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Film room: UConn provides first road test of the season for Duke football

Wide receiver Jalon Calhoun had a season-high 112 receiving yards against Northwestern.
Wide receiver Jalon Calhoun had a season-high 112 receiving yards against Northwestern.

The Blue Devils are traveling north to Connecticut this weekend for their first road matchup of 2023 against UConn. The Blue Zone is here to preview the Huskies before the Saturday kickoff:

No. 18 Duke is off to a hot 3-0 start to the season, having taken down Clemson, Lafayette and Northwestern in consecutive wins at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Devils now take to the road and aim to come out on top against a UConn team that has had considerably less success in its opening weeks. The 0-3 Huskies have been unable to find their stride, with notable losses to NC State and FIU at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Regardless, head coach Jim Mora’s squad possesses noteworthy weapons that Duke must bear in mind if it hopes to extend its win streak. 

With the season-ending injury of starting quarterback Joe Fagnano, UConn’s offense has been spearheaded by running backs Victor Rosa and Devontae Houston. The duo has combined for 309 rushing yards so far in 2023. Rosa provides high-impact, gap-finding ability that was on full display in the Huskies’ season opener against the Wolfpack — he rushed for 99 yards, including an emphatic 71-yard carry for the touchdown, as seen below.

Houston’s ability to get down the field in big moments was a pillar for UConn’s offense in the Huskies’ loss to the Panthers, rushing for 126 yards. The 5-foot-10 junior is a strong target for the screen pass and could give the Duke defense trouble on Saturday. Watch as he scores a 37-yard receiving touchdown against FIU.

On the defensive end, Jackson Mitchell will be the name to remember. UConn’s senior linebacker has racked up a team-leading 30 tackles on the season, a title he holds by a margin of eight. Mitchell also brings force-fumble potential to the Huskies’ defense with the power and intensity that we see in this big hit against Georgia State Sept. 9. 

UConn’s defense is further anchored down by senior linebacker Noah Plack. The Bridgeville, Pa., native has a strong ability to stop carriers in their tracks within the open field, demonstrated by his 20 tackles on the season thus far. A rush-dominant Blue Devil offense powered by Riley Leonard will need to be wary of Plack’s presence, as seen below, if they hope to keep their drives moving. 

Despite being a clear favorite going into the weekend, Duke needs to fight as hard in Storrs, Conn., as it has at home over the past three weeks. The Huskies have a strong run game and defensive upside that has room to explode in a high-energy matchup where UConn will fight to turn its season around. Head coach Mike Elko’s team will need to match this level of intensity if they want to come out on top and continue their early success on the road.


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