Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cochran leads UConn to second straight win

While one player can not be credited for UConn's second straight win, a 28-17 win over Rutgers, it struck me while watching Casey Cochran complete 25 of 33 passes for a career-high 311 yards and two touchdowns that he bore little resemblance to the turnover-prone player I saw during preseason camp.

Other than one drive when he indecisiveness resulted in both of the Scarlet Knights' sacks, Cochran looked poised and in control.

He guided UConn to its first touchdown on an opening drive since last year's win over Pittsburgh and led the Huskies to scoring drives of 79 and 80 yards despite playing without starting right tackle Kevin Friend, tight end Sean McQuillan and receiver Shakim Phillips.

"He makes good, sound decisions," UConn interim coach T.J. Weist said. "We take some chances with him as well. Shane (Day) did a good job calling plays today, put us in great position."

Weist shook his head at the throw he made on the final touchdown. Weist thought Cochran's best option was to look in the direction of Geremy Davis but watching the perfect throw by Cochran and outstanding catch by Brian Lemelle made Weist realize that Cochran made the right decision.

"That last touchdown to Lemelle, I asked him why are you throwing the ball over there?" Weist said. "We have Geremy and Deshon over there and you have a freshman over here but he knew he was hot. He had pressure coming from that side, he made the throw and Lemelle made a great catch on it but that was him making the right decision in a critical situation. He put the ball in there and he just made a play.."

That hasn't always been the case. We were able to go to a handful of practices during preseason camp and during the 11 on 11 drills against either the No. 1 or No. 2 defense, I had Cochran throwing eight interceptions, losing three fumbles and throwing no touchdown passes. He looks like a completely different player these days. He had one throw during a drill with no defense on the field when he missed the intended receiver by a couple of yards. I still remember Paul Pasqualoni, the head coach at that time, getting after Cochran saying "this is a 100 percent drill, there's no defense out there."

"It was just being resilient and working through that," Cochran said. "I give Coach Day a lot of credit for always pushing me, pushing me and pushing me no matter how hard it got and I thank him a lot for how hard he pushed me because it got to me where I am because it got me to where I am today."

Cochran was a good teammate when Weist chose to go with Tim Boyle, a true freshman, when he was named interim head coach but behind closed doors it was not the easiest of times for Cochran.

"It was a frustrating time for me," Cochran said. "I have been working hard here for two years. I think at that moment I made a decision that at that time whatever role I had I needed to do it to the best of my ability. I was over there signaling plays to Tim at the time and I did that to the best of my ability. When things are getting tough, you have to embrace that role you have to do your best. I was trying get to be the best I could be at practice or taking reps after practice and it paid off.

"I love the school, I love the program and I love the guys in this program and I knew I had to contribute any way I could whether it was working hard in the weight room trying to get guys better, throwing after practice. It did get frustrating. I did want to play real bad but I give it to the support that I have because they really pushed me through that time because it was tough."



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