Allen: Shirreffs a difference-maker for UConn
The way Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen sees it, Connecticut's anemic offensive ranking (116th in Division I-A) belies the impact wielded by redshirt sophomore QB Bryant Shirreffs.
A North Carolina State transfer, Shirreffs (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) has thrown for at least 200 yards in four of UConn's six games, and ranks 45th nationally in pass efficiency (142.2 rating).
"I think he's the biggest difference from last year to this year," said Allen, whose unit faces Shirreffs at noon Saturday in Hartford. "Just very athletic and throws the ball well; has got a good strong arm. He makes them dangerous."
UConn (3-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) will present one of the few conventional offenses the Bulls are likely to encounter the rest of the season. Shirreffs is expected to line up under center in a two-tight formation behind an interior line averaging 307 pounds.
As a result, Allen indicated the Bulls likely will counter with a more conventional defensive look in lieu of their normal 4-2-5 base.
"They've got real good receivers too, I've been impressed with them as far as their ball skills, and a couple of good backs that fit their system," Allen said. "But any time you've got a good quarterback, that's the key. That's the one position that changes the team."
MOMENTARY MENTAL LAPSE: Allen attributed Syracuse's mild second-half rally Saturday to a brief "mental letdown" by his unit.
Immediately after the Bulls took a 24-3 lead on their now-famous reverse flea-flicker, Syracuse drove 72 yards in four plays, lowlighted by a Khalid McGee holding penalty and capped by a 30-yard Orange TD pass.
"We don't know how to have sustained success, and that's where you have to teach 'em that," Allen said after Wednesday's practice. "We got a little bit of a lead and we did what a lot of teams do that hasn't had that happen a lot: we let up.
"I will say this, I was real proud of our guys," he added. "You can watch any college football game, there's gonna be changes in momentum. ... And for us to stop that momentum and get it back, showed me a lot about our football team."
ODDS AND ENDS: The last eight games in the USF-UConn series have been decided by an average margin of 4.3 points. Neither team has scored more than 19 points in the last five meetings. ... TB Marlon Mack will be seeking his eighth career 100-yard game Saturday, which would tie him with B.J. Daniels for second all-time at USF. ... CB Deatrick Nichols, who made the AAC's weekly honor roll after his career game (seven tackles, forced fumble) against Syracuse, ran on the same 4x100-meter relay team at Miami Central High as FSU TB Dalvin Cook and Miami TB Joseph Yearby. ... Saturday's game is UConn's homecoming, the Bulls' second consecutive homecoming contest.
AUDIBLE: "I don't think the weather will be a factor. If anything, us being cooled off and us staying fresh, we may be fresher than ever this coming Saturday." -- offensive line coach Danny Hope on the weather in Hartford, where temperatures aren't expected to escape the 50s Saturday