Saturday, November 10, 2012

Seniors step up for Huskies

Just outside the Rentschler Field playing surface there was a tent set up for the men's health screening initiative called "Man Up."

Well, UConn's veteran leaders also made it clear that they intended to "Man Up" as UConn's seniors played starring roles in a 24-17 win over Pittsburgh.

Senior tight end Ryan Griffin caught six passes (all in the first half) to move into a tie with Tory Taylor for 10th on the Huskies’ career list. He also snared a 2-yard touchdown pass on UConn’s opening drive. Senior receiver Nick Williams had 160 all-purpose yards with 80 of them coming on an electrifying punt return. Senior linebacker Sio Moore recorded two sacks, three tackles for losses (to move into fifth place all time at UConn) and nearly came up with a pair of interceptions. Classmates Dwayne Gratz and Jory Johnson combined for 12 tackles while senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson had a key first-half pass breakup. Senior offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett helped to protect quarterback Chandler Whitmer as well as the offensive line has in any Big East game this season.

“You see the resolve of this senior class because we have been through it all, we know what it takes,” Moore said. “It was an opportunity for us to show that and do that.

“It’s a feeling that I have been waiting for a long time now, a win and feeling accomplished for the hard work and knowing I still have to go to work because I have two more games that are worth that.”

If UConn had lost to the Panthers, the Huskies would have been guaranteed to finish with a losing season for the second year in a row. There would also be no hopes at securing a bowl berth. While it won’t be easy with a game on the road against Big East leading Louisville on Nov. 24 followed by a return home for the regular-season finale on Dec. 1 against a rugged Cincinnati squad but at least there is still hope at salvaging something out of what has been a difficult season.

“It is good that the seniors played well but throughout the whole year those are the guys that we are depending on,” Williams said. “If Griff plays well, if Sio plays well, if I play well, if Blidi plays well typically we are going to win because we are covering a lot of positions with that. It is great to see us go out with a lot of pride at home, we only have one more game at home in our careers.”

Williams, who failed to net even one return yard in last week’s loss to South Florida, broke Larry Taylor’s program record of 2,277 combined kickoff and punt return yards. However, he was just happy to have an impact in a game that he and the other seniors simply needed to win.

“I know the articles and things like that,” said Williams, who now has 2,389 career return yards. “I’d like to take more chances. Going into a game I have an idea of what it going to happen and what isn’t going to happen. I make educated decisions; it is not just a guess out there. I definitely wanted to get a few more returns t and it worked out.”

After the game Moore was almost sheepish when he thinks about the two potential interceptions he was unable to secure during the game.

"When you blitz a little bit, you almost forget how to use your hands," Moore said with a laugh. "Clearly I need to go work on the jugs machine. I am embarrassed with myself, I have dropped a couple this year. I guess that is a part of my game I really need to work on."

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