UConn - West Virginia - Grading the Huskies

UConn made its first-ever trek to West Virginia on Wednesday night, hoping to upset the 18th-ranked team in the country in front of a national TV audience watching on ESPN2. The Huskies never came close to putting a scare into the Mountaineers, however, allowing three touchdowns in a 2:39 span of the second quarter and trailing 35-3 at halftime. From there, UConn (4-4, 1-3) and West Virginia (7-1, 4-0) played out the string as the Huskies dropped their third game in a row.

Here is a position-by-position look at how UConn fared against the Mountaineers:

OFFENSE

 

Offensive line: It looked like the O-line had bottomed out against Rutgers two Saturdays ago, but things only got worse Wednesday night against one of the best defenses in the country. The ground game was grounded to the tune of 12 paltry yards and the passing game was a hit (Dennis Brown) or miss (the intended block) proposition.

 

"Once again, it was on us," tackle Grant Preston said. "We didn't execute. It seemed like we had one guy breaking down on every play."

 

Edsall removed tackle Craig Berry in the first quarter and replaced him with redshirt freshman William Beatty, a sign that the line may be in for a larger shake-up in the weeks and months ahead. Berry did get back in the game, but Beatty may be leading a new wave of linemen ready to take over in 2006.

 

"If guys aren't producing, and I think there's some guys that can afford to be on the field playing, then we're going to play them," coach Randy Edsall said.

 

Something's got to give, because UConn's offense can't go on like this. It has become immobile.

 

Offensive Line Grade: D-

 

Quarterback: Dennis Brown was not as effective against West Virginia as he was against Rutgers. The true freshman wasn't given much time and room to operate with, but he also made some glaring errors that cost the Huskies field position at the least, and six points at the most after an overthrow resulted in an interception and runback to the UConn 11 in the second quarter.

"There's a lot of things that Dennis is going to have to work on, just like all of us," Edsall said. "He's got to learn not to hold the ball so long in certain situations. But he's a competitor. He fought and hung in there and took some big hits, but it's not his fault."

 

At one point Brown gained five yards, then tried to throw a pass. He was flagged for an illegal forward pass, sending another drive into reverse. Maybe it was a rookie mistake, but that sort of embarrassing play shouldn't happen to any quarterback beyond the age of, oh, 8.

 

Quarterback Grade: C-

 

Wide receivers/tight end: Brown had a hard time finding anyone open, so it's hard to grade a group that did little more than serve as a decoy or downfield blocker all night. Brandon Young caught a couple of nice throws in traffic. Morgantown resident Seth Fogarty was excited about his homecoming, but he barely got on the field and never had a ball thrown his way. Not much to talk about here.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Grade: C

 

Running backs/fullbacks: Terry Caulley can still shake a tackler, but he's not having any luck making seven of them miss. He gained 20 yards, failing even to duplicate the 26 he compiled against Rutgers. It's sad to see what he has been reduced to by the ineffective offensive line

 

Sliding even further down the totem pole is Cornell Brockington. His second and final run of the day, in the second quarter, resulted in a fumble that West Virginia converted into seven points and a 28-3 lead.

 

Lou Allen scored a touchdown, but he also injured his finger late in the game.

A disastrous night all around, though largely not of this group's own doing.

 

Running Backs/Fullbacks Grade: D+

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive line: Rhema Fuller had an excellent evening, figuring in on nine tackles in his most impressive outing of the season. Beyond Fuller, however, it was slim pickings. West Virginia rushed for 228 yards and didn't allow a sack as its offensive line took care of business in a professional manner.

 

West Virginia was so dominant up front, in fact, that it didn't even bother to use starting running back Steve Slaton after intermission. Slaton finished with 71 yards on 17 carries, watching the second half while nursing a (wink, wink) slight hip pointer.

We know a merciful cease fire when we see one.

 

Defensive Line Grade: C-

 

Linebackers: Sophomore Ryan Henegan made his first career start and didn't look out of place at middle linebacker. Henegan paced the defense with 14 tackles. Danny Lansanah, shifted to the outside, snagged a meaningless interception in the fourth quarter, and James Hargrave was unusually quiet. Hargrave was playing with a cast on his hand after breaking a bone in his thumb during the loss to Rutgers.

 

For UConn to have a chance against the likes of West Virginia, the Huskies' linebackers have to be great. They were barely OK.

Linebackers Grade: C

 

Defensive backs: Marvin Taylor (12 tackles) had a lively night, but his counterpart at strong safety, Dahna Deleston, wasn't nearly as energized. Deleston was on the receiving end of a savage block thrown by quarterback Pat White after Slaton took the ball to his right, saw the avenue closed, and cut back all the way to his right.

 

Eventually, M.J. Estep replaced Deleston and looked like he fit in. He had missed two of the last four games with a broken thumb.

 

Cornerbacks Tyvon Branch and Darius Butler didn't see much action, though Butler was beaten late by a 50-yard reception by Brandon Myles from White.

In general, this group wasn't active enough to get anything above a mediocre grade.

Defensive Backs Grade: C

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

A couple of summers ago, Randy Edsall used scholarships to bring in a punter and a kicker. The punter, Shane Hussar, continues to incur the wrath of his coach with his shanks and boomers, always at the wrong time. Edsall was so exasperated that he tabbed walk-on Chris Pavasaris to take Hussar's spot, and darned if Pavasaris didn't respond with a 41.0 average on his punts.

The kicker who got a scholarship, Tony Ciaravino, is out with leg problems. But even if he were healthy, it's hard to believe Ciaravino would be able to overtake Matt Nuzie, who made both of his field goals, from 41 and 39 yards out.

 

UConn lost dynamic return man/punt hawk Jimmy McClam to a knee injury in the third quarter, though Courtney Robinson and Darius Butler didn't look bad running back kickoffs.

Pavasaris did have a punt blocked, at least partially, but it still went 37 yards, making it the good karma play of the night for UConn. There weren't many.

 

Special Teams Grade: B-

 

 


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