Thursday, September 03, 2015

UConn has mixed results dealing with fleet-footed quarterbacks

When listing the keys to tonight's season opener against FCS power Villanova, I would consider slowing down All-American quarterback John Robertson rather high on UConn's list of priorities.

Robertson's rushing statistics in his first three seasons as a starter as pretty staggering as he posted three 1,000-yard seasons with 3,504 yards. If you break it down to a per game average, Robertson rushes 18 times for 97 yards with 45 touchdowns in 36 games. As a point of reference, Robertson has more rushing yards over the last three seasons that UConn has managed as a team and when you look at UConn's quarterbacks (not including the times when Deshon Foxx lined up at QB last season) they have rushed for minus 110 yards over the same span.

All of this got me thinking about the Huskies' success dealing with running quarterbacks. My initial inclination is to say it was a problem for UConn in Bob Diaco's first season at UConn. The numbers certainly back it up as the 13 quarterbacks the Huskies faced last season (Stony Brook used two quarterbacks) but it was a bit of a mixed bag as UConn allowed opposing QBs to average 4.6 yards per carry and they posted a 2.9 YPC mark against other teams in 2014 .

SMU's Matt Davis carved up the UConn defense to the tune of a season-high 191 yards in the 2014 season finale. BYU's Taysom Hill and Army's Angel Santiago each ran for 97 yards with a pair of rushing TDs each and East Carolina's Shane Carden has almost as many rushing yards (32) as he did in the other 12 games (44 yards). One of the worst efforts dealing with the quarterback was the Stony Brook game. At first glance, the nine rushes for 30 yards by Connor Bednarski and John Kinder might not seem that bad until you realize that they combined for minus 68 yards on 61 carries during the season.

There were some solid efforts as Boise's Grant Hedrick and Temple's P.J. Walker combined for 913 rushing yards a season ago while averaging 3.7 yards per carry but they managed just 13 yards on 14 carries against the Huskies.

Robertson will tuck the ball and take off tonight, that much in certain. He has been given the green light to do so and it is a strength of his game.

"Being part of a dynamic offense like this is really helpful for a quarterback especially at the college level," Robertson said. "It makes it very difficult for the defense always to be worried whether I am going to run. Also, our passing game has been so good that teams have to drop back a bunch of guys."

If there is good news for UConn is that there is plenty of experience at the outside linebacker and safety positions as the starting quartet of Graham Stewart, Marquise Vann, Andrew Adams and Obi Melifonwu have combined to play 105 career games. Defensive end Kenton Adeyemi, nose tackle Julian Campenni and cornerback Jhavon Williams have plenty of game experience as well so it will be interesting to see if the lessons they have learned will pay off tonight.

"Just being disciplined, knowing your assignment and following through," Stewart said. "That experience does help you but they are all different. You don't look at one quarterback who can scramble and he is the same. This is a special guy that they have back there."

There will be a live blog running during tonight's game incorporating plenty of Twitter feeds including mine. For those interested in checking it out, here you go


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