Friday, September 29, 2006

College picks, week 4

The picks weren't pretty again last week, but then again I am choosing from the best games each weekend. I went 4-5-2, one game better than Jim and Manny. Rough week for Vinny from East Haven, who had a 1-8-2 record. My season record through three weeks is 15-17-4. My goal is to get above .500 this weekend, then cruise on into the bowl games. On to this week's picks.

Game 1: Rutgers (-4.5) over SOUTH FLORIDA: Scarlet Knight broke the top 25 for the first time since the 70s. Perfect time to slip up, but I don't think they will.

Game 2: Toledo (+16.5) over PITT: Corporal Klinger's favorite team has played two overtime games against Big 12 opponents. They should stay somewhat close to Pitt.

Game 3: Navy (+2) over UCONN: The Huskies offense didn't look so hot against Indiana. Bones will provide a spark, but this will be a one-point game.

Game 4: SYRACUSE (-5) over Wyoming: The only good athlete to ever come out of Wyoming was Fennis Dembo. And that was almost 20 years ago.

Game 5: CINCINNATI (-11.5) over Miami-Ohio: Can anyone figure out these MAC teams? Bearcats have been tough against the spread, and they should cover at home.

And a selection of non-Big East games...
Game 6: Ohio State (-7) over IOWA: Have a feeling this one wont even be close.
Game 7: Michigan (-10) over MINNESOTA
Game 8: Virginia (-5) over DUKE: UConn plays on the road at both schools next season
Game 9: Missouri (-16) over COLORADO
Game 10: Purdue (+14) over NOTRE DAME

And for the weekly local special...
Game 11: Trinity (-5) over WILLIAMS: Can the Bantams extend the nation's longest win streak to 31? It won't be easy, but the answer is yes.

Don't forget to enter the Malafronte Challenge. Make your picks by clicking the "comments" link below.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's the all-movie team!!

Randy Edsall held his Thursday media conference call. Not much news to report. Tight end Dan Murray practiced at full speed this week, and may or may not play. Defensive end Jason Ward is getting reps witht he scout team and could be getting closer. That's about it.

A couple of quick thoughts and observations...
  • I'm sick and tired of the T.O. hub-bub. But my physical therapist made an interesting comment about his injury. Both T.O. and Bill Parcells claim the injury, a fracture of the fourth metacarpal, occured during a block. Unlikely, my PT says. That injury is common in boxers, and is almost always the result of punching someone or something.

  • Some solid reads over the last week from Sports Illustrated. An experpt of Michael Lewis' new book on the evolution of the left tackle from last week's edition was interesting. This week's mag includes a feature on Steve Slaton of West Virginia and a smaller, notebook item on Army's turnaround.

  • I've been spending way too much time and money on lottery tickets the last few days. Do they accept people into gambler's anonymous for buying too many scratch-offs?

Since I have nothing else, and way too much free time apparently, here is my team of the all-time best football movie characters.

QB - Reno Hightower (played by Kurt Russell in Best of Times): "He's wearing his white shoes!" Kurt Russell plays Hightower, the ex-high school star now a down and out van detailer who is talked into replaying the biggest game of his high school career by Robin Williams -- who dropped the game-winning touchdown pass and has been haunted by it ever since. Russell played minor league baseball, and was believable as a quarterback. Also some funny lines in a very funny movie from the 80s. Honorable mention to Paul Crewe (the Burt Reynolds version) and Paul Blake (Scott Bakula in Necessary Roughness).

RB - Boobie Miles (from Friday Night Lights): "Watch me spin, coach. Y'all wanna win, put Boobie in". Miles, of course, was an actual player from H.G. Bissinger's book about the 1988 Permian High football team. Derek Luke nails the role. Some great lines, too. "I get straight A's. I'm a athlete." I also love the Boobie highlights in the season-opener set to Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise". Perhaps the best football movie ever made. Honorable mention: Omar Epps as Darnell Jefferson in The Program. Also to Sal Vucci from All the Right Moves, if only because he is a dedicated reader of "The Runway" blog.

WR - Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire): OK, this isn't a football movie. It's a chick flick in disguise, just like Bull Durham is a chick flick disguised as a baseball movie. But whenever I'm flipping through the channels and come across Jerry Maguire, I'll pause long enough to see Rod Tidwell's scenes. "Jerry Maguire... How'm I doing? I'm sweating dude! I'm sweatin' my contract!" Honorable mention: Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty.

Center - Manumana from Unnecessary Roughness: "Stop! Or you will anger me!" Nothing much to say about the performance from the 400-pound Samoan who played both ways. Oh, great sack dance.

CB - Stefan Djordjevic (played by Tom Cruise in All the Right Moves): "We didn't quit! You quit!" Long before he turned into a couch-jumping, Scientology-fueled weirdo, Cruise had a few good roles as high school-aged kids. Watching this movie, you didn't care that Cruise, at 5-foot-2 and 150 pounds, would never have been getting looks from college recruiters. He learned life lessons -- like play the man, not the ball; don't dump garbage on the coach's lawn -- and got to do a nude scene with Leah Thompson. Honorable mention: Dr. Death from Best of Times.

LB - Bobby Boucher (played by Adam Sandler in The Waterboy): This movie is so stupid at times it's painful. But there's also a ton of hilarious scenes. And Bobby Boucher knocking the crap out of people never gets old. "Jackknife Power Bomb. Courtesy of Captain Insaneo." I also think they should rename one of the Louisiana bowl games The Bourbon Bowl. Tell me you're not with me on that. Honorable mention: Charles Jefferson (played by Forrest T. Whitaker in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and Ivory "Preacherman" Christian in Friday Night Lights.

K: Lucy Draper (played by Kathy Ireland in Necessary Roughness): Kathy Ireland at her finest in the early 1990's.

Coach - Wayne Hisler (played by the late Paul Gleason in Johnny B. Goode): Gleason is an actor I will truly miss. This is the guy who cracked me up as Clarence Beeks in Trading Places and Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club, among other great roles. He's my coach mainly for the opening scene of this otherwise forgettable film, when he accentuates his pregame speech before the state championship game by putting his fist through a glass water cooler. Later, he predates Jack Cochrane by leaving his first string in the game even though it's 68-0, and barks to his offense "Punch it in there! I want another score!" The rest of the movie pretty much sucks. Honorable mention: Tony D'Amato (played by Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday), any of Craig T. Nelson's 35 football coaching roles, Billy Bob Thornton as Gary Gaines in Friday Night Lights. Probably 12 others I could name, as well.

Mr. Versitility: Duane Davis. Don't know who Duane Davis is? All you need to do is see his photo. He made a career out of roles as a football player. Everything from hard-nosed linebacker (Alvin Mack in The Program) to wide receivers with bad hands (Featherstone in Necessary Roughness) to wide receivers with, well, sure hands (Ronny "Sure Hands" Rawlson in How I Got into College). He also played a high school football player who spent the entire movie in the bathroom in Summer School. Honorable mention: Andrew Bryniarski and Eric Bruskotter.

Duane Davis has been in every football movie ever made

Duane Davis (center) and Andrew Bryniarski (far right), football everymen

Worst portrayals of football players: Joe Kane in The Program. Guess this guy was cast because he looked a little like Joe Montana. But Joe Montana was never this whiny and downright annoying. There also isn't such a thing as a 5-foot-4, 130-pound quarterback Heisman candidate. Honorable mention: Jonathan Moxon (played by Jared van der Beek in Varsity Blues), Tweeder from Varsity Blues. Screw it. The entire cast of Varsity Blues.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Welcome back, Bones

Thanks to another malfunctioning airplane and incompetent ticket agents, I was stuck in the Indianapolis airport on Sunday for several hours before being told I wouldn't be able to leave until Monday. How is it possible in this day and age to oversell a flight? It's seems like simple arithmetic. There are 50 seats on the plane. Therefore, you can't sell tickets to more than 50 people. For some reason, computers still don't prevent this from happening.

That's not the only thing the folks at this particular airline screwed up. I won't say which airline it was -- I'll just say it was a U.S. Airline. After waking up at 4 a.m. to catch the 6 a.m. flight to LaGuardia, I went to pick up my bag and discovered it wasn't put on the plane. The baggage claim agent at LaGuardia, a rather rotund woman who introduced herself as Miss Shirley, spent 30 minutes trying to track down my bag before telling me no one knew where it was. Thanks. Rumor has it my bag recently arrived at Bradley airport after a whirlwind tour of the country. I'll believe it when I see it.

My point is, I have been too exhausted to update the blog the last two days. But I'm ready to check in after we found out about our new quarterback at the Tuesday media luncheon.

By now, most of you are already aware Matt Bonislawski will start for D.J. against Navy on Saturday. Bones has been a forgotten man since camp opened. His name is even misspelled in the UConn media guide (he's listed as Matt Bonislawaski). He was only the team's top quarterback a year ago. And Bones is more than capable of jump-starting a passing game that has struggled under D.J.

A quick refresher. Last season, he lost only two of his seven starts; against a nationally-ranked Georgia Tech team on the road in a game no one thought the Huskies could win anyway, and on the road at Pitt when he returned from a broken collarbone two weeks earlier than anticipated. Bones threw seven interceptions a year ago, but three came in that Pitt game with a shoulder that was clearly not 100 percent. He doesn't have a Brett Favre arm, and is aware of his own limitations. "I'm the first to admit I'm not the most talented guy," Bonislawski said. "I'm not going to throw for 300 yards every game." However, he's a tough, athletic kid who was named high school player of the year in football and basketball by his hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania. He runs well, rarely fumbles and exudes confidence in the huddle.

The players are embracing the move. A couple of quotes from others...

"It should be a good shot in the arm for the offense." -- defensive tackle Rhema Fuller.

"Bones is more confident in the huddle than D.J. He knows where to put the ball and that you're only supposed to hold it for so long. ... It's great that we ran the ball 53 times a week ago. That's fun as an offensive lineman. But we know against real good teams that's not going to work, they're just going to stack the box. We have to have a balanced offense to come around." -- offensive lineman Matt Applebaum.

As for Bones, obviously he's excited. But he's also empathetic for D.J. "I told (Hernandez) I know how it is," Bonislawski said. "Last year after the Georgia Tech game everone was saying they wanted him to replace me. It's sad really. But I told him it doesn't really matter what anyone else says."

My feeling is as long is Bones is healthy, he should be able to move the ball against Navy, South Florida and Army over the next three games. Keep in mind those are all winnable games (as opposed to West Virginia) and would put the Huskies at 5-1 heading into that game and in the driver's seat for a bowl game.

Is Bones healthy? He says the spring was real tough on him because he couldn't do much with his shoulder. When I spoke to Bonislawski early in camp in August, he said his shoulder was feeling much better. On Tuesday, he said he's taken plenty of hits in practice and has held up.

Edsall reaffirmed that the plan is to redshirt sophomore Dennis Brown this season, and said Brown wasn't even considered for the job.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Postgame notes

A few quick postgame notes....

My take: There's no arguing a victory on the road against a Big Ten opponent. UConn's defense looked fantastic, and could be better than it was a year ago. From the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary, it was an A effort for the D. The passing game left a lot to be desired. UConn's receivers are having problems getting open, and D.J. is having problems getting them the ball. The Huskies can't run on every down and rely on the defense every game. The passing game must improve.


D.J. sprained his left wrist in the first half, the same one he injured last year. Neither he or Randy Edsall made it sound like it was serious, but it concerned Edsall enough that he questioned whether Hernandez could handle snaps in the final series. As a precaution, Matt Bonislawski took the final snaps. It might be something to watch.

Ryan Henegan is out of Randy Edsall's doghouse. He started and played well Saturday. Great job by Ryan. Now if we can just get him to work on his interview skills.

Darius Butler will be an NFL player. He has the speed, skills and athleticism. And as Chuck Banning of the New London Day pointed out, opposing teams are avoiding throwing the ball Butler's way more and more.

Terry Caulley was awesome on Saturday. It didn't take Indiana long to figure out the Huskies were going to run on every play. The Hoosiers were loading up the box, waiting for the run. Caulley still averaged five yards per carry, and hammered it 31 times for the game. Speaks volumes about him, and the offensive line as well. Caulley said Matt Applebaum has become the emotional leader of the line. "You hear his voice, and it's a rush. You think if he feels we can do this, you just want to feed off it and do big things pounding the ball."

I couldn't have been less impressed with the entire Memorial Stadium experience. This is Big a Ten football program? The announced crowd was over 27,000, but I would have guessed it was more like 15,000. Granted, the weather didn't help the situation. But the place was dead. No atmosphere at all. The operations in the press box were about as bad as I've seen, too. Division II programs are more hospitable.

Indiana plays Ohio State in four weeks. Pray for the Hoosiers.

More observations from Bloomington

Woke up this morning, got a coffee and drove around the IU campus. Weather here is dark, and there was talk of possible tornadoes for Bloomington today. It's gonna be ugly. A few more observations...
  • I keep harping on Breaking Away, but they really took to that movie here. The Convention and Travel bureau's slogan is Break Away, and it headlines all the local brochures. There's also packs of cyclists everywhere you look around campus. You'd think the movie, made in 1979, was in theaters right now. Actually, I think it's playing at the Bloomington Googleplex.

  • The IU campus is beautiful. Limestone buildings, lots of trees, people everywhere. I drove past the football stadium around 9:45 a.m., and there were already tailgaters setting up. Hope they brought ponchos.

  • Among IU's famous alumni...Jane Pauley, Marc Cuban, Dick Enberg, Kevin Kline and Dave Stoller.

  • My WTF moment of the trip...Gas is selling as cheap as $1.99 per gallon here. I paid $2.59 a gallon yesterday before driving to the airport. As Gilbert Gottfried would say... Hey Connecticut, ...WTF!?!

  • Think they don't still worship Bobby Knight here? I stopped in a local sporting goods store, and was checking out some of the gear (bought a sweet Colts cap, by the way). There was as much Texas Tech merchandise for sale as IU stuff. Literally racks and racks of Texas Tech T-shirts and sweatshirts, twice as much stock as the Indiana Pacers stuff.

  • I grew up idolizing Larry Bird. In fact, I still watch Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend on DVD at least once every six months. I noticed French Lick isn't too far from Bloomington. I really want to go there and get in a pickup basketball game just to see what it's like. Would everyone on the court be lumbering, somewhat unathletic farm boys with wispy moustaches who can shoot the lights out and pass like they had a sixth sense? With my knee, I can't do it. But I'm considering driving through and finding hoop just to shoot for a little while.

  • All indications are that Blake Powers will play quarterback for Indiana today. He practiced all week on his ankle, and reports are that it held up well. But with the Old Testament weather forecast, it might not be worth the risk for the Hoosiers. Guess we'll see in a few hours....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ain't that America

For sportswriters, the road can be a mixed bag. It can be a fun, rewarding experience or a colossal hassle. Traveling for college football is relatively stress free. There are only a handful of away games and they are usually spread out over the course of the season as opposed to being a baseball or basketball beat writer, where you're traveling much more frequently.

I enjoy hitting the road, especially when it brings me to places I've never been. Indiana falls into that category. I did go to Notre Dame three years ago when Yale went out for a two-game hockey series. But this is my first opportunity to see the heartland. So my preconceived vision of what Bloomington came mainly from John Cougar Mellencamp music videos from the 80s and the movie Breaking Away.

When I touched down in Indanapolis after my flight from LaGuardia, got my bags and hopped in the rental car to make the 1-hour drive south to Bloomington, I was encouraged to turn on the radio and immediately hear Mellencamp's "Pink Houses". It was sort of like reliving those old MTV videos as I drove down Indiana State Road 37, checking out endless miles of farmland and little mom-and-pop businesses that occasionally sprouted out of nowhere with names like "The Plaster Shak".

This was exactly what I imagined. Upon crossing the Bloomington city line, I kept a keen eye out for Dennis Quaid driving around town in a souped up '68 Nova with Daniel Stern and Moocher sitting in the back seat as IU students pointed, laughed and called them Cutters. I was also hoping to see a goofy looking blonde-haired kid racing 18-wheelers on his 10-speed bike and pretending to be Italian.

Alas, I didn't see them. Maybe that was because the weather in Bloomington is downright nasty right now...pouring rain, thunder and lightning for the last few hours. The forecast calls for more of the same tomorrow, so it could be unfavorable offensive conditions for the Huskies and Hoosiers.

A little later, as I was driving around looking for a restaurant that wasn't too busy, I listened to the Indiana University student radio station's college football show. Let's just say the guys hosting the show, students, by the way, aren't too encouraged with the Hoosiers. They were absolutely killing the team for scheduling Division I-AA Southern Illinois last weekend, then losing to them at home. IU supporters had anticipated a 4-0 start (tomorrow's game with UConn included, of course). They mentioned how IU coach Terry Hoeppner was in the press box last weekend -- just three days after brain surgery -- for the Southern Illinois game, and that the team embarrassed themselves, Hoeppner and the school. Needless to say, their expecations heading into tomorrow are considerably lower. They are expecting a small crowd and praying the Hoosiers don't lose again.

I'll check in again tomorrow pregame. I'm going back out to look for Jackie Earle Haley and a few Cutters.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Malafronte challenge, week 3

A few random Thursday night thoughts before I head off to Bloomington in the morning...

  • The Marvin Taylor saga ended earlier this afternoon when Randy Edsall announced he had dismissed him from the team. Absolutely the right decision considering Taylor was already given a second chance last spring. But don't expect it to be a quiet ending.

  • Disappointing season premier of my favorite TV show, "The Office", tonight. I'll just leave it at that.

  • Thanks to those who gave me suggestions to solve my Sirius satellite radio problems. I've found it works much better at night, but I'm getting major interference from every radio station I try during the day. Incredibly frustrating.

  • To the people who order frappachino's, macchiato's and all those other annoying drinks that take 15 minutes to make at Starbucks...just go to an ice cream shop. All I want is my plain old cup of Joe and to get the heck out of Starbucks.

  • If you're ever driving on Rte. 15 through Fairfield County and are in the mood for a delicious, mildly greasy lunch, try the Merritt Canteen just off exit 48 around the Trumbull/Bridgeport line. Best hot dogs around (aside from Chick's on the West Haven beach).

  • I drafted Edgerrin James and Willis McGahee with my first two fantasy football picks. Shocker... my squad is 0-2.

  • Just a hunch, but Dan Murray will not only play on Saturday, he'll catch a TD pass.

Now, onto the Malafronte Challenge, week 3. Everybody had a tough time last weekend. I went 6-7-2, just 3-3-1 in Big East games. No one who entered did better than 7-6-2. The Big East winner? None other than Vinny from East Haven at 4-2-1.

Here are my picks for week 3:

Game 1: Louisville (-14) over KANSAS STATE: No Brohm, no problem. UConn fans know his backup, Hunter Cantwell, could start for most any other team in the country.

Game 2: VIRGINIA TECH (-28) over Cincinnati: Will come down to how bad the Hokies feel like laying it on Cincy. If they're merciful, Bearcats might cover.

Game 3: UConn (+2.5) over INDIANA: Huskies win this one on the field.

Game 4: West Virginia (-21.5) over EAST CAROLINA: Is it me or does 21.5 seem kind of low?

Game 5: KANSAS (-6) over South Florida: Can't figure out either of these teams. Kansas is home, they should cover.

Game 6: SYRACUSE (-7) over Miami-Ohio: Orange much improved despite 1-2 record.

And the selected non-Big East games...

Game 7: Penn State (+17) over OHIO STATE

Game 8: Notre Dame (-3) over MICHIGAN STATE

Game 9: Boston College (-7) over NC STATE

Game 10: MICHIGAN (-14.5) over Wisconsin

Game 11 (the weekly New Haven special): Yale (+5.5) over CORNELL: Bulldogs rebound after getting hammered by coach Jim Harbaugh's San Diego squad last week.

Don't forget to enter by clicking on the "comments" box below and making your picks!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We need speed. Speed's what we need. Greasy, fast speed!

There is a famous scene in Rocky II where Mickey, the crusty old school boxing trainer, decides that Rocky is too much of a lumbering oaf to beat the champ, Apollo Creed.

So Mickey, saying this was how fighters increased their speed in the old days, lets a live chicken loose in a back alley and tells Rocky "if you can catch this little chicken, you can catch greased lightning!"

Rocky spends the next few minutes chasing the chicken around in circles as it darts around like, well, a chicken with its head cut off while Mickey screams things like "what's the matter, can't you catch a little chicken?". Rocky finally gets tired and gives up, stating he feels like a Kentucky fried idiot.

This scene was the first thing that sprung to mind as I gleefully watched Larry Taylor returning kicks against Wake Forest on Saturday. Granted, I watch way too much TV and have seen the Rocky movies roughly 500 times each (with the exception of Rocky V, which I refuse to ever watch again). But humor me for a moment.

On those returns, Taylor was like the chicken. The Demon Deacons were like Rocky (sans the gray high-water sweatpants hiked up to his chest and the black Chuck Taylors). Taylor ran around, between and over would-be tacklers. He may have even ducked through a set of legs, but I didn't get a good look at the replay. It was, to say the least, impressive. If you've seen the movie and if you saw LT's run backs, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

If there were any lingering doubts as to how Taylor’s knee would hold up following anterior cruciate ligament surgery last October, consider it a dead issue.

Taylor has showed he hasn’t lost any of his trademark explosiveness and elusiveness through the Huskies first two games. In fact, Taylor, whose 27.3 yards-per punt return ranks second in the nation, says his knee feels better than ever.

"It’s like I never even had ACL surgery," Taylor said. "I feel like I’m able to do some things now I couldn’t even do before."

Safe money says that from here on out opposing punters will do everything and everything to keep the ball out of Taylor’s hands. That decision won’t take long after opponents watch game tape of Taylor in action against Rhode Island and Wake Forest.

Last Saturday, the Demon Deacons stopped kicking to Taylor after just two returns. Smart choice. Rocky, after several sessions, eventually caught the chicken in the movie. Opposing teams don't even want to take the chance. Taylor is simply on another level when it comes to kick returns.

"My advantage being small and quick is that I can be elusive on the field and make guys miss," says Taylor, a junior who is just 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds. "As I’m going, I don’t really realize what I’m doing. I’m just reacting off my instincts."

Taylor is often surprised when he sees the game tape. Everything happens so fast during his returns that it’s all just a blur in Taylor’s mind. Opponents whose job is to tackle him have felt the same way since Taylor arrived at UConn.

But there was some question as to whether Taylor would regain his old form.

He tore his ACL returning a kick at Cincinnati last October, and underwent season-ending surgery.

Following the procedure, Taylor put in nearly six months of rehabilitation to regain full function of the knee. He was kept out of spring practice as a precaution, but said by the time preseason camp began in August he was feeling 100 percent.

That’s showed in the numbers. Taylor returned two punts for 49 yards in the opener against Rhode Island, then returned another for 33 yards against Wake Forest. He also returned a kickodd 29 yards against the Demon Deacons.

Both teams decided it would be beneficial to change their strategies. They kicked away from Taylor or hanged punts as high as possible so Taylor was forced to fair catch, even if it meant much shorter kicks.

UConn coach Randy Edsall is preparing for much of the same the rest of the season.

"(That strategy) is a credit to Larry and a credit to our guys on special teams," Edsall said. "It shows the level of respect commanded on the field."

Said Taylor, "It does get frustrating at times when they kick away from you. Hopefully we can come up with some type of schemes to adjust for that if we see they’re going to be doing that early in the game."

Perhaps the opposing coaches can prepare for Taylor like Mickey would, and toss a live chicken on the gridiron. Couldn't hurt, right?

Marvin's legal woes, Applebaum's power and Sirius radio

For those who may have missed it, the big story coming out of Tuesday's media luncheon was safety Marvin Taylor's arrest for making purchases with an illegally obtained credit card number. Here's the link: Marvin's arrest

On Wednesday, UConn announced Taylor had been suspended indefinitely pending legal action. He will continue to go to classes, but will not participate in anything football related. The school had no further comment. Taylor is due in Rockville court on Tuesday. Expect Allan Barnes to start against Indiana.

The bigger issue here is how this will all affect Taylor's future on the team. If the allegations are true, it would be strike two for Taylor, who was arrested last spring along with a handful of other players in the infamous pellet gun incident in Willimantic. Taylor was granted accelerated rehabilitation and two years probation by a Superior Court judge along with Donta Moore and Tyvon Branch. So Taylor's already had his second chance. Will Randy Edsall give him a third?

Eleswhere Tuesday, a couple of reporters met with Terry Caulley before the media lunch (and Terry's class) began. He said he is fine, and will be ready for the Indiana game after an injury sidelined him late against Wake Forest Saturday. Caulley said he was advised to come out of the game and taken to the hospital as a precaution for excruciating pain shooting through his midsection and ribcage. Everything checked out, and he practiced Sunday and Tuesday.

Edsall said offensive lineman Matt Applebaum is the strongest player at UConn. Applebaum, when asked, confirmed it. How strong is the 6-foot-3, 292-pound guard? At the end of the summer he power cleaned 325, bench pressed 460 and squatted 600. Not too shabby. This got me curious, so for the heck of it I checked up on the world records. A man in California named Scot Mendelson benched 1,008 pounds in February, though he was wearing a special shirt to help bounce the weight off his chest. The same cat holds the "raw" bench press record at 715 pounds. Insane.

On a side note, I recently got Sirius satellite radio and had it installed in my car to make the 2 1/2-hour, round trip drive to Storrs a bit more bearable. The problem is I'm getting a lot of static and interference. Anyone else have this problem or a solution?

Next update: later today.

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.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reflections of a loss

Terry Caulley was back at practice Sunday to participate in limited drills for the University of Connecticut football team.

Caulley, the Huskies senior tailback, became the program’s career rushing leader during Saturday’s 24-13 loss to Wake Forest at Rentschler Field. But he left the game in the fourth quarter after an injury to his midsection, and was taken to the hospital for X-rays.

After the game UConn coach Randy Edsall said Caulley would have his ribs and spleen examined. On Sunday, Edsall said the tests showed an abdominal strain and that Caulley is probable for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

“Everything checked out fine today,” Edsall said.

Caulley passed Wilbur Gilliard’s UConn career rushing record of 2,624 yards in the first quarter Saturday, and finished with 81 yards on 15 carries. But he didn’t play the game’s final series because of the injury. Edsall said Caulley believed he may have strained himself lifting earlier in the week, then aggravated the injury during Saturday’s game.

The news wasn’t as positive for UConn center Keith Gray, who left Saturday’s game early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Edsall said Gray suffered a subluxed shoulder, and will be out two to three weeks. Gray will undergo an MRI later this week to determine if there is further damage.

A subluxed shoulder is generally not as serious as a dislocated or separated shoulder. The ligaments are stretched, but the shoulder remains in the socket. There is a possibility of torn ligaments or nerve damage, which won’t be known until the MRI results are evaluated.
Redshirt Alex LaMagdelaine filled in for Gray Saturday, and will start at Indiana. Redshirt freshman Bobby Fry is now the backup center.

Moore named starter

Donta Moore has started the first two games at strongside linebacker, also called the “Husky” position despite being listed along with Justin DeRubertis of Bethel atop the depth chart.

On Sunday, Edsall announced Moore had played his way into the starter’s role.
Moore was UConn’s best defensive player on Saturday, leading the way with nine tackles, 6.5 of which were for losses. He also buried Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner with a vicious hit for his first sack of the season.

Moore’s 11 solo tackles, 21 total tackles and 7.5 tackles for losses all lead the team.

Kicking problems

Matt Nuzie of Trumbull, who had a rough afternoon Saturday in missing two crucial kicks, was in Edsall’s office early Sunday morning to discuss his situation.

Edsall still has full confidence in Nuzie, a four-year starter, despite the missed 27-yard field goal and extra point that cost the Huskies a chance to take Wake Forest to overtime.

“He feels terrible,” Edsall said. “We talked and I said to Matt you have three things to worry about; showing the holder where you want the ball placed, your steps and watching the holder’s hand to go down. He also has to know which hash mark he’s on. Other than that, he has nothing to worry about. He’s made kicks for us in the past. But Matt Nuzie didn’t lose that game for us.”

Edsall also said he would reopen the competition for kickoffs. Freshman Desi Cullen hasn’t been booming kickoffs the way he was in the preseason, Edsall said, so Nuzie and Graig Vicidomino of Seymour will be back in the loop for that job.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Malafronte challenge week 2

The week one picks weren't kind. I went 5-5 overall, though I did go 3-1 on Big East predictions, missing only the Syracuse-Iowa game. Congrats to Runway readers Mark and Manny, who each went 7-3 last week. But, Manny was the lone poster to equal my 3-1 in Big East games, so I will lamely proclaim myself still undefeated. As always, all are welcome to take the Malafronte challenge, though it won't be much of a challenge with another 5-5 week. On to the picks in a great Saturday for college football:

Game 1: Syracuse (+3) over ILLINOIS: Tough call. Illinois looked awful against Rutgers. The Orange will keep it close enough.

Game 2: UCONN (-6.5) over Wake Forest: This spread seems about three points too high. But Wake was lucky to beat a bad Duke team last week. Huskies will roll.

Game 3: Cincinnati (+30) over OHIO STATE: Smart money says the Buckeyes won't run it up that high.

Game 4: PITT (-3) over Michigan State: Spartans haven't been tested yet. This would be a nice win for the Big East, too.

Game 5: CENTRAL FLORIDA (+1.5) over South Florida: Bulls only beat FIU by a point, and, though Orlando's a short ride for USF's Tampa campus, the Bulls struggled on the road a year ago.

Game 6: LOUISVILLE (-4) over Miami: Even without Michael Bush, the Cards will cover. Miami is overrated.

Game 7: RUTGERS (-16) over Ohio: The Scarlet Knights have too much offense for Ohio to stay close.

Game 8: BOSTON COLLEGE (-7) over Brigham Young
Game 9: NOTRE DAME (-6) over Michigan
Game 10: AUBURN (-3.5) over Louisiana State
Game 11: OREGON (-4.5) over Oklahoma
Game 12: Clemson (+5) over FLORIDA STATE
Game 13: Florida (-4) over TENNESSEE
Game 14: STANFORD (-1) over Navy
Game 15: SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT STATE (+16) over Central Connecticut State: OK, I made up the line. But the Division II Owls might make it a game against I-AA CCSU, which knocked off powerhouse Georgia Southern on the road last week.

Make your picks by clicking the "comment" tab below.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All systems go...almost

With a hard rain pelting Connecticut today, the last full practice before Saturday's Wake Forest game, it would have been a perfect opportunity for the UConn football team to test out its brand new indoor training complex. However, on Thursday the players got dressed and taped in their spanking new locker room, sniffed a final breath of that new-facility smell, then charged outside to practice in the rain.

That's because the multi-million dollar indoor practice field still isn't ready for use, a full six weeks after camp opened back in early August.

The indoor surace is being inspected by surveyors today. Randy Edsall said he was told the team could finally get in to use it Friday. If not Friday, then definitely by Sunday. You sort of get the feeling he's heard that line a quite few times over the last six weeks.

"They're surveying the field. It's something that has to be done after they go ahead and install the turf," Edsall said. "So they're in here today to take care of that. It's possible tomorrow we'll be able to have our walk through in there, but we'll have it definitely by Sunday. But that doesn't help me today."

Edsall had no news on the injury front. Jason Ward and Dan Murray are still out, and both will be reassessed Sunday. There are less than 200 tickets remaining for Saturday's game, according to the UConn athletic communications department, so expect a sellout. Also, the scout team awards this week went to Aaron Bryant (special teams), Lucas Cox (defense) and Alex Molina (offense). The game will also be broadcast live on ESPN360, whatever that is.

Coming Friday: College football challenge week 2.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lunch with the Huskies

The weekly Tuesday media luncheon at the Burton Complex provided, as usual, a wealth of information. Some highlights...
  • Randy Edsall was asked what the reaction of his defense was to his critical comments after the Rhode Island game. Edsall said he was only saying what he felt was the truth, and that if anyone had furt feelings maybe they should take up another sport. The defensive players agreed with Edsall's comments, which they viewed as a challenge. More on this topic in Wednesday's Register.

  • Danny Lansanah said he had just gotten off the phone with Alfred Fincher Tuesday. Lansanah still speaks with Fincher, now with the New Orleans Saints, at least twice a week. He said Fincher watches every UConn game, and offers a weekly critique. It sounds like Fincher's assessment of the defense after the Rhode Island game was roughly the equivilent of Edsall's.

  • Tuesday trivia: UConn is 12-1 against non-league opponents at Rentschler Field. Bonus points to anyone who knows the answer without looking it up. Answer is below.

  • Edsall said the only thing keeping fullback Deon Anderson from being a "household" name in college football circles like Dan Orlovsky and Fincher were two years ago is that he doesn't play a glamourous position like, say, quarterback or linebacker. Edsall also said there are a few other younger players on the roster with a real chance to become premier players in the league very soon. He didn't name names. I will. How about Donald and Cody Brown for starters?

  • Edsall was asked to respond to Boston College athletic director Gene DiFilippo's comment in Sunday's Boston Globe about how UConn wants to play the Eagles in football but DiFilippo has no interest in playing the Huskies at this point. "He gave his opinion," Edsall said. "I think it would be great for this region. But I'm just the football coach. Would I like to see it? Yes. But the circumstances at this point and time doesn't seem like it's going to take place. At least not yet."

  • UConn will open next season on the road at Duke during Labor Day weekend. The date hasn't been set, but it will be either Aug. 30-31 or Sept 1 (Thursday-Saturday). Here's hoping for another Thursday opener. The Huskies follow the Duke game with the home-opener against Maine. The other non-conference games next season are at Virginia and home with Temple and Navy.

  • Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was positively gushing about the Huskies. You'd think he was talking about the 1985 Chicago Bears. Don't get me wrong, I think Wake should be at least a 3 1/2-point underdog. But Grobe had firmly entered Lou Holtz smoke-blowing territory. "I was impressed with how solid they are in every aspect," Grobe said. "Their offense, defense, kicking game, special teams play....They beat us pretty bad last time (in 2003), so there are a lot of concerns about how good they are."

  • Grobe was pleased, and rightfully so, at backup quarterback Riley Skinner's performance against Duke on Saturday. Skinner, in his first start, was 22-of-29 passing for 235 yards and a TD. Duke managed to take away the Wake Forest run game in the first half, so the Deamon Deacons were forced to throw more than usual. Skinner did a nice job. Grobe said they key is how Skinner responds to playing in a hostile environment like the Runway.

  • Trivia answer: Boston College beat UConn 24-14 at the Runway in 2003. Kind of a trick question. BC was still in the Big East at the time, but UConn was still playing as an independent. To those who knew the answer, in the words of the late Pop Shortell "Hat's off!!"

This week's schedule for the print edition of the Register...Wednesday: defense feature; Thursday: UConn notebook; Saturday: Wake Forest game day advance page.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Sept. 11

I remember that morning five years ago like it was yesterday.
I remember being jolted awake by the phone.
I remember being half asleep hearing my mother's voice say "they bombed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon".
I remember turning on the TV, seeing the two towers billowing like smoke stacks, only seconds before the first tower came crumbling down.
I remember the fear, the sorrow, thinking of the people inside and their families watching it all on live TV just like me.
I remember the memorial services for the firefighters and police officers who gave their lives trying to save others.
I remember the country coming together in the days that followed, everyone helping each other overcome their grief.
I remember the patriotism, driving to work and seeing dozens and dozens of people lining the streets of New Haven, waving flags as the cars drove past.
I remember thinking life would never be the same.
I'll always remember 9/11/01.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lazy Saturday

Faced with the rare combination of a Saturday with no football game to cover and a wife who has to work all day, I took the opportunity to do something I haven't done in a while: plant myself on the couch and watch college football all afternoon. Here are a few observations from a very lazy Saturday.

  • The Rutgers-Illinois game was one I really wanted to see; a chance to check out UConn's biggest football rival against a Big Ten opponent. I was shocked that Illinois provided absolutely no challenge, a combo of a good Rutgers team facing a horrendous Illini squad. The Illinois punting was downright embarrassing. Their most effective punt came when the punter came within an eyelash of an alltogether whiff, but managed to get enough toe to kick the ball into the posterior of a Rutgers player on the line of scrimmage. Illinois recovered, and maintained possession. The only other time I've seen that was in a high school JV football game.

  • The ESPN announcing tandem of Pam Ward and Mike Gottfried helped put me to sleep for a good hour during the Rutgers game. I have a tough time listening to female game announcers. That's a terrible thing to say, I know. But trust me, it's not because I'm a chauvanist. It's from 10 years of being forced to listen to Suzyn Waldman butcher the games of my beloved New York Yankees. It's all her fault. Any Yankees fan will back me on this. And how old is Mike Gottfried? He sounds exactly like Grandpa Simpson.

  • The Kent State-Army game was shown live on ESPN Classic. Too easy to make a joke there. But Army's offensive line made three mistakes with their cadence that resulted in false starts. Mind boggling. Isn't learning to march on cadence the first thing Army cadets learn at West Point?

  • Army didn't look so bad. They won't beat UConn next month, but good to see them come back to beat Kent State in overtime.

  • What's going on in the ACC? Duke, shutout by Division I-AA Richmond in week one, nearly beat Wake Forest on the road. Virginia needs overtime to beat Wyoming. NC State loses to Akron (to be fair, the Zips might win the MAC this season. But still...)

  • Louisville had the 40.5-point spread against Temple covered by halftime. At this point, Temple may want to look into Division I-AA.

  • The Rock in a dramatic role as a high school football coach? I think I'll pass.

  • More wacky scores. UMass nearly upsets Navy, New Hampshire pounds Northwestern and South Florida squeaks past Florida International.

  • Syracuse coach Greg Robinson might want to incorporate the quarterback sneak into the playbook sometime soon.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Donnie Ballgame: Brown makes most of opportunity

First impressions usually mean everything. But when you're the third-string tailback, a good first impression is little more than a nice place to start.

Donald Brown understands this.

As the third man behind incumbent starter Terry Caulley and bruising sophomore Lou Allen at tailback, Brown knows one good performance will do nothing but buy him another opportunity. Perhaps he'll get a few more carries Sept. 16 when the Huskies play Wake Forest at Rentschler Field. If he does well, maybe he gets a few more on the road at Indiana Sept. 23.

Such is the life of a young player on a team loaded with talent at tailback.

Brown, from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., showed a glimpse of his promise in a 52-7 stomping of Rhode Island. He averaged 13.1 yards per carry, going for 118 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns. The highlight was a 53-yard scoring scamper late in the game that showcased Brown's explosiveness and agility.

"The biggest part was making sure I was patient waiting for my number to be called," Brown said. "Once my number was called, I knew I had to make the most of the opportunity."

Randy Edsall wasn't about to annoint Brown as the program's next superstar. But he couldn't have asked for much more from Brown, a former second-team all-state pick and track star in New Jersey who was also recruited by Wisconsin, Virginia, Boston College and Iowa.

"He did very well," Edsall said. "He took advantage of the opportunities when he got them. I thought we had three guys we could count on, maybe more. But he came in, ran hard, executed when he needed to execute and showed some speed and power, too."

Brown spent last fall as a redshirt, and used the extra time to beef up in the weight room as well as learn the nuances of the offense. Now 210 pounds, he's 10 pounds heavier but managed to retain his speed, if not gain a little, Edsall said.

But the most valuable part of his redshirt season, Brown says, was the jump it gave him in the classroom. Brown was an All-American Scholar in high school, and plans to major in kinesiology.

"It really helped academically," Brown said. "I knew with football that I wasn't going in any time soon so I could really focus on academics. It also gave the non-travel team an extra lift every week. Overall it helped me get used to what life is like in college football."

As for playing time, well, that's a waiting game. A few more solid performances and it will be difficult to keep Brown from getting more touches. Until that happens, he says there's always something to work on, be it pass protection or improving his receiving skills.

Edsall said he will likely continue to use his running backs situationally. Caulley, the veteran, is still the main option. Allen, a former fullback, as a change of pace to Caulley and Brown's slashing style or in short yardage situations. Brown will spell the two.

"We're loaded at running back right now," Brown said. "But we're all different in our own ways."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Think you know the Big East?

Who's got the best handle on the Big East this week? Take the Malafronte challenge. Below are the conference games this week, with the point spread. Post your picks below. Can you beat me? Probably.

Game 1: Pitt (-8) over CINCINNATI
Game 2: RUTGERS (-10.5) over Illinois
Game 3: Louisville (-40.5) over TEMPLE
Game 4: Iowa (-19.5) over SYRACUSE

Since there's no line on South Florida and West Virginia this week, a few national bonus games...

Game 5: Penn State (+7.5) over NOTRE DAME
Game 6: Clemson (-3) over BOSTON COLLEGE
Game 7: COLORADO (+2.5) over Colorado State
Game 8: CALIFORNIA (-8.5) over Minnesota
Game 9: SOUTH CAROLINA (+3.5) over Georgia
Game 10: Ohio State (+3) over Texas

To enter your picks, click on the "comments" tab below.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mr. Versatility: Smith does it all on defense

In other sports, like baseball or even basketball, the guys who can play multiple positions whenever needed -- the utility men -- get plenty of hype. Every baseball team has one. Guys like Miguel Cairo, Luis Sojo and Jose Oquendo carved out lengthy careers on their ability to be able to play anywhere. In basketball they're known as swingmen. Even in football, the offensive players who can lineup at either running back or receiver, then multiply their value by returning punts and kicks grab the headlines.

On defense? Sure, there are defensive backs who can return kicks and linebackers who play special teams or maybe lineup at tight end for a gadget play. But it's players like Johnathon Smith who are truly indispensable.

Smith, a third-year sophomore from Camp Hill, Pa., can play pretty much anywhere on defense. A running back in high school, he was recruited by UConn as a linebacker. He's worked at all three linebacker spots since arriving at Storrs in 2004. He's also worked at defensive end, both at the "bandit" slot as well as nickelback, which made him equally adept at rushing the quarterback and defending against the pass. That experience made the transition back to linebacker smoother. He backed up Danny Lansanah at the weakside spot last season, but saw considerable game action anyway. Oh, Smith is also a monster on special teams, where he made many of his 49 tackles in 2005.

When Smith got on the field last season as a redshirt freshman, he seemed to be everywhere. He made two starts when other linebackers were injured, one against Rutgers when he recorded 15 tackles. He made six tackles at Georgia Tecjh, nine against Army and eight at Cincinnati.

Slated to begin this season as Lansanah's backup, Smith played so well that Randy Edsall felt he needed to get him on the field somewhere. So, in a last minute switch, he moved Smith to the starting role at middle linebacker. Smith responded in typical fashion, making a team-high 12 tackles.

Smith says it can be overwhelming in practice having to know so many different positions, but he welcomes the challenge.

"I see myself as a utility player," Smith said. "It's difficult. Special teams alone is difficult. In a game you narrow down a position, but practice is tough. It's a lot harder. It can overwhelming at times, but you have to make sure to put in 100 percent every time."

Late afternoon appetizer

Had a chance to speak with several players this afternoon, including Johnathan Smith and Cody Brown. I will post again a little later.

A few other nuggets of info to hold you over...
  • Tight end Dan Murray (ankle) will miss the Wake Forest game, and be reassessed after that to see how close he is to returning to action. Murray had his ankle wrapped and was wearing a soft cast Wednesday, but was walking free and easy without crutches.

  • Randy Edsall commented on the good week for Big East teams. Among the highlights were Rutgers defeating North Carolina, Louisville over Kentucky and Pittsburgh defeating Virginia.

  • Expect UConn to be well prepared when Wake Forest comes to the Runway in 10 days. Not only will the Huskies have had over two weeks to prepare for the Deamon Deacons, but they also have the advantage of being able to see quarterback Benjamin Mauk's replacement. Mauk was lost for the season after a broken arm in a win over Syracuse. UConn not only has game tape of backup Riley Skinner, who played the fourth quarter against Syracuse, but will be able to scout him again Saturday when Wake takes on Duke.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Getting defensive

Randy Edsall was somewhat neutral in his comments concerning the play of his defensive unit Thursday night.

The University of Connecticut head coach knew the defense had a lot to work on, but wasn’t overly critical following the Huskies’ 52-7 season-opening win over Rhode Island at Rentschler Field.

By Friday morning, after reviewing the game tape, Edsall’s outlook regarding the play of his defense turned to disgust. Glaring errors, breakdowns in coverage and, most troubling, a perceived lack of focus by the unit drastically changed Edsall’s mood.

“I said to them this morning this isn’t the 2005 or 2004 defense,” Edsall said. “It’s the 2006 defense, and you have to earn your stripes. I think they thought they had their stripes already earned after last season.”

A quick glance at the final statistics might not reveal much as to why there’s cause for concern. The Rams gained a modest 198 yards rushing while passing for a mere 95.

The reality is Rhode Island, a Division I-AA team, ran their option rather well against a UConn team vastly superior in terms of talent and depth. The Rams also ripped off three plays that resulted in big gains – including a 25-yard touchdown pass – and had opportunities for at least two more on downfield passes that were dropped.

Edsall blasted his secondary for defending the option run poorly and his linebackers for failing to make the correct reads in certain situations.

“They lacked the discipline and focus they need to have against an offensive team like that. I was very disappointed,” Edsall said. “It wasn’t the big plays that got us in trouble on defense but it was the nickel and dime stuff downfield, allowing five, six, seven yards at a time that hurt us.
I saw guys with their eyes where they didn’t belong, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, dropping interceptions. We didn’t go and attack their blocks the way we should have.”

Meanwhile Edsall praised the offensive unit, which scored on eight of its 10 possessions. Quarterback D.J. Hernandez showed patience and poise in the pocket while the running backs and offensive line simply dominated the outmanned Rams.

“Our offense was extremely efficient,” Edsall said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, it’s a pretty good feat in itself to score 80 percent of the time you have the ball. I’ll take that any time.”

Friday, September 01, 2006

After further review...

Randy Edsall has a conference call with the media the day after every game. Here's the Reader's Digest version of what he had to say...

  • After reviewing the game tape early this morning, Edsall was livid with the defensive performance, particularly the secondary's play against the option. The linebackers were also lambasted for failing to make the right reads. "I hope it's a wake-up call," Edsall said. "They lacked the discipline and focus they needed to have."

  • The offense was efficient, scoring on 8 of 10 drives, and the o-line played well despite staying to high on blocks at certain times. Edsall mentioned there were too many drops with the wide receivers. He also lauded the play of his running backs.

  • Injury report: Fullback Anthony Barksdale went down late with a right ankle sprain and is day-to-day. Linebacker Donta Moore suffered a right quad injury that may limit him over the next few days but is not serious. Defensive end Lindsey Witten has a mild ankle injury and should be OK.

  • Game balls went as follows. Offense: Larry Taylor. Defense: Cody Brown. Special teams: Matt Nuzie. Scout team game balls from last week...Offense: Robert McClain. Defense: Greg Robinson. Special teams: Aaron Bryant.

  • Moore started and played the majority of the game over Justin DeRubertis because Edsall felt Moore was a better play against the option that Rhode Island used. He said the decision will still be week-to-week, and based on which player he feels will give them an edge at the "Husky" linebacker.

Check out the full story on the UConn defense in Saturday's New Haven Register.

On a side note, I received word that my blog entry about getting a real team of Husky dogs to pull a sled onto the field before games was passed on to the UConn marketing department. Hopefully, they'll find a way to make it happen in the future. It would be worth the price of admission alone.

Imagine UConn following this onto the field

Once again, I welcome any and all questions for another edition of the Runway Mailbag. There are 16 days until the Wake Forest game, so don't be shy. I still have a few leftovers from two weeks ago, although some might be a bit dated now. Send questions to