Friday, September 04, 2015

UConn vs. Villanova: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I just finished watching a replay of last night's game because you always see things a little differently than you do on game night. Now it is time to break down what went right and what did not.

The sophomore trio of Foley Fatukasi, Luke Carrezola and Junior Joseph have a chance to be scary good by the time they are there. Heck, they might already be there. I would have to think Villanova quarterback John Robertson was seeing images of Carrezola when he went to sleep last night, Carrezola was only credited with six tackles but he was constantly applying pressure. It was Carrezola who did just enough to force Robertson into the throw which was intercepted by Andrew Adams/ Fatukasi had two of the team's four sacks and two tackles for loss. He was simply too much for the Villanova line to handle. Joseph didn't get as much attention as the game was going on but when he hits you, the play is over.

Ron Johnson displayed quickness, vision and power for UConn
Tight ends were not a featured part of the passing game in the two scrimmages I saw and it was good to see Tommy Myers and Alec Bloom targeted as much as they were. The combined for 99 yards on three catches and could have had six catches between them.

I wrote earlier in this blog how much quicker Ron Johnson looks and it was on display against Villanova. He was cutting quickly and with purpose but also displayed pure power. I had him forcing four missed tackles in the first half and I wish I had charted his yards after contact because it would have been a pretty impressive number. His final numbers (23 carries for 69 yards) might not blow anybody away but don't forget a 24-yard run wiped out by a needless hold by left tackle Richard Levy.

If Bryant Shirreffs was rusty while playing his first game since 2013, it didn't show. He finished 12 of 20 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was victimized by two sure drops, made a great throw down the sideline to Noel Thomas that was just a matter of an inch or so from being a huge play and while his throw to Myers late in the first half wasn't great, it was merely bad luck what it resulted in an interception. Shirreffs was tentative a couple of times on runs but that part of his game figures to improve. I thought they forgot to look in the direction of Noel Thomas for long stretches which is something the Villanova team was probably very thankful for.

Villanova had six tackles for loss and by my count, four of them were a result of simply not blocking the defender. Most of these came from the left side where there seemed to be communication issues with Levy, the tight ends and running backs. This is easily fixed and I would think it will be addressed this week in practice. It was encouraging that the interior of the line featuring first-time starters Tommy Hopkins and Brendan Vechery seemed to hold up pretty well. Also, senior guard Tyler Samra wasn't too noticeable on the tape which is usually a good thing for an interior offensive lineman.

Six offensive touches for Arkeel Newsome is simply not acceptable. He needs to get his hands on the ball more and his 27-yard dash to the end zone with a screen pass made that abundantly clear. What was interested in watching the tape is that he ran to the sideline right before that play thinking he was being taken out. Instead, Max DeLorenzo came to the sidelines and Newsome came up with one of the best plays in the game.

The holding penalties on veteran tackles Levy (wiping out Johnson's best run) and Andreas Knappe (resulting in a safety when he was called for holding Trumbull's Don Cherry in the end zone) were lazy plays. They were in position to make the blocks but instead reached out and grabbed jerseys. The 15-yard penalties against Fatukasi and Johnson was a case of young, enthusiastic players getting carried away. I am sure it will be a point of emphasis as their passion and skill make them key players on this UConn team but they will learn when it is time to line up for the next play.

 With the exception of the third quarter, UConn's defense on third down was just dreadful. There was a stretch where Villanova converted five first downs on seven third-down plays. Here's the breakdown

3rd and 6: 7 yards
3rd and 2: 2 yards
3rd and 21: 22 yards
3rd and 9: 10 yards
3rd and 6: 13 yards and a touchdown

Villanova averaged 7.2 yards on third down plays and 3.5 on all the other plays. The Huskies did such a great job putting themselves in position to get off the field only to throw it away with poor execution on third down.

By my count UConn missed 10 tackles. Now five of those came against the slippery John Robertson but still, that is a concern. It is the season opener and it is the first time they could hit with no restrictions but with Army and its vaunted option offense up next, this needs to be cleaned up.

In closing, UConn has to feel pretty good about how things went especially with 11 of the 22 starters being sophomores including seven first-time starters. I am sure there are some out there saying what's the big deal about an FBS team beating an FCS team especially at home. The fact is that a year ago UConn would not have won that game and two years they didn't emerge victorious in a similar situation as Towson posted a 33-18 win. Villanova is not your ordinary FCS team even with the loss key players on the both sides of the game. For a program needing positive results to build off, what took place last night was a nice way to get things started.

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