Friday, September 11, 2015

No forgetting last year's Army game for returning UConn players

Looking forward and not back is one of Bob Diaco's commandments since he was entrusted in breathing life into moribund UConn football program.

However, there has been plenty of time at practice and in meeting rooms this week for the UConn players to be reminded of every nauseating detail of last year's 35-21 loss to Army.

Leading into last year's game, Diaco and his staff broke down the intricacies of Army's triple-option offense. However, it wasn't until Terry Baggett ripped off a 35-yard run on the Black Knights' 16-play, 89-yard opening drive or three different players had runs of at least 12 yards on the 11-play, 85-yard drive the second time Army got the ball that the reality of it all sunk in.

Diaco said he has seen a different look in the eyes of his players as the Huskies' "look" team did their best to emulate Army's offense.

"They are operating at a level and at a speed that you haven't seen until the game starts, there is no way to simulate it. You try but it is still just a B or less effort and not of it is more like a C or a D effort in terms of trying to simulate it," Diaco said.

"A massive amount of players who played in the game a year ago is a benefit. Now, even some of the coaches that are on the staff had never been part of a game as a lead person against the triple option because it is a team thing, it is not one side. It starts with the defense trying to defend the offense but in a lot of instances you look up, the whole team looks up, there is a kickoff and the whole team looks up and there is 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half. That is a whole team understanding that if the team is squandering opportunities on offense, you are going to have a hard time winning."

As difficult as it can be to deal with the grinding rushing attack, one of the dangers of playing against a triple-option is to have defensive backs and in particular cornerbacks cheat off their coverage responsibilities to help in the run game only to give up huge pass plays.

Army only completed two passes in last year's game but one of them was a 22 yarder setting up Army's fourth touchdown.

Cornerbacks Jhavon Williams, Jamar Summers and Javon Hadley showed the willingness to be physical in the Villanova game but Diaco said if the corners are making tackles, the Huskies could be in trouble. So what are the other points of emphasis?

"You can not let them run the fullback," Diaco said. "If they are going to run the fullback and gain significant yardage, you are going to lose, there is no way we can win that game. You can't allow them to throw shot passes, if they explosive play shot passes down the field you are going to lose. That was a hallmark of the game in New York. We had a couple of shot passes, each of them set up scores (the first one put Army on the UConn 48 but the drive ended with a fumble) and a gash in the kicking game to keep a drive alive rather than it ending with a stop were huge, huge plays in the game. "

Sophomore defensive end/linebacker Luke Carrezola (who was injured) is the only player on UConn's defensive two-deep chart who didn't play in last year's Army game while 14 of the 23 players on Army's offensive two-deep chart (three players are listed at one of the running back positions) did not play for the Black Knights against UConn.

"We should be a lot better," UConn defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter said. "We know what the tempo and pace of the game is going to be. A year ago, we were kind of shocked. As coaches, we have all coached against it but until you play in this game as a player, we can coach and tell you, show you the tape but it is a different intensity. Army does a great job with their scheme. Last year I think we were kind of shocked with the tempo of it, kind of get settled in but it was almost too late by that point. This year, I think the guys will be ready for that part of it and hopefully we just execute better."

I was curious whether more tape was shown to the UConn defense of last year's Army game or of Army's season-opening loss to Fordham.

"You show them as much tape as you can without exposing them to (too much) stuff," Poindexter said. "I showed them last year's game, they can see themselves how they played and obviously you have to show the game from this year and whatever tape we have from last year, we try to get exposure to it."

Ctfastrak will be have busses running every 15 minutes between 10:15-11:15 a.m. leaving from the Travelers building on Main Street in Hartford and going to Rentschler Field.

Military members will ride for free for the Army and Navy games. The fee is $1.50 per person ($0.75 for seniors) with a full-day pass costing $3.

This service will be offered for all of UConn's home games.


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