Pasqualoni Sticking with McEntee

Based on the growing outcry from Connecticut fans and assorted members of the media, it must be time for the Huskies to replace starting quarterback Johnny McEntee. Don't count UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni among those with that opinion.

Pasqualoni, speaking to the media Thursday on the heels of a 35-20 loss at Pittsburgh, said McEntee "clearly is the starter" and added he gave no thought to benching McEntee or switching to Scott McCummings after a poor performance offensively in the first half Wednesday night.

"There's clearly, at every position on the football team, competition every day," Pasqualoni said. "We compete at a high level. What Scotty [McCummings] is doing is certainly productive. We're just going to continue to go in that mode. In the big picture of things, Johnny handles the drop back pass portion of it, the pro style concepts of what we're into at this point, Johnny still handles those things pretty well.

"Now he didn't have a great first half, but he did come back in the second half and settled down. I thought he played pretty good."

McEntee's passing stats in the first half were alarming. He was 2-for-13 for 20 yards as the Huskies couldn't get anything going. UConn (3-5, 1-2 Big East) gained only 29 yards on its first 16 plays. McEntee started out 1-for-7 for only 11 yards. He didn't throw any interceptions but there were several passes Pitt nearly picked off as the Panthers built a 21-3 halftime lead.

McCummings did take several snaps, as he has in every game this season. He completed the only pass he attempted for a nine-yard gain. He ran the ball three times for 23 yards, including another nine-yard gain. There was one UConn possession that seemed to get a spark with McCummings on the field.

Posters on Twitter may have anticipated a switch to McCummings after the first half, but Pasqualoni was adamant he never gave it a thought. When asked about that Thursday, Pasqualoni rolled off eight or nine "no" responses in succession.

"We were considering getting everything settled down and staying with the game plan, not panicking," he said. "Sometimes you get into, ‘We've got to do this, we've got to do that.' We didn't have to do anything but what we did. We got it back to eight points [in the third quarter]. We got it to a one-score game."

McEntee was 15-for-20 in the second half. He finished with 193 yards passing and two touchdowns, including a 62-yarder to Kashif Moore that was more a result of Pitt's blown coverage.

But perhaps the most telling number was six. That's the number of times McEntee was sacked – for a loss of 37 yards. UConn's pass protection has been inconsistent at best this season. McEntee, a walk-on who had no game experience prior to this season, gets some of the blame. But there are other contributing factors.

And UConn continues to struggle in third down situations. Against Pitt, the Huskies converted only three of 14 third-down opportunities.

"Sometimes there's pressure," Pasqualoni said. "Sometimes the [receiver's] route isn't exactly what it needs to be. And sometimes it's the quarterback. But it's not consistent. … At key times of the game, we've just got to execute better."

Pasqualoni and his staff came out of fall camp undecided between McEntee, McCummings and freshman Mike Nebrich. After going with a three-quarterback system in the early weeks, McEntee eventually got the nod as the starter. He is the only true drop back passer on the roster and that fits the needs of UConn's offense.

McCummings has the ability and quickness to run the ball. He brings a different pace to the game when he is in. But the coaching staff sees all three players in practice every day and, to this point, McCummings hasn't done enough to win the job.

"This was the second week in a row when Scotty has gone in the game and it clearly has been a productive part of the game for us," Pasqualoni said. "Sometimes some of that is based on how the game is going, how many points you're down or how many points you're up.

"If we could have kept it to a one-score game, we may have seen a little bit more of Scott. Sometimes when you get down a couple of scores, you just feel in your heart, to get back in it, you might have to be in more of a drop-back mode and a run-it mode.

"All of that comes into it. But we're certainly going to continue the development of Scotty McCummings."

UConn now begins a three-game homestand with Syracuse visiting Rentschler Field on Nov. 5.

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