Previewing UConn

Talented tailback Lyle McCombs and Connecticut (1-0) will be a tough challenge for NC State. Here is a quick preview of the Huskies.

UConn Depth Chart


Quotables: UConn

Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni
Opening Statement:

"We really need to have a good week of practice. NC State is a very skilled team, with good players everywhere. This will be a real challenge for us. We'll have to play smarter than we did last week. [If] we turn the ball over three times against this team, we're going to have a lot of problems. We're really going to have to play smart and not beat ourselves. We've got a big week ahead of us."

What did you learn about your team last week?
"I would say that we confirmed some things. I thought that on defense, we showed signs of being a team that could be athletic and could run. I thought that was evident on the film. I think we learned that Chad Christen is prepared to go out there with confidence and kick. I thought we saw effort on special teams; all the way around in the coverage and return units. I think we learned that we've got to a little bit better job throwing the shorter passes. We have to try to not have the underneath receivers in the short game have to make acrobatic catches. And I think we learn that we're going to have to run the ball better. Our consistency, yards per attempt, was not really what it has to be."

How do you interpret the team's defensive dominance against UMass?
"I think that we clearly were better, at this stage of the UMass program, we were clearly better up front than they were. We were a little bit further ahead experience wise. I think it is probably a little bit of both the fact that we were further ahead than they were and we are giving effort and we are working hard up front. With the NC State offensive line, with four seniors, they've got about 100 starts between them. This will be, by far, our biggest challenge up front."

What is the status of the defensive line?
"Right now, I would say Shamar [Stephen] is out for this week. Losing Teddy [Jennings] is a big deal. He's one of three guys in the rotation [at defensive end]. He's a senior who has played a lot of football and is a good player. That's a huge loss for us. Somebody else is going to have to step it up. Tim Willman will come in; he needs to step it up. Elijah Norris played a little bit; he's going to have to step it up. I thought Ryan Wirth played a solid game for us. I think the younger guys in there, Angelo Pruitt and Julian Campenni, they've got technique to improve on. They gave effort in there and at times they looked okay. They've got to step it up as well this week."

What do you like about Elijah Norris on the defensive line?
"He's very athletic. He plays with a very high motor. He's tall and is about 245 or 250 lbs and he's going to get bigger. We have three seniors here [at defensive end], so I don't want to go into next year and you hear me say we don't have a defensive end with any playing experience. It's a combination of Elijah, physically, having some tools and you need young players with experience at that position."

How would you grade Chandler Whitmer's performance against UMass?
"I thought Chandler really played well, without giving away the keys to the car. I thought he was pretty good in the pocket. I thought his ball security was excellent. I thought he pushed up and made some plays. He made some throws, could put a little velocity behind it. For his first game, I thought it was a good first game."

How have you decided to use Nick Williams in the offense?
"I think what you try to do as a coach, is you try to identify your talent and skill set of the players you have. Then the fun and the trick of being the coach, is trying to utilize all of the talent that you have in the room. Nick is a talent. We're trying to put him in situations where he can go one-on-one, especially in the underneath and short game. We're just trying to come up with ways for Nick to get some touches and be productive."

How important is it for Adam Masters to be a versatile offensive lineman?
"I think that Adam Masters has got to be able to play two or three positions. I think that's the world we live in if you're an offensive lineman and you want to be realistic about it. If you want to be a good player, you've got to know more than one position. You want to always have your best linemen in the game. If you don't coach that way, you're going to end up with your sixth best lineman next to you and the seventh best lineman in the game. From a coaching standpoint, it doesn't make sense."

#10 Chandler Whitmer, RS-So., Quarterback
On moving past the win over UMass:

"We're looking to move on. That's the main focus for us; looking at the stuff that we need to improve on and try to correct that before this week. We've got a big week ahead of us and we're looking forward to NC State."

On his mindset going from playing a MAC opponent to an ACC opponent:
"It's definitely a different level, but it's just the next opponent on the schedule. That's how we look at it. We take each team's strengths and weaknesses and recognize the competition we're playing and even though it might be a different level, we're going to still go out and compete every week."

On the approach of facing an All-American cornerback:
"I can't really get caught up in all of that. I've just got to stay within my progression. I know what they do well and will try to avoid making mistakes. It's all about staying within myself and doing what I'm coach to do."

#31 Nick Williams, Sr., Wide Receiver
Can you talk about Chandler Whitmer and how he did for his first game?

"For his first game, I thought he played great. He had command of the offense, he was very poised out there. He knew everything that was going on. He knew what their defense was running. He felt comfortable out there and I was proud of him for his first game."

On Whitmer's leadership in his first game:
"I think Chandler is a great leader – he leads by example. He's an incredibly hard worker. He's the first one in the film room, the last one out. That showed on the field. Guys can go to him with questions, he always knows what's going on. I think that's a good compliment for the quarterback."

You have talked in years before about wanting to do more. It seems like the team is relying on you more this year:
"I think this year I'm a little more involved than I have been in years past. I'm all for that. I hope that continues and the role continues to grow as well."

How much fun is it to get in the backfield and get your hands on the ball?:
"It's nice. It eliminates the pass. It's a little bit more direct so there's more chances for you to get the ball. It was nice to be in on those jet sweeps and what not."

Have you changed now that you are a captain and a senior?
"I don't think I've necessarily changed, over the years you see guys go through a maturation process and I think I went through the same process and I've taken on more of a leadership role now than when I was younger. But I don't think I've changed too much."

Do you like surprising people when you get the ball in your hands?
"Absolutely. I've got a pretty big chip on my shoulder, so any time I can make plays, it satisfies the chip… so to speak. Just over the years, I've been overlooked and what not, from outside in and inside out. It feels good to go out there and perform a little bit."

#5 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RS-Sr., Cornerback
It was a good first step against UMass, but things will probably be a little different this week?

"Yeah I mean, we played a good UMass team last week and we had a great week of practice. Going into this week we know we have a good opponent coming in and we need to have a good week of practice."

Their offensive line is pretty sharp, so you know they'll want to run the ball well:
"They have a good O-Line and a veteran O-line at that. They have a good quarterback and some good receivers so they have a good deal going on over there."

The team has a bit of an injury bug, will you and some of the other guys have to have a bigger role to make up for those injuries?
"It's unfortunate when guys go down but it's part of the game. We have a lot of depth on our defense and we have guys ready to step in."

Last year you did so well after the first game and things kind of fell off a little, how do you make sure you are ready to step up to this next level of competition?
"It's all about preparation. We need a good week. We need to get in the film study to know what's going on around us. We need to know all the calls and know the formation we're going against to be as well prepared as we can be."

UConn Game Notes

Saturday's game marks just the second meeting in football between the two schools as North Carolina State defeated the Huskies by a 31-24 on October 11, 2003 in Raleigh.

N.C. State linebacker Freddie Aughty-Lindsay returned a interception 56 yards for the winning touchdown with five seconds left to play. UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky was 21 of 39 in the air for 299 yards and three touchdowns. The game was tied at 10-10 at halftime but N.C. State scored two touchdowns in the third quarterback to lead 24-10 going into the fourth. Orlovsky tied the game in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes with 5:57 and 1:29 to play.

N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers was 23 of 42 in the air for 234 yards and two touchdowns.

UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni and N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien have met eight previous times during Pasqualoni's tenure at Syracuse and O'Brien at BC. Pasqualoni won five of those eight games.

Pasqauloni has a 0-2 coaching record vs. N.C. State with losses during his time at Syracuse in 1997 and '98. O'Brien is 4-0 in his coaching career vs. UConn with wins at the BC coach in 2000, '02, '03 and '04.

UConn special teams coordinator and running backs coach Clayton White is a 2001 N.C. State graduate and was a three-year starter at linebacker for the Wolfpack from 1999-2001. UConn redshirt senior linebacker Sio Moore attended high school in Apex, N.C. and freshman punter Justin Wain is from Wilmington, N.C.

North Carolina State defensive and Forrest West is from Canton, Conn., and the Salisbury School.

UConn is 4-10 against active ACC members all-time entering Saturday afternoon's showdown with NC State and next Saturday's game at Maryland.

The Huskies are 2-0 against Duke (2004 and 2007), 0-3 against Georgia Tech (2002, 2004-05), 0-3 vs. North Carolina (1990, 2008, 2009), 0-1 vs. NC State (2003), 1-2 vs. Wake Forest (2003, 2006, 2007) and 1 1 vs. Virginia (2007 and 2008).

The Huskies also faced present ACC members Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech when they competed in the BIG EAST Conference. UConn also played Maryland in 1942, prior to the formation of the ACC. UConn was winless in those games.

UConn has played every current ACC school at some point in its history other than Clemson and Florida State.

The following four Huskies were named team captains for the season in the week prior to the season opener vs. UMass – redshirt senior outside linebacker Jory Johnson (Mobile, Ala.), redshirt senior offensive tackle Adam Masters (Bethesda, Md.), senior wide receiver Nick Williams (East Windsor, N.J.) and redshirt senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Edinboro, Pa.).

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood (Worcester, Mass.) was honored as the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week for his effort against UMass.

Smallwood keyed a Connecticut defense that turned in its first shutout since the 2007. He had a team-high seven tackles to go with a sack, 3.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup as the Huskies didn't allow the Minutemen to cross midfield.

Connecticut allowed just 59 yards of offense — the fewest of any Bowl Subdivision team in week one — and limited Massachusetts to just three first downs and an average of 1.3 yards per play.

The UConn football team has been bowl eligible for four times in the past five years and in sixth of the past nine.

The 2010 UConn football team won the BIG EAST Championship and advanced to play in the school's first-ever BCS game -- the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. UConn made the bowl eligible mark for the sixth time in the past eight seasons -- and the fourth consecutive.

UConn lost to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and it defeated South Carolina by a 20-7 score in the 2010 Bowl. The Huskies also went to the International Bowl in 2009 and defeated Buffalo. In 2007, UConn was 9-3 in the regular season and went on to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

In 2004, the Huskies went 7-4 in the regular season and won the Motor City Bowl. In 2003, UConn was 9-3, but did not go to a bowl because of its independent status.

With last Thursday's win over Massachusetts, UConn is 9-2 in season openers since making the jump to then-Division I-A in 2002. UConn has won nine of its ten season openers at Rentschler Field (2003-Indiana, 2004-Murray State, 2005-Buffalo, 2006-Rhode Island, 2008-Hofstra, 2010-Texas Southern, 2011-Fordham, 2012-UMass) and also downed Duke, 45-14, in Durham, to open the 2007 season and Ohio University, 23-16 in Athens, to open 2009.

UConn's two FBS era opening day losses were a 24-16 defeat at Boston College on Aug. 31, 2002 in UConn's first game as an official member of the FBS, and a 30-10 loss to Michigan on Sept. 4, 2010. Overall, UConn is now 52-59-2 in season openers dating back to 1896.

The UConn football program continues to be a leader in the BIG EAST Conference in terms of academic performance by its student-athletes. UConn was the top team in the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of both October 2008 and '09 among league schools.

In 2010, the Huskies GSR was third in the BIG EAST and within four points of the second place team and last week, the 2011 GSR came out and UConn was tied for fourth in the league, but within four points of the two schools that were tied for second. UConn's 75 percent GSR mark was well ahead of the national GSR for FBS teams, which was 67 percent.

The UConn football program also had the highest NCAA GSR for African-American student-athletes among all state universities that participated in a bowl game in 2008. In five of the past seven years, including 2007, ‘08 and ‘09, UConn was recognized by the American Football Coaches Association for its high graduation rate.

UConn's overall GSR in 2009 was the third-highest of the more than 50 state universities that participated in a bowl game.

In 2012, the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR) for the UConn football team was an impressive 963 over a four-year cycle, with a one-year mark of 950 for the 2010-11 academic year. The 963 was above the national average for FBS schools (952) and public institutions (943).

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