Friday, August 31, 2012

UConn gets defensive in opener

Of all the numbers to crunch off Thursday night's season-opening 37-0 win none may be more impressive as 38 as in that UMass got no further than its own 38 yard line in being shutout for the first time in 199 games.

The defensive stars were many. Sophomore middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood led the way with seven tackles and 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a sack. Trevardo Williams also had a sack (the 20th of his career) while Dwayne Gratz returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.

When the game is replayed there will be no lack of highlight-variety hits to catch the attention of the viewers.

"We are going to go for the big hits," Smallwood said. "We are going to go for the big plays and make sure we make the big plays. I feel like that is going to help our defense out going forward."

Pasqualoni loves the speed of the defense but he was quick to note that UConn was playing a UMass team playing its first game at the FBS level.

"We practice that way," Pasqualoni said. "We practice fast. I don't know if it is going to look that fast next week. We've got guys who can run. Blidi (Wreh-Wilson), the corners can run they really can. Sio (Moore) can run, Yawin can run pretty good. The two defensive ends, Trevardo (Williams) can run so we've got some guys (who can run)."

Chandler Whitmer was 7 of 9 passing in the second half and finished with 219 yards. He'd like to have both of his interceptions back but he was able to get the ball to seven different receivers led by sophomore Geremy Davis' five receptions. Nick Williams finished with 143 all-purpose yards while Lyle McCombs ran for 82 yards and had another 23 receiving.

Williams was not the only star on special teams as Chad Christen was 3 for 3 on field goals and had four touchdowns on kickoffs while Taylor Mack blocked a punt which was recovered in the end zone by Max DeLorenzo.

The downer from the game could be the knee injury suffered by senior defensive end Teddy Jennings.

"I don't know for sure (the extent of the injury). I haven't been in the training room."

Also, with the investigation into academic irregularities going on at Hillhouse where there are accusations of changing course names and altering grade to get athletics eligible to play by the NCAA, I asked Pasqualoni for an update on Hillhouse grad and freshman offensive lineman Rennick Bryan. I did not see Bryan on the sidelines and he did not play.

"We are just trying to gather as much information as we can right now," Pasqualoni said.

It's uncertain whether former UConn stars Marcus Easley and Jordan Todman will be on NFL rosters when the teams go from 75 players to 53 by this afternoon but they certainly aided their cause on Thursday night.

Easley returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, caught the ensuing 2-point conversion and also had a 20-yard reception in Buffalo's 38-32 loss to Detroit while Todman had a 76-yard touchdown run in Minnesota's 28-24 loss to Houston. Todman ran 10 times for 114 yards and also caught five passes for 21 yards. I also thought it was interesting that Kashif Moore not only signed with Indianapolis earlier this week but he played and had a 15-yard catch for the Colts against Cincinnati, the team that cut him.

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