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Football Heads Off To No. 20 Missouri For First Road Trip

Bryan Shirreffs and the Huskies look to keep their winning ways going.

Sept. 15, 2015

STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team brings it 2-0 record into Columbia, Mo., on Saturday as it takes on Missouri of the Southeastern Conference. The game will begin at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time and will be nationally televised on ESPN and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.

Missouri is ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll and also has a 2-0 record with wins over Southeast Missouri (34-3) and at Arkansas State (27-20). Missouri has won the SEC East Conference the past two seasons and this year leads the SEC in scoring defense at 11.5 points per game.

For the UConn media notes, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday was Media Day in Storrs. Here are quotes from head coach Bob Diaco and linebacker Matt Walsh (Madison, Conn.) plus video from each and a Twitter roundup of the day.

Head Coach Bob Diaco

"It's an exciting week based on the performance from the weekend I think is the best part. The guys had the chance to enjoy a Saturday afternoon and a Sunday, and then be on campus, and to a man, it's just feeling better themselves about themselves. There's just a higher energy, and engagement and that whole piece. That's just the best when you get that kind of report back based on winning a football game and what it can do to the positive mentality and approach to the day. There is a realistic energy change, but whether it is perceived or real, it's still great. I thought the performance in the game, and there's a lot to clean up. So we have another week where you can get with the players and say `look at all these plays to clean up,' and you're doing it after a win. It's encouraging to think about how good we can become, and we will be become when these things get cleaned up, and they will get cleaned up, because everyone is resolute to getting that done. So that's exciting.

"We had some solid individual performances from the game. We challenged the kickoff cover team, and they were much improved, specifically Jordan Floyd, who was a special teams award winner, let's say MVP, we call it a special thing. He was a special teams honoree with Justin Wain, again in his performance punting. Then on offense and defense you have your guys that were acknowledged. Just to name a few, Julian Campenni, Mikal Myers, Graham Stewart, both corners. If you're not calling out the corners' names in a game like that, it's a good thing. The fact that we didn't hear from them much means they're doing their job. Also Matt Walsh. On offense, you had Noel (Thomas), Arkeel (Newsome) and Bryant (Shirreffs). Bloom (Alec Bloom) was improved. Just to name a few.

"Then you have Brian Lemelle who comes up and does a great job catching all the punts, which was a challenge. It wasn't as easy as you would typically think that week, because we were unsure of exactly where the ball was going to go, as opposed to a guy who hits it consistently in the same spot each time. As you saw, one of the punts was fifty-plus, one was 28 or 29. That becomes a real challenge to track that thing and get it caught to eliminate all yardage. Then you have that big third down catch which was great. Even a guy like that is playing such an important role on the team. Exciting close to the chapter of week two in a pleasing way with a lot to clean up.

"On to Missouri week, you can't beat it. We're going on the road, first time this year, which is exciting with guys with a lot of guys that have already been on the road, you know been there done that. We expect them to help the young guys that are going to be traveling for the first time, relieve some anxiety, understand what that looks like and feels like to go really the pinnacle of college game day experience in one of the top conferences in the country, the SEC. We'll get the chance to feel what that feels like again and be a part of that environment, and work to flourish in that environment. We love going on the road, and kind of sequestering ourselves, and getting away. That's fun from a football family standpoint, just to be together in that unified cause in kind of a camp environment, which is always a good time for our football family. There is also a great challenge ahead. Whenever you're going against something that is a great challenge, you can't help but prepare with a different energy, and overcoming those obstacles become one of the more special moments in your life. We look forward to that opportunity."

On Missouri losing a lot of its offense and if it magnifies the importance of having an experienced QB: "Yeah I would imagine. Their system has been in place for a long time. Coach Pinkel is an offensive coach. He's in his I think 15th season. 15 years there, ten bowl games in that time, so they have a strong offensive system. They have a sound offensive system. They have a clearly articulated offensive system, and obviously, playing in the SEC, they have great players. So if they lose a great player, I think that they would expect a great player to replace that player."

On Matt Walsh converting to linebacker: "Not to speak on behalf of something wrong with the earlier diagnosis, I wasn't here for that. I look at myself and I think about my football resume coming out of high school, and it was very similar to Matt's. I think of my own tangible traits, which are limited, I'm not saying Matt's are, but mine for sure were and still are. Playing inside linebacker in our system, your tangible traits are a part of it, but they're not the main part. If you can see they plays and pictures and really become a great student of the game and almost a coach on the field, and be a demonstrative communicator, then those intangible pieces can make up for a lack of those tangible pieces, which was the experience that I had. We felt that Matt could be that guy. We had a need at that inside linebacker position rather than a at the fullback position. So it was easy to take a look at him there. You could see that he did possess the traits that we thought he possessed. He did possess the tangible traits that wouldn't prevent him from doing the jobs. It might not have put him in front of the line immediately, but it wouldn't prevent him from doing the jobs. Then he showed that intangible aptitude that has accelerated his place in the line. He really suits our defense nicely at inside linebacker."

On Missouri's defensive line: "Their defensive line is awesome. The four down guys are a great players. They're big and fast, really exceptional impact guys. There's a good amount of them too. They've done a nice job recruiting that defensive line position."

On Missouri Quarterback Matt Mauk: "He has won his whole life, which has been filled with production in terms of team wins and pelts that he's collected as a quarterback of a Pop Warner team and a high school team and then on to Missouri. Leading a team to back-to-back SEC division titles, I want to say back-to-back both '13 and '14 they represented the league in the championship game. He's a winner. He carries himself with that swagger. There's probably nothing in the game that he doesn't believe he can't do. He carries himself that way and his production is very reminiscent of that. He's fast, very fast, so he's hard to tackle, hard to sack, hard to contain, but he also keeps his eyes down field on the move, a very scary threat. He's a very talented player. He's a winner. He's gutsy. He has moxie. He understands the offense in great detail, and he's collected a lot of pelts, a lot of wins for the Tigers."

On the confidence level of the team going into a game like this when nationally they are the underdog: "Yeah I wouldn't think so nationally, but that has nothing to do with how we feel, and they get to prepare. The confidence isn't today, today is to prepare. Today is take it with an energy, an attitude and a focus that there's a massive job to do and that you need to do everything you possibly can do to be your one part of eleven to getting the job done. Don't try to make it about confidence or belief. That, to me, is a post-week feeling. That when you've made the investment and you show up to the test and you have all the answers, not that you're not going to get stumped, but at the end of the test the total sum is going to add up to more pluses than minuses, then you should definitely feel confident that you're ready to go. If the players can prepare that way then the units can feel confident, and then overall the three phases, the team can feel confident."

Junior, Linebacker, Matt Walsh

On playing ranked Missouri this week: "We treat every week the same. You go and prepare. Both teams, doesn't who they are or whether one is ranked and one is not ranked, everybody always expects to win. You go in and everybody has the same mind set. You just treat it like another week. It doesn't matter who we are playing."

On his growth from spring to preseason: "It's been a whole different mindset for me. When I got switched over to linebacker, I realized the investment and basically my whole entire life was going to change, because at fullback it was, I'm not saying it wasn't a crucial role, but the amount that was going to be asked of me was not going to be the same as when I was playing linebacker. I knew that if the outcome at linebacker was going to be more than I would have to put more in. my philosophy is you get out what you put in. That's where I had to start from day one."

On how he felt about the switch: "I was nothing but excited. I was ready to almost let loose, because I felt like I never tried to put myself in a position the first two years of my college career and it's almost a disappointment. When I got over to the defensive side of the ball, it was almost as if I found my home again. I was really just able to let loose and play football for the first time in a couple years"