West Virginia Poses Big Threat

The Connecticut football team opens Big East play Saturday at No. 16 West Virginia. It is, by far, the toughest test of the season for the Huskies (2-3). UConn is searching for a complete game, where the offense, defense and special teams all click at the same time. That's going to be difficult against West Virginia (4-1).

Here's a look at what the Huskies are thinking before they leave for Morgantown. These are comments from the weekly media session on Tuesday. (Transcript courtesy of UConn athletic communications department):

Paul Pasqualoni, Head Coach Opening Statement "I'm looking forward to starting our conference schedule. Certainly, this will be a big challenge. West Virginia is an outstanding team. Playing down there, to start the conference season, will be a huge challenge for us. The season is going by very quickly. Obviously, we're into game number six. This is the halfway point of the regular season. We're looking forward to trying to get better this week and going down and play a solid game."

What have you learned in the first five weeks?

"I think that what we've learned is that we're getting better, little by little. Although we didn't get the job done Saturday afternoon, there were some things that were very good that we did. The other thing that we learned is that we're not playing complimentary football. What I mean by that is, the offense, the defense, and the special teams are not complimenting each other. We've got to protect each other's back. When the defense needs the offense to step up, we have to do that in a timely manner and vice versa. When the offense needs to get a turnover, needs to get field position, we've got to produce. When we've got to get field position, we've got to produce. I think as the team gets a little bit more experienced and a little bit more accustomed to what we're doing, we'll be able to do a better job of that."

What struggles have you experienced as a result of this being your first year with the team? "There is certainly going to be growing pains. And we've had these growing pains. We're learning the system on offense and we're learning the system on defense. That's a process that never really ends. I expected us to have growing pains. It's time for us to get over that hump and play solid football."

Did you expect to be 2-3 at this point in the season? "You're always optimistic. I'm optimistic that we're going to be 5-0 (at the beginning of the season). I'm not a guy that looks at the first three games, five games, eight games and says `here's where we're going to be'. I'm more of a let's go one week at a time. I'd rather play 12 one-week seasons."

In D.J. Shoemate's absence, who steps up as the second string running back? "We've got (Jonathan Jean-Louis) there. J.J. has been working an waiting for an opportunity. With the way things are going with D.J. (Shoemate), this opportunity is going to present itself. Deshon (Fox) is also there and we've got Mark Hyppolite. I'm anxious to see Mark practice this week, coming back from (last week's) injury."

From the tape, what can you say about WVU quarterback Geno Smith? "Geno Smith is an excellent player. I'm becoming familiar with him through watching film. He's a prototype, drop back passer. He can make all the throws. He looks great in the pocket. He's clearly capable of moving. His feet are very good. So he's clearly capable of moving, scrambling, pushing up, moving to the outside, running with the ball downfield, or resetting his feet and throwing. He's pretty impressive."

What adjustments need to be made in the pass defense? "I think the biggest adjustment we have to make is to play the coverages better. I think it starts there. You've got to hang your hat on fundamentals, on techniques. I think last week at times, we just tried to do too much. Let's take care of what's in front of us and what they're doing. The West Virginia offense has got a lot of similarities to Western Michigan in a sense that it's a spread. There's going to be four wide receivers in the game an awful lot. There's going to be three wide receivers with a tight end, that's flexed."

What have you seen from Sio Moore's performance in pass coverage? "We're asking Sio (Moore) to do a lot. From a coverage standpoint against Western Michigan, he really played a solid game. He's got really good feet. He's god the speed of a strong safety type of player. Sio is capable of playing the style of coverage we would like to play when he's out on a slot on a receiver or on a tight end for that matter."

What do you see from WVU running back Dustin Garrison?"(Dustin Garrison) is very quick. He's not real big. They run the draw and they run that zone play, behind these big offensive linemen, he's kind of hard to see sometimes. He can make you miss. He's a downhill runner. He's a very good zone runner. They're a zone team. In my mind, one of the critical factors for the running back is vision. I think he's got excellent vision. I think he makes good decisions on when he needs to put that foot in the ground and go up the field or put the other foot in the ground and go to the outside. He runs the draw very well because he's small. He can jump cut and get back up the field and make you miss a tackle."

Is the team disheartened after a tough loss at home?" Disappointed. I think that when you get back in here on Sunday and you put the film on, I think it's pretty clear that if we get some things cleared up we're very capable of being a good team. Again, we've got to back plays. When it's time to make the plays, you've got to make plays. The penalty factor, alone, the other night, was the most disheartening thing for me. We pride ourselves on being a smart, disciplined team."

What can you say about Johnny McEntee's play over the past few weeks? "I think that in the big picture, Johnny (McEntee) is getting better. It's progressive every single week. He's more consistent with his reads, his timing, his footwork, and getting the ball out. He made some plays avoiding and resetting his feet against Western Michigan. Other than two or three times in the game, he was on the right side of the progression of the route. I hope it continues."

Johnny McEntee, RS Junior, Quarterback On getting comfortable: "Yes, I think our whole offense is growing and by the second half we really get in a rhythm. We just keep working hard and we are definitely are getting more comfortable. On a couple of those drives we were getting in the zone and moving the ball, everything was clicking."

On Nick Williams being roommate:"Yeah, you know he is always saying shake it off and we'll get them next week. It was very helpful to have people support me like that."

On drawing on past late season success: "We know that last year we struggled in the beginning and started to do better in conference play. We all know that and no one is giving up on the season. We are just going to take it game by game."

On offense proving they can play: "Yeah, I think our offense showed we can perform. We have a great defense and special teams so when it all starts clicking I think we can win a lot of games."

On several receiving weapons: "Each game someone different is called upon and when they do they really step up. It is great to see."

Sio Moore, RS Junior, Linebacker On Geno Smith: "He is a great quarterback. He is smart with the ball and has a great arm. If he can't make a play he can beat you with a run. He's a good guy. Look forward to go against him. We have to contain him. As long as we can get to the quarterback we will have a good chance at winning."

On paying attention to detail: "We have had meetings with coaches and amongst ourselves this week. We know that all week in practice we need to pay close attention to detail and the little things. That's what has caused us these three losses."

Feelings after the loss: "You are always disappointed with a loss. You like to see your team grow. It is just something you have to look at and build on. If we do that we will definitely increase the chances of winning."

Lyle McCombs, RS Freshman, RB On running differently not to get hit: "I always run allusive so that I do not catch the full hit of the defender. I try not to let guys get a clean shot on me. If I see that they are able to I try and move at the last second so they can't. You have to stay low. It's so I can live to see another play."

On reputation of UConn running backs: "I want to be a part of it. It is why I chose UConn. I saw the tradition of running backs here and was excited to possibly be a part of the legacy and tradition."

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RS Junior, CB On being leader as an injured player: "It's hard to do. During practice I am on the side doing some icing or stuff like that. Any chance I get I am talking to the guys and try to see what is going on. I'm trying to stay in touch with everyone."

On feeling like an honorary coach: "I kind of do feel like an honorary coach. I am still watching game film, talking with the guys, talking with the coaches about everything. I know the game plan so I still know everything on game days. I feel like I am Coach Brown's little sidekick."

Cole Wagner, RS Sophomore, P On improving his play: ?"I am not happy with how I have been playing so far. I'm trying to do too much with the ball. I need to just go back to the end of last year where I was just kicking the ball. Everything is different with the pro-style punt. But, what it comes down to is that I haven't been performing. The protection, snapping, coverage has been great I just haven't been hitting the ball I have wanted to. We'll get it there."

Nick Williams, Junior, WR On receiving vs. punt returns: "Once you get the ball in your hands it turns into the same thing. In terms in playing without the ball, that is where it gets a little different in finding holes and space. It is different learning to find the different zones compared to playing man to man."

On breakout receiving game: "I think I was more involved in the game plan. It just happened to be the routes I was running, the coverage they were giving and the reads Johnny was making."

On punt returning: "It is one of the most difficult jobs on the field. It is a big responsibility. That's why I would love to be that guy. It is a lot harder to catch those kicks than passes."

Dave Teggart, RS Senior, K On being less consistent: "I'm hitting the ball well it's just the matter of making them. I've had some long attempts, three misses and one block. I know I can make the kicks I am sent out there to make, I just haven't. I'm not hitting the panic button, I just have to make them. I have to put those kicks behind me and focus on the future."

On hitting two 50 yard field goals and then missing shorter ones:"Every kick is the same to me. I have to kick it the same. I hit each ball the same way. Something was off. Foot was a little turned. I'm off by very little and just have to get them in."

UCONN Playbook Top Stories