Monday, November 03, 2014

UConn's Newsome making an impact as a freshman

For more than a half the only positive plays made in UConn's running game were provided by senior receiver Deshon Foxx.

Foxx, seeing snaps at quarterback for the second time this season, changed the Huskies' fortunes when he ripped off a game-tying 68-yard scoring run in the first half of Saturday's upset of Central Florida.

When Foxx came into the game on the Huskies' second offensive possession of the second half UConn's running backs had carried the ball three times (all by true freshman Ron Johnson) for negative one yard. That was about to change when Foxx ran a zone read play and at the last second let freshman and former Ansonia High star Arkeel Newsome keep the ball.

Newsome ripped off a 20-yard run, his second longest of the season, to set up the Huskies with a 1st and goal at the 1. On fourth down Johnson scored from 1 yard out to give UConn a 24-21 lead. On the next drive Newsome carried the ball three times for 12 yards leading to Chandler Whitmer's 22-yard scoring strike to Noel Thomas to put the Huskies up by 10 points.

Newsome was quick to credit Foxx for helping him break loose.

"He opened it up a lot," Newsome said. "He is very fast and the reads he was making was great. They weren't sure if the quarterback was going to keep it or not or if I was going (to carry ball)."

It's been an intriguing first season for Newsome, the all-time leading rusher in Connecticut high school football history. He's had at least one 20-yard play in six of the eight games this season highlighted by a 74-yard touchdown scamper on a screen pass for the Huskies' only touchdown against Temple. He is UConn's leader with 706 all-purpose yards, leads all of the Huskies' running backs with an average of 4.2 yards per carry and leads of UConn's running backs with nine catches and 120 receiving yards.

"It's been great, we have been getting better so it is good," Newsome said.

Newsome has had at least 96 all-purpose yards in four of the last five games including 213 against Temple. The lone exception came against East Carolina when a lower-leg injury limited him to playing one series in the third quarter.

"I wasn't mad at all." Newsome said, "I was still rooting on my team. I wasn't in there but I was taking mental reps and seeing holes."

In the first five games Max DeLorenzo received the most work about the four tailbacks as he had 57 rushing attempts. However, in the last three games UConn has turned almost exclusively to Johnson and Newsome as DeLorenzo had one carry, Josh Marriner had six offensive touches, all coming in the East Carolina game when Newsome was mostly unavailable.

In the win over Central Florida Johnson had 11 times for 27 yards including his first two touchdowns as a Husky while Newsome added 32 yards on four carries in a 37-29 win.

"Beating a team in our conference just gives us confidence," Newsome said. "Moving forward it gave us a huge confidence boost knowing we are playing in a big, big game.

"It was great, so much energy and excitement. We got to sing the fight song (in the locker room after the game) so it was all good."

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