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The View From Section 241

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I don't know where to start with this one. Let's start here. We just lost to a MAC team, at home. The last time we lost to a MAC team at the Rent would be .... Never is the answer to that. You can focus on the fact that we had the lead in the 4th quarter (as we have in all three losses). Or you can focus on the fact that we gave up almost 500 yards passing (which would have seemed impossible). But the bottom line is that we had every chance to have a 5-0 OOC and we came in 2-3 instead. None of Vandy, ISU or WMU sucks. I think they are 49, 53 and 59 in today's Sagarins. But they were all winnable, we had a late lead in all 3, two were at home and we've got zilch to show for it. I thought that a team that wouldn't be as good as last year's could utilize an easier schedule and have a solid year, but that is not the case. It will take a miracle from here to get to a bowl. RU, UL and Syracuse, all at home, are winnable games, but we've lost three straight winnable games against credible teams. And, even if we get all of them (and query whether we have the mental toughness to rally from 2-6, where we are probably heading), I don't know where the 6th win is coming from. Look -- this team is not crap. They are one or two plays each game from being 5-0 and heroes. But they have failed at putting everything together to date, and it may be too late, even if they play to their potential, to get to a bowl. We haven't been in that position since '06. Which was a team where the upperclassmen were recruited before we had played a Big East game. Not a roster of conference champions searching for some skill players and confidence.

O.K. -- offense, defense and special teams. Let's start with special teams. The three kickers have to do a better job. I don't care who their damn coach is -- they have to do better jobs. Teggart can't leave points on the board every game -- he needs to be a senior leader, and he has too much talent to not be doing better. Christen can't kick the ball out of bounds there -- just can't. And Wagner has to be more consistent. Has to be. You want to ask why we totally suck on returns and coverages -- I'm listening. We blocked in the back on their first three kickoffs, including one that went sailing through the endzone. The double teamed our gunners and we couldn't get guys from the line downfield fast enough. We seem totally unable to block for punt returns. And, I've said since opening day, we are getting outmuscled in the middle of the other teams kickoff returns, and it's just a matter of time until someone breaks one against us. We need bigger guys in the middle of the coverage to bust the wedge. Here is the thing about UConn and special teams. At our lowest moment last year, we got clobbered at Louisville mostly because they killed us on specials. We came back against WVU and from that moment on, played our butts off on specials, executed kicks and got much better. Can that happen this year? It has to. But special teams improvement alone isn't getting us a win the next three games.

The offense, obviously, was much, much better, to the point that, while there was a lot that needs to be done better, it was good. And it was good in a week where Jimmy Bennett tore an ACL on Thursday, causing a shuffling of the offensive line (Bennett is a redshirt junior -- I hope this didn't end his career, because with Mike Ryan gone next year he really needed to be our LT. I hope he doesn't give up.) And where DJ Shoemate took himself out of the equation for this year, leaving the backup TB slot wide open. Kashif Moore had a career day, and became the third different receiver in three weeks to have a 100 yard day. Nick Williams wasn't looked at all day as a target (why exactly?) but came up huge in the 4th quarter. And lots of other players contributed. Lyle McCoombs had a huge run (thought I've never seen the grass tackle someone so hard 70 yards downfield) and a decent overall day. JJL showed me enough on his two carries to warrant giving Lyle a little more relief. McEntee, obviously, was much better with his feet, and threw the ball both downfield and where people could run after catching it. And Deleone, to his credit, came up with the 4 wideout throw to McCombs over the middle that was successful by play design (that was also Kamal Abrams only snap if I saw right), not superior execution. There was, however, much to improve upon. As a team, the running was better but, if McCombs doesn't break the tackle and go for 70 they would have been very pedestrian. McEntee produced, but he still locks onto his primary receiver too long and often takes too long to release the ball, letting an open receiver run into coverage (footwork might have a lot to do with it). In a game where you produce 4 long drives for TDs, they could have made their lives much, much easier by taking advantage of the back to back tgurnovers deep in WMU territory that we only cashed in for 3 points. And then we get to Ryan Griffin. Guy gave it his best trying to make a play, but it was the wrong play to make. He caught the ball, protected with both hands, and then when he saw how much room he had he took his left arm off the ball looking to use it to run quicker or stiffarm. You could see that play coming from a mile away. The smart play was to protect the ball. It probably cost us a tied game in the last minute.

On defense let's start with the good. Kendall Reyes. Nothing, nothing else to say that is positive. When the season started, I thought we had four studs with a chance to have a fifth. Reyes is a stud. Sio Moore looked confused and was reduced to covering slot receivers all day. He has three penalties himself, one of which (the stupid personal foul on what would have been third and long for WMU insider their ten when we were developing momentum may have been the key play of the game). Jesse Joseph has been very quiet since recovering from injury. Blidi was out. And Jerome Junior continues to make horrific plays. The question on his personal foul was not why he fouled. The question is why did he stop going for the pick that he was in position to make. Beat the WR to the ball, as he easily could have done before he stopped, and you aren't hitting him while he's going for the ball. But the bigger point was that yesterday, other than Reyes, we had no one to make a big play (although Smallwood made a huge one on the blitz forcing the fumble). Moore was awful trying to cover WRs but probably shouldn't have been asked to do that and never looked comfortable doing it. Wilburn was beaten like a drum. I have a lot of respect for fifth year seniors who do everything right and wait their turn, but I just don't see a BCS corner. I try to assume no one (officials, coaches, whomever) are stupid unless I know they are, so I am assuming that Taylor Mack, despite being listed in the two deep, is either hurt or trying to redshirt. But if he wasn't I don't know what to say. Jones, I think, ended up playing over Agbor, but he was totally ineffective at coverage also. As was Junior. As was Tymeer Brown in the dime package. Only Gratz in the secondary I thought wasn't terrible. And the pass rush just disappeared, despite blitzes. But, as much as the players underperformed, you can't ignore the coaching here. It was not just that we gave up all those passing yards, and couldn't get off the field (although that would have been enough). I don't know how it came across on TV, but the defenders were clearly unsure the entire game how to line up and who they were supposed to be covering. There were constant discussions that weren't ending as the ball was snapped and defenders out of position at the snap. I have never seen a UConn defense that confused, or that bad. "Solving your problems with aggression" works great defending the run, but is not a mantra that gets you anywhere defending against a complex, precision passing offense. Period.

Not a nice weather day yesterday. A lot of empty seats, but I'm guessing the official attendance was o.k. Crowd was o.k. The stadium experience this year, with all the interviews and crap on the jumbo board, is very hard to sit through. I thought Sandman at the start of the 4th Q was a nice tradition starting, but they didn't want to leave time for it. Sigh.

That's enough. Next week is not going to be a game we have much of a chance of winning. Hopefully, the offense continues to show improvement and the D gets back to the way it played before yesterday. Because if we lose to WVU, we need to win one of the next two (USF or at Pitt) if we are going to get to the winnable three game homestand before the season is over.
 
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Same thing happened against Buffalo with all the movement & seeming confusing before the snap ... and we gave up only 3 points. It's not clear what they are supposed to do. But, occasionally, they are pushing a teammate to another slot between blockers. I hope someone has a handle on this.
 
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Thanks Biz.

This is going to sound like a rant on this new group of coaches. Maybe it is. But, we should be 5-0. We lost to teams that were not as athletic and we lost two of them at home. The three headed QB platoon went on way to long and I don't think anybody benefited from it. The McCummings thing is borderline bizarre. The kid is an ok athlete, but I don't see lights out speed or elusiveness and he continues to struggle with snapps and continues to struggle with accuracy. So from the defense's standpoint there's no option at all.....just go tackle Scott. We have zero power rushing ability with McCombs. Zero. And we continue to have him on the field all the time. All 170 LBs of him. We can't control the ball and WVU is going to run blitz every down knowing that McCombs goes down easier than a ......

As for Brown.....well. You wanted blitzing and you got it. I'm sure the man has forgotten more football than I will ever know. But, I do know this - pressure increases the probability for big plays. If you are going to send those backers and safeties they sure as hell better get there. This one is squarely on him. He was down his best corner - figure it the duck out - this was WM not Oklahoma.

I have never seen a UCONN team penalized like the one I saw yesterday.

I think P needs at a minimum at least two full seasons to get a fair chance. But, it's hard to imagine getting off to a worse start. I am loath to call kids out on these boards, although I guess I did here, but the coaches are a different story. These guys get paid big bucks and this is big boy football. They used up a lot of runway with this start and it simply did not need to be this way. My instincts could be dead wrong, and I hope they are, but my gut says that these guys make things immensely more difficult that they need to be.

Congratulations to John McKentee on a very solid game. Love to see walk-ons do this.
 
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Thanks Biz.

This is going to sound like a rant on this new group of coaches. Maybe it is. But, we should be 5-0. We lost to teams that were not as athletic and we lost two of them at home. The three headed QB platoon went on way to long and I don't think anybody benefited from it. The McCummings thing is borderline bizarre. The kid is an ok athlete, but I don't see lights out speed or elusiveness and he continues to struggle with snapps and continues to struggle with accuracy. So from the defense's standpoint there's no option at all.....just go tackle Scott. We have zero power rushing ability with McCombs. Zero. And we continue to have him on the field all the time. All 170 LBs of him. We can't control the ball and WVU is going to run blitz every down knowing that McCombs goes down easier than a ......

As for Brown.....well. You wanted blitzing and you got it. I'm sure the man has forgotten more football than I will ever know. But, I do know this - pressure increases the probability for big plays. If you are going to send those backers and safeties they sure as hell better get there. This one is squarely on him. He was down his best corner - figure it the duck out - this was WM not Oklahoma.

I have never seen a UCONN team penalized like the one I saw yesterday.

I think P needs at a minimum at least two full seasons to get a fair chance. But, it's hard to imagine getting off to a worse start. I am loath to call kids out on these boards, although I guess I did here, but the coaches are a different story. These guys get paid big bucks and this is big boy football. They used up a lot of runway with this start and it simply did not need to be this way. My instincts could be dead wrong, and I hope they are, but my gut says that these guys make things immensely more difficult that they need to be.

Congratulations to John McKentee on a very solid game. Love to see walk-ons do this.

I think it is o.k., and unavoidable, for criticism of athletes at this level to occur. If they want to play football in anonymity, they can play at Trinity or Central. Saying criticism should be o.k. should not, however, be free license. Criticize the play, but be respectful of the player. I'm sure I don't get there 100% of the time, but fair analysis should be allowed or you can't intelligently discuss the game.
 
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"Criticize the play, but be respectful of the player."

Well stated and agree wholeheartedly.
 
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I think it is o.k., and unavoidable, for criticism of athletes at this level to occur. If they want to play football in anonymity, they can play at Trinity or Central.

Trinity is 2-0, just knocked off arch-rival Williams, and has a nation leading 40-game home winning streak.
Go Bantams! Fear the chicken!

Humor me, my daughter is a Trinity student.
 
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My daughter is a Hamilton student. This could get ugly........
 
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The WMU coaching staff saw the obvious---that Wilburn coudn't cover the right side receivers and went there over and over and over and over again. I kept asking why they didn't swap corners so the QB would at least have to adjust to throwing against his body to the other side. Because they would have kept throwing at #21. Blidi is missed. But give credit also to WMU. That was a good QB-Receiver combo out there, MAC or no MAC.
I don't fault Griffin for trying to make a play there. I fault the unsportsmanlike penalties of our D that kept drives alive for WMU. And the legend grows for Nick Williams with a great 4th down catch in the end zone.
I can't remember a game where we had so many passing TD's. Maybe DanO did.
Johnny Mac is stepping up. If our Specials can as well, and we're taken lightly by our next few opponents, we can beat them.
 
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great analysis BL as usual. There are a number of things I'm concerned about as we go into BE play. One that concerns me is the regression I'm seeing in a number of areas. Specials most notably have deteriorated. Coverages are soft at best and I'm not smart enough to know if its scheme or personnel, but I suspect its the former. I know on punt return we're rarely doubling the gunners, so one move and they're alone. Additionally, I'm not sure why Nick is fair catching everything. It almost seems as if he's lost any faith that there will be any blocking for him. The kicking overall has been spotty, and I don't get it. Two shanks in a row from Cole and the worst time for a duck hook kickoff yesterday from Chad killed us. Specials had become a real strength for us down the stretch last year. Its left me scratching my head.

On defense, I see a group thinking way too much, and on D when you are thinking you're getting beat. I don't see a bunch of crazed dogs out there, just a bunch of confused guys running around seemingly without any semblance of cohesion. Also, and I've been asking myself this for weeks, why are we bringing in another safety on passing downs and not a corner. The nickle package has been to pull a lineman, leave all three backers and bring in a third safety, like a WVU 3-3-5. I just don't get it. If these young men playing safety were that good in coverage, they'd most likely be playing corner to begin with. Not to mention, yesterday with BWW out, Wilburn could have used more corner help.

On O, I think our changes in blocking schemes have really caused our running game to regress, although I saw more encouraging signs this week. There were a number of good sized hole that Lyle danced too much in. He seems to be trying to break the big one too much. Sometimes the best runs are 5 yarders when you could be stopped at 3. too often we're only getting the three. Nice game by Johnnie yesterday. He has his limitations, but there are some good signs with his progression. It was nice to see Kashif get some consistent looks yesterday. I have so much respect for that young man and what he has been through in his years here. The one lasting memory I have of yesterday was of Kash squatting at the 20 yard line looking up at the jumbotron as the last play was reviewed. I felt so bad for him after such a great effort from him and wondering what he was thinking. I know its early, but this being his last year, I want so much better for him.
 
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Nice to see something resembling a passing game. Keep on throwing the ball. Don't like to lose but the end of third quarter and all of the fourth was some exciting football. 1st half? ZZzzz. Much more productive on offense due in a large way to forcing WM to defend the whole field.
 
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My daughter is a Hamilton student. This could get ugly........

Ha ha, way back when my first D3 basball win as a freshman pitcher at RPI was against Hamilton.

Hamilton's a great school...congrats!
 
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It was encouraging on many fronts especially Johhnnny Here's Johhnnny

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItiQ-fsVvWk&feature=related

Give McCombs credit he is carrying the load. Nice job by Kashif and actually Griffin. Seems they were keying on Moore. The McCumming thing caught them off guard.

The kick out of bounds, the penalties is just fundamental football that is controlled by the coaches. What is irritating is the fact that we knew that they were going to pass on every down (they had 23 yds rushing) and we still could not get coverage. I did notice, like others, there is still confusion, right up to the snap, on D. Something is amiss there.

Guess we will see on Saturday. Tough to believe 18 points on some sites.
 

ConnHuskBask

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BizLaw, as always, thanks for the post. Definitely more insight than anything you read online.

The passing offense certainly did look better than we've seen in recent memory.

Maybe the guys will surprise us, who knows? West Virginia is a hell of a team, but we'll give it all we got.
 
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Nice to see something resembling a passing game. Keep on throwing the ball. Don't like to lose but the end of third quarter and all of the fourth was some exciting football. 1st half? ZZzzz. Much more productive on offense due in a large way to forcing WM to defend the whole field.

I hear ya. Who cares if we lose, as long as we pass the ball!!!!! (I am assuming your post was sarcasm).
 
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I hear ya. Who cares if we lose, as long as we pass the ball!!!!! (I am assuming your post was sarcasm).

If you assumed that, you would be making an ....

TDH is consistent. We all have to give him that.
 
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Fair analysis as usual.

On offense we have some limitations that are explained mostly by personnel losses and secondly a new system. It's a work in progress but at least progress we can see. I'm very concerned about our reliance on McCombs in the long term, which may be the next few weeks. The line hasn't been consistent in protection but it seemed like they made a few nice holes despite being forced to cover an injury.

On defense the only feeling I get is unsettled (and that goes for my stomach too). Way too much shifting and calling pre and during snaps. We have an issue in pass coverage and it hasn't been improved as much as we would like esp at safety. It was apparent last year when I felt we lacked speed, and with Blidi out it was really obvious and compounded by a lack of depth.

This has been a worst case scenario and it's scary to think that one ding to McCombs and we're left with just a psssing game and a shaky D that can make a few sacks and is decent against the run. We lost some good players from last year and we're close to winning or losing a bunch of games. Right now it's going to take a great effort from coaches and players (some young) to fight through this stretch. We still have a big upside on offense to realize but I am concerned about the pass coverage we saw more than anything.

Specials were a nightmare I just cannot understand. Just tell the guys to do what they did last year and be done with it.
 
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Modern college football . . . . Gotta be able to throw the ball. Offense is what builds a fan base. Creates excitement. NFL gets it. Much of college football gets it. Even baseball gets it. Offense is where it's at.
 
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I hear ya. Who cares if we lose, as long as we pass the ball!!!!! (I am assuming your post was sarcasm).

I assume he was attempting to be positive, rather than attempting to dismiss the loss.
 

uconnbill

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Need to use another back more often than once in awhile. When McCombs gets a breather he plays better. They have burned Foxx's redshirt already so why not play him some more. More touches for JJL as well. Hopefully Hyppolite comes back this upcoming week. UConn needs a bi\g back and he would be it now.
 

nelsonmuntz

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I am not sure how much of a step back this team has taken. Last year's OOC:

Michigan/Vanderbilt - Last year: blowout road loss to Big 10 team that ended up 3-5 in conference. Everyone lit up GRob's defense last year, including UMass, except us. This year: UConn takes SEC team that will win 2 or 3 games in league play (in a much better league than last year's Big 10) down to the wire on the road and makes a crucial mistake to cost us the game.
Texas Southern/Fordham
Buffalo/Buffalo
Temple/WMU - Last year: UConn collapse in the 4th against a 5-3 MAC team and loses by 2 TD's. Of Temple's 3 OOC wins last year (Villanova, Army, UConn), UConn was the only one the Owls won by more than a TD. This year: UConn is in a tight, back and forth battle with a MAC team that will probably win 6 league games, and loses on a crucial mistake late in the game. WMU was coming off a 3 point loss to a ranked Illinois team.
Vanderbilt/Iowa State - Last year: UConn pulled away in the 3rd from a Vandy team that went 2-10, 1-7, with 9 of their losses coming by 2 TD's or more. This year: Iowa State plays in by far the best conference in the country, which is the only thing keeping them from a guaranteed bowl bid. The could still win 3 or possibly 4 in the Big 12, which has been awesome this year. Iowa State already beat Iowa. UConn took them down to the wire, and Iowa State made a couple of big plays and UConn didn't.

Last year's UConn team came out of the OOC 3-2 with 2 blowout losses to mediocre/below average opponents, and 3 home wins over bad opponents. This year's UConn team emerges from the OOC 2-3 with 3 heartbreaking losses, and literally 3 plays from 5-0. All 3 losses were to decent teams. WMU will get a bowl bid, and Iowa State and Vanderbilt will battle for one in very good leagues.

A loss is a loss, and these three have been frustrating. Using them for predictive value, this team is coming out of the OOC looking OK and having played better overall than last year's UConn team did at the same point. This team needs to make plays in the 4th. I subscribe to Phil Steele's philosophy that close games even themselves out over time. I think we are a little snakebit, and if the team continues to improve its play, there are enough winnable games on the schedule that this season won't be a washout. That said, if a team keeps losing close games, it isn't unlucky anymore.

I don't know if UConn is just unlucky or the kind of team that always finds a way to lose.
 

nelsonmuntz

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You counted Vandy twice.

Nope. We played them last year and this year. I was comparing the two schedules.
 
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I thought some aspects of the defense were played pretty well. Yes, they gave up huge numbers in the air but that was primarily WMU targeting Wilburn's side all day long. If Mack is being redshirted so be it, if not I cannot for the life of me figure out why he's not out there. The defense did create turnovers and gave the offense the ball at least twice deep in WMU territory that did not translate into points. The O has to be able to take advantage of these situations.

Kickoff team has to stop kicking the ball out of bounds. This is ridiculous.

Every time I see the ball thrown Tebucky Jones way he seems to make a nice catch. I'm not sure why he's not more involved.

As far as penalties go, the chop block on McCombs seemed bogus. For this penalty to be called the defensive player needs to be engaged with another offensive player. In this case the defender seemed to be coming through unimpeded. A lineman was coming across but never got there. As far as the personal foul on J. Junior goes - was it because the hit was high? It didn't seem early (I have not watched the replay). It seemed like a bogus call unless they're saying he hit too high or lead with his head on the hit. And I still have no idea what the personal foul on the opening kickoff was (when the ball was booted right through the end zone). There was no explanation on SNY or at the stadium.

Here's my "call me crazy" paragraph - Why not give Scott McCummings some burn at TB? When he comes in now, it seems to be a foregone conclusion this is going to be a run or, on the off chance it's a pass it's probably one of two routes and his throws are not accurate. I know with Box gone there's not much depth there, but I'd make Nebrich #2 QB and McCummings #3, and run him at TB. If Mac goes down you pull Scott away from TB. If not, you get him on the field. The guy can be a weapon that gets used more. He's big, athletic and fast and seems to have good vision running the ball, and could benefit from being in there with a QB who is a threat to throw the ball. I'm not saying I know anything but I made the argument to move Keron Henry and Dj Hernandez to WR (a lot of people made those arguments) before the move was made. It just seems when you have a guy with his ability to get positive yards need to find ways to get em onto the field and become a threat to the defense.
 
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I liked the analysis until the last paragraph. I can't believe the pessimism that comes with losing games around here. You know how often a team goes undefeated? not often.

But a team needs to believe it can undefeated. A team needs to play and practice like they expect to win every game.

I fully expect that this team will win next Saturday. I'm sure they all do to.

WHY? you ask? Because we've got all the working parts. They just need to get put together now, and the spanking this team just got on defense will be a real eye opener for practice this week on top of everything else.

You don't just walk out on the field and an opponent is going to lay down and play dead. Practice practice practice.

Discipline, penalties, defense. You get yourself in position to win a game, and then you go out and win it.

There were things that happened on Saturday that need to cleaned up, for sure. It still is telling to me though, that coaching on defense is so poor, yet this coach - the holy one, Edsall - wanted him. He thought it would be a real good idea to keep this guy at Maryland. Says something about the guy - one way or the other, about how you feel about Edsall. I personally think Edsall was a great football strategist and defensive coach.

Anyway - play clock speed, adjustments at the line of scrimmage, our defense is clearly still learning a new system.

When you can see your mistakes on film, they're easy to correct.

One more thing. I hate losing, i hate it.

But the only thing I hate more, is a team that loses by playign with no heart, no balls, no urgency and no passion.

I haven't seen that, and I don't expect to.

The rest, we can fix.

And lastly, the concept of front loading the schedule was something that was consciously done in the past, to prepare for conference play, and make it through conference play.

This team will have played more than half it's schedule by Oct. 15. An done so, coming from where it was in March.

A bowl game is not out of reach, every single goal set for this team is still on the board. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together, now the whole picture needs to be assembled.

It's odd to me, how people can't see the forest because of the trees.

Would I rather be 5-0? Duh. But I'll take this team's sub .500 record through September and into October over last year's anyday.

Last year, it took the worst performance by a UConn team - ENTIRE team - in many years for the players to get themselves together.

You want to talk about poor coaching, look at last year.

The defense took a step back this week. Sometimes you need that to really step forward.

THis team will be ready to play, and to say we have little to no chance to win next week, is a very poor attitude, and not only that, seems to ignore the evidence.

Our team puts together the three phases of the game on Saturday, and we're coming home 1-0 in conference.
 
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