Monday, October 21, 2013

DeLorenzo makes an impact

Without providing any specifics, UConn interim coach T.J. Weist vowed that there would be some changes on the offense.

It didn't take long in Weist's second game at the helm to see one difference in how he handled the personnel.

Max DeLorenzo averaged just under 4 1/2 carries in the first five games of the season. He almost topped that mark on the Huskies' second offensive drive as the redshirt sophomore from Berlin carried the ball four times in a span of six plays. DeLorenzo had 25 of his team-high 46 yards on that one drive. DeLorenzo later accounted for the Huskies' only offensive touchdown with a 12-yard scoring run in the third quarter which snapped a streak of scoreless second-half possessions at 20.

DeLorenzo had a couple runs when he simply lowered his shoulders and bulled his way for an additional yard or two which is something that has been missing from the UConn running game in the last couple of seasons.

"We watch on film and Coach says why don’t you stiff arm on here, make a move here and I am trying to mix the game up because Lyle is going to be doing that (outside running) so I try to give them a different look," DeLorenzo said.. Last week we ran the ball well but this week other than a couple of plays, we didn’t get the job done. It comes down to making plays."

DeLorenzo's touchdown was his first on offense although he did return a punt 9 yards for a score in the 2012 season opener against UMass.

"It felt good," DeLorenzo said. "I was confident through the whole game and I wish it had be at a better time, with a better scenario, that touchdown isn’t easy to look at because we lost."

DeLorenzo could play a larger role moving forward as Weist tries to find some answers on offense.

UConn tried to establish the run early especially in the second quarter when the Huskies ran the ball on 12 of 18 plays. But trailing 27-3 at halftime, it was harder to stick with the running game . DeLorenzo only carried the ball twice after halftime with one of them going for the TD.

He was frustrated with the performance of the offense against Cincinnati even if the Huskies managed more yards on Saturday than they did against Cincinnati in the 2012 season finale.

"The offense took a step back," Weist said.

"We still have the players, effort wasn’t an issue in this game. I think they were focused, I think they gave effort. On offense our guys were running, they were coming off the ball they never stopped trying but we just had some breakdowns. We are not ignorant enough to say we are going to do the exact same things because if it ain’t working, you’d better find something. You can only go so far and say we have to get better, sure we have to make some changes and mix things up and that is what we are doing whether it is personnel or scheme, we have to find a way to put our players in better positions and motivate them to make plays. We are constantly working on it and that is a sign of a good staff being able to adjust whether it is at halftime, in game or on Sundays and Mondays get ready for that next game because we have an even better opponent coming up."

DeLorenzo is confident that the Huskies have the pieces in place to be a productive offensive team.

"What we are doing it is not good (enough) right now," DeLorenzo said. "We have talent and we have talent to put points on the board. If we gave what we played with (the intensity) in the first half the way we played in the second half it is a different ball game.

We have too much character. We work too hard, we have too much talent on this team to be 0-6. We still have time but it is running out. We just have to put it together, one play here and we were on the 2 yard line and we had to settle for a field goal and we missed another field goal so we have to score, we can’t be putting pressure like that on our kicker and our defense."

One likely change on offense could come on the offensive line but not by choice. Starting right guard has a cardiac issue and Weist said information is still being gathered on the prognosis for Cruz and if he can return to the field.

"He has a cardiac issue that we are still dealing with," Weist said. "It wasn’t really an injury, it is a cardiac issue and we have to determine exactly what it is. He has to get some tests done and I can’t really say exactly what it is just yet because we are not sure and we have to work through some things."

Cruz didn't make the trip to Cincinnati and sophomore Tyler Samra got the start. As the same wore on, senior Tyler Bullock got worked into the rotation at right guard.

"Tyler (Samra) at times played well and at times he was average and made some mistakes, he made a mistake down on the goal line that cost us," Weist said. "Tyler (Bullock) came in and was a little rusty, played a little better in the run game they just did OK, we have to be better up front."

Weist wasn't happy with the play of freshman quarterback Tim Boyle who threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times. While the line struggled to contain Cincinnati's edge pass rushers, Boyle made things worse by stepping up into where the pressure was. He rarely faced pressure when he quarterbacked at Xavier so that is one area where he needs to get better.

"He has to make better decisions and not turn the ball over," Weist said. "We said we are going to be patient (with Boyle)  and we really have to look at it but he’s got a lot to learn. Last game we felt like we didn’t have as much to learn as this game because this game he had more pressure, he had three interceptions and he had some turnovers that cost us so he has to make a big step to get better this week. Our receivers played better. We got Shak (Phillips_ back, he came back and made some catches. He is not full speed yet but he will give us a weapon on the outside when he gets to be full speed because Geremy (Davis) is playing really good. We had some young receivers who came in, Noel Thomas and Dhameer Bradley came in and had a good game, (Deshon) Foxx stepped it up and played better even after the drop, made some good catches, some good plays after the catch for us. I think the tight ends played a little bit better overall. Our tailbacks, at times they were productive but we just have to get better on the line. Max stepped in as a tailback and made some good plays, Martin (Hyppolite) stepped in late and made some good plays and we feel good about that."

Weist suggested that he is considering a change in play calling duties. If he goes that way, quarterbacks coach Shane Day or running backs coach Kermit Buggs so we'll see what happens with that.

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