Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chandler Whitmer cleared to practice

UConn sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer has been cleared to practice but whether he starts in Saturday's game against Cincinnati is a game-time decision according to UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni.

Whitmer was knocked out of the Louisville game taking a crushing hit and he had to go through the protocol following head injuries before being allowed to return to practice.

Pasqualoni said that he will have to see how Whitmer looks in practice today and tomorrow before making a decision on whether Whitmer or Johnny McEntee gets the start against Cincinnati.

Whitmer has completed 58.2 percent of his passes and his 2,400 passing yards are the most for the Connecticut quarterback since Dan Orlovsky passed for 3,385 yards during the 2004 season.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Louisville to ACC is official

The Atlantic Coast Conference officially announced that it has invited Louisville to join the conference.

UConn was also in contention for the spot in the ACC which became available when Maryland announced it was leaving to join the Big Ten.

UConn released statements from university president Susan Herbst and athletic director Warde Manuel on Louisville's departure.

"I know this may seem like a tough moment for our fans, but we need to focus on the fundamentals of academic success across the university and in our athletic program as well," Herbst said. "We are winners -- we win, we like to win and we will continue to play the best possible opponents.  We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition.  We will keep building our winning record through the lens of a great university, that focuses on academics, not on the fluid and unpredictable nature of conference realignment.  Again, I realize this is a difficult day, but when we focus on research, discovery, and student success, we'll never go wrong."

Now here are Manuel's on the record thoughts.

“Conference realignment is a prominent national issue in collegiate athletics and will continue to be so into the future.  UConn has established a rich history as a very successful academic and athletic institution.  We understand that because of that UConn will continue to be brought up in the discussion regarding potential schools considered in realignment.

“We have and will continue to monitor the situation regarding conference realignment and work to ensure that UConn is in the best position for the continued success of our athletic programs.  We are proud of the success of our coaches and student-athletes and the tradition that has been established of winning conference and national championships.

“We are proud and appreciative of our great Husky fan base. Husky Nation is strong all over the country and the world. UConn has one of the most captive audiences of any school in the country and we have strong penetration in several of the nation’s largest television markets.”

The UConn men’s basketball program has won three national championships since 1999 – the only school to do so in this time period – and one of just seven programs in the history of the game to win three or more titles.

The UConn football team has made incredible strides since it moved to the FBS in 2002. The Huskies have won two Big East championships, played in five bowl games – including four over the past five seasons -- and became the fastest program to rise from FBS inception to an appearance in a BCS game in history.

The excellence of the women’s basketball program is unparalleled to any school in the country as UConn has won seven national championships and appeared in 13 Finals Fours, including five straight.

Olympics sports programs at UConn are successful and have competed in and won NCAA national championship play in a number of them.

UConn will further enhance its athletic program in the 2013-14 academic year as its men’s ice hockey team begins play in Hockey East, the premier league in the country for that sport. Connecticut will become one of just nine institutions nationally to play men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football and men’s ice hockey in a major conference."

Finally, here is a statement from Big East commissioner Mike Aresco.

"We enjoyed having Louisville in the Big East Conference and we wish them well.

"The Big East has anticipated the continuing realignment that is reshaping college athletics and has already made important additions as part of our vision for the future.  We will continue moving forward to fulfill that vision, which includes a strong national football conference and a strong and storied basketball conference.  Big East teams will continue to compete and succeed at the highest level and, as always, will combine athletic and academic excellence.  With schools stretching from coast to coast and in many of the top U.S. media markets, the Big East has become a truly national conference with outstanding young men and women competing across a full range of sports.

"We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference."

Here is the official release from the ACC;

GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents has unanimously voted to accept the University of Louisville as its newest member. The vote followed the submission of Louisville's letter of application.

"With the addition of the University of Louisville, the ACC continues to be well positioned for the future competing at the highest level in all facets of the collegiate experience," said the ACC Council of Presidents in a joint statement. "The ACC continues to be a vibrant conference that remains steadfast in its commitment to balancing academics and athletics."

"The University of Louisville will be a terrific member of the Atlantic Coast Conference," said University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents. "We welcome them as full partners into the ACC."

"With its aggressive approach to excellence in every respect, the University of Louisville will enhance our league's culture and commitment to the cornerstones we were founded on 60 years ago," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. "The University of Louisville is an outstanding addition to the Atlantic Coast Conference and I commend the Council of Presidents for continuing to position our league for the long-term future. If you look at what has been done over the last 15 months, the ACC has only gotten stronger with the additions of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse."


"The University of Louisville is honored to join the ACC, a conference with a long history of excellence in athletics and academics," said Dr. James Ramsey, President, University of Louisville. "The ACC will be a great home for UofL and our commitment to great academics, groundbreaking research and top-notch athletic teams."

"When it became apparent to us that we needed to make a move, the ACC is the perfect fit for us and we are so elated to be joining this prestigious conference," said Tom Jurich, Vice President and Director of Athletics. "Under John Swofford's leadership, the ACC continues to prosper. We sincerely appreciate this opportunity. This will open so many more doors for us both athletically for all of our sports programs, and academically for our university. What I really like about this move is it's terrific for our fans, with the proximity of the institutions and we never have to leave the Eastern time zone. This is a credit to everyone at the University of Louisville and our community, as we have all pulled together to position ourselves for this opportunity. It's amazing what has happened here over the last 15 years. We appreciate so much what the BIG EAST Conference has meant to us."

Season over for UConn commit

UConn commit Sha-ki Holines' Commerce High squad out of Springfield, Mass. lost to South Hadley 28-8 in the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinals on Tuesday night.

Holines had one reception for no yards in the loss as Commerce finished the season with an 8-4 record.

Speaking of recruiting, this is obviously a pretty big weekend since it is the Huskies' home finale. It is also a pretty unsettling time to be hosting recruiting targets with the news that the Huskies were passed over yet again by the ACC in favor of Louisville.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni addressed the potential impact of last week's win over Louisville could have when he met with the media yesterday.

"I think it certainly has an effect," Pasqualoni said. "A game like that against a top 20 team with the amount of exposure ... We knew it was on SNY but part of it went on ESPN at the end. A lot of kids saw the game. You get facebooked after the game, 'congratulations Coach, great game.' Kids are watching, prospects are watching, a lot of people are watching. People in football, some of the guys in the NFL were getting around getting ready and they are watching. Part of the group you feel good for are the guys from UConn who are in the NFL playing when they go into the meeting Saturday night, they can dish it out a little bit. That is one of the fun things on a Saturday afternoon or Saturday night when they show up at the hotel, they usually have their college sweatshirt on, their college hat on, they are bragging and giving each other a hard time on who won and who lost that is all part of it.

"There are still quite a few guys we are involved with. In recruiting there are a bunch of guys who make a decision and then there is another group that haven’t made a decision and want to take visits have top schools. We are involved with some kids who have some pretty high-level programs they are looking at."

When Pasqualoni mentioned that he was receiving congrats via facebook, I couldn't let that comment pass without asking a follow-up question. If I were to rank people I have encountered in terms of their social media prowess, I'm not sure I could come up with anybody on the list who is less likely to be captivated by the lure of facebook and twitter so naturally I asked him if he had dreams of one day being "facebooked" after a big win when he started his coaching career.

"When I started coaching there wasn’t even a computer," Pasqualoni said. "We got three channels in the state of Connecticut. You got Channel 3, Channel 8 and if you were lucky you had UHF and you got Channel 30. That is what you had. You had an antenna, you didn’t have cable, you dialed the phone etc. etc. That is the way it was so I didn’t envision anything. I got in this to teach. I was an elementary school teacher. If anybody told me I was going to be a coach after six years in the NFL when I was at Highland School trying to figure out how to get third graders organized, I would have told them they were nuts."

I also asked seniors Nick Williams and Ryan Griffin where social media interaction ranks on their head coach's priority list.

"I don’t know how into he is with the social media," Williams said. "He didn’t mention it to us about facebook. I don’t know how up he is on facebook, he is an old-time football kind of guy."

As for Griffin (who does not have a facebook account) he said "somebody must have signed up for him."

Report: Louisville to join ACC

When word started to get out that Clemson and Florida State were pushing for the Atlantic Coast Conference to add Louisville rather than UConn in the latest raid of the beleaguered Big East, you kind of figured the Huskies would be left on the outside looking in once again.

With countless media outlets reporting that the ACC has voted to accept Louisville, that is exactly what happened.

Let's be honest, football is what drives the constantly changing conference landscape and that was what was behind Clemson's and Florida State's opposition to adding UConn.

Not only is UConn just 10-13 over the last two seasons but when the Huskies went to the Fiesta Bowl following the 2010 season, the UConn fan turnout was rather weak. Louisville was the preseason pick to the win the Big East and even with last week's loss to UConn, the Cardinals to claim the Big East' BCS bowl slot with a win over Rutgers tomorrow.

If there is a silver lining it is that the ACC may not be done yet. There were reports that FSU and Clemson were ready to leave if the ACC added only UConn so you have to wonder if this is a case of where there is smoke, there is fire.

One aspect that can't be overlooked is whether there is lingering resentment following then Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal's lawsuit against the ACC.

So while Louisville becomes the latest Big East school to abandon ship, the league further cemented itself as a mid-major football conference with the additions of Tulane (in all sports) and East Carolina (currently for football only).

UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni was asked about the realignment issue at yesterday's press conference and here's what he had to say.

"(It) is not something we can control or something right now affects us. We have so much with this game trying to get ready to play Cincinnati, one of the top-level teams in our league. We just came off a very physical game, we had a very physical game before that. We are just trying to take care of our own business. This conference realignment thing, pretty soon it is going to be settled. Sooner or later it is going to be settled. Whenever that is it is and I know the people here, Susan Herbst and Warde Manuel are going to do everything they can to do what is in the best interest in the University of Connecticut. I know the Board of Trustees will do that. I like the people we have a lot and have a lot of confidence in them, people are on top of this making the decisions and doing those things."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

McEntee will be ready if called upon

Johnny McEntee, UConn's starting quarterback during the 2011 season, has been pushed into the background as junior-college transfer Chandler Whitmer wrestled the starting quarterback spot away from his during spring drills.

When Whitmer was knocked out of Saturday's game at Louisville after taking a vicious shot, McEntee was asked to lead the Huskies to its first road win against a ranked opponent. While his numbers weren't gaudy, he did throw a TD pass to Shakim Phillips in the second overtime.

McEntee, who could be pressed into duty again on Saturday when the Huskies host Cincinnati in a game UConn needs to win to become bowl eligible, just viewed his role in overtime as simply needing to deliver when given the opportunity.

“It was just a big win for the program and I was happy to be a part of it,” McEntee said.

“It was a good feeling,” McEntee said. “You don’t know if you are helping the team at all or what your role is. To be able to contribute something, the whole offense did a great job during that overtime scoring drive and it was just a great feeling.”

McEntee’s teammates jokingly called him “Johnny Football” which is the nickname of Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Manziel. McEntee was having none of that but it was a sign of the level of appreciation his teammates have for the way McEntee handled losing his starting job.”

“Johnny has handled everything terrific,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “Johnny is a team guy. Johnny is interested in doing whatever is in the best interest of the team so Johnny hasn’t been anything but a team guy from day one. He is a senior, this is his senior class and it is a program he has worked at for four years. To go on the road in the Big East against a top 20 team and win the game in the end, that is something that is an achievement that is a memory that this team, Johnny McEntee and seniors will have forever. That is something they will never forget ever. They may forget their wife’s birthday but they will never forget that win in Louisville.”

McEntee has toiled in relative obscurity behind the scenes, not making waves even when Whitmer was named the starter on the eve of the start of fall camp.

“At first it was a little tough but I just accepted it,” McEntee said. “I just wanted to have fun with my fellow seniors and guys I came in with.”

Pasqualoni didn’t have much of an update on Whitmer’s status and he would not even confirm if he was diagnosed with a concussion.

“Chandler Whitmer is doing pretty good,” Pasqualoni said. “We are really going to limit his work (Tuesday) and reevaluate it each day and we are optimistic as we go through the week that Chandler will be available. It will be a day to day evaluation process.

“We are going to cut Chandler’s down so at least (Tuesday) Johnny will get reps and of course Scotty (McCummings) will get reps. Chandler will make most of his work (as) mental reps. As we go through the week, we have plenty of time. Chandler has gone through this stuff over and over again and we are just going to work through it and see how it goes during the week and make a decision.”

Following a press conference announcing women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma’s partnership with the university’s school of business for a leadership conference held at Mohegan Sun Casino on Apr. 29-30, UConn president Susan Herbst was asked for an update on the conference realignment rumors.

Herbst had no comment was asked whether the Atlantic Coast Conference was closing in on making an offer for the Huskies to become an ACC school and also offered a no comment when pressed to see if UConn would accept the invite from the ACC.

Herbst talked in general terms about putting the interests of the student-athletes first.
“They are there to work hard, have fun and give us a lot of joy especially in the rough winter and we want (them) to be a success academically,” Herbst said. “I think my role is to try to keep perspective on the student-athletes.

“I don’t know how realignment is going to end or how it is settled but we have to focus on the students and they really everything is going to be OK.”

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Monday, November 26, 2012

2 Huskies honored by Big East

Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams was named the Big East's Defensive Player of the Week after recording three sacks and four tackles for losses in the win over Louisville. Junior kicker Chad Christen, who kicked three field goals including the game-winning 30-yard in the third ovetime, early Special Teams Player of the Week recognition from the conference.

Both players were also honorable mention picks by the College Football Performance Awards site.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Former Husky wins Grey Cup

Former UConn star Jordan Younger had two tackles as Toronto defeated Calgary 35-22 to win the Grey Cup title.

It was the second Grey Cup title for Younger who was a member of the last Toronto team to win the Canadian Football League title back in his rookie year of 2004.

Another former Husky (Danny Desriveaux) is also on the roster but is on the injured list.

Former Husky Larry Taylor had a 42-yard reception, a 4-yard run, returned eight kickoffs for 208 yards and added 29 yards on three punt returns for Calgary.

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Upset win sets stage for Saturday's regular-season finale

Just where the upset of nationally-ranked Louisville will go down in UConn folklore figures to be determined by just what happens in Saturday's regular-season finale.

If UConn wraps up the regular season with a win over Cincinnati, the Huskies will have secured a bowl bid which is something that seemed like a virtual impossibility following a loss at South Florida on Nov. 3 and that will make what transpired in Louisville all the more important. A loss to the Bearcats, especially a lopsided one, and it will be merely a footnote in a second-straight losing season.

“What it did for us is it makes this one (against Cincinnati) the most meaningful game we’ve played,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “The next game you play is always the most important one because it is the next game but obviously it is a game where we could become bowl eligible. It is the last game the seniors will play here at the Rent (Rentschler Field) so that Louisville game put us in position to have a pretty exciting game.”

Pasqualoni said that Christen was given the special teams’ game ball while the offensive game ball went to sophomore tailback Lyle McCombs, who ran for 133 yards. In a rare gesture, Pasqualoni said that the entire defensive unit was awarded the defensive game ball.

“It was very clear on the film how many guys (on defense) contributed to the win,” Pasqualoni said. “It started with doing a very good job on run defense, constantly putting them in second down and third down and longs where you kind of knew it was going to be a drop back type of thing instead of a play-action type of pass. They threw the ball 65 times in the game and that required us to use a lot of people. Guys like Julian Campenni came in and got a sack. B.J. McBryde came in and did a good job in the pass rush. Tim Willman came in and did a good job with the pass rush and Kenton Adeyemi came in and gave us a couple of rushes. I thought the guys inside did a good job of trying to keep (Louisville quarterback) Teddy Bridgewater in the pocket. It was an overall good team win. Obviously Blidi (Wreh-Wilson’s) play at the end was just a huge play to make that interception in the end zone.”

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Update on Chandler Whitmer, Trevardo Williams

In UConn's triple-overtime upset of Louisville, two of the Huskies top playmakers went down with injuries.

UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni said on Sunday's call with the media that he is hopeful that both quarterback Chandler Whitmer and defensive end Trevardo Williams will be able to return to practice on Tuesday.

Whitmer suffered an apparent concussion after taking a vicious hit leaving last year's starter Johnny McEntee to finish the game.

"He (Whitmer) will be out of practice today," Pasqualoni said. "We have a very light walkthrough today. He won’t be involved in that today. We will be off (Monday) so we will have two days and then we will see how he is. We are optimistic but we will see how he is.

"I would rather wait until Tuesday and get the absolute definite (update) on it because I want to be sure about what I am saying."

Williams had one of the best games of his collegiate career highlighted by three sacks and four tackles for losses. But he had a walking boot protecting an injured right ankle.

"We will go very light with Trevardo today and like the other guys we will reassess where he is on Tuesday. He is already in the training room being aggressive with his treatment so we are optimistic there."

Pasqualoni said that running back Lyle McCombs received the offensive game ball, the game ball for special teams went to kicker Chad Christen while the entire defensive unit received the defensive game ball.

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Huskies among NCAA's active leaders

UConn's Trevardo Williams, Cole Wagner and Sio Moore are among the top 10 active leaders at the FBS level in their specialities.

Williams, a senior defensive end, is second behind only San Jose State's Travis Johnson is sacks among active players. Williams has 30.5 sacks in 49 career games while Johnson has 31 sacks in 49 career contests. Williams is also 14th with 40.5 tackles for losses.

Wagner, a junior punter, is second in average punts per game (which is more of a signal of the struggles of the UConn defense over the last three seasons) and his 9,484 career yards ranks seventh.

Moore, a senior linebacker, is ninth with 42 tackles for losses.

As for this season's statistics, Williams ranks fifth with 1.05 sacks per game.Yawin Smallwood is 19th nationally with an average of 10.1 tackles per game and 25th with 1.36 tackles per loss a contest followed closely by Moore and Williams who rank 28th and 34th respectively. Nick Williams' average of 12.7 yards per punt return ranks 16th.

In the team rankings, UConn is ninth in rushing defense (100.3 yards allowed per game), 10th in total defense (305.7), 13th in sacks (2.9), 14th in tackles for losses (7.4) and 19th in scoring defense  (18.6)

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

UConn/Cincinnati game will kick off at 3:30 p.m.

The game time was announced for UConn's regular-season finale as the Huskies will host Cincinnati on Dec. 1. The game will start at 3:30 p.m. and will air on ABC.

With wins over South Florida and nationally-ranked Louisville, the Huskies can become bowl eligible with a win over Cincinnati.

UConn works overtime to stun Louisville

It wasn't always pretty and probably a little more dramatic than it needed to be but the UConn football team got its biggest win during head coach Paul Pasqualoni's two seasons in Connecticut with a 23-20 triple-overtime victory over preseason Big East favorite Louisville on Saturday.

Senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson's first interception of the season in the third overtime set up UConn in the position of only needing a field goal to win its first Big East road game of the season. After three Lyle McCombs runs netted 12 yards, the Huskies went for the win on second goal. Chad Christen set off a wild celebration from his teammates and coaches when he connected from 30 yards.

The victory, the first back to back wins during Pasqualoni's time with the Huskies, means UConn needs to beat Cincinnati on Dec. 1 to become bowl eligible.

There are pretty of individual players to highlight in the win for the Huskies. Trevardo Williams had three sacks and four tackles for losses, Dwayne Gratz had 11 tackles and broke up three passes while Jory Johnson and Yawin Smallwood also had 11 tackles while Sio Moore had a couple of tackles behind the line if scrimmage and was his normal offense disrupter.

The offensive line stepped up to the challenge allowing just one sack and helped Lyle McCombs run for 133 yards.

Also, punter Cole Wagner averaged 43.8 yards on 10 punts and got the Huskies out of danger more than once with clutch punts.

UConn should have won the game in regulation. The Huskies led 10-3 when Louisville opted to go for a fake punt near midfield but needing 10 yards, the Cardinals' Preston Brown was stopped five yards short of the first down by Jory Johnson and Julian Campenni to give the Huskies the ball at their own 46. Needing a field goal to make it a two-score game, UConn got as far as the Louisville 34 but Max DeLorenzo was thrown for a four-yard loss on second down and Johnny McEntee (in at quarterback for an injured Chandler Whitmer) could not convert on third down.

Cole Wagner pinned the Cardinals at the 8 but Louisville drove 92 yards and tied the game on Teddy Bridgewater's 6-yard TD to Devante Parker with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

The teams exchanged field goals in the first OT while McEntee and Bridgewater both threw touchdown passes in the second overtime setting the stage for the third overtime.

Friday, November 23, 2012

UConn commit scored winning TD in state playoffs

UConn commit Junior Joseph's 1-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter proved to be the different as Wilson High out of West Lawn, Pa. defeated Governor Mifflin 21-14 in a Pennsylvania District 3-AAAA playoff game to set up a state quarterfinal game against Harrisburg on Dec. 1.

The news wasn't as good for the other UConn commit from Pennsylvania as Quinn Thompson's General McLane squad fell to undefeated Cathedral Prep 48-14 in the District 10-AAA final.

St. Thomas Aquinas and UConn commit Kyle Schafenacker defeated Plantation High 38-7 in a Florida 7A playoff game. Boyd Anderson is next up for St. Thomas Aquinas.

Playoff update for UConn recruits

Connecticut and Massachusetts officially announced its state playoff pairings so I figured I would pass on info on when UConn commits Matt Walsh and Sha-ki Holines open state tournament play.

Walsh and Hand is the top seed in the CIAC Class L bracket and will host No. 8 Platt on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Holines and Springfield Commerce is seeded fourth in MIAA Western Massachusetts Division II and will meet top-seeded South Hadley on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. at Westfield State. The winner advances to face the winner of the Wahconah/Hoosac Valley in Saturday's Super Bowl.

UConn's two Pennsylvania commits are in action tonight in district championships. Quinn Thompson will lead General McLane against undefeated Cathedral Prep in AAA play while Junior Joseph and Wilson High meets up with Governor Mifflin in a Class AAAA game.

Also being played tonight is the Florida 7A as UConn offensive line recruit Kyle Schafenacker leads St. Thomas Aquinas against Plantation.

Safeties to be tested by Louisville QB

With a pair of established senior cornerbacks in Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz and UConn's front seven featuring veteran playmakers it is not a surprise that opponents have chosen to test the nationally-ranked UConn defense where the Huskies are the youngest.

Sophomore safeties Ty-Meer and Byron Jones have been isolated in pass coverage with more frequency as the season has moved forward and facing a Louisville team which likes to spread the wealth in the passing game. Ten different players have at least 10 catches (although one of them is injured tailback Senorise Perry) so even if Wreh-Wilson and Gratz do their jobs, it will be imperative that Brown and Jones take care of business in pass coverage.

"It will be difficult but we are up for the challenge," Brown said. "We practice playing man to man on the slot (receivers) every day, we are up for the challenge.

"Teams have been doing a lot of under routes so we have been adjusting to it. It will be pretty difficult because that quarterback is pretty good and he knows where he wants to go even before the ball is snapped. We have to be on top of our game."

Wreh-Wilson believes Brown and Jones as well as the other defensive backs have made great strides this season.

"Ty-Meer, Byron , Andrew Adams, Taylor Mack and David Stevenson, they have been working really hard. The coaches have been on them. In our defense playing inside is a challenging position and they have done a nice job."

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni raved about the intangibles that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater brings to the Cardinals' offense.

"He doesn’t get rattled," Pasqualoni said. "He does a good job of sliding his feet into what I call soft spots of the pocket. He feels, he doesn’t necessarily have to see the space. He knows what the space is, he moves around, he is able to slide up and slide laterally equally to his right and to his left. Some guys only want to go one way but Teddy Bridgewater will slide equally to his right and to his left. When he is out of the pocket his eyes are still downfield which is really impressive. He will get (close) to the line of scrimmage, stop and throw the ball to a receiver down the field where most young players at that point are just happy they avoided the pass rush, they are looking to run the ball to get what they can get. He has very good instinctive ability to know when to stop and throw it and when he should run it and move the chains running. I think the game slows down for him which is an awfully good trait."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Conference realignment rumors all the rage in Storrs

Less than 100 hours before he will be leading his UConn football team onto Cardinal Stadium to face preseason Big East favorite Louisville, Huskies’ head coach Paul Pasqualoni found himself outside his comfort level.

After an initial volley of questions regarding Louisville’s dynamic sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Pasqualoni faced a series of inquiries on the rumors that UConn could land in the Atlantic Coast Conference when the dust clears from the latest round of conference realignment.
With Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing that they are leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East respectively to join the Big Ten, the latest scuttlebutt is that UConn is atop the list of schools to take Maryland’s spot in the ACC while other rumors have Louisville surging to the top of the ACC poaching wish list.

Pasqualoni sounded like a philosopher at times when discussing the subject of the ever changing landscape of college athletics.

“The only thing for sure in life is change,” Pasqualoni said at Tuesday’s weekly press gathering. “It is just part of life and athletics is one segment of it. We are no different from other areas of our society; it is just a part of it. For me personally, I have such tunnel vision and I am so narrow minded. I am not proud of that. It is hard for me to focus on anything else but do everything you have to do to get yourself ready to play.

“All of these things are going to be decided on a much higher level than the head coach. I know that the people who are in charge here work very hard at to do what is best for the University of Connecticut. I have confidence in them and I put that over there and I think about ‘today is Tuesday it is (day to work on) first and second down, what are they doing, what are their play-action passes.’”

In the cutthroat world of recruiting, even the most minuscule amount of weakness can be exploited by opposing coaches going after the same players. So with the uncertainty on which conference the Huskies will be a part of in the coming years, naturally that has to be a concern when Pasqualoni and his staff hit the road for recruiting trips, right? If UConn does not land in the ACC and remains in an incredible fragile and unstable Big East, will players pass on going to a school in one of the other five power conferences who are ahead of the Big East in the BCS bowl pecking order?

Pasqualoni didn’t directly answer the question whether parents of prospective recruits have raised the issue of the current state of flux the Big East finds itself in.

“In recruiting, you are selling our product which is the academic thing first,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s an awfully-good product. It is a very highly-rated product somewhere in the top 20 or top 15 in the country. The education is just outstanding. I like to talk about where we are, it is a great atmosphere and it is a good college town, a real college campus where kids enjoy being. Kids like being on campus in Storrs that is why there are so many kids who live here. This is not a commuter school. This is a place where kids stay for the semester.

“Their development as players (is a priority). How we are going to coach them? Where we are going to coach them? What are our visions are of them, short term and long term and that is important. There are kids who envision being a good college player and being a pro player and I want to recruit those kids. That is really what we talk about in recruiting. Get your education, get your degree, and (see) where they fit, where I see them, where the staff sees them.”

Neither UConn sophomore safety Ty-Meer Brown nor senior linebacker Sio Moore seemed overly concerned about what the future has in store for the Huskies’ football program.

“We’ve gone to bowl games, we’ve played in BCS games,” Moore said. “I think we are a great school. We’ve come a long way from where we’ve been and collectively I have faith that we will be good and I think the future of the program is bright because there are a lot of guys that you guys don’t know right now that are under the radar.”

Brown watched in amazement in the last couple of days as the rumored moves by Maryland and Rutgers became a reality.
“I just heard about the stuff yesterday so it is kind of mind boggling,” Brown said. “I don’t really know what is going on right now.”

So if Brown were a high school senior right now would he have any reservations agreeing to sign with UConn even if he didn’t know which conference he would be playing in?

“No, not really,” Brown said. “It is more about feeling comfortable with the program and the players in the program.”

Big East's statement on Rutgers' departure

Here is a statement from Big East commissioner Mike Aresco regarding Rutgers' decision to leave the Big East to join the Big Ten conference.

"Although we are disappointed that Rutgers has decided to leave the Big East conference, we wish them well. They have been a valued member of the conference for many years.

"We realize that conference realignment is currently a fact of life in college sports. In the context of this realignment, changes in our membership have been taking place, including important additions. In fact, the Big East has expanded its scope with new members in California, Texas, Florida, Idaho, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. As a result, the Big East has created a unique national football conference that is a factor in the BCS Championship, remains the nation’s strongest basketball conference top to bottom, and is a major force across the full spectrum of men’s and women’s college sports. We remain committed to, and confident in, the continued growth and vitality of the Big East conference."


Monday, November 19, 2012

UConn's defense to be tested by Bridgewater

With all the rumors flying about which conference UConn will be playing in down the road, it's easy to forget that there's actually a football game coming up on Saturday.

For UConn, the trip to Louisville is not only a chance to show they are a better team than their record might indicate but also for the seniors, a win is a must if the Huskies want to go into the regular-season finale against Cincinnati having a chance of becoming bowl eligible.

UConn is 0-3 on the road in conference play this season and now the Huskies face the preseason Big East favorite and a team with hopes of earning the Big East's BCS bowl slot.

The nationally-ranked UConn defense figures to be tested by Louisville's dynamic sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who is fifth nationally in passing efficiency. All Bridgewater has done is complete 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,858 yards, 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

"They have a great offense down there Teddy Bridgewater is an accomplished quarterback," UConn senior linebacker Sio Moore said. "He is a young guy but he is working his tail off. It is time for us to show what we can do on defense, offense and special teams."


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two former Huskies in Grey Cup final

When the Canadian Football League hosts its championship next week, a pair of former Huskies will  be looking to lead their teams to the Grey Cup title.

Return specialst Larry Taylor had 51 yards on three kickoff returns and added 18 yards on four punt returns as Calgary defeated British Columbia 34-29 in the Western Conference final. Although he did not have any statistics, Jordan Younger is a member of the Toronto team which defeated Montreal 27-20 in the Eastern Conference final.

Calgary and Toronto will play on Sunday in the Grey Cup final.

Not your typical college football Saturday

Driving into College Station for the UConn women's basketball game at Texas A&M, I couldn't help but be incredibly impressed by the Aggies' athletic facilities and especially the football field.

Obviously A&M is in the spotlight thanks to its recent win over Alabama. That win set the stage for an even crazier Saturday of football as both Kansas State and Oregon suffered their first losses of the season to further scramble the national-championship picture. A&M is also a signal for the even changing landscape in college athletics as the long-time Big 12 mainstay is in its first season in the SEC. There is a sign on the way into campus saying "We are in SEC country."

Well, conference realignment was once again front and center with rumors that Maryland and Rutgers are being wooed for a jump to the Big 10. If that does happen, UConn could be the school which is lured to the ACC to replace Maryland.

The UConn to the ACC scuttlebutt is nothing new but this time it seems more likely than ever before than it could actually happen and at worst, it will be worth watching who all of this shakes out.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mixed results for UConn recruits

By my unofficial tally, teams featuring UConn commits were 3-3 in postseason play last night.

Both Pennsylvania commits kept their hopes for a state title alive.

Quinn Thompson ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns to lead General McLane to a 46-42 win over Slippery Rock in a District 10 Class AAA semifinal. Meanwhile, linebacker Junior Joseph led an impressive defensive effort in Wilson High's 35-10 win over Central York in the District 3-AAAA quarterfinal.

The season continues for offensive lineman Kyle Schafenacker and St. Thomas Aquinas of Ft. Lauderdale rolled to a 42-7 win over Miami Beach (which I believe was the exact score predicted in the Miami Herald yesterday) to set up a Florida Class 7A showdown with Plantation.

The news wasn't as good for the other three future Huskies in action.

Josh Marriner, a 2,000-yard rusher and the Hampton Roads All-Southeastern District Offensive Player of the Year, saw his brilliant senior season end with a 47-20 loss to Ocean Lakes in Virginia's Eastern Regional semifinal. Marriner ran for 84 yards to give him 2,145 rushing yards and 26 TDs.

Plano (Tex.) quarterback Richard Lagow saw his high school football career come to an end with a 35-14 loss to Skyline while Cory Jasudowich and Cheshire Academy lost to Governor's Academy 42-28 in the Tom Flaherty Bowl at Worcester Academy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Plenty of UConn recruits in postseason action on Friday

North Branford's Cory Jasudowich will wrap up a brilliant four-year run at Cheshire Academy when the UConn commit leads the Cats against Governor's Academy in the Tom Flaherty Bowl tomorrow night. But the four-year starting offensive guard and middle linebacker is far from the only future Husky playing in a postseason game tomorrow.

Running back Josh Marriner leads his Western Branch of Chesapeake, Va. squad against Ocean Lakes in the third round of the VHSL Division 6 tournament.

Marriner ran for 169 yards, going over the 2,000 yard mark on the season in a 23-21 second-round win over Bethel.

Both of the commits from the state of Pennsylvania will be in action.

Quinn Thompson and his General McLane squad are two wins shy of qualifying for the PIAA state quarterfinals.

General McLane plays Slippery Rock Friday with the winner advancing to meet either Warren or Cathedral Prep in the final round of AAA district play on either Nov. 23 or 24. Thompson projects to be a tight end for the Huskies but he plays quarterback for his high school team. In a Nov. 9 win over Oil City he ran 15 times for 104 yards and a touchdown and also threw a touchdown pass.

Linebacker Junior Joseph leads Wilson High against Central York in a PIAA Class AAAA district playoff game. If Wilson can win tomorrow and beats the winner of the Penn Manor/Governor Mifflin game next weekend, it will advance to the state quarterfinals. Joseph ran for 51 yards in last week's win over Dallastown. Joseph has 55 tackles and three sacks so far this season.

Offensive line recruit Kyle Schafenacker leads Ft. Lauderdale powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas against Miami Beach in Florida's Region 4-7A quarterfinal. Schafenacker has helped St. Thomas Aquinas average more than six yards per carry and 186 rushing yards per game.

Highly-touted quarterback commit Richard Lagow and his Plano (Tex.) squad will play Skyline on Friday in a Conference 5A Division 1 district game. Lagow has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,754 yards for Plano this season.

Closer to home, Matt Walsh and the Hand High squad defeated Notre Dame (West Haven) on Thursday to improve to 9-0. The Tigers wrap up the regular-season with a game against Guilford on Wednesday before heading to the Class L playoffs.

Noel Thomas and his St. Luke's squad was denied the Fairchester title with a loss to King last week but did receive a bid into New England Prep School Athletic Conference tournament and will play the Hyde School on Saturday at noon in the Dan Rorke Bowl at Kingwood-Oxford in West Hartford.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Former Husky honored by NFL

Former UConn star Darius Butler of the Indianapolis Colt was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble in a 27-10 win over Jacksonville.

Butler, originally drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft by the New England Patriots, was signed by a free agent by Indianapolis in August.

Butler and the Colts just happen to be coming into New England this weekend to play the Patriots.


Cory Jasudowich talks about commitment to UConn

Cory Jasudowich has had plenty of think about in the last two weeks.

When the Cheshire Academy linebacker/offensive guard and North Branford native committed to Boston College back in June, he couldn't wait to suit up for the Eagles.

Five months later, however, he had a change of heart and now the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Jasudowich is the latest player to commit to UConn.

When I heard about Jasudowich's commitment, I reached out to Cheshire Academy coach Dave Dykeman who let me to speak to Jasudowich before Wednesday night's Cheshire Academy practice.

"I have been talking to Coach Dykeman about it and that (UConn) was the right fit for me, the hometown school and I am a hometown kid," Jasudowich said. "It was just the fact that everything wasn’t working out with BC and I had other schools on the table. I sat down with Coach Dykeman, we talked about it and we thought UConn would be the best fit. I love that school.

"You don’t want to disrespect the school in any (way) but you have to do what is right for yourself. At the time (of his original commitment) I did love Boston College and everything like that but at the same time I had to look at what would benefit me the most in football and in academics and I thought UConn would be a better fit."

Jasudowich is being brought in as a linebacker by UConn. His natural position is middle linebacker but the Huskies are in pretty good shape at that position as sophomore Yawin Smallwood is the Huskies' leading tackler.

"I know they had a middle linebacker already," Jasudowich said. "I had talked to the recruiting coach, Coach (George) DeLeone and they are looking for linebackers. I don’t know if it is going to be middle linebacker or outside linebacker but anything I can do to help out the team I am going to do.

Jasudowich has been weighing his options for the last couple of week before finally pulling the trigger today.

"We have been talking about it and everything Boston College has to offer and I said ‘can I picture myself at this school?’ It is kind of a ride from home, two hours and I had talked to my mother. She was very excited about it because it is only about 45 minutes away from my house, she be able to see six games out of the season at home."

Jasudowich is a four-year starter on both offense and defense at Cheshire Academy. While he still keeps in touch with his friends at North Branford High School, he has no regrets about his decision to head to Cheshire Academy.

"I love it here," Jasudowich said. "I am one of the captains of the team and they watch what the captains do. If you are a lackadaisical player, your team is going to follow that. They are not going to want to play full bore all the time. I try to hit the hardest I can every play and go out with a great attitude, a big smile and ready to play every day."

Cheshire Academy is 7-1 and plays at Worcester State on Friday in the Tom Flaherty Bowl. If the Cats win, it would be the third bowl title in the last four years and would give the senior class a 30-5 record.

"It is unreal," Jasudowich said. "I find myself smiling about it every day. The fact that we have never lost on this field is unreal (with) bowl championships and everything, it gets better and better. Hopefully this Friday I will knock them out and have three rings at Cheshire Academy and it’s an unreal feeling."

Dykeman raved about the work ethic and passion Jasudowich plays with.

"He is a physical, physical linebacker who plays incredibly hard, you watch him on the field he has a motor that doesn’t stop," Dykeman said. "He plays the game with great passion. I think he is an incredible tackler which is a lost art in a lot of ways. He has been a pleasure to coach this.

"The first thing I picked up is how much he loved playing the game. He plays the game with an incredible amount of passion. Yes, he is a Division I linebacker but the kid plays Division I guard with the same sort of intensity, passion, enthusiasm, drive. It is contagious to all of those around him."


Report: Jasudowich commits to UConn

According to the BC Interruption site which covers Boston College recruiting, Cheshire Academy linebacker Cory Jasudowich has recommitted from Boston College and has committed to UConn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big East announces football divisional breakdown

Big East commissioner Mike Aresco announced that football will go to a two-division format beginning next year with the divisional winners playing in the Big East championship game.

UConn will be in the East division with holdovers Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida while newcomer Central Florida will also play in the East.

Temple is the only current Big East team in the West Division and the Owls will be joined by Boise State, Memphis, Houston, San Diego State and Southern Methodist.

Under this format, teams will play eight conference games. Each team will play the teams in their division once and will play three crossover games against teams in the other division.

The home and away opponents will be announced early next month after annual athletic directors' meeting in New York on Dec. 3.

The divisional format could be revisited after the 2014 season with Navy and according to the official release "possibly other schools" joining the conference.

It was also announced that the Big East championship will be hosted by one of the participating teams rather than at a neutral site.

UConn's Nick Williams up for national award

UConn senior wide receiver/return specialist Nick Williams is one of four finalists for the third annual Pop Warner National College Football Award which is presented to a former Pop Warner player who has made a difference on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

Williams played Pop Warner football in Highstown, N.J., in sixth, seventh and eighth grade.

Williams is UConn’s all-time leader in return yardage (punt and kickoff) with 2,389 yards and this past week was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Week and is expected to graduate in December.

The other finalists are Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, Miami (Fla.) running back Mike James and Michigan offensive guard Patrick Omameh.

The Pop Warner National College Football Award is presented during the annual Pop Warner Super Bowl at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 5


Monday, November 12, 2012

Williams honored by Big East

UConn's Nick Williams was named the Big East's Special Teams Player of the Week.

Williams returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown, returned two kickoffs for 42 yards and became the Huskies' career leader in combined kickoff/punt return yardage in Friday's win over Pittsburgh.

Williams also shared the College Football Performance Awards' national punt returner of the week award with UAB's Jackie Williams who returned a punt 79 yards for a score in a 38-31 win over Marshall.

Senior linebacker Sio Moore was named to the Big East honor roll after recording two sacks and two pass breakups in Friday's win over Pittsburgh. Moore and tight end Ryan Griffin (six catches for 84 yards and one TD) were honorable mention picks at their respective positions by the CFPA site.

It was also announced that the Nov. 24 game at Louisville will start at noon and air on SNY.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

UConn showing progress on third downs

One of the things I was struck by in Friday's win over Pittsburgh was how well Chandler Whitmer threw the ball on third down including the key completion to Shakim Phillips that allowed the Huskies to run out the clock.

So I did some checking. In the second half of the Temple game, the entire Syracuse game and in the first half against South Florida the Huskies converted just 6 of 29 times on third down. The Huskies were 5 of 7 in the second half against USF and were 7 of 14 against the Panthers.

"I think a big part of that was the guys up front did a better job holding these guys off," Whitmer said. "They have a good defensive front and they did a good job up front protecting me. Lyle had a great job rushing as well so that kept up balanced. That is what I have been talking about all year that we needed to do to be successful and we did a good job of that."


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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UConn holds on for first Big East win

It wasn't pretty at the end but there were few complaints coming out of the UConn camp after Friday night's 24-17 victory over Pittsburgh except perhaps the belief that those outside the Huskies' inner circle were counting them out.

“It is a great feeling. We have been in four games this year when we lost the game by seven points or less,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “It is awfully nice to win under these circumstances.”

Coming into the game on a four-game losing streak and with all four of the games coming in the Big East, the UConn players knew that people outside the inner circle were already predicting that the Huskies would finish the season with seven straight losses and go winless in Big-East play.

“That is what got us motivated,” UConn senior defensive tackle Ryan Wirth said. “Everybody was putting a fork in us.”

The tone was set on the first offensive play of the game as Chandler Whitmer ran a bootleg to his right and hit a wide-open Ryan Griffin for a 12-yard gain. Lyle McCombs would add 29 yards on five carries while Whitmer would hook up with Griffin two more times including a 2-yard touchdown to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead with 8:31 left in the first quarter.

“I think we just came out and answered the call tonight,” UConn junior offensive guard Steve Greene said. “We set the tempo early. It feels great. It showed what we were capable of on national television."

UConn, which had not scored a touchdown in the second half in its first four Big East games, appeared primed to finally hit pay dirt as a 39-yard run by McCombs got the Huskies into the red zone. But on second down and 7 at the 14, Whitmer badly overthrew Griffin. Jarred Holley intercepted the pass in the end zone.Whitmer, who was 19 of 25 for 213 yards, atoned for his mistake with a key third-down completion to Shakim Phillips to allow the Huskies to run out the clock.

Whitmer was 19 of 25 for 213 yards while McCombs ran for 120 yards. Yawin Smallwood had nine tackles including the 100th of the season while Sio Moore had a pair of sacks. UConn senior defensive end 

Trevardo Williams left the game with a shoulder injury but Pasqualoni said the injury was not serious and he doesn’t expect him to miss any time.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Huskies playing for their season

This one should be interesting.

UConn is coming into tonight's game with an 0-4 Big East record and are facing a Pittsburgh team playing its best football of the season.

The thing about the Huskies this season is everything has been a struggle - especially in conference play.

Turnovers have been hard to come by, special teams dynamo Nick Williams has not had many chances to showcase his game-breaking ability and the running game has needed to get their yards seemingly one yard at a time. It bears watching whether any of that will change.

Getting Pitt to turn the ball over won't be an easy task. Redshirt senior quarterback Tino Sunseri has not thrown an interception in his last 172 attempts and scintillating tailback Ray Graham isn't going to put the ball on the turf too often.

It will also be intriguing to see if UConn sophomore Gus Cruz is more comfortable as he makes his second straight start and third overall at right guard for an injured Adam Masters.

By now pretty much everybody knows what is at stake. If UConn loses tonight, the Huskies will clinch a second straight losing season, will no longer be in contention for bowl eligibility and will move one step closer to a winless run through conference play

Thursday, November 08, 2012

UConn takes part in Man Up initiative

Among the tailgating tents at tomorrow's game will be one for the Man Up health screening project the UConn athletic department and the state comptroller's office has partnered up for.

The tent will feature free health screenings for men, a Wii sport competition and other activities all with the goal of having men go in for regular checkups.

Here is the story I wrote on the project off the Oct. 25 press conference at Rentschler Field.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pasqualoni OK with choppy schedule

UConn's schedule this season has been an iontriguing one to say the least.

After playing in each of the first eight weeks, the Huskies had a bye week before the South Florida game. Now comes Friday's game against Pittsburgh which is the second in six days for UConn before getting another off week.

"We had that week off which I think came at a good time and we were able to get some things healed up," Pasqualoni said on a Wednesday afternoon conference call with the media. "Now we are on a short week so it is pretty intense, two games in six days and they are physical games. (We have) the week off next week we be different in the sense that we will practice a little bit later in the week and then we will be back to the normal week (beginning) Sunday getting ready for the next one. We’ve planned for it. We have a good plan and it is what it is."

Pasqualoni said that the team is doing pretty well health wise and no new injuries have happened since the end of the USF game.

He also said he was planning to have a game captain this week to go with season captains Jory Johnson, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Nick Williams but he won't be naming that player until later in the week and I doubt we will know who it is until they head out for the opening coin toss. Last week senior defensive tackle Ryan Wirth served as the game captain.

On the call he was asked about the offensive struggles (UConn has scored touchdowns in just two of the 16 quarters in Big East play this season).

"It’s been a combination of a bunch of little things, the details and sometimes not getting the execution that it is required," Pasqualoni said. "You can’t say it is any one particular guy or any one particular position. I think we have all contributed to it in the run game. I really don’t have an issue with what we are doing from a passing game standpoint, I think that part of it has been OK. That is a little uncharacteristic of us and uncharacteristic of the University of Connecticut. This has been a team that has done a good job of running the football over the years. We came in last year and I thought we’d be better running the football then we have been this season. Not to make any excuses but we had to replace a very good left tackle, we had to replace a very good center both who were NFL camps and of course we had this injury to Adam Masters so it has kind of been one thing after the other and we have not been able to get the thing going like we want to. I think the players are working hard at it. Receivers are involved in it, tight ends are involved in it, the backs are involved in it. At the end of the day, it is a little thing here and a little thing there.

"I personally think you don’t let up, you don’t get disappointed or discouraged but you keep working hard at it."

Pasqualoni was also asked about the learning curve he faced returning to the Big East after being away since 2004 when he was let go as Syracuse's head coach.

"When I came back I hadn’t been out of college football that long." Pasqualoni said. "I left Syracuse after the 2004 season. I did not come back naive or anything about what the challenges would be here at Connecticut. I always felt like the Big East is a very competitive deal, anybody is capable of winning every weekend. You know the deal, Miami they were hard to deal and hardly lost a game, I think they won nine of the first 13 Big East titles. After they departed in the later years I was in the league it was just so competitive so I expected it to be, all good programs, all  good coaches and the teams all have good coaches.

"Everybody is committed so it has been frustrated I the sense that we have been in some many close games, you go back to last year with the Iowa State game, the Vanderbilt game, the Western Michigan game, you go to this year, the NC State game the Western Michigan game again. It just has been frustrating because we have been in so many close games, maybe not be perfect but to we’ve had the opportunity to have more wins then we are showing, more results than the work we have put in we just don’t have that right now. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have the same passion, that we doesn’t mean we are discouraged or any of that, like a lot of things in life you just keep grinding away.

I enjoyed the NFL. I was fortunate, I was around a lot of good people, a lot of good players, young players like a DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and some very good older players (with the Dallas Cowboys) as well but I always enjoy the younger kids, I always enjoyed the developmental process of what you go through. At Syracuse we were a developmental team, here we are a developmental team. You are working every day with the scout team and second-team guys, the third-team guys and you can see with those guys that in a very short amount of time they are going to be very good players. There is a lot of satisfaction in that. It is a lot of fun. I like coaching, I like teaching so for me this is really a pretty good environment"

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Former Huskies among CFL leaders

The Canadian Football League just completed its regular season and a quick look at the final regular-season numbers shows two former UConn stars ranking in the top five.

Larry Taylor, in his second season with Calgary, finished fourth in the league with 1,583 combined return yards while Jordan Younger, who is in his eighth season with Toronto and ninth season overall, is tied for second with five interceptions.

Taylor returned 44 punts for 484 yards, had 900 yards on 44 kickoff returns and he brought back four missed field goals for an additional 199 yards with 125 coming on one spectacular return.

Both Taylor and Younger have helped their teams in the playoffs and both will be in action on Sunday as Toronto plays Edmonton at 1 p.m. with Calgary meeting Saskatchewan at 4:30 p.m.

It should be noted that there are four former UConn players in the CFL and all four are on playoff teams (of course six of the eight CFL teams qualify for the players).

Julius Williams is a defensive end who has two sacks for Edmonton while Martin Bedard is a long snapper or Montreal which received a bye into the semifinals.

It is worth mentioning that Kory Sheets, who committed to UConn but never played for the Huskies, finished as the second-leading rusher as he had 1,277 yards for Saskatechewan.

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Monday, November 05, 2012

Pittsburgh coach raves about UConn's defense

Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst did not need much prodding to start throw out lofty praise for the nationally-ranked UConn defense when it was his turn to take questions on Monday's Big East conference call.

Chryst believes the Huskies have difference makers at all three levels on defense but he said he expects the Panthers to be excited for the challenge of squaring off with a defensive unit ranked ninth among 120 FBS schools in total defense, 14th in pass defense and 21st in both rushing and scoring defense.

"They are a heck of a defense, overall they are ninth in the country," Chryst said. "You take the major categories and they rank highly in that. It is a combination of good players, a good scheme and it is another great challenge for our offense. If you throw on the tape, they jump out at you right away; they have gotten our attention. We look forward to going up there, it is kind of fun playing against the best. This is one of the best defenses in the country, we are looking forward to that. They have personnel, a well-thought out scheme."

Chryst's time on Monday's call started with him being asked about Notre Dame having two players with the same number on the Panthers' field goal in the second overtime. By rule, Notre Dame should have been flagged for a five-yard penalty and Pitt would have had a first down with a chance to go for the touchdown rather than settling for the field goal.

Chrsyt said he was told about it after the game by a couple of assistants and it was among the plays he sent to the league official for review. However, he was not about to blame that no call for the overtime loss.

"A couple of our coaches did (see it)," Chryst said. "You submit plays for review and that was on it. There were a lot of other plays that where why we didn’t win."

Not much of note to report from UConn coch Paul Pasqualoni's press conference today. He continues to stick to the company line of being impressed by the mental fortitude even in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

I did ask him about the two fourth-quarter sacks when USF players shot gaps up the middle and got the UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer even before Whitmer could get in position to throw the ball.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Trevardo Williams would have taken win over sack record

It could have been Trevardo Williams' night.

The dynamic senior defensive end from Bridgeport broke a 27-year-old UConn record when he sacked South Florida QB B.J. Daniels in the second quarter. However, after the Huskies' 13-6 loss at South Florida, he was not in a mood to celebrate.

“It is a bittersweet moment,” Williams said. “Actually, that is for another time. I can celebrate after the season or something.”

Williams and his defensive teammates pretty much did everything they could to get the Huskies their first Big East win of 2012. After Daniels’ capped an impressive 80-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring run in the first quarter to give the Bulls the early 7-0 lead, the UConn defense stood tall.

South Florida’s only other points came courtesy of a pair of fourth-quarter field goals after a pair of Connecticut turnovers. UConn’s defense, which looked helpless at time two weeks earlier in a 40-10-loss to Syracuse, “regained our swagger” according to senior linebacker Jory Johnson.

But three fourth-quarter turnovers by the UConn defense were even too much for one of the nation’s stingiest defenses to overcome.

“That is just football,” Williams said. “It is unpredictable. You give your best and in the end the slightest mistake can turn the whole game around. There is not much to say about it.

“We know that there is time to turn the season around. All season we have played well but we haven’t been winning like we should. We are a good team and (Friday’s game against Pittsburgh) is another opportunity to prove to ourselves.

With the extra week to prepare one thing I noticed when UConn had the ball was that the Huskies were breaking the huddle quicker and snapping the ball often times with 15 or so seconds on the play clock.

I was curious if I was just imagining things of if UConn was making a concerted effort to pick up the tempo.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni confirmed it was the latter.

"I think it was the way we practiced for the last two weeks," Pasqualoni said on a Sunday afternoon conference call. "We were sure of what we were doing in and out of the huddle. There was no special (hurry-up) call like racehorse or NASCAR or any of those things. It was just ‘here is the tempo that we want to play with.’ I thought for the most part we did a good job with that."

So will we be seeing more of that moving forward?
"Absolutely get the play in, get it to the line of scrimmage and get us going with some tempo, keep the pressure on them. We would like to play that way," Pasqualoni said.

Of course it should be pointed out that the quicker tempo resulted in all of six points so it will take more than just snapping the ball a few seconds quicker to fix what is ailing the Huskies on the offensive side of the ball.

Pasqualoni expressed optimism in what he saw after watching the tape of the game.

"We are so darn close from several of those runs, really having more production there," Pasqualoni said.

Pasqualoni said that UConn didn't have any injury issues of note coming out of yesterday's game. Center Tyler Bullock suffered an apparent head injury which forced him to leave the game but Pasqualoni said all the tests came back fine on Bullock and he doesn't figure to miss any practice time.

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Mistake-prone Huskies fall into Big East cellar

Somehow it seemed apropos that the game between the only two Big East teams without a conference win in 2012 would come down to which team made the plays to lose the game rather the one which made the plays to secure the victory.

The last three times UConn had possession of the game, the Huskies turned the ball over. The first two were turned into field goals which enabled the Bulls to take a 7-6 lead and extend it to a 13-6 cushion. The final one, which is one of the most bizarre, pinball type of interception, allowed the Bulls to go into the victory formation and move out of last place in the Big East standings.

“We just didn’t come up with the plays that they did to win the game,” said Jory Johnson, a senior linebacker who had five tackles including the 200th of his career. “I think as a defense we did get our swagger back from last time when we played Syracuse but as a team we didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”

UConn (3-6, 0-4 in the Big East) seemed to be position to steal away a victory.

On the Huskies’ first play of the fourth quarter Chandler Whitmer connected with Geremy Davis for a 21-yard gain. On the second, he rumbled for nine more yards. No longer in the shadow of their own goal line, the Huskies seemed ready to march down the field and take lead. However, sophomore tailback Lyle McCombs wasn’t able to cleanly handle the ball after Whitmer gave it to him. McCombs’ fumble was recovered by Tashon Whitehurst.

Nine plays later Maikon Bonani booted a 27-yard field goal to extend the Bulls’ lead to 10-6. UConn was still within one score but disaster struck again when Whitmer, who threw for 284 yards, was hit as he threw the ball. Jon Lejiste came up with USF’s first interception of the season. Once again the UConn miscue turned into a South Florida field goal to make it 13-6.

“We couldn’t catch a break and it is tough when fluke things happen where it is just not in your favor,” Whitmer said. “It is frustrating because we fight for everything we get. We have been doing it all game and basically all year. Every game, except for Syracuse (was competitive) and it is tough to come down on the bad side of these games.”

The errors weren’t done just yet. Whitmer was sacked twice in the next drive and UConn’s final offensive play ended when Whitmer’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of Elkino Watson with 50 seconds to play.

“I thought if we hadn’t stopped ourselves in the fourth quarter,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “You just have that many bad things happen in a close game and try to be successful. Too many bad things, great things you can’t turn it over like that and expect to win.”

Trevardo Williams became UConn’s all-time leader in sacks when he pulled down B.J Daniels during the first drive of the second quarter. Williams’ 27½ career sack breaks the mark of 27 set by Mark Michaels from 1982-85. It was Williams’ 8½ sacks this season.UConn senior linebacker Sio Moore did not play in the first quarter as a result of a sideline argument he had late in the Syracuse game.

“A program policy deal where he missed the first quarter” is how Pasqualoni defined Moore’s punishment.”

Byron Jones led the UConn defense with nine tackles but he also failed to come up with an interception which would have put the Huskies deep in USF territory. Dwayne Gratz had an interception in the end zone which allowed UConn to go into halftime only down by four points.

B.J. Daniels passed for 199 yards and ran for another 23. His 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was a program record 25th rushing touchdown for the senior quarterback. It may have been his final one as early reports are that he suffered a serious ankle injury which could end his brilliant career.

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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Looking back at historic '10 UConn/USF game

The home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the scene of one of the landmark moments in UConn football history as Dave Teggart’s 52-yard field goal in the closing seconds lifted the Huskies to a 19-16 win over host South Florida in the regular-season finale 2010. The victory secured the Huskies the Big East’s BCS bowl bid and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.

"I remember us fighting for everything. It was a defensive struggle, we were struggling on offense but we were keeping our team in the game,” said UConn senior linebacker Jory Johnson. “We had the big pick 6 by Lawrence Wilson that really kept us in it. Then in a tie game we had the big return. The biggest thing I remember is we stayed in the fight, everything didn’t go our way. We had some tough breaks on offense, we really struggled against their defense but we were able to stay in it and we won a defensive battle.”

Johnson’s memory was spot on. The Huskies were outgained 332-223 in the game and only made two trips to the red zone. Thanks to the work of the Huskies’ rock-solid defense, UConn’s longest scoring drive was 37 yards but none of that mattered as UConn won the only statistic that mattered and that was the final score.

The stakes were significantly lower on Saturday night.

South Florida, picked to finish second in the Big East’s preseason poll, came into the game on a six-game losing streak while the Huskies lost their last three.

“It has been kind of frustrating,” Johnson said. “Our class, the seniors, it is kind of on us to keep the trend going and we haven’t been doing that. It has been frustrating, we have been in a lot of close games but we still have (three) games left so that is the most important thing to focus on is trying to make the most out of the last (three) games. We still have a chance to go to a bowl game and we are just trying to take things one game at a time.”


USF, UConn dealing with host of injuries

On Paul Pasqualoni's conference call on Thursday he was asked if he felt the Huskies were snake bitten in the injury department after senior offensive guard Adam Masters and freshman defensive end E.J. Norris were lost for the season with ankle and shoulder injuries respectively.

"It is part of the game," Pasqualoni said. "Losing Adam Masters and the versatility he gave us, that was unfortunate. We’ve been in this and we’ve lost good players. It’s not at the point where I feel snake bitten."

If Pasqualoni wants to see what it's like to be a bit snake bitten injury wise, he needs to merely take a glance across the field tonight as the number of injuries suffered by South Florida is staggering.

Leading rusher Lindsey Lamar is the latest key player for USF to go down as he fractured his collarbone in the fourth quarter of last week's loss to Syracuse. USF coach Skip Holtz is not ready to declare Lamar lost for the season  but said he definitely is out for tonight's game. He is far from the only one.

The Bulls could be without both starting offensive guards Danous Estenor and Mark Popek, tight end  Evan Landi, receivers Derrick Hopkins,  Andre Davis and D'Vario Montgomery and defensive end Ryan Giddens for the game tonight. If all of those players are held out of the game, the injured players will have more receptions (84), receiving yards (1,053) and TD catches (10) than the ones who are suiting up. For those scoring at home, USF could be without 56 percent of its catches and receiving yards and 71 percent of its TD receptions.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

UConn, USF in quest of first conference win

When the season began there was plenty of optimism in the camps of the South Florida and UConn football teams.

USF was picked to finish second in the Big East while the Huskies felt pretty good about their chances of returning to a bowl game after a disappointing 5-7 season in Paul Pasqualoni's first season as head coach.

Never in their collective wildest dreams did either team expect to still be looking for their first Big East victory in the first weekend of November. But that is the situation both teams find themselves in.

"We are just going to focus on trying to get back on the right path, we had a bad week, really a bad month we lost three straight games in October so things really haven’t gone our way," UConn senior linebacker Jory Johnson said. "We are trying to show everybody that we have four games left in our season and it is not lost just yet."

Pasqualoni has a pretty good sense what USF head coach Skip Holtz, a former UConn head coach, is going through and how he is trying to keep his team from losing faith.

"I have always believed that if you keep your nose to the grindstone and you keep working that good things will happen to you," Pasqualoni said. "In this game, that is very, very true. I know Coach Holtz very well, I have a lot of respect for him and their coaching staff, with their philosophy and what their approach with their kids is so I am sure that South Florida is going to keep on working, keep on grinding it out and that would be the approach that , well that is the approach we are taking as well because we are kind of in the same boat."

South Florida's Achilles' heel is the Bulls' inability to close games out.

“Everybody is very much aware of where we are right now,” Holtz said. “We have to win out to go to a bowl game and it is something we would very much like to do especially for our seniors. At some point we have to be able to stop these close losses. It has happened to us four times this year. We have had to lead I believe with two minutes to go or less in four of these games. They have been able to take the ball and go down the field and put points on the board.”

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Junior Joseph commits to UConn

Junior Joseph, a linebacker from Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pa. posted on his twitter account that he has committed to UConn.

Here is what he posted:
"Couldn't pass up this opputunity I'm officially committed to UCONN for the next 4 years to play football #Huskies #Bigeast Let's go!!"

Joseph is listed as 6-2, 225 and has 46 tackles with three sacks as a senior.

Osiecki no longer at UConn; Another DE lost

Sophomore fullback and former Seymour High star Mike Osiecki has withdrawn from UConn the university announced today.

Osiecki was the second-string fullback for the first six games of the season before he suffered a concussion in the first half of the Rutgers game. He missed the last two games due to the concussion and was removed from the depth chart for the South Florida game.

This is the second time this year that Osiecki has left UConn. He was granted permission to head home for a few days during preseason camp with the understanding that he could return if he chose to. Osiecki took the time off and did come back to the team. The first time he left it was because he had some personal issues to tend to. This time, it appears to be as a result of the head injury he suffered.

Osiecki did not have a carry but he did have three receptions for 32 yards this season.

"Mike made the decision which based on all factors I thought it was a good decision to drop out of school for this semester," Pasqualoni said on a Thursday conference call with the media. "Hopefully Mike will do well and we will see what happens from here but that is about all I can say about it."

Pasqualoni said that Martin Hyppolite, who replaced Osiecki as the No. 2 fullback on the depth chart, has been seeing time at both tailback and fullback.

"Martin is not only playing the tailback but he is playing the fullback as well," Pasqualoni said. "Martin’s a pretty big guy, he has done that before. We have had him in for plays where he has been the fullback. I think we will be fine there from a depth standpoint."

It will be interesting to see if Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone take advantage of Hyppolite's tailback skills when he is in the same backfield with starting tailback Lyle McCombs.

There was more bad news for the Huskies on Thursday as Pasqualoni said promising freshman DE E.J. Norris suffered a shoulder injury during practice on Wednesday and he it will require season-ending surgery.

"It was kind of a freak accident where his shoulder just kind of came out," Pasqualoni said. "It is the second time it happened so we are going to pursue having the shoulder done now. It’s a 20-week process so I would like to have him up and available as soon as we so we are going to bite the bullet and see if we can’t do something now with it."

It's not only the third defensive end to go out for the season but the third left DE to be lost in a span of nine weeks.

"I never remember losing this many guys at one spot," Pasqualoni said. "Not only have we lost them but we are losing them on the same side which is even more amazing. Jesse (Joseph) was first, then Teddy (Jennings) and now E.J. and they all play the same position. It is just unusual and unfortunate."

Angelo Pruitt will continue to work as the starter at that position with Tim Willman backing him up. Kenton Adeyemi and B.J. McBryde are also available to be a part of the DE rotation. Of course Pruitt and now McBryde began the season as defensive tackles so every time the Huskies move a DT over to cover a loss at DE, UConn is losing depth at defensive tackle.