QB Chandler Whitmer and the Huskies have played the toughest schedule in the country this year.
Sept. 24, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team returns to action this Saturday as it visits Buffalo for its first road game of the season. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. at UB Stadium and the game will be televised on ESPN3 and the UConn IMG Radio Network.
UConn and Buffalo are both tied for first place in the country along with ten other teams for the toughest schedule played so far. UConn is off to an 0-3 start while Buffalo is 1-2 with losses to Ohio State and Baylor and a five-overtime win vs. Stony Brook.
For a look at the UConn media notes for the game, CLICK HERE.
UConnHuskies.com will once again hold a live chat during the game and information on that is below.
Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni:
"We are excited for our first work day for the gameplan. We did a little bit on Sunday and today is first and second down day. We'll have our first road trip, we have a lot of young players, quite a few first-year players so I have a little concern for how we'll travel, we're going to talk about that. Buffalo has a very good football team, they have some outstanding players, so we're going to have to really prepare. The process of getting ready, it is what it is, and we're going to have to go after it with energy and the same kind of passion we've had the last few games."
On first down struggles: "Well, we have to improve everywhere. We have to improve the run game, we'll go through blocking their fronts and blocking their blitzes on first and second down. Plays we're going to run, protections we're going to use, the routes and play actions. We'll do the same thing on the other side of the ball defending against what they'll do. You do the same thing you do every week and hope you come up with a good plan and execute it."
On the performance of freshman Jhavon Williams last week: "Jhavon gave us a consistent night. He was in the right place in the zone he got that first tip on that first third down conversion. Maybe the biggest play of the night for him was the go route when they went after him, he cut the defender off and into the sideline. That was really a big for anyone, let alone a freshman. He's got a long way to go, he has a lot to learn, but he played consistent football for us, helped us some in run support. He has to keep his focus, not be distracted like everyone."
On Max DeLorenzo and Deshon Foxx supporting Lyle McCombs in the running game: "Deshon on the speed sweep is really pretty fast, he was a running back in high school so running with the ball is a strength of his. Max is a good kind of change up kind of guy. Those change ups really help. I like the way those guys are working, I like their energy. Throw Martin Hyppolite into that too. Obviously Lyle is getting more of the time but those guys are very ready, and very willing to go in, so we have to keep building on that. "
On the energy of the team following the Michigan game: "I think their energy was very good off the first game and off the Maryland game it was good, it was really pretty good on Sunday. They watch the film, they see the film, they see Michigan made a couple more plays than we did, we made one too many mistakes. They see all that and they know that we can get those things corrected. The goal this week is to improve. We still have a long season ahead of us, in a way we have our season ahead of us. Going into the game I said I wanted people to see a team that knows how to play football, knows how to handle itself and can be physical and be tough. I'm saying the same thing again this week and I'll say it every week. We want to play great football. It's a game of attrition, play that way. That's the goal, it's about us getting better and that's what I'm looking forward to. When you play well, it's fun. When you don't play well, assignments, fundamentals, techniques, when it's not good sound football, it's not fun. You always have a chance if you know what you're doing and you play good sound fundamental football, you always have a chance to win. "
On Spencer Parker's progress: "He is fast. He runs like Ryan Griffin, who was a terrific receiver with great hands and a pretty craft route runner. If you lined them both up in the 40-yard dash, Parker would win. He's legit fast for a tight end and I think that surprises people at times. I thought he showed in on that play against Michigan. Hopefully he can build on that, and keep getting better."
On being better offensively on 3rd down: "What you is come up with, based on the down and distance, what you feel is the best chance to convert third downs and work really hard at it and then rehearse them. We just didn't play very well on third down last week. We have to go out and come up with a plan and make sure we have the protection right, make sure we have the coverage right, and that the receivers are running the right routes. We're playing with a lot of young guys. The quarterback has to have 100 percent confidence that the receiver is going to be right where he needs to be. Part of the issue with us is that we have so many young players and so many first year guys in the game that you have to work and work on that. On the touchdown to Parker, he was in exactly the right spot, and that was well done. Chandler did a great job of getting the ball out and that was done as well as I've seen it done on that route. Now, you have to do it consistently because we run a lot of routes."
On the confidence of the defense after playing well against Michigan: "I think we just didn't play very well against Towson, and against Maryland we really didn't play bad. We didn't tackle very well and we gave them that touchdown because we flat out missed the tackle on a blitz when had the guy cold stone done and we missed him. The next three points we gave up on a blown coverage. We played great red zone defense, they went with their two point play to try and get in the end zone and we stopped that. Against Maryland, really in the first half we kind of gave up ten points. The kids come in and see it on the film and think, What if we had made that tackle? What if we had not blown that coverage? They wouldn't have had any points at halftime. Then we come back against Michigan, and I think they had seven points in the first half, that's pretty good. Then we give up that option deal on the check, and the kids know that's on us. I think their confidence is, if we consistently do what we're supposed to do and execute, we have a chance to really play good defense. It was good to see Reuben Frank get off the ball, grab a sack, tackle for a loss and get a little speed back in the rush. It was good to see Jesse Joseph in there. We have more young players in there. Tyree Clark came in, he hadn't played. Obi Melifonwu is still a freshman. First year Ryan Donahue has played, this is his first year starting too."
On expectations for the rest of the season: "Every game for us we go out and expect to win. Believe it or not we expected to win on Saturday. Maybe we were the only ones that did, but we expected it. So we're going to expect to win this week. Our only approach is that this is about us and about getting better, individually as players, and getting better as a team. It's a complimentary game but we haven't played enough of a complimentary game. We had a chance to do that Saturday night, but we didn't do enough. My perspective is to keep our nose to the ground, to focus on the little things, take care of what we can control. There are some things you can't control. Don't try to control what you can't control. Just focus on what you can control and that's you. That means your effort, your attitude, your hustle, your fundamentals and your technique. That's all I keep saying and what we keep working on. We're going to go out there today and work with energy and passion for the game. We're there to win our biggest game of the year, because it's our next game, and that's Buffalo. That's what we're going to do."
On the mental state of the team: "In this game I think you have to understand there are no entitlements. You're not entitled to anything. Everything you get in this game, you earn. You're going to earn every yard, every point, and every win at this level of football. It's life. When it gets right down to it, this game is a lot like life. Life is tough. You get up and go to work every day. Once you get done with your undergraduate degree and reality hits, and you have to get up and go to work to work at 6 a.m. in the morning every game, that's the education. The other side of the pancake, and I went through this as a Division I football player too, forty years after I graduated I'm not so sure that psychology class is what I remember. I remember a whole lot about what I learned going through the battles that we're going through right now. That's more of the stuff I apply to everyday life. That's' part of the process and, to me, that's part of the education the kids get, and part of being a Division I football player. I have to keep in perspective that I'm dealing with young kids getting an education. It's not the NFL. We're very positive with them. We look at it as being an educator; we look at it as teaching. We look at it as the holistic development of every student athlete. That's the hard part because the expectations are `let's beat Michigan every Saturday'. I have no problems with those expectations."
On the challenge of Buffalo: "This guy, Khalil Mack, he's as good an outsider linebacker as there is in college football. Period. If this guy doesn't go in the first round I'd be surprised. I'd take him in the first round. He's really, really good. Everyone struggles to block him. I think their secondary plays well. I think they have settled in on a quarterback (Alex Zordich) who is really a drop back passer. In the history of New York state football, he's probably the leading passer as a high school player. I like their offensive line a great deal. I think the left side is very strong, they're very physical. You watch them on the film against Ohio State and they're blocking the guys from Ohio State. You watch them on the film against Georgia and they're blocking guys from Georgia. This team has had a week to rest up and prepare for us. They have accumulated some very good players. They'll be super ready for us. We've had two hard-fought battles with them in the two years I've been here. I'm anticipating a hard-fought game."
On facing a different type of quarterback this week: "This is a different style of quarterback than we've faced the last two weeks, that's for sure. This quarterback can really get the ball out on time. He throws the ball very accurately. He's a taller player, probably up around 6'3" or so. He's good and he's got good receivers. They have a good scheme; they have some quick backs and some good receivers."
On Brian Lemelle's punt returning: "We had been returning the punt pretty well in the first half, so I got a little greedy. I think we were doing a good job of holding people up and he had a lot of space to catch the ball in. He almost came out of one of those, which he has the ability to do. I had visions of getting the ball up around midfield, hitting a chunk, and kicking a field goal before we went in. He's got to do a better job with that play. But he saved us some yards on a few catches too. A week ago he may have let the ball hit the ground and it could have rolled an extra 10 or 15 yards. I think he's improving, I really do. I have to be a little bit more careful with what I ask him to do."
On the atmosphere of the Michigan game: "That environment at least equaled, and I've been lucky to be in some good environments, but that was as good as it gets. The fans were unbelievable, absolutely."