Our team is certainly excited to get back on the football field. We had Connecticut a team that two years ago played in the Fiesta Bowl. It's a very senior team on defense. They were starting 7 seniors, and four or five of them are red shirt seniors. Got a lot of experience on that side of the ball.
I think last week they only gave up 53 yards offense, and didn't allow U MASS to cross the 50-yard line. So playing great defense right now. Offensively they have a lot of experience upfront on their offensive line, playing two different quarterbacks and two different styles of offense.
So it will be a big challenge for our football team, but we look forward to getting back on the field on Saturday.
Coming off last week, what are the areas of improvement you're focusing on heading into week two here?
When you look back, there are five big plays on defense that counted for half the yardage, and long passes, long runs. Those are things that we have to get corrected. We turned the ball over five times on offense. One fumble and four interceptions. So those are things that we spent a lot of time trying to correct.
You can't take ten plays out of the game, but those ten plays dictated the final. So we have to make corrections in those areas and give ourselves a chance to win here on Saturday.
How much of that loss concerned you or do you look at it and say I think Tennessee's going to be a lot better than everyone expected this year perhaps?
No, every loss concerns me. You have to be concerned right now that we had a chance to do something and we didn't make it work.
I do think that Tennessee, they feel they're a heck of a lot better team, certainly, with that quarterback in there and their skill level and the change in defense than they were a year ago. But that's still no excuse for the way we played.
Coach, how has the attitude been on the team since the Tennessee game?
I think they've been fine. They were a little bit down on Sundays. We got them back together and looked at the tape and made corrections. But they've been focused the last two mornings. We already practiced this morning. They've been focused a little better today than they were yesterday and they'll have to be a lot better tomorrow.
With the start that David Amerson had last week, is there any concern on your end about his confidence level or whether it will make him less effective as the season goes?
That's a good question. Hopefully he's going to answer that here in the next couple weeks. I think one of the great things about it is if you are a great player, especially as a quarterback or if you are as a corner, you're going to get beat. But you have to have amnesia and forget about it and come back and play from that point on.
So it's a good lesson for him to learn, and we'll see how he reacts this week on Saturday.
I know some coaches prefer to go on the road because they feel there are less distractions and people prefer to be at home. What is your feeling on that? Does the length of the road trip matter at all? Connecticut's a longer flight and a longer trip than a lot of ACC trips for you guys.
No, I'd certainly rather play at home. We have a great home-field advantage, we have a great crowd and our fans are tremendous. I think we have a distinct advantage playing at home. Maybe there are more distractions one way or another. But certainly once the ball is kicked off, I think home-field advantage is an absolute, especially as far as we're concerned here at state.
Does a longer trip like Connecticut present any other challenges or problems for you or does it not really matter?
No, I think you know looking at the trip that Duke has to take, I did that at Boston College and had to go to Stanford. That makes a difference when you cross time zones.
The furthest flight-- and that was one of the advantages being at North Carolina and Boston, we always took three hours or more flights. When you take a flight and go three time zones, I think that really affects you playing and certainly affects you coming back. I'm thinking Boston, after we played Stanford at 7:30 their time, we got back 9:00 o'clock Sunday morning or something.
Going back to Amerson, especially the two big plays, was it a matter of him simply getting beat or was there not help that was supposed to be there? Was it a secondary problem as opposed to an Amerson problem?
Well, I don't know if it was an Amerson problem or the fact that Tennessee's pretty dang good. Their skill level is high. Their play, they're certainly a different team with that quarterback in there than they were at the end of last year.
When he was in there, I think they were averaging 40 points a game the first couple of games of the year last year. They averaged ten a game when he was out of there. So I think he makes a big difference. I think it may have been more of a skill problem and them executing than us not executing.
Looked like Quintin Payton really came through for you in that game. One of your inexperienced receivers stepping it up. Did he surprise you had anyway what he did in that game? Do you think that's something he can carry through the season?
Well, he had a good preseason camp. I think that's one of the things... that Michael is not afraid to throw the ball, and he does a good job and he did a good job especially on the first one that he threw to Quintin of aiding the rush, which he hadn't done a year ago. They had left him running wide open down the boundary. The best catch he made was Michael threw it backside shoulder on a takeoff down the boundary, and Quintin went up and used his height which we're used to seeing when we had Jarvis Williams here.
So he has to give us that. I think not only will he now because it's a great confidence boost for him, but certainly for Mike that he knows that he's got somebody that will go up and get the football like that.
I'd like to ask you about Mike the quarterback. The four interceptions are kind of uncharacteristic for him. What kind looking at film-- was he making bad decisions or was it the pressure on him that forced those? Can you give us an explanation?
The last one was at the end of the game, so that's a throw out. We'll take that one out of there.
The first one they made a great play. They baited him into it, and it's something he has to learn from and go to something we can't do. The second one, I think, was a bad decision. He didn't see the whole coverage and didn't recognize what was going on. Then the third one was a great play. He may have underthrown the corner a little bit. You don't underthrow a corner. You don't underthrow a post. So we can do better at that.
But I think two of them you have to give the kids at Tennessee credit too. They made pretty good plays on the ball.
Are there particular things about UCONN that concern you that seeing on film, if you had a chance to watch much to this point?
Well, as I said before, they only give up 50-something yards and shut out a team. Didn't let them across the 50-yard line on defense. They have Paul Pasqualoni has been a defensive guy for a long time, coordinated in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and the Dolphins before he came back. I've known him since my days at Syracuse and Boston College. Don Brown's coordinating there. Their defense is very well coached. Do not make a mistake.
They have one kid, 48, the defensive end was a hundred meter champ when he was coming out of high school in Connecticut. He gets a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks. They've got senior cornerbacks that play well. Then when you play a team and they're having the success they had.
They had a new quarterback in there that kind of protected him, the junior college kids that more conventional. Then they bring in 11, the wildcat who is a whole new style of offense when he's in the game. So they make you prepare a lot offense.
Those are the things that are a major concern. To be able to make you move the football, make first downs and hopefully cross the 50-yard line against that defense.