UConn Wants More from Moore

STORRS – Football coaches are hard people to please. Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore must understand that by now.

Moore, UConn's 6-1, 232-pound junior with seemingly unlimited potential, had a very productive game Saturday night when the Huskies lost 24-21 at Vanderbilt. There were six tackles, four of them of the solo variety. Then there were the sacks, 3.5 for 21 yards, and the one quarterback hurry. And don't forget the forced fumble that led to Yawin Smallwood's 64-yard return for a touchdown.

Pretty impressive, huh?

"Sio, like a lot of our defense, made big plays and then wasn't consistent enough on other plays," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I don't think Sio was any different than anybody else out there. There were guys on defense making plays, but you've got to do that for 60 minutes consistently.

"There's a lot of positives things there and there's some things we absolutely have got to get better at."

Pasqualoni has shown many strategies and philosophies similar to that of former UConn coach Randy Edsall, now at Maryland. Add tough evaluations to that list because it had to be déjà vu all over again for Moore. On Oct. 29, 2010, Moore had 17 tackles, two forced fumbles and two recoveries in an enormous victory over West Virginia. He was all over national television. After the game, Edsall seemed annoyed when asked about Moore's great play.

"Let's not give Sio too much credit. OK? He may have had a lot of tackles but he's still got a lot of work to do," Edsall said. "I appreciate the way he played, but I'm not praising him because he can't handle it, so I'd appreciate it if you guys don't try to praise him either."

That didn't work out too well for Edsall because he couldn't control everyone. After that performance against West Virginia, both the Big East Conference and the Walter Camp Football Foundation named Moore as defensive player of the week.

Edsall's comment last year seemed very personal. Pasqualoni's take after the Vanderbilt game was a little easier to understand. The Huskies lost a game they could have won, on the road and against a team from the Southeastern Conference.

Vanderbilt managed just 10 first downs and 259 yards of offense. In fact, UConn ranks first in the Big East in total defense, rushing defense and pass defense. But the Huskies yielded a 42-yard touchdown pass and 40-yard touchdown run to fall behind Vandy 14-3 in the first quarter. And with UConn's offense struggling on the road that was a hole that was too big.

"It doesn't matter about a grade; we lost," Moore said Monday when asked how he would have graded UConn's defensive effort. "You can't point fingers anywhere, you've just got to look at what we could have done better. We could have stopped a couple of plays. Had we shut down that one 40-yard run, it could have been a different game."

UConn (1-1) will be trying to get its act back together on a short week of practice. The Huskies play Iowa State Friday night at Rentschler Field. Iowa State (2-0), a 44-41 triple overtime winner over Iowa Saturday, features a massive offensive line anchored by tackle Kelechi Osemele (6-6, 347 pounds) and guard Hayworth Hicks (6-3, 336).

"Hit them," Moore said when asked about UConn's strategy to attack the Cyclones' line that averages 315 pounds. "Hit them. That's what you've got to do. You've got to slow them up."

Moore said consistency comes with doing all the little things that lead to better execution.

"You can't shut them down in the first half and then play like crap in the third quarter," he said. "You have to start and finish with a certain attitude and a certain poise.

"We started out the Vanderbilt game a little shaky, the first 10 plays. But once we took a deep breath, relaxed and started playing ball, things started turning around for us a little bit. We just need to keep working."

Through two games, Moore is third on the team in tackles with 13. He has four tackles for loss, the 3.5 sacks, two breakups, one quarterback hurry and the forced fumble. It's a good start but the coach staff clearly has set the bar high for their star defensive player. That's why Pasqualoni didn't heap praise on Moore after Vandy.

It's easy to understand. Moore can do so much. He can rush the quarterback, he can be very physical, and he can be used in pass coverage. Moore looks like a guy who could play safety in the NFL. Most importantly Moore is a leader. If he sets a tone of consistency, the rest of the unit is going to follow in his footsteps.

"Every game for us is a big game," Moore said. "There's a lot of emotion. Everybody doubts us. If we go into every game hungry, we'll be good to go."

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