Sept. 27, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - Following a 17-3 win at Buffalo last weekend, the University of Connecticut football team returns home for a non-conference lit against Western Michigan at Rentschler Field on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 pm between the Huskies (2-2) and Broncos (2-2).
Saturday's game will be televised live on SNY and can also be heard on WTIC 1080, the UConn Radio Network.
For a look at UConn's weekly media release CLICK HERE.
Head coach Paul Pasqualoni held his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, below are quotes from the coach and selected student-athletes.
Paul Pasqualoni, Head Coach
"We've got a very worthy opponent this week. Western Michigan played really tough last week against Illinois, had a chance to win that game. They've got a high octane offense. They'll come in here wide open and throw the ball around pretty well. Defensively, they pressure a great deal. They play a physical style of football. It's important that we have a really good week. For where we're at right now, this will be a pretty good test for us."
Has Johnny McEntee shown that he can step up as THE quarterback?
"There's no question that (Johnny McEntee) stepped up last week. Buffalo was bound and determined to not let us run the ball. We had to win the game throwing the ball. We decided that in an effort to have continuity and a guy who can get familiar with all the blitz looks and the pressure looks that we left Johnny in. He managed the game very well. He identified the defense and got the ball out really quick. Those throws to (Nick Williams) were pressure throws, both of them with a guy right in his face. He did a very good job. He's clearly moved ahead."
How can Nick Williams continue to contribute to the offense?
"It seems like there's hope and there's opportunities for the Nick Williamses of the world, who aren't the biggest guys, but they're pretty feisty, they change direction real well, and they make plays. They have better play speed than they have 40-yard dash speed. But then you get them out on the field and they do what Nick did. Certainly we're excited about that. The touchdown run, literally the defender was on his back. He shook the defender off and broke free and made the touchdown. We're optimistic he can make a few more of those plays."
Where is Johnny McEntee's comfort level at?
"There is a learning process and a growing process that you have to go through. I think Johnny is getting a little bit more comfortable with what I would call the `the identification of the defense' part of this. Johnny is getting a little bit better at that stuff. With the way we want to play in our pro style of attack, that's pretty important to us. He's studying. He's learning. He's figuring out what the commitment has got to be during the week and he's carrying that over to the field. Now we just have to get the ball to those receivers consistently. There is steady progress being made. There was so much pressure (at Buffalo), that we felt like we should give one guy a chance to decipher it and we left Johnny in and he did a good job with it. Johnny has been coached here for a while. I think the investment that Joe Moorhead has made since Johnny's arrival here has been a factor in this too."
Did you see improvements in the offensive line at Buffalo?
"I like where the guys are now. We didn't run the ball well, but I thought we did pretty well in the protections. I thought we were pretty consistent and pretty steady in the protections, which was a hard thing to manage. That's a credit to the offensive line."
How do you address the issues of the run game?
"When (Buffalo) has nine or 10 guys within seven yards of the line of scrimmage, you just don't have enough people to block all those guys. You've got to get somebody out of there and you've got to get them to respect the pass a little bit, so then you don't have to block them. We've got to execute better. That's why the backs that can make something happen after the first guy hits them is so valuable."
What progress have you seen from Yawin Smallwood at middle linebacker?
"The nice thing about (Yawin Smallwood) is it is an incremental, progressive get better each week, little bit better feel for the run game, where he belongs, and getting better and better in pass coverage. As you saw, the pick he makes is a really nice pick. He's looking one way, sees the quarterback's intentions, flips his hips, goes back the other way and makes the catch. I think he's playing better football now. That position is like a work in progress. Your training is never done at that position. Everyday you've got to deal with all the run, the blitz, the coverage, the zones, (man coverage), all that stuff. He's learning what it takes."
How does the defense look without Blidi Wreh-Wilson?
"I think that, personally, Gary Wilburn is one of the best athletes on this team. I'm not so sure that Gary Wilburn couldn't play offense and defense. I think he's that kind of athlete. He's an older guy. He's a senior. This is an unfortunate deal for (Blidi Wreh-Wilson) for the next few weeks, but with that it's an opportunity for Gary. He needs to step up. He needs to play. He's totally capable of playing that position."
Where does the team match up to your preseason expectations to learning your system?
"Defensively the guys are really starting to get familiar with (the system). I thought we did a better job setting some things up on Saturday night against Buffalo. We've got a little bit of work to do yet, certainly on offense. I think we've got the pieces in the right place now. We kind of know the direction we're going at the quarterback position. I think that we are moving in the right direction now. This will be an important weekend for us."
What do you expect from the Western Michigan offense?
"I think (Western Michigan coach Paul Cubit) would like to come in and really throw the ball around, play fast. I think you're going to see a team that's going to come in and run plays as quickly back to the line of scrimmage as you can run them. They're going to try to put a lot of pressure on you covering four or five wide receivers at a time. They're going to really be after us. It's kind of hard to figure out what receiver is in what spot because they're so interchangeable in that system. They'll try to come back and run it, but I think he wants to spread you out first. So I think it might be throw first, run second."
Can the pass game help open up the run game?
"When you can get (Western Michigan) to respect what you're doing in the pass, you can get them to back up. I think you then have an excellent chance to run the ball. If you can't do that then you're going to have to be able to throw the ball. I don't know how people perceive us right now, but we've got to move in that direction."
#57, Moe Petrus, RS Senior, Center
On the Buffalo game:
"It was good to go on the road and get a win regardless of how it looked."
On Buffalo forcing the throw:
"We're used to seeing the box overloaded. It was good that that the passing game was able to complete some plays. We just hope our passing game will open up the road game down the stretch."
On Johnny McEntee maturing:
"He definitely is maturing. The most important thing for the quarterback is to gain some reps. He'll continue to make plays down the road. I think he settled down and made better reads. He is gaining confidence and it really shows."
On Johnny's character:
"He is one of the hardest working guys on the team. He is always at open hours in the summer."
On mindset of team as the captain:
"I think we are at a point where we know we need to work harder and that we know we let those games slip away. My feelings are that we should be 4-0. The season is not over yet and we just have to keep working if we want to achieve our goals."
On Western Michigan:
"Western Michigan is a good team. We watched them on film and they gave Illinois a run for their money. We are looking forward to the challenge."
#18, Johnny McEntee, RS Junior, Quarterback
On playing in front of so many family and friends:
"I wasn't any more nervous than a normal crowd because they watch me from home every week. It adds a little fire to wanting to win."
On what changed from week 3 to week 4:
"I felt more comfortable. Buffalo had a good defense but Nick Williams was able to make some plays and got the offense rolling."
On comparing Nick Williams to Wes Welker:
"Nick is like a little Wes Welker. He can make those big plays. He is a little small but he makes up for it with his shifty-ness."
On having more options at receiver:
"It is always nice to have more options out on the field. We have some great receivers."
On finding a rhythm:
"I felt a little more in a rhythm. I still made some mistakes that people don't really notice when they are watching. I still have stuff I need to fix."
On starting as a walk-on:
"It was always a dream that I would play. I thought a lot of these guys were too good and there was no way I'd ever play. I stuck with it and tried to get a little better every year."
#6, Kashif Moore, RS Senior, Wide Receiver
On offense's big play ability:
"It's very important that we make plays down field, just to keep defenses honest. I think it starts up front. We need to get back to UConn football and establish the run game a little bit more too and also establish the passing game. We've still got a lot of work to do."
On development of the passing game:
"Our offense is starting to come together every week, more and more. The quarterbacks are getting more important back there in the pocket, more comfortable and I think that allows them to throw it downfield."
#21, Gary Wilburn, RS Senior, Cornerback
On the opportunity to start:
"It is a great opportunity for me. Nobody likes Blidi Wreh-Wilson being hurt. He is a great player and a great leader. It is my time to step up and take the most I can from this."
On his athletic ability:
"I think I bring another dimension of athleticism to the team. I can go out there and dominate a receiver. Hopefully I play consistent and help the team win."
On being thrown into the Buffalo game:
"I think I froze. I was in perfect position and slowed down for some reason. I don't know what was going through my mind. I wish I could have gotten that play back. You have to be prepared at all times. After I got my feet wet I settled down and got more comfortable."
On preparation this week:
"I think I have to take every practice like it is a game to be prepared for Saturday."
On being experienced:
"I consider myself an experienced player. Last year I played nickel almost every game. I am ready for Saturday."
#99, Kendall Reyes, RS Senior, Defensive Tackle
On defense improving:
"The emphasis all week was to cut down the big plays against us. We've been playing great but the big plays have been killing us. We only gave up one. We'd like to give none."
On the way his unit has been playing:
"I like the way we are playing. We go hard and we do things the right way. We're good but we can do better. We are not satisfied with the way we are playing."
On Western Michigan:
"They are a talented team. They have a lot of different schemes with a quick tempo. We definitely have a challenge."
Offensive Coordinator- George DeLeone
On running the ball:
"It's a combination of three things. First, our opponents have not respected the pass game and dared us to throw. Two, our offensive line has to play better. Three, we've got to be more creative and try to find unique ways to run the ball into these run committed structures."
On Johnny McEntee:
"You have to understand the whole picture with Johnny. Here is a kid who is a walk-on, never played, never did anything and was just a scout guy hanging around. All of a sudden he is a starting quarterback. Next thing you know he has had two tough outings. Now the kid could have shriveled up and gone home. Instead, the kid worked his tail off. I saw it in his eyes. He was focused. It resulted in a better outing. Whether he can start stringing a few good performances together, we'll see. To be continued..."