Monday, September 18, 2006

Emergency mailbag

I've had to talk a few readers off the ledge after Saturday's loss to Wake Forest. Got a bunch of emails from folks who are convinced the season is already over. My replies were all pretty much the same. Something along the lines of it's only one game, no need to pack it in just yet. I felt a little like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, holding up my arms and shouting "Remain calm! All is well!" as choas erupts all around. Here's one mailbag letter that sums up my feelings.

Question: You predicted UConn to be 5-1 heading into the West Virginia game, with the loss at South Florida. After seeing Saturday's less than stellar UConn performance, would you change that prediction? I was unimpressed,
-- Sal Vucci, Ampipe High School, Ampipe, Penn.

CM: First things first, Sal. How's the team at Ampipe this season? Are you guys finally going to beat Walnut Heights? Forget about that fumble that cost you the game against them last time. Just a bad call by coach Nickerson not to take the safety. Have you spoken to Stefan Georgeovich lately? How's he doing at Cal-Poly?

Anyway, I'm standing pat on my preseason predictions. There's no doubt that was a bad loss to a mediocre Wake Forest team. The Huskies made three glaring mistakes. The two missed kicks and the interception. Those things will happen. The difference Saturday is Wake Forest played almost mistake free football. Their only turnover came on their first possession (Marvin Taylor sack, forces fumble, recovered by Rhema Fuller deep in Wake territory). It would have been a costly error, maybe one that would have changed the tone of the game completely. But D.J. threw the interception three plays later that went the other way for a TD. Other than that, Wake managed to stay out of trouble. They had major problems moving the football against the UConn defense. Randy Edsall noted the Demon Deacons had five big plays for 149 yards, but netted only 60 yards on their other 49 plays from scrimmage. That's huge.

It's tough to really get on the Huskies offense, too. They moved the ball fairly well, and were somewhat balanced (though the run game is obviously the strong suit). If there's a cause for concern, it's the 2-minute offense. UConn isn't a big-play offense that can strike quickly when time is winding down. At least not yet. The Huskies have to grind things out with the run to set up the pass, and most drives will be time consuming. In situations where they need to score fast, that could hamstring them.

Still, the schedule is loaded with competitive, but winnable games leading into the Oct. 20 West Virginia contest, starting with an Indiana squad that just lost to Division I-AA Southern Illinois (which had never beaten a I-A team before). Here's the thing. All of those games will be like Wake Forest, close games that may not be decided until the final minutes. If UConn learns to keep poised and confident in crunch time, there's no reason it can't be 5-1 when the Mountaineers come to town. There's no reason to feel otherwise as long as the defense stays tough, because it won't be easy to win shootouts against quality opponents. The crux is that if the opposite occurs, UConn could be on the brink of bowl elimination by that day too.

And to those who are scratching their heads after reading my opening paragraph, rent "All the Right Moves", a classic high school football movie that takes place in a Western Pennsylvania steel town starring Tom Cruise from the early 1980s. I have a pretty good idea who sent me this email, and his name isn't Sal Vucci.

Q: Matt Applebaum was hurt late in the Wake Forest game, but I didn't see any updates. What is his status? Will he play against Indiana? And is Dan Murray ready to come back?
-- Rich, Branford.

A: Applebaum's legs were cramping against Wake, and he is OK. No word on Murray or defensive end Jason Ward yet. I expect to hear more Tuesday at the weekly media lunch.


Blogger Vinny From East Haven said...

I hate to say "I told you so", but....

If you're talking people off the ledge now, just wait until West Virginia puts up 70 points on them.

September 19, 2006 2:48 PM 
Anonymous Coach Nickerson said...


Who do you think Sal Vucci is? Folks here in Ampipe really want to know.



PS: Do you think Randy Edsall is looking for a new Assistant? I need to get out of this hellhole town.

September 20, 2006 12:26 AM 
Anonymous Alex said...

Randy Edsall did a stellar job as the architect and program builder of the UConn football team, but we really are moving beyond that phase of this evolution at this point.

I'm not sure we have the pieces in place to get to the point where we can count on 8-9 wins each season. In fact, it's fairly obvious that we don't !

Sorry, but the offensive playcalling by him and his staff was abysmal last season and it was abysmal in this past game. Maybe abysmal is too strong a word, how about pedestrian?

It was obvious to anyone who watched that game that UConn had better athletes on the field than Wake Forest, but predictable playcalling is really what held the Huskies back.

Why did DJ have such a bad second half? Grobe and his staff are smart and they made sound adjustments at the second half. Somehow they improved the pass coverage to a point that led to some momentum sucking coverage sacks. That and have I mentioned that the playcalling was horribly predictable?

Do you think perhaps that the playcalling was automated?

The OC Rob Ambrose is essentially Norries Wilson II. What we really needed was someone from the outside to come in and shake things up. Edsall didn't do this because he is afraid that bringing in an outside element might upstage him. But sorry Randy, your offense needs major help. Our athletes will give this team 2-3 scoring drives a game, but after that any decent defense will adjust and shut the team down.

With the way recruiting is going, and with the way our automated playcalling is going, I can't really see this program winning more than 6-7 games even in its best years. We don't play Lehigh and four other MAC schools every year.

I don't want to hear all of this jive about how facilities will help recuiting.... Stanford has incredible facilities. There are plenty of bad programs that have great facilities.

Time for you to man up Randy. Time to bring in a real professional OC and some coaches that can recruit and attract some seriously good talent to this program. Time for you get offensive coordinator with a little imagination.

Time for you to get a legit kicker and QB that actually looks comfortable playing that position.

September 20, 2006 9:47 AM 

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