Friday, September 01, 2017

Recapping UConn's season opening win

The best thing to say about last night's season opener is that UConn found a way to win.

Bryant Shirreffs was summoned of the bench and the Huskies promptly scored touchdowns on three of the next four drives.

"There are 11 players on the field and people are making plays when I am in and they help me out a lot," Shirreffs said.

While that is true, Shirreffs came into the game and began throwing the ball around the field in impressive fashion and the team responded to his confidence and swagger.

He finished 9 of 13 for 124 yards and one touchdown pass. He wasn't sacked and his passing rating of 173.7 is the third best of any game he's had at the college level while attempting at least 10 passes.

The one thing Shirreffs has over David Pindell other than experience at the college level is the ability to throw the intermediate to deep ball (at least last night). Pindell didn't get many chances to air it out as most of his passes were dump offs but he wasn't close on a few of the deeper throws. That seemed to open up some running lanes as Holy Cross had to honor the Huskies' ability to throw deep. Shirreffs did miss on a couple of deep throws but also made a couple as well. Pindell didn't play poorly and the move reminds me of when a hockey coach pulls a goalie after multiple goals are surrendered on odd man rushes. The move is made to try to change momentum and not because of the quality of play of the person being yanked from the game. On today's media conference call Edsall wasn't ready to declare his starting quarterback for the USF game.

Considering that Foley Fatukasi was ejected in the first quarter after being called for targeting on a helmet to helmet hit on Holy Cross quarterback Peter Pujals and Junior Joseph left the game in the third quarter, it's pretty remarkable that UConn's defense shut out Holy Cross after halftime. Let's be honest, Pujals missed some throws in the second half and it is a little distressing how wide open the Holy Cross receivers seemed to be on nearly every passing play. The biggest improvement came on third and long when UConn was able to get some pressure on Pujals. It was the first time any of the UConn players went in the 3-3-5 scheme in a game so this week will be about making the adjustments because next up is South Florida and some of the throws that were missed by Pujals will likely be completed with Quinton Flowers at quarterback.

It was reported that since Fatukasi was ejected for targeting that he has to sit out the first half. against South Florida. However, I don't know if that is the case. I found this entry from the NCAA in September of 2016 declaring that if a player is ejected in the first half, they do not have to miss any time in the next game. If the play happened in the second half, he would be required to miss the first half. Edsall confirmed that Fatukasi will be able to start against USF. Watching the play when Junior Joseph got hurt and especially the reaction of his teammates (especially Jamar Summers) makes me wonder when we will see him back on the field but Edsall didn't update his status other than to say it was a shoulder injury.

Defensively, the player who impressed me the most was Chris Britton who was making his first career start and was in the backfield early and often. I also that punter Brett Graham had a pretty solid game averaging 40.5 yards on six punts with no touchbacks and just one punt returned for five yards. It was a mixed bag for freshman returnman Jordan Swann, he did return a punt 18 yards, the longest for the Huskies since Deshon Foxx brought one back against Stony Brook in 2014 but he let one go over his head resulting in a 75-yard punt and also fumbled a kickoff. I was a little surprised that Quayvon Skanes wasn't back there on kickoffs with Swann.

Nate Hopkins, Luke Carrezola and Graham were awarded game balls by Edsall after the game.

Offensively, the interior of UConn's offensive line did not have a strong first half and that is being kind. Things got better in the second half.

According to the box score, 18 true or redshirt freshmen played for UConn. There are a couple of names in the player participation listing that I'm not sure got into the game but at least 15 of them definitely got into the game which is a large number for sure.


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