Oct. 22, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team is back in action on Saturday when it travels to Central Florida for a noon game in the American Athletic Association.
The Knights enter the game with ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll after defeating Louisville last Friday night by a 38-35 score. UCF is also ranked No. 25 in the Coaches' Poll. The Huskies enter the game with an 0-6 record and are 0-2 in the American.
The game will be televised as the American Athletic Conference Game of the Week by ESPN Regional Television and will be seen in 42 different markets. SNY will televise the game in Connecticut and the New York metropolitan area. The game will be seen in the Orlando area on WKCF-TV. Other markets with the game include: Philadelphia (WPVI), Dallas-Ft. Worth (KTXD), Baltimore-Washington, D.C. (MASN), Columbus, Ohio (WWHO), Louisville (WHAS), Cox Sports New Orleans and Altitude in Denver.
The game will also be heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
UConnHuskies.com will again host an official gameday chat. Scroll below for more details.
Tuesday was media day in Storrs and here is some video and quotes from the event.
UConn interim head coach T.J. Weist
Opening Statement: "Facing this team is our biggest challenge of the year. It's my job as a head coach and our job as a coaching staff to motivate this team to play better football and win a game. Our goal is to get this thing turned around and give our players confidence and give the program that confidence it needs. At this point in time, we feel if we do things right and not turn the football over and make the plays we need to make, we can play solid football. We have the talent to beat anybody on our schedule. We just have to play together. This win is desperately needed, and we'll do everything we can in practice the next few days to get it. We have great focus and enthusiasm. Our players are not down and are together. I've been very pleased with our response and us staying together in an 0-6 situation, because they know they're not an 0-6 team. We'll get that changed around and everything we do will be focused on getting a victory this week."
On having an honest assessment of the team's situation this season" "Our staff and I really don't look at it in any other way. I don't think there's really another way to look at it. We have to be honest with ourselves and straightforward with them. We have to tell them when they do bad and when they do good. We have to be positive with our team, but at the same time we have to be brutally honest with our team on how they play on the field because that's what matters. It's about what we do on the field, and that's coaches included. We have to evaluate how we coach and the plays we call. It's not all about the players, it's about this whole program and the coaching staff making decisions under pressure."
On what can be done to generate more sacks and get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks: "We've talked about it. Hank (Hughes) and I have talked about it. He has a good plan for that. We're facing a solid team with an experienced quarterback, so we're sure they'll be good, but we have to find ways to get to the quarterback, and we're working on ways to get that done."
On using Tim Willman and Jesse Joseph to generate a pass rush versus using other guys: "We talked about different combinations that involve getting Reuben (Frank) in the game and putting him in different areas. Usually on a defensive line you have rotations and different groups heading in. It changes a bit when you play nickel and dime, but I think that we have the talent there. They have to work on finishing, and getting to the quarterback. That's where it starts. We can talk about changing personnel, but we think we have the best personnel to get sacks. We have to stress to them during the week about finishing more, because that's what it comes down to. Angelo (Pruitt) has played well, but he has to finish better and it's the same thing up front with Julian (Campenni) and Shamar (Stephen). I'd like to see more production out of Tim coming off the edge and free up Reuben because he is a heck of an athlete. We're constantly challenging them, and every week you have a little more challenge for different positions. Our challenge this week is going to be on our defensive front to get some pressure on the quarterback."
On if he needs to spend extra time to motivate the team: "I would say I'm spending about the same amount of time doing that. Obviously with the situation I took over, I needed to spend more time. We had to, as a staff, set our direction and keep them more focused in the first two weeks because of the situation. Taking over for coach Pasqualoni there was a new direction that we had. Now we're settled and we know the direction. We're all in and the players have bought into that. Even in the locker room after the game you always wonder how the team is going to react. Against South Florida we really felt like we beat ourselves. Against Cincinnati we felt it was a combination of them beating us and us beating ourselves again. We didn't stop them. They were very positive and upbeat. We can't accept losing under any circumstance. As soon as you accept it, it's going to happen again. We will never accept it. If you allow players to be selfish and focus on themselves and not the team, that can happen easily in this situation. We've had to keep the team together to make sure every player has bought in."
On Tim Boyle from game one to game two: "Some facets he did get better, some areas he still needs to work on. I think they were two different games from that standpoint. Cincinnati had more pressure on him. We had the added distraction of crowd noise, that really affected him. So the combination of those two things and being a true freshman, knowing that a defensive coordinator would put more pressure on him, and when we didn't handle it earlier, they kept bringing the pressure. He learned not just to speed up the game but the overall speed of the game- that's what he's learning. It's different than high school. It's always faster, on every snap, it's always faster. They bring pressure and then bring pressure again and keep bringing pressure. It's not just handling it once; it's handling it again and again and again and the communication. I think that's what he learned in this game. That's where he was deficient in this game compared to South Florida. He didn't handle the pressure as well and it happened in some critical situations, down in the red zone where he could have been better. Some of our sacks were due to him taking one more step, him not throwing the ball on-time, and he's got to be able to trust that when he lets that ball go that the receiver is going to make plays. So he held the ball a couple of times which cost us. There were other times we had, we went empty. We had hot throws that he didn't really see, that he has to work on, and he'll get better at that."
On his commitment to Tim Boyle as quarterback: "Yes. He made some mistakes, he threw some interceptions, some bad balls. Yes, he has to learn from it. Is it accepted? No. We're not sitting here saying `ok you're a freshman so it's accepted.' No, you're a football player on this team. You're a starter who is making decisions for all of us, so it's not accepted that you throw interceptions, it's not accepted that you make bad decisions, whether you're a freshman or not. Because we tell him, you're not a freshman anymore, you're a starter. You're not a freshman. You have taken the role as a starter, you are the starting quarterback, and you responsible for your actions from that standpoint. Sure we can sit here and say `yes, he will learn as a freshman and yes we'll be patient.' But at the same point in time it's not necessarily going to be accepted. If he were a senior we'd be treating him the same way. Whoever it is. From a responsibility standpoint, he takes responsibility for it, but as I've said, he's got maturity. He understands it, he works to get better at it and if he didn't, we might move on, but he does."
On what impresses him about Central Florida's come-from-behind wins: "Their quarterback. In any of those situations you've got to have a quarterback that can handle that situation, that can lead his team down the field and score and come back and score and come back and score again. As I've said when I've talked about him, when I say maturity, it's the football maturity, the football intelligence as a quarterback to handle an offense; to make the throws that he needs to make; to make the decisions when to pull the ball down; when to throw it away; when to check out of plays. That's the maturity I talk about and that's where Tim needs to improve, and he will. That's why we understand that as a freshman you've got to learn those lessons, whether it's crowd noise or decision making or the speed of the game. I think that's where Blake Bortles has the edge from that area, because he brought them back against a top-ranked team, a top-ranked defense, and brought them back and led them. That's what you're looking for in a quarterback. You're looking for that leadership at the crucial timings to either hold the lead or bring you back from any deficit in scoring."
On the pass defense stepping up against UCF: "Every game you have certain challenges and this is a challenge for our defense. Our defense will have to put pressure on these quarterbacks. Every game you go into and say `ok what's the strength of their team and how do we have to attack the strength of their team?' And this is strength of their team."
On UCF Running Back Storm Johnson: "Our biggest challenge is tackling him. He's a strong back. He's an NFL-type power back that can put his foot in the ground and get up-field fast. That's your biggest challenge. Some backs are smaller and quicker, some backs are bigger and stronger but not as fast. He's both. He's got good slashing ability where he can take that cut, he's got good vision he's proven that. He's hard to tackle. The quarterback does a good job throwing the ball -he doesn't run it much because he doesn't have to. That's what it comes down to. Our biggest thing is tackle him. Get him on the ground. There' s no other way to say that. A big back, you've got to get him on the ground. You think you've got him and, however many takes, you've got to get him on the ground."
On starting Marquise Vann and Tyler Bullock and moving Lyle McCombs to kick returner: "Marquise has really stepped up after Ryan got hurt. He has always been a very consistent player for us. We're still going to play Ryan. It's going to be a competition this week between the two. We put the depth chart out early on Sunday to please the media. But when you're 0-6, it's a competition every day. It's going to be a competition and we'll see who starts when the game time comes. It's not an issue for us because it's going to be very heated between the two to see how much playing time they get. As a punter returner, Lyle has stepped up and been very consistent. Lyle is a player that is always excited and pumped up. I never have to worry about him not being into it. As a returner you have to want to do that. You have to want to sit back there and watch 11 guys coming at you and make them miss. He's competitive. I think that right now we felt like that was the best decision for us."
On Jefferson Ashiru's impact on the team: "He's very dependable. He's a physical player. Sometimes you don't notice how good some of these linebackers are. He's just very competitive and gets to the football. You don't see him making a lot of mistakes. He's a guy you can trust to line up on every snap and he has a nose for the football. He's not really verbal but he lets his play speak for him. Being on offense since I've been here, I've obviously focused on defense the last few weeks, but I don't know the defensive players as well as I'd like. He's a player that I've never really noticed but he's been one of our most consistent players. I don't need to hear him to know he's dependable. He is just a solid player for us that lines up right and has a good knack for the football. That's what you want you want as a coach, to have guys be consistent, physical and aggressive."
On the strengths of the UCF defense: "They are a very solid, very well coached team, they don't take a lot of chances, they disguise well, they're an execution defense. What I mean is that they are very well coached and they execute very well which means at times they don't take as many chances blitzing, you don't see players out of position where you can take advantage of personnel issues or other things. So it goes back to be very well coached. They are very solid across the board. It's hard for me as a coordinator, designing an offense and a gameplan against them to say `here's their weakness.' We always talk to other teams that have played them already and all those things. A lot of the other coordinators say the same things that they're very well coached, they execute very well in their disguises and making tackles and stopping offenses . You know you're up against a good defense when you don't see teams having big plays. Against Cincinnati, there's a reason why they're one of the top ranked defense because you just don't see teams hitting them on big plays. We would like to have had some more, it would have made a difference in our game."
On the play of freshman receiver Noel Thomas: "He's improving every week. He's proving his value every week. He came in, he's a very talented player. He came in early and was inconsistent for me on the field as a wide receiver. Then we needed him on special teams and he proved that he can really make plays on special teams which increased my confidence in him and his playing ability as a wide receiver. So we played him more last game and if he improves this week we'll keep playing him more and give him more chances to make plays. You see him running out there, you see him catching and he's fast and he plays fast. So I'd like to see him work hard this week and get more chances this game."