temperature in Connecticut on Saturday is expected to be in the low 50s with a good chance of rain. Frost said he considers that perfect football weather, but noted that in Florida there is a different perspective. ''There is something to the blood thinning out down here,'' he said.
SIDELINED: Both teams lost their starting left guards (UConn's Tommy Hopkins and UCF's Tyler Hudanick) for the season last week with leg injuries. The teams also have suspended players for this week's game. No reason was given for the suspension of UCF receiver Tristan Payton. Two UConn redshirt freshmen, defensive linemen Felton Blackwell and linebacker Nazir Williams, were arrested this week after police found marijuana, alcohol and BB guns in a car they were in. Neither had played a snap for the Huskies.