Oct. 10, 2012
By Scott Waggoner
Three days after the University of Connecticut football team defense held nationally-ranked Rutgers to 19 points and just 280 yards of offense in another terrific performance, the Huskies talked about getting even better defensively.
"One thing we haven't done this year is force many turnovers," redshirt senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said.
Connecticut, like any great defense, is always looking to improve and contribute to the team. That starts with getting more turnovers and shifting the momentum of tight games, something UConn will try to do Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field when they face Temple.
The Husky defense ranked sixth nationally in yards per game and is eighth in rushing defense and 11th against the pass. However, the Huskies rank 110th in turnover margin.
"It's something we're working on," Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni. Pasqualoni says Connecticut usually spends one day a week working on strip drills and gang tackling, though he knows turnovers are something that tend to come naturally.
"Sometimes you're hot and cold with those things," Pasqualoni said. "All of a sudden two or three or four might fall into your lap, but you just need to keep going."
UConn has been on the wrong end of game changing turnovers twice this season. Against Rutgers, redshirt sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw a pick-six late in the fourth quarter, which gave the Scarlet Knights a 19-3 lead, and all but ended the game.
Earlier this season against Western Michigan, Connecticut was down one score when Whitmer was hit and fumbled the ball, which was scooped up by a Western Michigan defender who ran it 53 yards for the score.
Wreh-Wilson understands the significance of turnovers and has seen what they can do for a team first hand.
"When you see someone make a play that brings momentum to the whole team," Wreh-Wilson said. "You can see it on the sidelines everyone goes crazy and there's a lot of positive energy."
UConn will make a conscious effort Saturday against the Owls to try and force turnovers, though Wreh-Wilson knows that a defense going for a big play can sometimes get burned for a lot of yards.
"We have a no-flinch mentality," Wreh-Wilson said. "If a play gets made on us we just line up and get ready for the next play."
Creating more turnovers will provide better field position for the Connecticut offense, which is coming off a disappointing performance against Rutgers.
The Huskies continued to struggle running the ball, gaining just 53 yards on 28 rushing attempts. Sophomore running back Lyle McCombs said he's frustrated with the way Connecticut has played this season, but says the problems can be fixed.
"Our defense gives us a chance to win every game, and the fact that we can't capitalize is disappointing," McCombs said. "Everyone needs to execute better and we need to work together to fix this thing as a whole."
Whitmer, who has done a good job of avoiding turnovers this season, threw four interceptions Saturday in a game where UConn couldn't get in a rhythm offensively.
"I pride myself in taking care of the football and that's something I didn't do last game," Whitmer said.
Whitmer maintains confidence in himself and his receivers, and says he will continue to take shots down the field.
"Interceptions are going to happen but you can't play afraid," Whitmer said.