Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pittsburgh's a wrap

Here's a little of what Paul Pasqualoni had to say today after watching film of last night's ugly loss at Pittsburgh. Most everyone is wondering about quarterback, and it looks like Johnny McEntee will remain the starter heading into next week's game prep for Syracuse. Pasqualoni is happy with the production he's getting from Scott McCummings, but sounds like he still doesn't trust him to run the passing attack. Some quotes...

(On the defense): "We didn't play well enough in the pass coverage aspect of it. We missed a couple of assignments, missed some technique. The little things, when they're not taken care of, become big things when you're playing a team playing the way Pitt did last night. What we're doing is good, it just needs to be executed better. The good news is those are issues that can be corrected, will be corrected and we'll move on."

(On Scott McCummings performance): "For the second week in a row when Scotty's gone into the game, it clearly has been a productive part of the game for us. Sometimes, some of that is based on how the game is going. If we could have kept it at a one-score game, we may have seen a little more of Scott. When you're down a couple scores, you feel in your heart that in order to get back in it you need to be in a drop-back mode rather than in run-it mode. Those things, the conditions of game, the climate, the time on clock, all of that comes into it. Certainly we're going to continue with the development of Scott McCummings."

(On whether McCumming will unseat McEntee) "It's a competition still. Johnny clearly is the starter. Every position is a competition every day."

(On whether he considered making a change at quarterback last night) "We got it back to eight points, it was a one-score game, we were where we needed to be. If we get the ball right back, maybe it's tied and then we're back in business. No, I wasn't considering (a change at QB last night)."

(On the Huskies slim margin of error) "It's not one play, it's an accumulation of plays. The margin of error is not that great. We have to execute better, we have to play better on third down. Sometimes it's the QB, but it's not consistently the QB, it's not consistently the offensive line, it's not consistently the backs picking up pass protection, which we did a great job of last night. At key times of the game, we just have to execute better.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quick pre-Pitt update

The pregame update teleconference for Wednesday's game at Pitt with Paul Pasqualoni just ended. Short and sweet as usual. No new injuries for UConn. Safety Jerome Junior (ankle) is "fine", and Pasqualoni added TB Martin Hyppolite and LB Jerome Williams are "more ready" and could play this week.

The Big East race is wide open again, thanks to Syracuse knocking off West Virginia. That, coupled with the win over South Florida, should have the Huskies ready to play.

On a local side note, Chris Mike, a former star at West Haven High and a walk-on fullback at Pitt, has "retired" after a severe knee injury suffered during spring practice. He is currently serving as an undergraduate assistant coach, helping with the day-to-day preparation.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday is now Tuesday; Wednesday will be Saturday

A rare Friday media luncheon at UConn in preparation for Wednesday night's game at Pitt. It's the start of the week for the Huskies, who practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and got yesterday off.
  • It's seven games into the season, but also seven months into the new offensive and defensive schemes instituted by the new coaches. There have been some (at times a lot) of struggles as the team adjusts. Paul Pasqualoni says the struggles now aren't due as much to the installation but simply playing good, consistent football. "To me, the 'what if' is if we didn't turn that ball over, if we didn't give up that play," Pasqualoni said. "There haven't been that many, but there have been a few, and we might be sitting here with one or two or three more wins right now. That's the challenge. The challenge of getting the system in is a work in progress. The more time we spend on the concepts, the better the kids will be."

  • Pasqualoni said opposing defensive coaches, noting that Johnny McEntee is a new, relatively inexperienced quarterback, have made a concerted effort to pressure him more in the hopes that he'll make a mistake. West Virginia and South Florida both came in with some new pass rush schemes that weren't on film, which caused problems. "Once we saw them, and we got them straightened out on the sidelines and at halftime we were fine," Pasqualoni said. "But you have to see those things to get them (straight). Johnny recognizes things well. But if it's brand new, and you've never seen it, and you have all these other things you're looking for, and they bring in a different alignment and different concept, I don't care who the quarterback is it takes a snap or two to figure it out."

  • Safety Jerome Junior was at the complex with a walking boot on his foot. Pasqualoni said it's a mild ankle sprain, and Junior is expected to be fine by Wednesday. No chance of Blidi Wreh-Wilson playing this week. Linebacker Jerome Williams and tailback Martin Hyppolite, both coming off knee injuries, are back on the two-deep this week.

  • Perhaps it's only because he has to (he still has to recruit, of course) but Pasqualoni talked of the potential new Big East lineup with excitement. He gets questions on the recruiting trail about the future of the league, and has a fair and honest pitch. The league has a chance to emerge from the latest defections in decent shape should Boise State, Houston, SMU and Air Force get invitations. "I'm hear what you guys hear," Pasqualoni said. "Put (Boise, SMU, Houston and Air Force) in the Western (division) with Cincinnati and Louisville, you got something special there. Add Navy and Central Florida in the Eastern Division with Connecticut, South Florida and Rutgers. Have two divisions, have your division play two cross-over games every year to the Western division. Play four non-conference games, select who you want to play, guaranteed BCS berth based on the quality of those teams, no issues there. Pretty exciting to me."

  • Pasqualoni also said the chance to be in Houston and the Dallas/Forth Worth market would be a major bonus in recruiting, as well. "I'd love it, and George DeLeone is as well known in Houston as anybody, and I know a few guys in the Metroplex Dallas area," Pasqualoni said. "I think it would be without exaggerating, one heck of a deal. I'd love Connecticut's place in that. I'm hoping that's the way it goes, the sooner the better."

  • Yes, Pasqualoni did leave out West Virginia in his quote breaking down the Eastern and Western Division lines. Did he simply overlook them? Maybe Does he know something? Probably.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

UConn brings the 'ish'

Quite a win. Some notes from Saturday.
  • UConn managed only 253 yards of total offense (as opposed to USF's 339) but still found a way to win. It's also the second win in a row over South Florida without an offensive touchdown.

  • Boston Red Sox fans have Bucky Bleepin' Dent, South Florida fans have Dave Bleepin' Teggart. No dramatics Saturday, but Teggart was 3-for-3. USF was just 1-for-3 on field goals.

  • The unhip media got a lesson in slang from Sio Moore. "It was kind of a 'bring your ish kind of weekend'," Moore said. No one had any idea what he meant by saying 'ish', though the popular theory was that it was short for 'finish', as in finishing the game. We're dorks. Thanks to a Google search by Ken Davis, we got the definition from the Urban Dictionary. 'Ish' is slang term to replace the word, uh, poo. I can't wait to use it at my next dinner party.

  • Paul Pasqualoni was pleased with the entire defensive unit, but singled out the play of Ty-Meer Brown and Byron Jones. "I felt really good for (Brown and Jones)," Pasqualoni said. "They had it tough last week. They really did. So it was great for them to come back out and make some plays. It felt great for the defense overall, but it felt great for those two young kids. They put together a game like this against a quality opponent."

  • There's a big difference between being 0-2 and 1-1 in the conference. UConn saved its season for the moment. " Puts us right back in the race,” UConn linebacker Sio Moore said. “Through the years you see how it goes in the Big East. It can be anybody’s championship. Now, we have to be sure to take this momentum and build on it. That’s when the good teams show what they’re really made of.” With the Big East lacking a truly dominant team -- save for West Virginia, and we'll see how long that lasts -- the BCS berth is up for grabs.

  • Johnny McEntee was sacked seven times, partly because USF changed things up and blitzed combinations of the strong safety and inside or outside linebackers. "That was something new," Pasqualoni said. Adjustments were made, and the Huskies dealt with it a little better in the second half.

  • Dwayne Gratz said the defense was sick of losing, and that it was "a matter of pride" that it establish itself again Saturday. Moore agreed, sort of.Our pride wasn’t shattered (the previous two games),” Moore said. “We just needed to make sure we came back to what we do and how we do it. That’s solving your problems with aggression. As long as we did that, we would be OK. Part of that was putting it all on the line. That’s playing with pride. It doesn’t matter where the ball is put down on the field, we’re going to stop them.”

  • Former UConn coach Skip Holtz is now 0-2 against his former team.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

At 2-4, UConn facing another rough opponent

Here's what went down at the UConn media luncheon this afternoon.

  • Blidi Wreh Wilson (knee) is out again this week for South Florida. Byron Jones will start at cornerback. Ty-Meer Brown is getting the start at safety ahead of Harris Agbor.

  • UConn's passing defense has had big problems the past couple of weeks. B.J. Daniels, the USF quarterback, brings another dimension with his ability to run.

  • UConn receivers Tebucky Jones and Geremy Davis showed potential during spring and preseason camp, but have just eight catches between them. They "are still learning what it takes to be a wide receiver at this level".

  • Pasqualoni is hoping the Big East acts quickly in regard to expansion. "I think the teams they're talking about can add to the conference," he said. "I'd like the movement to get done, that we get this settled quickly.

  • Ty-Meer Brown was recruited to play Division I basketball and football coming out of high school in McKeesport, Pa. Pittsburgh said it would allow him to play both. Robert Morris, Duquesne, Akron and Buffalo also liked him as a basketball player. An option quarterback in high school, Toledo piqued his interest when it recruited him as a quarterback. But he realized he'd be better off on defense in college.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tuesday notes: West Virginia on tap

When exactly did Connecticut become part of the Pacific Northwest? It's been raining for the last week and a half here. The news and notes of the day from Storrs.
  • Depth chart updates: Johnny McEntee finally listed as the starter at quarterback; Lyle McCombs at tailback. Of course, it should have looked that way a month ago. J-J Louis and Deshon Foxx are 'OR' as backup tailbacks; McCummings and Nebrich the same behind McEntee.
  • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is the spitting image of Phil Collins circa 1987. That was confirmed after watching VH1's Genesis "Behind the Music" over the weekend. Just call him Coach Sussudio.

  • Linebacker Jerome Williams and tailback Martin Hyppolite are both "working" to get back into the lineup after knee injuries. Pasqualoni doesn't know yet if they'll be ready by Saturday, but Hyppolite would be the fourth tailback. Williams, expected to be a starter before his injury, would likely also be used in a backup role if he can play.

  • At 2-3 and coming off a disappointing loss to Western Michigan, it's easy to count UConn out for the rest of the season. But this team has been in this situation before. Last year, the Huskies looked done after starting 1-2 in Big East play with bad losses to Rutgers and Louisville. Facing elimination from the race with each game, they came back to win the next four for the league title. "When you come back in here Sunday and put the film on, it's clear that if we get some things cleaned up we're capable of being a good team," Pasqualoni said. "When it's time to make plays, you have to be in the right spot and you have to make plays."

  • Paperwork will be filed for medical hardship cases for D.J. Shoemate (shoulder) and Jimmy Bennet (knee). Both are eligible. It's up to the NCAA to decide whether they get them, and certainly no guarantee they will be approved.

  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson is out again this week, and Pasqualoni said it's "a stretch" to think he might be ready for the Oct. 15 game with USF.

  • Sunday, October 02, 2011

    Wrapping up Western Michigan

    A couple of quick notes from Pasqualoni's call with state media today.

    • Blidi Wreh-Wilson is still on crutches, and is "clearly out for the West Virginia game". UConn will work some different combinations in the secondary, like it did against Western Michigan.

    • On the offensive line, UConn will go back to the same lineup it used Saturday.

    • Of his defense, Pasqualoni said "with the pass, we had more of an issue with the inside slot receiver. Some issues witht he ourside slot receivers. We needed to play tighter, closer (with the inside receiver). When you play a good tema with a good quarterback, you've got to be more detailed then we were. There were times we handled the inside guy well, but we have to be more consistent."

    • Pasqualoni reiterated much of what he said last night with regard to taking care of the "little things" like finishing plays, blocks, correct technique, etc. He added the defensive game plan was to make Western Michigan one-dimensional, which they did. The run game was shut off. But it didn't matter considering how effective the Broncos were in the pass.

    Saturday, October 01, 2011

    Western Michigan makes mince meat of UConn secondary

    At least this one was entertaining for a change. Of course, the result was disastrous for UConn, which is looking more and more like it will go from playing in the Fiesta Bowl to being home for the holidays. A few postgame notes.
    • UConn had dominated the MAC since elevating to Division I-A, but have now lost to Temple and Western Michigan in the last two seasons. It's disconcerting that a MAC team is that much more skilled on offense than UConn, with Alex Carder pulling a Tom Brady with 479 yards passing and five TDs on 37-of-51. He absolutely embarrassed the Huskies in the fourth quarter, with the 2-play, 60-yard drive to score the winning touchdown coming in just 28 seconds the equivalent of giving UConn an atomic wedgie in front of its home crowd.

    • To be fair, Western Michigan has to be considered one of the favorites to win the MAC. That's a big team with a lethal offense. Of course, the defense leaves a lot to be desired. And it's still a bad loss for UConn.

    • Pasqualoni said the passing numbers from Carder were due to UConn's inability to get to him and cause disruption. The secondary didn't do itself any favors, failing to stop the receivers over and over. “Our defense has to hold its weight,” UConn safety Byron Jones said. “They have a solid quarterback who made a lot of tough throws fitting the ball in there. At the end of the day, we have to cover those guys.”

    • Western Michigan has produced some big time NFL talent, most notably Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jordan White sure looked like an NFL talent. At 6-foot, 215-pounds, he has to be considered a mid-round pick at the least.

    • D.J. Shoemate is done for the season. He'll require surgery on a shoulder he injured against Iowa State, and will need six to nine months to recover, Pasqualoni said. UConn has filed the paperwork to apply for a medical hardship. The NCAA can approve or deny.

    • Jimmy Bennett is also done for the year after a torn ACL suffered in practice on Thursday. It's not the same knee Bennett injured earlier in his career, and it's a blow for the offensive line. UConn was back to its old lineup with Kevin Friend at left tackle and Steve Green at right guard.

    • It was an excellent day for Johnny McEntee. He shook off a slow start to finish with 300 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-39 passing. I think the throw that showed just how far he's come from a confidence standpoint was the 26-yard TD to Nick Williams. With the game on the line at 4th-and-5, he rolled out of the pocket. He had Lyle McCombs wide open a few yards ahead for what would have been an easy first down to keep the chains moving. Instead, he had the guts to thread one through a defender to Williams in the corner of the end zone. That was a big-time throw, and it took big-time onions.

    • Nick Williams' coming out party last week was encouraging, but he made just the one catch today. Don't think there's much to be concerned about there. UConn has had three different receivers step up the last three games. McEntee didn't try to force anything, and is riding the hot guy that particular game.

    • Tons of mistakes by UConn. Penalties were brutal, personal fouls inexcusable. Cole Wagner had a tough night punting, but Chad Christen's kickoff OB to set up the winning drive really hurt (though, considering how things were going, probably wasn't going to do much to slow Western Michigan anyway). Pasqualoni said Ryan Griffin was just being a competitor making a play when he fumbled. Griffin certainly didn't protect the ball as he was going down, he left it high and there for the taking. A nice swipe by the safety, and hard to fault Griffin for thinking end zone there. There were more mistakes, of course.

    • Can UConn go 4-3 to get bowl eligible? Can it go 5-2 to assure itself a bowl bid? Everyone counted them out after awful losses to Rutgers, Temple and Louisville last season, too. We'll see what this group is made of starting next weekend.