Oct. 1, 2011
By Erika Wentzell
It was another heartbreaker for the University of Connecticut football team at Rentschler Field on Saturday when Western Michigan got a late fourth-quarter touchdown for a 38-31 win. The highlight of this action-packed afternoon game for UConn was a potential breakthrough for the Huskies' offense in junior quarterback Johnny McEntee.
The Huskies faced their final non-conference opponent of the regular season on Saturday as the remainder of the season consists of BIG EAST matchups.
Essentially this means it's crunch time.
The Huskies need to come together to face the challenges ahead. UConn head coach Paul Pasqualonithinks that the struggles the team has faced thus far will only make them stronger in the upcoming opposition of their BIG EAST rivals.
"We've been in some battles, every week has been a battle," says Pasqualoni. "Sometimes when you're in those though battles, it makes you better. It's like the saying the hottest fire makes the strongest iron, we've been in some hot fires, some real battles for us this year. And I think it helps you. "
Penalties were a defining factor on Saturday, with flags thrown on what seemed nearly every play. This isn't smart football according to Pasqualoni and moving forward it can't be acceptable. UConn had 10 penalties, which cost them 95 yards while Western Michigan has 15 penalties for 115 lost yards. These numbers are staggering and the pace of play was noticeably impacted by all of the calls.
There were some promising qualities that emerged Saturday despite the loss. McEntee had another standout performance for the Huskies. At the start of the season, the team didn't have a quarterback, which resulted in a three-man battle for the job. McEntee made strides in last Saturday's game against Buffalo which gave Pasqualoni the confidence to give him the nod for much of tonight's game. This is an important development for the rest of the season, as a reliable quarterback is backbone of any team.
McEntee had career highs tonight in both passing yards with 300 and touchdowns with four. This was also the most TDs by a Connecticut quarterback in one game since D.J. Hernandezin 2006.
Pasqualoni likes what he is seeing from his emerging quarterback.
"He wasn't perfect but he threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. I think for two weeks in a row now, John has played a pretty solid game," said Pasqualoni.
Considering this was only the fifth career game for the redshirt junior, expect him to come into his own during the remainder of the season. McEntee reports that he's gaining more confidence in the team's offense. "We played well today and we were performing right down until the last minute."
Another emerging player is junior Nick Williams, who got his second touchdown in two games tonight. His first career touchdown was the game-winner against Buffalo last week. On Saturday, he got the final UConn touchdown with 2:03 remaining on a 26-yard pass from McEntee This tied the game at 31-31 and breathed some life into the crowd at Rentschler Field. Williams has made headlines for his kick returns for quite some time but the past two games have been a turning point for his receiving career.
As the BIG EAST Conference battles being next week against West Virginia, the Huskies need to start sweating the small stuff. Little mistakes accumulate into losses so the team will look to tie up loose ends this week. Saturday's loss was balanced out by encouraging performances from several Huskies. The team was able to start some chemistry that should give them the momentum they need to dive into the battle for the BIG EAST.