Can UConn Find Balance?

STORRS - There's that old saying that coaches are never satisfied. Even after a 37-0 victory over Massachusetts in the season opener, that certainly was the case with Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni.

He praised the defense. He loved the effort and production from the special teams. But beyond the efficient first possession of the game that resulted in a touchdown, Pasqualoni wasn't overly thrilled by the accomplishments of the offense.

One point he has hammered repeatedly in preparation for North Carolina State (0-1)on Saturday (noon, Rentschler Field, SNY) was the anemic yardage per carry from the rushing game. With only 3.4 yards per carry, UConn (1-0) did not live up to its reputation as a team that gains on the ground.

"We're going to have to run the ball better," Pasqualoni said Tuesday. "Our consistency, yards per attempt, was not really what it has to be."

Pasqualoni was asked what goes into fixing that.

"I think we've just got to flat-out do a better job in the execution of the running game," he said Thursday. "We had some problems against UMass in regards to getting the right people blocked. We missed some blocks. We didn't execute some plays the way we should've. And we didn't adjust fast enough during the course of the game to get that done. We're looking to do a better job in those areas this week."

Tailback Lyle McCombs, who became known for his 100-yard games as freshman, needed 23 carries to pick up 82 yards against UMass. The next most productive rusher was slot receiver Nick Williams with 24 yards on three carriers. His 8.0-yard average easily was the best of the night. Max DeLorenzo's 18-yard scamper before going out of bounds was the longest run of the night.

Nobody was blaming anyone else this week, so maybe the problem was simply first-game breakdowns as the offensive unit comes together with new personnel.

"Not every game is going to be perfect," wide receiver Geremy Davis said. "There's not always going to be one guy running for 150 yards. Maybe it just wasn't the night to do that. But it's going to happen."

This game against North Carolina State would be a great time to rediscover the run. The Wolfpack has the reputation of being very tough against the pass. N.C. State has a deep and experienced secondary that led the nation with 27 interceptions last season.

Junior cornerback David Amerson is an All-American. Safeties Brandan Bishop and Earl Wolff are seniors. Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien announced Monday that his other corner, senior C.J Wilson will serve a four-game NCAA suspension for not passing enough credit hours in the spring semester.

N.C. State gave up 333 passing yards in a season-opening 35-21 loss to Tennessee. Vols quarterback Tyler Bray was 27 of 41 passing. O'Brien said he didn't think Wilson's absence had any impact on the struggles of the secondary.

"We had all preseason camp knowing that he wasn't going to be there," O'Brien said.

But a miscommunication between Amerson and Wolff resulted in a 72-yard touchdown against the Wolfpack. Those two ordinarily play on the same side of the field together but responsibilities have been changed. Amerson gave up two big plays and was heavily scrutinized in the aftermath of the loss. O'Brien will be watching how he bounces back against UConn.

"You have to have amnesia and forget about it and come back and play from that point on," O'Brien said. "So it's a good lesson for him to learn and we'll see how he reacts this week on Saturday.

"I don't know if it was an Amerson problem or the fact that Tennessee's pretty dang good. Their skill level is high. . . . I think it may have been more of a skill problem and them executing, rather than us not executing."

UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer knows the N.C. State secondary is athletic and aggressive running to the ball. He will be required to make good decisions if the Huskies are going to win. Logic says an improved running game could free up some big passing plays –if the Wolfpack remains vulnerable. But N.C. State might be determined to get back on the right track with its secondary play and simply shut down the Huskies.

It should make for an interesting tug-of-war.

"Honestly it's a matter of staying within ourselves and staying within our progressions and knowing where we're going with the ball," Whitmer said. "It's a matter of being efficient."

UCONN Playbook Top Stories