Sept. 12, 2011
STORRS, Conn.- The UConn football team will return to Rentschler Field on Friday, September 16 as the Huskies host Big 12 opponent Iowa State in an 8:00 p.m. contest. Friday's game marks just the second meeting between the two teams, as UConn won the first game in Ames, Iowa on November 23, 2002 by a score of 37-20.
Friday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and can also be heard on WTIC, the UConn Radio Network.
For a look at UConn's weekly media release, CLICK HERE.
Head coach Paul Pasqualoni held his weekly press conference Monday afternoon, below are quotes from coach Pasqualoni along with selected student-athletes.
Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni
"We are on a short week, and today we start the first heavy day, and we will taper it down towards the end of the week and be ready to play on Friday. I thought everybody was in pretty good spirits yesterday as I suspected they would be, so we are moving on."
What does Iowa State do well?
"Iowa State, from an offensive stand point, their quarterback is really mobile, I am very impressed with their offensive line, I think their left tackle and their right guard could play for anybody in the country. For our defensive line, this will be a real challenge in our opinion. Defensively they are very sound in what they do, their linebackers are very smart. They play a lot of press game and they play a lot of one-on-one coverage out there. They are a very good team, obviously they had a big win against a very tough and physical Iowa team."
What areas do you think the team improved in from week one to week two?
"I thought from a special teams stand point that we improved, I thought the punt protection was good in week one and it was really good in week two. I thought we did a little bit better job, we didn't catch punts as well as I would like to, so we need to continue to improve there. From a punt defense return, when a block opportunity is there, I thought we were right on that. We just need to do a better job of catching and returning the punt. I thought kickoff coverage was pretty good again, special teams wise I think we are improving. Offensively I thought there were some things that we did very well, early on in the game I thought we ran the ball well and I thought that Johnny McEnteehad a couple excellent avoids in the pocket and some good throws. We are understanding our protection, but the execution needs to be even better. From a pass protection standpoint we are improving. The disappointing thing is that we can't be at the goal line and give up a negative play. That has happened to us two weeks in a row now. We need to improve on that, and obviously we had some unfortunate interceptions. The one late in the game on the third down was just a tough play, it happens at every level of football."
It seemed like some runs weren't getting as many yards, was that designed?
"From a route running standpoint we were not as sharp in this game as we were in week one. And we addressed that yesterday. We are going to improve again on the concept of the routes, the depths, the stems. That is one area that we have marked to improve on this week."
Did you lose any confidence in the quarterbacks?
"No, I haven't lost any confidence in Johnny, Mike or Scott. I decided to just stay with Johnny for the continuity of the game on Saturday, it was nothing that Mike did. Mike actually had a pretty good read and throw on the third down play that he was in for, we just didn't make the first down because we needed a little more depth on the route. It was just the flow of the game and the way the game was going, it was my feeling that Johnny had a pretty good understanding of their defense and I just wanted to have that continuity. The mistakes that we had are correctable, and that is part of being a quarterback."
What does Sio Moore need to do to be more consistent?
"I think the entire defense is becoming familiar with the overall defensive scheme. And that is everybody on the defense. We need to play more consistently on defense, we are making plays as we all saw, but we also gave up a few plays. Our goal, and one of the things that we are addressing from a defensive standpoint this week is consistency. You can't give up four big plays in a game like that. Now people are going to make plays on you, but this idea of the 20 plus run and 40 plus pass, that is unacceptable no matter how many plays you do make. They are all working hard, the effort is great, they are playing fast, we have just got to make sure we are lined up right and when the ball is snapped we need to be reading what we need to read and be where we are supposed to be. If we can do that we will play more consistently and we won't be giving up big plays."
What does Mike Nebrich need to do to get the starting spot?
"He just needs to have a great week of practice and really be able to function and have a great week. To me, it doesn't matter who starts the game, the three of them are going to be ready to play and when they get in the game they need to be productive. Good sound fundamentals, great awareness, consistent reads, knowing what he is doing, managing the huddle and trying to maintain the tempo of the game."
Was the offensive tempo faster this week?
"I thought it was better, part of the issue is that defenses are pretty multiple these days and you want to get out over the ball and make sure the quarterback knows what he is seeing. And you have to give him a little bit of time to do that."
Do you still want to run the two back system?
"I like a back that can stay out there, toughness in the back and a guy who has a feel for what he is seeing. But at the end of the day, to have two different styles of backs, which is what we would have, could really present some issues for the defense. There is no question that you would like to have a fresh guy to put in there."
Did you see Ted Jennings improve again this week?
"I thought Teddy played a second pretty consistent game for us. He did a good job of rushing the passer again in this game. I think the guys up front are really trying hard to play within the fundamental structure of what we are going for. Obviously, all of them have got to play from an assignment alignment standpoint a little more consistent and Teddy is in that group."
Were there some issues on special teams?
"On the kickoff return, that is a work in progress. We need to do a better job of getting back faster. Vanderbilt ran down on the coverage extremely fast. We need to do a better job in that regard. I thought the last one we had blocked pretty good and that we had a chance for Nick Williamsto come out of there with a big one, but it just didn't work out that way. I thought we finished the game better, but we need to start the game that way."
Are you getting enough production from the wide receivers?
"We dropped some passes on Saturday that we can't drop. We had a couple drops on third down that would have really helped the per yard attempt-completion average for us. Per completion you are looking for about eight plus yards. We have to do better in that regard, I think if we catch the ball we will be heading in the direction we want to go."
What are your thoughts on playing Friday night on National TV?
"I have mixed emotions about playing on Friday nights, me personally being an older coach in the profession, I personally think that Friday night is for high school football especially in the state of Connecticut. I understand why we are playing Friday night, I'm not down on that part. Playing Friday night in our own stadium, it's pretty exciting. Maybe the fact that we are playing one day earlier, maybe that is good for us after Saturday's game."
#11 Scott McCummings, R-Fr., QB
Is there any more certainty in the quarterback question after this week or do you think there are more questions than answers still?
"I would say more questions than answers. Everything we do on the field is scrutinized by the coaches. Everyone has a bad game. It doesn't really help the cause right now after this game."
Is it difficult to play when you think that your next play could be the last play for the game?
"No, it's not really. That makes you want to do something on every play to make sure the coaches put you back out there."
Have the coaches tried to avoid the scenario where If you screw up once you'll be out?
"That's what it seemed like at the game. We definitely chose to stick with one quarterback more to keep the offense in some sort of flow. The coaches tell us that what we do on film, in practice, in games, it all goes into how the playing time pans out. No one is really sure where it will go from here."
What is the confidence level of the offense right now?
"We are angry because we know we can do a lot better than what we did after watching film. We want to prove we are a lot better next time we go out there."
Did you see the defense moving up significantly in the box during the game and did you start thinking that this is the type of D like last year that you saw most of the time where they stack up on the run?
"They did what we thought they'd do. They blitzed a lot. For the most part, we were ready for it. Just a few plays where there were protection breakdowns or something or another that caused a bad play to become worse."
#18 Johnny McEntee, R-Jr., QB
On having a short week before the next game after such a tough loss:
"This is going to be a good week for us. It's better to just try and forget about it and move on. The less time the better I think."
What is your confidence level after that game? It was your first game against a big opponent. Is everything correctible and where is your confidence?
"I'm pretty confident it's correctible. I think some of the physical things are correctible. A couple of the mental plays where I made bad reads, that's not acceptable. That's something I need to work hard on during the week so I can recognize it on the field."
Are you worried in the game that if you make another mistake you are out? Does that have an effect on you in the game?
"Actually, I never worry about that. Whenever I'm in, I'm trying to win. If they think Scottie (McCummings) or (Mike) Nebrich needs to get in then that's what they'll do. I don't think about messing up and getting pulled. I'm just trying to do what I can while I'm out there."
When you took the lead on Yawin Smallwood's score, did you think the momentum had changed?
"Yea I definitely did. After the two-point conversion, I thought it was on our side."
What kind of challenges do Iowa State present?
"They are a really good team. They just beat Iowa. They run more of a base defense. It might be a bit easier for us, but we have to work really hard this week. We need to continue to grow as an offense."
How important is it for a quarterback to have a somewhat selective memory to forget about the bad stuff and get it out of your head and get ready for the next play or game?
"You definitely have to do that but it's kind of hard out there. The more and more bad things that go wrong, you just keep thinking that you can't be making those mistakes but you really have to try and put it in the back of your head and move on."
What could you have done differently on the second interception that got taken back for a touchdown?
"Well that was the third interception. Yeah, I read the coverage wrong and threw a bad ball. If I could do it all over again, I would just throw it in the stands or something."
You are obviously pretty down, how do you get rid of that feeling and move on to the next task?
"My teammates are behind me. Having their support has really helped me out. I'm just trying to forget about it now."
Can you talk about the importance of getting the passing offense in gear? Teams are going to start keying up on the run big time pretty quickly.
"We definitely have to open the passing game better. We couldn't do much. We were throwing some crossers but it didn't seem like we were getting many yards doing that. We're going to have to open it up a little more."
When you are already down, how hard is it to get into a film session and review things and grade yourself and hear the criticism? Is that a difficult process?
"It's not very difficult. It's something we do every week. Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. I'm always messing up. Nobody 's perfect. A few more things went wrong this time and should have. It's definitely helpful though."
#43, Lyle McCombs, RS Freshman, RB
On starting college career strong:
"It feels good. I credit the yards to the offensive line. Hopefully we can keep the running game going strong all season."
On running inside:
"I try as hard as I can to run inside. I don't want to be just an outside runner. I need to be able to pound it in to be an all around back."
On the difference between high school and college:
"Everyone in college is fast. In high school I was faster than everyone on the field."
On getting stronger:
"My redshirt year got me to where I am now so that I can do what I am doing right now. I can take a pounding better because I have been working hard at getting bigger. I still have work to do, but I'm young and hope I can continue to grow."
#28, Jory Johnson, RS Junior, OLB
On UConn defense against Vanderbilt:
"After the first couple of series we started playing how we know how to. It took us a little bit of time to get started, but I think as a defense responded well."
On how he fits into the defense:
"I think I am doing well. I need to work on my technique a little more. Except for a few missed assignments, I think I have played well. Coach Brown has put me in a position where I can be successful and plays to my strengths."
#7, Dwayne Gratz, RS Senior, CB
On UConn defense:
"If we get off to a quicker start in each game we can become a Top Ten defense. That is one thing Coach Brown told us in the beginning of the season, that by the end of the season we could be ranked high."
#3, Sio Moore, RS Junior, LB
On what the defense needs to do:
"I think this week we are really going to pay attention to detail and communicate throughout all three levels of the defense. If we do that, we are going to be more successful."
On Iowa State's big offensive line:
"We've got some big boys too so I'm not worried about it. It's really not about them. We know what we have to do. They're a good team. We know we can't do anything to minimize our chances of winning. We need to execute."
On the short week:
"It's nice to be playing again right away. When you lose a game like that the only way to recover is to put the pads back on. We know we let one slip away. Now we want to win at home."
#25, Harris Agbor, RS Senior, S
On big plays that turned the tide for Vanderbilt:
"Yes there were those plays. You just have to look forward to the next play. We played well as a defense but you can't really blame anyone for the offensive mistakes."
On pressure on defense when offense is struggling:
"I don't think it's pressure. I think we have fun out there and we know it's not on Saturday's that we win the game but during practice all week. If we win the game at practice we will go out on Saturday and do what we need to do."
On UConn fans:
"I think we have a good fan base. They show a lot of support and get really loud and night games. The crowd can definitely help us out with the noise."
Defensive Coordinator Don Brown
On a target for sacks:
"Our goal is seven quarterback knockdowns and three sacks. We had eleven and seven. So, we were certainly where we wanted to be in that category."
On how to coach against big plays:
"It's understanding leverage and knowing exactly where your help is coming from. It's also functioning eleven guys as one. You're not just standing still you are moving around very fast. It's fast and furious. Trust me, sometimes organizing chaos is more difficult than organizing schematic scenarios."
On being satisfied with defensive line:
"I'm not satisfied with anything we did on Saturday because it didn't result in a win. I thought there were times when we played at a very high level. Kendal Reyes is a very good player, but Kendal came to me after the game and said 'I can do more.' Teddy Jennings played well. We'll learn from our mistakes and move forward from it. All you can look for is improvement and how guys respond to adversity. I think our communication got better."
On Iowa State's offensive line:
"One of the bigger ones I've ever seen. They are absolutely enormous. If you let them they will engulf you. They will have to deal with us also, it's not like we are chop liver. Obviously, movement will be key. They want to maul you in the run and pass so we have to move."