Tuesday, September 08, 2015

UConn's offense starts out quickly for a change

In the day or two following UConn's season-opening win over Villanova one of the things I was struck by is that the Huskies scored touchdowns on their first drives of the first and third quarters and first full drive of the fourth quarter. It got me wondering when the last time this has happened.

Well, here are some "milestones" to consider.
It was the first time UConn scored a touchdown on its opening drive since a Nov. 30, 2013 win over Rutgers

First time UConn had touchdowns on opening drives of first and third quarter since Oct. 2, 2010 win over Vanderbilt.

 Last season on the first drives of the first and third quarters the Huskies managed one touchdown (against East Carolina), three field goals with seven turnovers, 12 punts and the other drive ended when UConn was stopped on fourth down.

In the first nine games of the 2013 season (all losses) UConn had two turnovers and 15 punts on the opening drives in each half with the lone exception being a field goal on the opening drive of the Central Florida game.

You can check tomorrow's edition of the New Haven Register for the thoughts of head coach Bob Diaco and starting guard Tyler Samra on this matter.

A quick look at the final statistics in the Villanova game would indicate that neither Max DeLorenzo nor Josh Marriner had a rushing attempt for UConn. It was a far cry from the 2014 season opener when the duo tied for the team lead with nine rushing attempts.

However, saying that they did not play a role in the running game would be completely inaccurate. On Ron Johnson's 10-yard run on the opening drive, one of the key blocks was thrown by Marriner. When UConn needed one yard to pick up a first down and clinch the victory, UConn gave the ball to Johnson who picked up the first down thanks to a solid block from DeLorenzo.

DeLorenzo and Marriner have made the move from tailback to h-back where they might catch some passes but more likely they will be asked to take on opposing pass rushers or spring either Johnson or Arkeel Newsome as blockers.

I think some of the best stuff to come out of today's press conference came when I asked Diaco for his thoughts on the impact of DeLorenzo and Marriner.

"That room has holistically become a unit that says, hey there are a couple of jobs that need to be done on each day and they don't care who does it," Diaco said. "The room has been kind of led by (DeLorenzo). Max has approached the season with a focus and determination that his circumstances are going to change, he is going to help will this group to have the collective circumstances change and he hasn't missed a beat. He has been that way since we got back together and he kind of said 'hey whatever my role is, I don't care, I'll Bleed Blue and I want to serve the team.' This is almost like a quote. We met privately 'I want to serve the team, I don't care what my role is.'"

The ability for the backs to block will increase the opportunities for the tight ends to go out on pass patterns and be featured in the passing offense.

"It is a huge piece," Diaco said. "They weren't great. Max and Josh were good, the other two missed some reads. Some of that pressure was backs missing their reads but (tight ends) Tommy (Myers) and Alec (Bloom) can be a big weapon in the passing game and the other two young guys (Chris Lee and Zordan Holman) also. Chris Lee is a real talent that can create a matchup issue so I am excited to get those guys involved and get them the ball down the field."

It wasn't just Diaco raving about DeLorenzo's leadership and team-first attitude. Offensive guard Tyler Samra, the only senior offensive starter against Villanova, also weighed in on the impact DeLorenzo is having in the locker room and on the field.

"DeLo has been a great leader since he has been here, he has been one of the least selfish guys on the team," Samra said. "He is willing to do anything to help us win and he is a tough kid."


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