Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My thoughts on why I posed the question at UConn press conference generating plenty of attention

I feel like it is fair to the rest of the people at UConn's football press conference to let it be known that I am the one who asked - or started to ask - the question about mid-season coaching changes to Randy Edsall.

First, I think suggesting that Edsall cut short the press conference is not entirely accurate. I waited until I believed that my fellow reporters had asked what they needed to before springing that question on Edsall because I've been on the other side of needing to get a question or two asked only to have the media access abruptly ended. I would never want to ask a question that I knew might cause a reaction similar to what happened today until I believed my colleagues were able to get what they needed out of the media availability.

My intention was to follow up my initial question with an inquiry about whether he feels any changes needed to be made or at least considered. It is not me suggesting that defensive coordinator Bill Crocker be fired. I believe the opposite. With so many young players, UConn needs as many coaches as possible working with them. I've seen position coaches shuffled around at UConn in recent years and felt that it was a fair question to see whether there might be some juggling of responsibilities or whether Edsall would spend more time with a particular position group than he typically does. This is relevant because at the last couple of practices I have been at, I have seen him over with the defensive backs more than usual. I've also noticed that in recent weeks a graduate assistant has been working with the Husky backs (a safety/linebacker hybrid) allowing Crocker and defensive backs coach Curome Cox more time to work with a smaller group of DBs. I never got that far.

I have some concerns about how things have transpired on defense this season and asked questions (not ones that generated as much hoopla) about these issues. It's troubling to see Darrian Beavers go through all of spring and summer camp at linebacker before the coaches decide he should play defensive end. It's odd to me that Kevin Murphy, one of the few experienced players on defense and somebody who was pushing NFL rookie Foley Fatukasi for playing time last season, went from starting against URI to playing only the final three snaps against Syracuse a week later. Now he is not even a player Edsall mentions as being a part of the eight-man defensive line rotation. I believe decisions like these are contributing to some of the defensive struggles. It's hard to develop defensive continuity if you start 22 players in four games. I also feel like UConn should have done what it could to get Brice McAllister back for another season. I'm not suggesting that he would solve all the issues facing the secondary but he is an experienced defensive back with the athleticism to play a few different positions. Even if he wasn't playing a huge role, he seems more comfortable in a leadership role than sophomore Tahj Herring-Wilson, who is a great kid but a little on the quiet side.

You can look back at my work this season and nobody has addressed the number of untested players being thrown in there on defense. I've gone through every FBS set of game notes to document the number of freshman starters on more than one occasion. UConn opened the season with an almost impossible task of trying to slow down the experienced and dynamic UCF, Boise State and Syracuse offenses with a bunch of true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and true sophomores and I understand this better than most people. I dove a little deeper into how UConn got into this situation in the story running in tomorrow's paper taking a look back at how much of an impact that the firing of Paul Pasqualoni had on recruiting. It just so happens that the fifth year anniversary of that firing is Sunday. It can be debated for years to come whether the firing of Pasqualoni during the season was the right move at the time but this much is certain, it wreaked havoc on recruiting. UConn's last commitment before Pasqualoni's firing came on Aug. 8. The next time a high school player committed to UConn was Jan. 20. During that same time span the eight American Athletic Conference teams on UConn's schedule this season received 59 commitments and many of them will play significant roles in games against the Huskies this season.

I'm not somebody who asks questions so the response can be plastered all over the internet or on social media but with the defense on pace to top the marks for most points and yards allowed (according to the 2018 FBS record book posted on the NCAA site) and the anniversary of UConn's last mid-season coaching change quickly approaching, I felt it was an appropriate time to ask the question. I would have preferred Edsall to allow me to complete my line of questioning which would have given him a chance to vouch for his defensive coaching staff who clearly have quite the task ahead of them. Unfortunately that did not happen. Rather than bothering the other UConn beat writers about the phrasing or fairness of the question I started to pose, it seemed like the right thing to do for me to write this blog so if you feel a need to vent on what has been referred to as a stupid question that it gets directed to the person responsible. I'm not looking for other media outlets to reach out to me because stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring the pot is not my style, never has been and never will be. I'm also not going to hold back when I feel like it is an appropriate time to push for answers on a subject.

I haven't posted on this blog for quite a while because quite simply, it wasn't generating enough interest to keep it going and doubt I will be posting on it in the future but I don't know of another way to get this message out there. If you have a need to respond to me, my email is James.Fuller@hearstmediact.com. I'd rather you not post comments to the blog because another person is responsible for approving them and he doesn't need to be thrown into this.

Friday, November 10, 2017

UConn pass defense putting up historically bad numbers

The struggles in pass defense have been well documented but it's time to break it down statistically.

Since UConn made the move to the FBS level in 2002, the most passing yards per game allowed in a season was by California which gave up 4,406 yards in 12 games, an average of 367.2 per game. The Bears also gave up a staggering 42 touchdown passes that season with five games with at least 5 TD passes surrendered. Last season Arizona State allowed 357.4 passing yards per contest and in 2002 Purdue gave up 356.5 yards a game and those are the only teams I could find allowing at least 350 passing yards per game. Well, with three games left to play the Huskies are sitting at 378.6 passing yards allowed per contest heading into tomorrow's showdown with UCF, which happens to be the highest scoring team in FBS.

I looked back at that Cal team, the Bears had nine defensive backs with at least 15 tackles and five of them were either freshmen or sophomores which is somewhat similar to what UConn is dealing with this season. It should be noted that two years later when the sophomores and freshmen were seniors and juniors, Cal allowed only 245 passing yards per game, 12 fewer TD passes and the passing completion percentage of the opponents dropped from 65.4 to 59.7 percent.

At Tuesday's media availability, we got to interview the two coordinators for the first time since the season began. Obviously there were plenty of questions to be asked and I thought one of the best points that defensive coordinator Billy Crocker made is that as young as the Huskies are in the secondary (5 freshman and 1 sophomore are among 11 defensive backs with at least 10 tackles this season) it's made it difficult to disguise the defensive looks because the players are still learning the defense. That doesn't even take into account that the Huskies will likely be starting their eighth different combination in the secondary this season although much of that is by UConn's doing as they move players in and out of the starting lineup.

With a death in the family resulting in Brayden Brown returning home to be with his family and Jordan Swann no longer a starting cornerback, UConn is not expected to have a true freshman starting on defense for the first time since the Virginia game. We'll see if having a more experienced group of defensive backs will aid the cause of the struggling defense.

There are so many frightening numbers associated with this year's defense. Here are some:

UConn is giving up an average of 22 plays from scrimmage of at least 10 yards which is not only the most at the FBS level but the highest total in the last eight seasons.

UConn has already given up more passing yards, completions and touchdowns in its program history with three games left to play

From 2002-2016, UConn allowed opposing teams to have a passer rater higher than 190.0 four times but it has already happened four times this season. With UCF ranking second nationally in passing efficiency, the Huskies will have their work cut out for them to keep from adding to the tally.

If there is a silver lining, it should be noted that Boston College ranks 13th among 14 ACC teams in passing yards per game and completion percentage trailing only the triple-option Georgia Tech team that has only attempted 11 passes per game this season while Cincinnati has the lowest passer rating of any team in the American Athletic Conference so perhaps there will be a chance for Huskies' struggling secondary to catch their breath after tomorrow's game.

Unfortunately, the practice of not releasing kickoff times until a week or two before the game will prevent me from covering tomorrow's game. I also cover the UConn women's basketball team and at the time that I needed to book my flight to Columbus, Ohio for Sunday's season opening basketball game, I had no idea what time the football game would be starting. If I had known it was going to be a noon start, I might have been able to be in Orlando tomorrow and then fly to Columbus Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Former UConn OL Mateas earns CFL All-Star honors

Former UConn offensive lineman Alex Mateas was named to the Canadian Football League's East Division all-star team.

Mateas, who made the team as a guard although he has moved to center recently due to some injuries on the line, was one of five offensive players from the Ottawa RedBlacks named to the team as Ottawa joins the BC Lions as the only CFL teams to rank in the top five in both passing and rushing yardage.

Mateas was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 CFL Draft and has played in 53 regular season games in three CFL seasons. He is the first former UConn player to earn CFL all-division honors since Larry Taylor was the West Division pick as special teams performer in 2013.

Mateas was a key member of Ottawa's 2016 Grey Cup championship squad. The RedBlacks play Saskatchewan in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday with the winner to meet Toronto in the semifinals.

Looking at the rosters for the six CFL playoff teams, I was surprised to see former UConn tight end John Delahunt on the roster for West Division semifinalist Edmonton. Knee issues forced Delahunt to retire in 2015 but he was signed by Edmonton as a free agent last month and played in the Oct. 9 game against Montreal although he is currently on the six-game injured list. Also, Reuben Frank has played in six games for West Division finalist Calgary and is currently on the Stampeders' practice squad.


Sunday, November 05, 2017

Tough final act at Rentschler Field for UConn seniors

Perhaps if the Huskies had been playing a quarterback not named Quinton Flowers, the 24 players honored before their final game at Rentschler Field would have left their home away from home with a victory to celebrate.

However, Flowers racked up a South Florida program record 516 yards of total offense. It was the sixth most by an FBS player this season and fourth most in American Athletic Conference history.
Still, there were plays that the seniors will get to remember for the rest of their lives.

Tight end Tommy Myers isn't targeted often in UConn's offense and perhaps that was why no USF defender paid attention to him on a 4th and goal play that resulted in the first of UConn's three touchdowns.

UConn's final defensive play was capped by a hustling Vontae Diggs knocking the ball out of Darius Tice's hands. The ball hit in the end zone and then caromed out of bounds giving the ball back to the Huskies and preventing another touchdown by the Bulls.

Junior Joseph finished with nine tackles giving him 295 in his career. He moved by Abbott Burrell, Mark Michaels and Uyi Osunde and into 15th place on UConn's career tackles list. He's got some work to do to move up even further as next up is Brad Keatley's 311 tackles.

Joseph reflected on the day's festivities and his run at UConn following the game.

"I've played with a lot of guys and have seen their senior days and different guys that I have played with since I have been here and it is special," said Joseph, who made his 37th career start matching the UConn record for a defensive player set by Dwayne Gratz and also accomplished by Jhavon Williams. "It is kind of surreal that it is my last time in this stadium all the memories I made with guys like Byron, Andrew, Obi guys who are in the NFL and it is a privilege playing with those guys and playing my last game here is surreal. I soaked it in before the game, just tried to focus on the game."

It's been a tough year injury wise for the senior class as running back Arkeel Newsome, linebacker E.J. Levenberry and safety Brice McAllister were unable to play. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and running back Jason Thompson were knocked out of the game with concussions.

With UConn's home game against Boston College on Nov. 18 at Fenway Park, there will be no more Rentschler Field experiences for the senior class.

Now the goal is to avoid making the wrong kind of history. UConn came into the season with six straight losing seasons, the longest streak in program history. It was first accomplished from 1930-35, again from 1974-79. One more loss would make it a program record seven straight losing campaigns and next up is undefeated UCF on the road. In the last four seasons, UConn has lost 32 games which is tied for the third most in a four-year span at UConn. If the Huskies lose their final three games, it will match the record for losses in a four-year run set two years ago.

Speaking of unwanted history, Marquez Valdes-Scantling's 95-yard touchdown reception is the longest given up by UConn during the FBS era. It's been reported Tres Moses of Rutgers' 87-yard TD catch in 2004 was the record but that is not true. Actually it isn't even the longest play by a Rutger receiver against UConn as in 2011 Brandon Coleman went 94 yards for a touchdown. If anybody is wondering, the 95-yard catch and run is the longest offensive TD by a UConn opponent since New Hampshire's Jerry Azumah had a 96 yard scoring run in 1996.

It wasn't all bad news. Quayvon Skanes had 172 yards on kickoff returns, the most by a UConn player since Tyvon Branch's 184 yards against Rutgers in 2007. Speaking of Skanes, he also had two catches giving him 30 this season. That is a program record for freshman as Kashif Moore had 27 receptions in 2008. With Keyion Dixon now at 20 receptions, it marks the first time since 2002 that more than one UConn freshman has 20 catches. Terry Caulley, Jason Williams and Brandon Young all topped the 20-catch plateau that season.

With Kevin Mensah getting the start at tailback, six true freshmen have started on offense or defense which is a program record. Mensah finished with 95 yards rushing including a 23-yard TD run. He did a much better job running up the field after having too many East-West type runs in recent weeks.

"You never go East-West," Mensah said. "He (running backs coach Terry Richardson) tells me to hit the hole and go, get as much yardage as I could. He has been telling me to relax, I am a (perfectionist). He tells me that can't happen, he said I have to be patient, being in your comfort zone and be relaxed. When that comes all together, you play your best."

It's very possible that UConn could be without Newsome, Thompson and Nate Hopkins against UCF meaning an even bigger workload for Mensah. Seeing Thompson on the sideline and unable to return to the game hit Mensah pretty hard.

"He is my roommate so everything he does I follow because he works so hard, being a walk-on and getting a scholarship, you can tell he loves this games and he wants to be on the field. Him not being on the field hurts all of us."

Friday, November 03, 2017

UConn's Myers, Ormsby among local boys make good stories in AAC

In its brief history one of the things I've noticed about football programs in the American Athletic Conference is just how many homegrown prospects make significant impacts.

By my count, there are 125 AAC players who are on teams in the city of their birth. Houston leads the way with 20 players from the city of Houston. South Florida, set to play at UConn tomorrow, has 18 from Tampa, Cincinnati (17), Memphis (16), Tulsa (14) and Temple (13) also feature more than 10 hometown products on their rosters.

We're not talking about marginal prospects either. Anthony Miller of Memphis is second in the conference in receptions and receiving yards, USF's Bruce Hector and Ed Oliver of Houston are two of 11 AAC players with at least nine tackles for loss, Houston's Duke Catalon is 10th in the conference in rushing, Tony Pollard of Memphis is the national leader in yards per kickoff return,  while USF center Cameron Ruff is a candidate for the Rimington Award presented annually to the nation's best center.

Why am I mentioning all of this now? Well, it just so happens to tomorrow is the final game at Rentschler Field for UConn's seniors. While UConn and Navy are the only AAC teams without a player on its roster from the town or city when the university is located, Coventry native Tommy Myers is about as close to a homegrown of a player that the Huskies have ever had.

With that in mind, I compiled a list of the top players by position who grew up less than 20 miles from the university they attend. As you can tell, it's a rather impressive list. City names capitalized are same as where university is located. I cheated a little bit and included UConn defensive end Cole Ormsby even if his hometown of Windsor is closer to 30 miles from the campus than the 20 I said I was using as my parameters.

QB: Zach Abey, Navy (Pasadena, MD) Leads all FBS quarterbacks with 1202 rushing yards
RB: Duke Catalon, Houston (HOUSTON) 519 rushing yards, 7 TDs
RB: Tony Pollard, Memphis (MEMPHIS)  126 rushing yards, 333 yards on 24 receptions
RB: Sherman Badie, Tulane (Metairie, LA) 303 rushing yards this season, 1,470 career rushing yards
WR: Anthony Miller, Memphis (MEMPHIS) 61 catches for 859 yards and 10 TDs as a senior
WR: James Proche, SMU (DALLAS) 466 yards on 23 receptions
TE: Charles Jones, Tulane (NEW ORLEANS) 8 catches for 55 yards
TE: Chris Myarick, Temple (Elkins Park, PA) 6 catches, 46 yards
TE: Tommy Myers, UConn (Coventry) Used primarily for blocking purposes but has 2 catches for 26 yards
OL: Garrett Campbell, Cincinnati (CINCINNATI) Has started all eight games at left guard this season
OL: Jake Hawk, Navy (Severn, MD) Left tackle has seven starts this season
OL: Corey Dublin, Tulane (NEW ORLEANS) True freshman has started all eight games at left guard
OL: David Niehaus, Cincinnati (CINCINNATI) Center has nine career starts, eight coming in 2017
OL: Marcus Oliver, Houston (HOUSTON) Right guard has 23 career starts
OL: Cameron Ruff, USF (TAMPA) Rimington Award candidate as one of nation's top centers has 21 career starts

DL Dan Archibong, Temple (Springfield, PA) 12 tackles
DL Quinlan Carroll, Tulane (Belle Chasse, LA) 16 tackles, 2.5 TFL
DL: Reggie Chevis, Houston (HOUSTON) 30 tackles, 3 TFL, 0.5s
DL: Kendell Futrell, East Carolina (Winterville, NC) 9 tackles, 1TFL, 1 sack
DL: Mason Gentry, SMU (Plano) 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks
DL: Bruce Hector, USF (TAMPA) 23 tackles, 10 TFL 4 sacks
DL: Ed Oliver, Houston (HOUSTON) 49 tackles, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks
DL Cole Ormsby, UConn (Windsor) 16 tackles, 6 TFL, 6 sacks
DL: Christian Johnson, Memphis (MEMPHIS) 17 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks
DL: Julian Taylor, Temple (Glenside, PA) 20 tackles, 3.5 TFL
LB: Matthew Adams, Houston (Missouri City, TX) 61 tackles, 4.5 TFL
LB: Josh Blake, USF (TAMPA) 12 tackles 3 TFL
LB: Emeke Egbule Houston (Galena Park, TX) 38 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks
LB: Isaiah Graham-Mobley, Temple (King of Prussia, PA) 19 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 sacks
LB: Zachery Harris, Tulane (NEW ORLEANS) 42 tackles, 1.5 TFL
DB Sean Chandler Temple (Camden NJ) 47 tackles 1 interception, 1.5 TFL
DB: Tyrell Gilbert, Cincinnati (CINCINNATI) 39 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack
DB: Alexander Myres, Houston (HOUSTON) 20 tackles, 1.5 TFL
DB: Parry Nickerson Tulane (Algiers, LA) 39 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 TFL
DB: Kahlil Williams, Houston (Missouri City, TX) 47 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks
DB: Jarid Ryan, Navy (Glen Burnie, MD) 26 tackles, 0.5 TFL
DB: Mazzi Wilkins USF (TAMPA) 21 tackles, 3 interceptions

(Had to expand region past 20 miles to find a kicker and punter)
K: Josh Williams, SMU (Rowlett, TX) 11/15 FG 38-42 PATs 13 touchbacks
P: Jonathan Hernandez, South Florida (Bradenton) 43.6 yard average on 47 punts
Kickoff returner: Tony Pollard, Memphis (MEMPHIS) Leads all FBS players with 41.9 yards per kickoff return
Punt returner: Tajee Fullwood, USF (TAMPA) 14.4 yards on 8 returns

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Shelton's Jason Thompson to get his shot in final UConn true home game

It was a foregone conclusion that a running back from the Valley would be taking part in UConn's Senior Day festivities. Now there will be two backs from one of the most talent rich part of Connecticut being honored on Saturday.

Arkeel Newsome, who rewrote the Connecticut High School football record books during his unforgettable four-year run at Ansonia High, won't be able to play against USF due to the upper-body injury he suffered in a recent win over Tulsa. Shelton High graduate Jason Thompson is one of four players listed as a junior who will be taking part in Senior Day festivities. With injuries to Newsome and leading rusher Nate Hopkins, Thompson could get more offensive touches than at any other point in his career.

"Obviously I'm excited for a great opportunity, my last time playing at Rentschler," Thompson said. "I've been looking up at that since I was a little kid always wanting to play there but I am going to take it all in but it is not going to change my performance. My parents told me to take a step back, make sure you enjoy it all so I am going to do that but it is not going to change the preparation."
Thompson joins quarterback Brad Westmark, offensive lineman Dan Oak and defensive back Anthony Watkins as the juniors who will not be returning to the team next season.

There are times when coaches "strongly encourage" fourth-year juniors to exit stage right opening up more scholarship in the next recruiting class. It's uncertain whether than happened with any of the players mentioned above but it most certainly is not the case with Thompson who would have to be considered one of Edsall's favorite players on this year's team.

Thompson is the only player to be named a game captain three times this season and it didn't take much prodding for Edsall to rave about Thompson's attitude and work ethic.

"I love being around that kid, that kid there is something special," Edsall said. "You could see how hard of a worker he is and how much pride he had in doing things the right way. His position group selected him as the leader of that group. When you watch the kid go out and practice and he just goes hard every play, gives everything he has whether it is practice or the game, that is what you want for everybody. He sets a great example for not only his position group but his unit and for his team.

"Earlier this season he ended up having to go down and do some work on the scout team, he just went and did his job but still prepared to go in and play. That is a guy, you can depend on, he is reliable. He is going to be very successful at whatever he does. He goes in there and has productivity when he is in there, we put him on special teams because we knew he was going to get the job done. He is a really good kid, he is a good leader, has his priorities in line and gives it everything he has each and every day. He's been a joy to be around, to me he is one of those special type of young men, he's got everything that you are looking for."

Thompson, who came to UConn as a non-scholarship player, has done the work in the classroom as well. He is on pace to graduate at the end of the semester and his future plans won't include playing football.

"(He's pursuing a) doctor of physical therapy degree and that could be at any school so with that in consideration, just focus on my future and that profession, I felt like it was best for me to make this my senior year, go into that graduate (school) without football being there because I don't know if it is even possible to do both."

Thompson has seen more and more time on the field with each passing year. He's been a standout in the spring games and this year is a mainstay on special teams. He is the guy sent back to be the voice of reason when freshmen Quayvon Skanes or Jordan Swann field kickoffs. When Thompson believes it is in the team's best interest for them to settle for the touchback, they quickly oblige.

Thompson would love to have all the running backs healthy and available to play but with that not being the case, he's going to be ready when his number is called.

"I am going to do what I can with my extra opportunities to help this team win," Thompson said.

Mensah leads all healthy UConn running backs with 274 rushing yards and Thompson is considered to be the team's best blocking running back. What surprised me was when Edsall said that Donevin O'Reilly will serve as the No. 3 tailback. I figured Ja'Kevious Vickers, a redshirt freshman on scholarship, would have that role or perhaps Donovan Williams might get some reps at running back since the converted quarterback is buried a bit on depth chart at receiver.

O'Reilly was one of four players who recently were added to the roster after attending a tryout for walk-ons. Edsall said O'Reilly only became eligible on Friday and now he has moved past a scholarship running back who looked pretty good at the practices I attended last year (this year's practices are closed to the print media). Naturally, I asked Edsall what Vickers' status was because if he can't get into the mix this week, when is that going to happen?

"It is not the head coach's decision, it is a player's decision," Edsall said. "You watch players work and you watch players practice and both of these guys were on the scout team. He didn't become eligible until Friday of last week but what I saw with the energy guys were giving on the scout team, if I am going to move a guy up, I am going to move a guy up that I think has been busting his butt and giving the effort, doing the things you need to go where another guy is down there just kind of going through the motions, not pushing himself ...

"In the NFL, a guy comes onto the practice squad, he doesn't get it done, he's not working hard guess what he gets cut and you bring another guy in. I can't do that, sometimes I wish I could. I wish there was a waiver wire but you can't do that. If I am true to the team and true to the word that I tell those guys, guys who work the hardest, I don't care freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, scholarship/non-scholarship, if I stand up in front of them and say things to them and I don't follow through than I am not doing right for those kids. He has earned that right to be up over the other guy.

"The same thing in terms of Tyraiq (Beals) and Keyion (Dixon), Tyraiq has earned that right. He didn't pout, he just kept working, maybe the other guy didn't work as hard or wasn't as productive. To get that culture established, that is the way we have to do it and that is the way it is always going to be done. Play the guys who give the effort, guys who deserve it and show that they want to be out there and give everything they are going to give each and every day because that is the only way you are going to get better."

SUMMERS OUT FOR FIRST THREE QUARTERSThe good news is that senior cornerback Jamar Summers was on the two-deep chart which I wasn't sure was going to be the case after Edsall vanquished Summers to the locker room after he threw the ball at a Missouri receiver after making an interception late in the third quarter of the Missouri loss.

Edsall, with input from the 10-member leadership council, has decided that Summers won't be able to play in the first three quarters against USF.

"You know things are going to way you want them to go because I sat down with our leadership council and talked to them about the situation that took place, what they thought we needed to do as a team and as a program regarding that situation," Edsall said. "I was very impressed with the feedback and response I got back from those nine young men. They felt there was a component that needed to be dealt with away from the playing field, if there was going to be playing time taken away or not so they set that themselves. I won't get into what they set but it was a pretty harsh punishment, I shouldn't say punishment, discipline they put in place for Jamar to fulfill. They felt there should also be game time taken away. I asked them to give me parameters for what they thought would be fair in terms of the situation that happened.

"I got a range of things in term of half game to a full game to maybe a quarter that they brought up. Each young man had an opportunity to express himself. As I sat back and listened, I told them I would make the final decision  based on the recommendations that you guys put out there. I told them it could be the low end, it could be the high end, it could be somewhere in the middle. I made the decision, I brought the leadership council in with Jamar and told them what I was going to do so Jamar could hear it front of his teammates who are the leaders of this team and told him he will not be able to play in the first three quarters of this game which would really end up being a full game suspension based on a quarter last game and three quarters this game. Tre Bell will start and if he is playing well, doing what he is needing to do I'm not going to make any substitution there.

"I am proud of those guys for the way that they handled it and what they felt was necessary in order for our program moving forward in terms of what they want to establish from a culture and what I wanted to establish from a culture standpoint."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

UConn legend Orlovsky feels the pain of current team

If there was a person at Rentschler Field who understood what the members of the UConn football team was going through during another humbling defeat, Dan Orlovsky would certainly fill the bill.

The program's all-time leader in passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdown passes was on the field as UConn lost 10 games by at least 14 points in the first 18 games that the former Shelton High star was on the UConn squad.

"My first 18 games here were bludgeonings, they weren't fun," Orlovsky said at halftime of UConn's 52-12 loss to Missouri. "We were so committed to the big picture where it came to the point where it not happening was not an option for us. it truly just became a way of life where we were going to do it no matter what. I know this, we fully committed to Coach (Randy Edsall) and what he was saying the same thing over and over, we were getting waxed over and over again so at some point you go, 'what is the deal because we aren't necessarily seeing the results, he was and we weren't.

"We committed to Coach and we committed to ourselves. I feel for them, I know it stinks. It is not fun especially playing games like this at home but I am a big believer of failure, getting beat up, having that sensation and, 'I don't want that any more.' That was the thing we did, we just decided we weren't going to walk around campus like that anymore, it was kind of embarrassing. It takes time but you don't have all day so you want to feel the pain of loss and failure and turn that into motivation and success."

Senior linebacker Junior Joseph and senior defensive end Luke Carrezola are two of the team's unquestioned leaders and both addressed what Orlovsky had to say.

"Dan knows, he's the face of the program, he hit the nail (on the head).You get to the point that you can't take it anymore," Carrezola said. "I think every play is a fight, you have to come as a man and no matter what happens it is a next-play mentality."

Joseph, who had five tackles to move into 18th place on UConn's career list in that category, came from a winning program in high school as did most of his classmates but the Huskies are 14-31 in the last four seasons.

"Nobody likes losing, we are definitely tired of losing but we still have a lot of young players, a lot of guys who haven't had a lot of game experience," Joseph said.

Joseph admitted that he lost his composure at times during the game but it was another senior who really lost control.

Cornerback Jamar Summers had his first interception of the season late in the third quarter, it was his 12th career pick tying him with Justin Perkins for seventh in UConn history. However. Summers fired the ball at the legs of Missouri J'Mon Moore drawing a 15-yard penalty. Summers wasn't ejected on the play since it was his first unsportsmanlike penalty of the game. However, when he got to the sidelined, an irate Edsall was waiting. The one-sided conversation ended with Edsall pointing to the locker room and telling Summers to get off the sideline.

"You are not going to disrespect the game that way and play in this program," Edsall said. "It is all about respecting the game and doing what you are supposed to do. If you aren't going to do that, yuou don't deserve to be on the field, that is my opinion, that is how I am going to do things."

Carrezola said he didn't see what Summers did and didn't offer much of a reaction to Summers' play and Edsall's reaction. Joseph, however, did address it.

"That is not going to fly with Coach Edsall," Joseph said. "I totally expected him to bench Jamar after that and even kick him out of the game. We have to keep our cool and stay together. We are down by a lot but you still can't do anything selfish to hurt the team even more."

Joseph said he wants to talk to Summers and make sure his mind is right.

Missouri finished with 583 yards of total offense and if the 27 yards Missouri lost when a snap went over the head of punter Corey Fatony for a safety, it would have been the third time this season the UConn defense gave up more than 600 yards.

"We are definitely at a point where we have to draw a line, really step up," Carrezola said, "It starts with the seniors, with the leaders and we have to do a better job. We have to come out ready to play."
It doesn't get any easier with USF coming to Rentschler next week and a game at undefeated UCF the following week.

Edsall said he won't even bother showing the film of the game to the team. He will, however, address the missed tackles and dropped passes. Edsall estimated a dozen dropped passes which might have been a little on the high side but the missed tackle number would probably be more than a dozen.

Edsall didn't do into details but freshman running back Nate Hopkins was knocked out of the game as was starting guard Trey Rutherford. If Hopkins is forced to miss time, UConn will be getting extremely thin at the running back spot with Arkeel Newsome already sidelined.

The game was a chance for fans to receive Orlovsky bobbleheads. Orlovsky, who recently retired from football after he failed to make the Los Angeles Rams roster this year, reflected on his four years at UConn and 12 seasons in the NFL.

"To come back and have a night I can share with my friends and family is special," Orlovsky said. "I think the thing that has hit me the most recently is being from the state of Connecticut and coming here means even more to me now than it did back then because I've shared some of the memories, any time I come back here is great."

Orlovsky, who worked with the team as a volunteer coach in the spring as he was finishing up the work required for him to graduate from UConn, feels the pain the team is feeling.
"It's hard because I know Coach, I know a couple of guys on the staff, how much time they put into it and how much they care," Orlovsky said.

"As you watch the game, it is not like the kids aren't trying, they aren't quitting, They are out there throwing their best punch but they've got better punches."
Orlovsky finds himself suddenly with no football games to prepare for. A jump into the coaching profession is a possibility.

"Last five or six years of my career is pseudo coaching in some ways," Orlovsky said. "I've had a couple of opportunities to join some staffs in the NFL. I am not in the mindset of doing that right now because I didn't want to jump into anything. I talked to Coach Edsall about it, he knows where I stand, to coach college football isa little bit of a different animal especially when you have young kids."

UConn holds a special place in Orlovsky's heart.

"I don't know what would have happened if I would have gone somewhere else," Orlovsky said.

So what games or game stands out?

"The game against Indiana when Rentschler (in 2003) opened up was special to me. As you sit in the tunnel, it was OK you came here for a specific reason and this is the reason everybody said it could happen so that was a big moment. There are so many of them but that was the one that was, 'let's go.'"

He admits that the first NFL football Sunday was a little odd for him as he was in his home in Philadelphia.

"My wife was a little hesitant, how do you want to do it, where do you want to watch it," Orlovsky said. "I said lets just watch the opening kick at home, opening kickoff went off, she kind of looked at me and I said, I promise you, I am OK.' It was weird, different but not emotional for me. I was ready. I always told myself that when I was younger in my career if I played one year or 12 years when I was emotionally not invested in it anymore as a player, I wanted to be done. My sundays certainly are different."

UConn football commit plays starring role in upset win

Kevon Jones had a pair of scoring runs as East Hartford defeated Southington 27-20 to hand the Blue Knights their first regular-season loss since Oct. 19, 2013 when Hall posted a 49-37 victory. Southington's last regular-season home loss had come to Cheshire in 2010. I saw a report that it has been 20 years since East Hartford last defeated Southington.

East Hartford opened the season by being blown out by South Windsor 41-14 but have won the last six games to move into seventh place in the CIAC Class LL rankings.

Even if East Hartford wins its final three games, it might need some help to get into the playoffs since its final three opponents have combined for just seven wins. There's not much separating No. 5 West Haven from No. 10 Cheshire but with teams getting points for every victory by the teams it has beaten, I don't like the Hornets' chances of earning a postseason bid by finishing in the top eight in LL ratings.

Here are the combined win totals of games remaining on the schedule for the teams figuring to fight it out for playoff spots - West Haven (14), South Windsor  (8), East Hartford (7), Southington (12), Fairfield Prep (11), Cheshire (13).

Wilbur Cross, featuring two-way starting offensive lineman and fellow UConn commit Travis Jones, crushed East Haven 51-0 to improve to 5-2 but that is only good for 13th place in the Class LL ratings.

Also, Elijah Jeffreys had touchdown passes of 34, 55 and 32 yards and a 38-yard scoring run as Somerville (Mass.) defeated Triton 27-9. Next up will be the Massachusetts D5 North semifinals while Shamel Lazarus' Erasmus Hall squad defeated South Shore 35-7 to improve to 8-0.

Steve Krajewski threw for four touchdowns and had more than 200 passing yards in the first half alone as his Colquitt County team nearly pulled off a huge upset before falling 51-45 in double overtime to Lowndes.

Recent offensive lineman commit Dylan Niedrowksi helped his Exeter Township team to a fourth straight victory as Exeter Township defeated Reading 42-18.