An offense that has just started to get on track, will run into the tenth ranked defense nationally, in UCF, on Saturday.
It is a challenge that the Huskies will have to cope with, if they want to hand the Knights their first ever conference loss, as a member of the AAC.
UConn head coach Bob Diaco spoke at length about the obstacles they will face, during yesterday’s media availability.
“I think the main component to their defense is the fact that it is all fourth and fifth year juniors and seniors,” he said. “There are a couple third year players in there, but they are all older players. They have a veteran grizzle to them and they are really well coached. They are sound, play hard and don’t miss tackles.”
The Knights play with a style that you can tell Diaco signs off on. At times, the former defensive coordinator has conveyed annoyance with the style of play some teams are running, especially out west, with the high octane, up-tempo offenses. What he does enjoy is solid defense and fundamental football.
“You watch them [UCF] accelerate through tackles, they play defense the way I like to watch it played,” Diaco said. “When they line up and the coverage presents, it looks like a coverage. They aren’t aborting gaps, they’re sound in the front and then they add to it by having exceptional players.”
Some of those players will look to impede the Huskies passing attack this weekend.
“They are talented all across, but their safety, No. 26 [Clayton Geathers], he’s a fantastic player,” Diaco said. “They have a veteran backfield that allows them to do some things up front, as they can tie down the play making abilities [on the outside].”
Senior QB Chandler Whitmer will be tested by that secondary, as will the running game with the presence of Terrance Plummer, a 6-1, 236-lb senior linebacker.
“At the second level, he’s [Plummer] an all-conference player,” Diaco noted. ”He’s the battery of the unit, the heart and soul. Just a great leader, vocal leader, energetic play maker, very productive and always runs downhill.”
The most important match-up heading in, however, will be how the Huskies much improved offensive line, handles Jaryl Mamea and Demetris Anderson, two interior lineman who have wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Their play has aided in the Knights averaging 3.0 sacks per game, good for 19th in the country.
“I’m not sure anyone has been able to handle them,” Diaco said. “They’ve been able to pretty much dominate the inside tackle area in every game they’ve played.”
UCF is ranked 17th against the run, surrendering just 3.1 yards per attempt. They are 14th, alongside Notre Dame, in surrendering just 19.1 points per game.
It will be an uphill battle, but the Huskies will be at Rentschler Field for the first time in 36 days.
“We’re excited, I think that month off kind of created an out of sight, out of mind mentality, or if you’re a romantic, maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Diaco jokingly said.
“Hopefully there will be a nice crowd there. We’ll be appreciative of everyone that comes and cheers hard for the Huskies. We’re excited to get back into our stadium, our locker room and on our field. Hopefully not being at home for a month has not turned the lights off on the fan football experience.”
Tickets are still on sale for Saturday’s Homecoming game and can be purchased at UConnHuskies.com.by
Not many to report on, but here is the latest.
CB: With senior Byron Jones’ UConn career over, true freshman Jamar Summers has slid into the starting spot, opposite Jhavon Williams. This move was absolutely expected, but leaves the Huskies very young on the first and second lines of the secondary. With Summers moving to the starting role, true freshman Brice McAllister, who began camp as a running back, has moved behind Williams, as his backup. Also making an appearance on the depth chart for the first time this season is sophomore Javon Hadley, who is listed as an OR alongside John Green, backing up Summers.
RB: For the first time all season, the two freshmen, Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson, are separated on the depth chart as the lone starters. This is a clear indication that the staff is moving away from Max DeLorenzo, especially, although him and Josh Marriner, are both listed as OR’s as the backups on the two-deep. Marriner did see action on Thursday, running 3 times for 9 yards and catching another 3 passes for 15. Newsome touched the ball just twice last week, gaining a yard each on a carry and reception. The Ansonia native did not see action until the second half in Greenville, NC.
WR: Geremy Davis, who left the game against East Carolina with an undisclosed injury, is back in his usual starting spot on the depth chart. This is a clear indication that he will start and play, as head coach Bob Diaco and his staff do not mess around with depth chart listings.
The Boneyard Blog will have more coverage from media availability later today, beginning with Bob Diaco’s press conference, at noon.by
QB Chandler Whitmer:
WR Deshon Foxx:
OL Gus Cruz Part I:
Cruz Part II:
Cruz Part III:by
There’s a lot of stuff we have not gotten to since the game on Thursday. Tomorrow we switch gears to UCF, but first, let’s take a look back at the game with ECU.
Diaco’s opening remarks:
On facing 100 plays defensively:
Improvements Part I:
Improvments Part II:
Play of young CB’s Jhavon Williams & Jamar Summers:
Production from the WR’s & play selection:
Recovering from 14-point deficit:
There was under a minute remaining in the 3rd quarter of Thursday night’s AAC contest at East Carolina, as the Huskies offense looked at 2nd and 9 from their own 31. QB Chandler Whitmer handed off to true freshman RB Ron Johnson, who headed right, but a lack of a running lane forced him to reverse field and was there ever green grass in front of him, sans one weakside defender.
Enter Whitmer, who sprinted ahead of the play, lowered his shoulder and freed Johnson for a 22-yard run that took UConn into East Carolina territory heading into the fourth. The game was tied, 21-21 and momentum was much on the Huskies side.
The block was most certainly a ‘winning play,’ one that head coach Bob Diaco references the Huskies are in dire need of, week in and week out.
UConn went on to lose 31-21, but their play offensively, the physicality and overall production from the passing game, was much better. Whitmer’s block, epitomized that fact.
“I saw it and I was hyped,” offensive lineman Gus Cruz exclaimed following the loss. “I was really hyped to have him put his body on the line to spring up a few more yards. That tells you the want to and him wanting to win. When you have your quarterback being physical like that, everybody has them [QB's] as prima donna’s, just dropping back, looking pretty, fixing their hair, but he really put his big man shoes on and took care of business on that play.”
Cruz couldn’t help but continue to admire the effort.
“That’s something we see everyday with Chandler, fans don’t get to see that all the time, but he puts in a lot of work in the weight room and every other aspect of the game, so it was exciting for me watching that,” he added. “I almost got as excited for that play as one of those long passes we had, so it was great to see.”
Those statements, equal buy-in and support for a player that has been much maligned by fans over the course of his career. Even if the team was already all-in on Whitmer before, the effort on that play, solidified it.
Following the game, Whitmer looked at is as just another play, him just doing his job.
“Whatever it takes, these guys fight for me, I just do my job,” he said. “Whether it’s throwing the ball or getting blocks in those situations, I want to be smart, but I’m putting it out there to fight for these guys and they fight for me. We love each other, it was a great fight tonight.”
The senior quarterback went on to talk about the disappointment of another loss, but he and the rest of the team understand the progress being made. Hanging in with a team for three and a half quarters and falling by ten points is not what anyone’s definition of success is. That part is clear.
Head coach Bob Diaco echoed that there are no moral victories, but there are certainly plays and situations that can be looked at, as positives to build on. This one in particular, certainly falls into that category and he won’t let the team forget it.
“They’ve watched it, a lot,” Diaco said on this morning’s AAC teleconference when asked if he’s shown the team the play. “In fact, as soon as I saw it happen in the game, I actually ran down to the defensive bench to have them watch the board, if they hadn’t already seen it, and a lot of them had seen the play. It’s a huge, huge thing, a selfless act, a contact tough moment that is an energizer from a position that wouldn’t otherwise be asked to do that. It was a great, great play.”
The Huskies will need some more of these ‘winning plays’ come Saturday, when Central Florida visits Rentschler Field, seeking their 12th conference win in as many games. Judging by the performance given on Thursday, it should be a good atmosphere, at The Rent.by
The Huskies put in a valiant effort tonight in Greenville, NC, but fell short to East Carolina and their powerful, up-tempo passing attack, 31-21.
The story was the awakening of the UConn offense, led by Chandler Whitmer, who threw for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“We did some good things, made it competitive, but losing still sucks,” Whitmer said following the game. “I don’t care what environment you’re in, who you’re playing, you still don’t want to lose. We did some good things, we just didn’t do enough in the end to finish it off. We just need to be able to make plays at the end to finish off the game and get a good road win, but we got better and we are just going to continue to work.”
Without pass protection, Whitmer would not have been able to make the throws he did and that is a testament to the offensive line.
“That’s the effort we all put in the past week and a half, game planning and working really hard on our technique,” offensive lineman Gus Cruz noted after the loss. “The game plan was great, credit to the coaches for putting us in the right positions. We know we can move on from this and it will open up a number of other things for us to do so we can give Chandler some extra time.”
Junior WR Geremy Davis went out with an undisclosed injury and that enabled Thomas Lucas and Noel Thomas to step right in and produce. Lucas had two catches for 80 yards, while Thomas caught 3 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
The play of the night may have been a third quarter run by RB Ron Johnson that went for twenty-two (22). Whitmer came from behind the play to take on a linebacker, eliminate him from the play and enable Johnson to gain an extra 17 yards, on what would have been a five yard gain. The play energized his teammates, something that was still there following the loss.
“Whatever it takes, these guys fight for me, I just do my job, whether it’s throwing the ball or getting blocks in those situations. Obviously I want to be smart, but I’m putting it out there to fight for these guys and they fight for me. We love each other, it’s been a great fight tonight, but we just didn’t come out on top.”
Cruz on Whitmer’s block:
The Huskies return to action on Saturday, November 1st when they host UCF at Rentschler Field. Time is TBA, but the unveiling of the Jasper Howard statue, will take place.by
Gus Cruz on improvement of line since opening day:
Cruz on mentoring young guys:
Cruz on atmosphere expected at ECU:
Final prediction: 27-10 ECU – UConn defense slows down ECU’s offense, but UConn offense again struggles. First time I’ve picked against the Huskies all year….by