Sunday, October 08, 2006

South Florida blues: the day after

Hated to leave Tampa today, but it had to be done. I could have used another day or two of that weather and the swimming pool. ... A couple of Sunday updates...William Beatty has a broken leg and will most likely miss the rest of the season. He is scheduled for surgery early this week. ... Graig Vicidomino will be the field goal and extra point kicker for the Army game on Saturday. Matt Nuzie will handle kickoffs. ... Allan Barnes is questionable for Army with a hamstring pull. ... The man left behind on Friday, Dahna Deleston, returns to his starting position Saturday. And how do you show up 40 minutes late for a meeting? I can see 5. Fifteen maybe. But 40? Come on.


Two weeks ago the University of Connecticut's defensive unit was the team's saving grace.

Coach Randy Edsall had lost faith in an offense that was piling up almost as many turnovers as first downs playing at Indiana. So Edsall went conservative on offense and put the game in the hands of his defense, which overwhelmed the Hoosiers in a 14-7 UConn victory.

But after Saturday's 38-16 Big East Conference loss at South Florida, the second consecutive blowout loss for the Huskies, it appears the defense isn't at all what it was thought to be. UConn was exposed and exploited by another mobile quarterback both on the ground and in the air.

Matt Grothe, the Bulls' redshirt freshman quarterback and an apparent star in the making, rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another despite missing part of the second quarter after being carried off the field with a foot injury.

A week earlier, Navy's Brian Hampton ran roughshod over the Huskies in a 41-17 victory.

UConn (2-3, 0-1) had no answer for Grothe, who ran for 58 of his 82 yards after his injury and found a disturbing amount of wide open receivers in completing 12-of-15 passes for 146 yards. Meanwhile, walk-on tailback Benjamin Williams rushed for a career-high 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

Outside the UConn lockerroom in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium afterward, senior defensive tackle and co-captain Rhema Fuller took responsibility for the defensive downfall.

"It's my fault," Fuller said. "I'm the captain of the defense and the captain of this team. This is the second week in a row we lost the game for our team. It starts with me. I take full blame for what's going on out there."

It was admirable of Fuller. But the problems appear to be much deeper than one player's self-perceived lack of leadership.

The Huskies are in disarray as a unit. They can't stop the pass. They can't stop the run. They are vulnerable to the big play, especially early.

After Grothe scored from 16 yards out on South Florida's first play from scrimmage, it marked the third consecutive time an opponent needed only one play to score on UConn to start a half. Navy did it twice a week earlier.

The streak was snapped in the second half Saturday, but it was hardly comforting considering the Bulls needed only six plays to score on their opening drive of the half.

When Grothe pump-faked UConn defensive end Dan Davis off his feet, then spun away and rambled in from 8-yards out to turn a five-point game into a 21-9 Bulls' lead, it was all over but the shouting.

"I was psyched," Grothe said. "I knew as soon as we scored the game was over not because we were up, but they're not a good enough team to score three or four times against our defense."

So true. Edsall admitted the same sentiments after the game. Offense and kicking woes only add to the faultering Huskies, whose season is spiraling out of control. While it's still mathematically possible for UConn to become bowl eligible, it seems like a pipe dream given the current state of affairs.

Right now, the Huskies need to fix a myriad of problems and focus simply on trying to win another game.

Finally, let me finish today with a rant on the Yankees. I think Joe Torre has done a good job considering what's happened injury-wise this season. I was preparing for no postseason when Sheffield, Matsui and Cano went down in the span of a couple weeks this spring. But the Yanks still ran away with the division. That said, I won't be disappointed if he's fired although I'd rather watch Joe picking his nose for nine innings in the dugout than Lou Piniella yelling at everyone and everything that gets in his way. Sweet Lou was one of my favorite players when I first started following the team in the late-70s. But everyone made such a big deal about him returning home to coach the Devil Rays and he mailed it in the entire time he was there. His time as a big league manager is passed.

As for player personnel, they need to do whatever it takes to unload A-Rod and his contract in the offseason. I haven't hated a Yankee this much since Chuck Knoblauch. I'd love to see A-Rod traded to Florida for Dontrelle Willis. I'm also prepared to say 'adios' to Mussina, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Bernie and Sheffield for some young arms and bullpen help.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree on Lou Pinheadella....worst choice they could make. Is Joe Girardi still available? He has shown he's got what it takes....knows the Yankee system.

Is there any chance at all, outside of Bones and DJ both getting hurt, that we see D Brown at QB this year?

Not good with Beatty going down for QB's....inexperienced, spotty OL just got younger and spottier. Might be time for DJ to come back and just roll him out every pass play.

(Could RE use a little help in calling a trick play? I could write one up for him if he needs one.) Can you say vanilla?

October 08, 2006 7:03 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even a trick play requires a solid, experienced offesnsive line and good speed players. Right now, UConn doesn't have the ingredients. Could we start with not running Caulley straight up the middle too many times in a game (or a row)?

Lou Allen doesn't have Caulley's speed (which is still nothing close to his pre-injury speed), but he does have the size to make up for small to no holes. Maybe someone can plant a seed with the OC Ambrose and Edsall, use Allen more often on runs up the middle or even outside.

October 08, 2006 8:09 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously the offensive line needs to come around but I agree the UCONN offense has become too predictable: Caulley up the middle
for two downs and then a short pass to the sidelines and a punt. Why don't they get the tight end involved for more than two passes a game?
Even in the Orlovsky years Edsall always seems reluctant to throw over the middle even though it's often wide open.

October 10, 2006 10:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it all starts with the offensive line. the last 2 games the huskies had 3rd & 1 & ran up the middle for a lost yard. if you can't run the ball, how do you expect to pass? against army TC had 98 yds on 1 run & 40 on the rest. thats terrible. and how many passes are knocked down? the o-line has to improve for this offense to get better. but i don't see it happening soon.

October 16, 2006 7:55 PM 

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