Saturday, September 12, 2015

It was payback time for UConn defense

This was not the easiest of weeks for the members of the UConn defensive squad.

Perhaps the only thing worse than preparing for Army's triple-option offense was watching the footage of last season's game when UConn allowed the Black Knights run for 325 yards.

In that game the Huskies didn't seem to be able to stop any of the ball carriers as seven different players had at least one run 10 yards or longer. The Black Knights also ran 18 plays on or inside the Huskies' 20-yard line in a 35-21 win over UConn.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon and Army did not have one play inside UConn's 20. It had to feel good for players like Julian Campenni, Graham Stewart, Andrew Adams and the other defensive veterans.

That aforementioned trio each had their moments. Campenni burst through the line and tackled elusive Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw for a 1-yard loss on 3rd and 1, Stewart had a huge hit on Bradshaw while Adams deflected one pass and had the game-clinching interception.

I caught up with each of them after the game to get their reaction to their plays and also UConn starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 2008.

"I read the quarterback and I made a play on the ball," said Adams, who led UConn with six tackles. "I knew it would pretty much seal the deal. I am happy I made the play and I am happy we got the win and being able to redeem ourselves from last year, we put a lot of work this week in practice to be ready for this game and it showed up on the scoreboard."

Campenni finished with three tackles but helped clog things up in the middle of the line as he normally does. His rock-solid play was all the more important since fellow starter Folorunso Fatukasi was suspended for the first half after being ejected for fighting in the fourth quarter of the season-opening win over Villanova.

"Coach (Diaco) just preaches 'fight for every inch, scramble and claw.' That is what happened, I was scrambling, dove and tried to make a play."

Stewart had three solo tackles and his ability to remain under control kept Army from being able to turn the corner on running plays as often as they did a season ago.

"I dropped into my zone and Army, they don't throw the ball so I knew he was going to come out of it, kind of read it and he was in the right place at the right time," Stewart said of his big hit.

"We are so far and beyond what last year was, so many people were 'oh, last year, last year.' Last year we knew what we were and we are not trying to be that, we are trying to grow and being better and better and it does feel good to make progress like that."

Like the Villanova game, it was far from a perfect performance. The offense once again failed to lower the boom and put the game away when given the chance and the defense gave up two big plays accounting for 127 of Army's 265 yards of total offense. There is also the concern about linebacker Marquise Vann who suffered a lower-leg injury on Army's final touchdown.

I will have more on this next issue tomorrow when I file a story on the impact that former New Haven area high school stars Matt Walsh and Arkeel Newsome had in the win but Diaco wanted to make it clear that Walsh's start was more of a case of fitting better with what the defense was trying to get done against Army rather than Vann being in danger of losing his starting job. However, Walsh certainly put himself in position to get more playing time whether Vann is healthy or not.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home