is a position-by-position look at how UConn fared against the Bulls:
Offensive line: Looked great early, especially after Allen was sprung by a block by a pulling Matt Applebaum to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead into the game. As the game wore on, however, the front five seemed to be living more and more off that one play as running yardage became nearly impossible to attain. Draws to Terry Caulley late were the only rushing plays that worked. Matt Bonislawski was sacked three times, including once in the fourth quarter that may have resulted in a season-ending shoulder or collarbone injury to the junior quarterback. The discipline was there (no holds, one false start), which was a bonus. At best, they fought the war in the trenches to a draw.
Offensive Line Grade: C+
Quarterback: The raw numbers were discouraging, if not downright ugly. Matt Bonislawski completed only eight of 26 passes, routinely missing the target on simple "out" routes. Even worse, he tucked the ball under his armpit and ran with it only six times. As we have come to realize, Bones' feet are more potent than Bones' right arm. But most of this discussion merits a gigantic asterisk (*) because Bonislawski finished the game in substantial pain in his left shoulder.
Bonislawski said he couldn't throw passes to the sidelines because he couldn't get the proper rotation in his shoulder. Plus, he didn't want to run with the ball because any hit might have broken Bones even more. Still, when UConn absolutely needed a first down to run out the clock on third-and-7 from its own 23 with 1:40 to go, Bones called his own number, rambled for 16 yards, and got a tremendous ovation from a relieved crowd for salting the game away.
"I told Coach every time I booted out nobody was there and I could get the first down," Bonislawski said.
"Matt Bonislawski is one tough kid," coach Randy Edsall said.
Factor in a D for the numbers and an A for determination and courage and ...
Quarterback Grade: C+
Wide receivers/tight end: Once again, a virtual non-factor. Jason Williams caught a team-high three passes, but nothing of significance. He also was flagged for a chop block. Tight end Dan Murray had a pair of receptions, but was used more as a blocker again. Brandon Young had at least as many drops as catches, while Brandon McLean had as many false starts as receptions (one each). Bonislawski's inability to hit the target made a bad situation worse --- the kind of help the receivers don't need.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Grade: D
Running backs/fullbacks: With Caulley under the weather and unable play regularly, Allen was supposed to split time with Cornell Brockington, according to Edsall. But the 60-yard burst changed that strategy. As the game grew into a slugfest along the line of scrimmage, tough yards were necessary, and Allen was UConn's best choice to get them. He didn't come anywhere close to busting free for another 60-yard gain, but he did finish with a career-high 101 yards.
Caulley averaged 7.2 yards per rush on a day when yards came at a premium, but he carried the ball only five times. Brockington never made an impact, and Bonislawski was disturbingly silent until his game-clinching keeper in the final two minutes.
Running Backs/Fullbacks Grade: B-
If you didn't before, now you know why Dan Davis is known as "The Beast." The
sophomore defensive end was a load for the
"He reminded me of Alfred Fincher out there," linebacker Danny Lansanah said. "We just fed off his energy."
Defensive tackle Deon McPhee was credited with a safety after Julmiste mishandled a high snap in the end zone in the first quarter. Defensive tackle Rhema Fuller recovered two fumbles, including one that he forced, and finished with four tackles. Shawn Mayne led the front four with six tackles, including two for a loss, as the Huskies held the Bulls to 83 yards rushing, 146 below their average.
Defensive Line Grade: A-
Lansanah was everywhere. In fact, he even started everyone's car so they would
be cozy and warm when they filed out after the game. He did it all. He led the
Huskies with 12 tackles, he broke up a pass that was nearly intercepted, and he
had an interception of his own nullified by an offside call on
James Hargrave finished with his second career interception, a sack, and nine tackles.
He stood his ground on the
Could any of this have been possible without the man in the middle? Taurien Sowell returned after missing three games with a high ankle sprain and spearheaded the defensive effort. Andre Hall, the Big East's leading rusher, finished with 93 yards. That wouldn't have happened with Ryan Henegan or (yikes) Anthony Rouzier at middle linebacker.
"When he's not in there," Hargrave said of Sowell, "we miss that senior leadership he brings."
Amen to that.
Linebackers Grade: A
Not only did
safety Marvin Taylor made eight tackles and broke up a pass, just missing an
interception as the ball bounded out of his hands as he hit the turf.
the results weren't so good. Strong safety M.J. Estep made two tackles, but
missed two others in glaringly important situations. Cornerback Tyvon Branch was
"You have to have a short memory," Edsall said, "especially on the corner."
Julmiste was 10-for-26 with three interceptions. The credit deserves to be spread around.
Defensive Backs Grade: B
once you get past
there a third punter anywhere in
Pavasaris' saving grace came when he forced Amarri Jackson out of bounds at the 8 after a 42-yard punt and 37-yard return, saving a touchdown. The defense dug in from there and kept the Bulls out of the end zone, preserving the 15-10 lead.
Matt Nuzie fared no better than Pavasaris. Nuzie's kicks went longer, but they sure didn't go straight. He missed a 38-yard field goal and an extra point. Had he converted both kicks, UConn would have had a nine-point lead in the second half and caused the fans and coaches a lot less stress in the final minutes.
coverage teams were OK except for
Special Teams Grade: D
Darius Butler's Grade: A-