Oct. 31, 2012
By Scott Waggoner
After surrendering a season-high 40 points in their loss to Syracuse on Oct. 19, the University of Connecticut defense left the Carrier Dome that night with a bad taste in their mouth.
"We didn't take it well at all," redshirt sophomore linebacker Yarwin Smallwood said as the Huskies prepare to visit USF on Saturday night. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU and the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
Connecticut entered the game against the Orangemen allowing a mere 16.3 points per game, though they struggled to stop the run as Syracuse racked up 253 rushing yards on their way to victory.
During their bye week, the Connecticut defense looked to make sense of their uncharacteristic performance.
"We saw that we just made a little mistake here and there," Smallwood said. "We adjusted on our week off and corrected those mistakes."
It doesn't get easier for the Huskies as they face the Bulls' B.J. Daniels, a quarterback capable of making plays with his arm and legs. Daniels has thrown for 1,876 yards and 14 touchdowns this season to go along with 511 yards on the ground, and is extremely effective in the Bulls zone read option scheme.
"There are more big plays out of the zone read option than there are in other schemes," Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "When you have a real good quarterback who reads it well it makes the defense even more vulnerable."
UConn has seen a lot of zone read option this season and Pasqualoni says that will help the Huskies Saturday.
"We see it every week so we're working hard on it," Pasqualoni said. "Obviously, we have to take care of the running backs and quarterback, and we have to be careful of the play action pass."
Smallwood said the Huskies failed to eliminate creases against Syracuse, something they can't afford to do that this week against Daniels. He said it's important to punch the gaps and make a play before Daniels gets in the open field.
"It's always difficult with a guy like Daniels," Smallwood said. "Every time he has the football he's capable of finding a little crease and making a big play."
Connecticut redshirt senior linebacker Jory Johnson has faced Daniels three times, and he knows the athletic ability of the USF quarterback. In Connecticut's victory over the Bulls last season, Daniels scored on a 22-yard scramble, and Johnson saw first hand the importance of always being aware of where Daniels is on the field.
"He's just a guy with a knack for making plays," Johnson said. "If you're not sound on him he's a guy that could beat you in different ways."
Sitting at 3-5 and still in search of their first conference win, the Huskies haven't met their expectations for the season, though they have time to turn it around. Connecticut needs to win three out of their last four games to become bowl-eligible for the fifth time in six years. Johnson said the team's mentality has remained the same throughout the season.
"We're just trying to take it one game at a time," Johnson said.