Thursday, June 8, 2023
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CFB Preview: Connecticut Huskies vs Fresno State Bulldogs




» Saturday’s season opener will mark the Huskies’ first trip to the Golden State in program history. The farthest west the team has traveled for a game was the trip to Boise State on September 8, 2018. The Huskies also traveled over 2,200 miles to compete in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.


» Four Huskies hail from the state of California and Saturday’s contest will mark a homecoming of sorts for Diamond Harrell, Tre Wortham, D.J. Morgan, and Nilay Upadhyayula. Harrell is from Los Angeles, Wortham grew up in Stockton, Morgan is from Norwalk and Upadhyayula hails from San Jose.


» Today’s game marks the first time UConn opened the season on the road since traveling to Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on the Wolverines on September 4, 2010. The last time UConn won a season opener on the road was the previous season. The Huskies traveled to Athens, Ohio and defeated OU, 23-16, on September 5, 2009.


» During the 2019 season, senior running back Kevin Mensah joined Jordan Todman as only the second UConn running back in program history to rush for at least 1,000-yards in back-to-back seasons. Mensah enters today’s game 1,181 rushing yards shy of tying Donald Brown’s program record. He is also five-yards shy of Wilbur Gilliard’s fifth-place total and needs only 62-yards to tie Lyle McCombs for fourth place on UConn’s all-time rushing list.


» Wide receiver Cam Ross and linebacker Jackson Mitchell made strong first impressions during their true freshman year of 2019. Ross led UConn with 60 catches and 723 receiving yards and ranked second nationally among true freshmen in receptions per game (5.5) and total receptions. He also ranked fifth among freshmen in receiving yards and was selected as an Honorable Mention All-American by Pro Football Focus. Mitchell led the nation among true freshmen with 6.5 tackles per game and his 65 total tackles ranked third nationally among true freshmen. Mitchell is one of many Huskies who took advantage of the canceled 2020 season and worked extremely hard in the weight room. Mitchell competed at 210 lbs. during the 2019 season and will open 2021 at 229 lbs.


» Junior defensive tackle Travis Jones has earned a spot on the Bednarik Award Watch List, which is awarded annually to the best defensive player in college football. The Bednarik Award watch list is comprised of 90 candidates on the defensive side of the ball. Last year’s winner Zaven Collins (Tulsa) and fellow finalists Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) and Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) have all moved on to the NFL. The winners of the 2021 Maxwell and Bednarik Awards will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show held on December 9, 2021. The formal presentations of the Maxwell Award will be made at the Maxwell Football Club Awards Gala hosted by Tropicana Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on March 11, 2022.


» Travis Jones and offensive lineman Ryan Van Demark have been named to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List. The Reese’s Senior Bowl is the nation’s most prestigious college all-star game, as it annually serves as the first step of the NFL Draft process. The Reese’s Senior Bowl had 106 (41 percent) total players drafted and 36 selected in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. This year’s game will be held February 5, 2022 and broadcast on the NFL Network.


» Graduate student long snapper Brian Keating has earned a spot on the Patrick Mannelly and Wuerffel Trophy Watch Lists, while being honored as an AllState AFCA Good Works Team Nominee. The Mannelly Award recognizes the nation’s top senior long snapper while the Wuerffel Trophy is the country’s most prestigious award for community service.


» Junior defensive tackle Travis Jones, graduate student long snapper Brian Keating and senior left tackle Ryan Van Demark have been named team captains for the 2021 season, following a vote by their teammates.


» THE STADIUM: The Huskies moved into Rentschler Field in East Hartford for the 2003 season and are set to begin its 17th season as the home of UConn football. The stadium officially became known as Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in 2015. UConn has an all-time record of 63-47 at Rentschler Field and a 35-16 mark in non-conference games. UConn set a new all-time single-game attendance record at Rentschler Field on Sept. 21, 2013 against Michigan with a crowd of 42,704. That capacity was achieved with extra bleachers brought in for that game. Against ECU in 2017 the Huskies had a record-low crowd with an announced attendance of 14,036.






  • Fresno State and UConn are set to meet for the first time in program history on Saturday.




  • Fresno State Athletics is celebrating its centennial year and the 2021 football season will be the 100th season of competition in program history.


  • Fresno State – a three-time Mountain West Champion (2012, 2013 and 2018) – has played in four of the eight MW Championship Games. Fresno State’s four MW Championship Game appearances rank as the second-most by any MW program and the ’Dogs are one of three MW programs to have won at least three MW Championships since 2012.


  • Fresno State opens the 2021 season with four nonconference games: vs. UConn (Aug. 28), at Oregon (Sept. 4), vs. Cal Poly (Sept. 11) and at UCLA (Sept. 18).


  • After the Bulldogs’ Oct. 16 game at Wyoming, Fresno State is scheduled to play its final five regular season games in the state of California.


  • With Fresno State returning 20 of its 22 position starters from last season, those 20 returning starters own a collective 204 career games started between them (89 offense / 115 defense). Defensive tackle Kevin Atkins leads the team, and defense with 32 starts while Ronnie Rivers leads the offense with 30 career starts.


  • Quarterback Jake Haener (336.9 YPG, 64.7% completion percentage, 14 TDs) and wide receiver Jalen Cropper (86.7 YPG, 5 TDs) are two of the Bulldogs’ nine returning starters on offense, while defensive end David Perales (4 forced fumbles [No. 3 in NCAA]; 2 fumbles recovered [No. 12 in NCAA]) is one of the 11 defensive starters returning for the ’Dogs.


  • Fresno State had 14 players opt to utilize the blanket waiver for all 2020 fall sports student-athletes to retain a year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those entering their extra years are: Keric Wheatfall (WR), Arron Mosby (DE), Deonte Perry (DB), Ronnie Rivers (RB), Cesar Silva (K), Kenny Gagnon (DB), Kwami Jones (DE), Jason Diaz Jr. (DB), Jacob Westberry (LS), Matt Smith (OL), Alex Akingbulu (OL), Nick Abbs (OL), Juan Rodriguez (TE) and Kevin Atkins (DT).


  • The Bulldogs added four players to their 2021 spring rosters: defensive back DaRon Bland (Sacramento State), running back Jordan Wilmore (Utah), linebacker Tyson Maeva (Florida International) and kicker Abraham Montano (Hartnell College). Maeva is another player utilizing the additional year of eligibility provided by the waiver as a result of the pandemic.


  • Fresno State added 15 offensive newcomers, 18 defensive newcomers and two specialist newcomers in addition to the Bulldogs who joined the program in the spring.


  • While 14 players from last season opting to return for the 2021 season, Fresno State did have one upperclassman – offensive lineman Syrus Tuitlele – decide to start his professional career. Tuitlele signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills this spring after making 26 starts at right tackle over the past three seasons for

the Bulldogs.


  • The Bulldogs have five sixth-year players, who started their respective careers at Fresno State in 2016 (Deonte Perry, Kenny Gagnon, Jacob Westberry, Matt Smith & Kevin Atkins).


  • Position Changes: Arron Mosby (LB>DE); Matt Lowe (TE> OL); Reggie Strong (DB>H)




Saturday will be the 13th game against an FBS Independent program for Fresno State. The Bulldogs enter with an 8-4 overall record in those games, and are winners of seven of their last eight. The ‘Dogs last win came at New Mexico State on Sept. 28, 2019. Fresno State’s last home victory over an Independent program came in a 20-13 victory over BYU (Nov. 4, 2017).


Fresno State vs Independents

Date Opponent Result

09/28/19 at New Mexico State W, 30-17

11/4/17 BYU W, 20-13

11/21/15 at BYU L, 52-10

10/5/13 at Idaho W, 61-14

12/1/01 vs. Utah State W, 70-21

10/3/92 vs. Louisiana Tech W, 48-14

10/21/91 vs. Long Beach St. W, 42-14

9/7/91 vs. Northern Illinois W, 55-7

10/6/90 at Northern Illinois L, 73-18

11/7/81 vs. UNLV W, 42-26

9/13/80 at UNLV L, 35-6

11/3/79 vs. UNLV L, 31-28

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