Yawin Smallwood was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award last week.
Nov. 4, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football teams returns to action on Friday, November 8 when it takes on Louisville at 8:30 p.m. at Rentschler Field. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2 and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
Louisville enters the game ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll and No. 17 in the USA Today coaches' poll. The Cardinals have a 7-1 record and are 3-1 in the American while the Huskies are 0-7 overall and 0-3 in the American.
Friday's game will be Military Appreciation Day. In a combined effort from the UConn Division of Athletics, the Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG) and UConn's Veteran's Affairs Office, a field-sized United States flag will return to Rentschler Field for the third-straight season. Over 400 volunteers comprised of current UConn students, veterans and active military personnel will be helping to open the flag during the National Anthem. Fans should plan on being in the stadium no later than 8:00 p.m. to see this special presentation.
During halftime of the game, over 300 active and veteran military members will be honored during a "Military Appreciation Parade" as they march around Rentschler Field. All veterans and active military personnel not on field for this recognition will also be asked to stand at their seats to be recognized.
Stadium gates will open 30 minutes earlier than normal at 6:30 p.m. so fans can watch the UConn vs. Maryland men's basketball game on the video board of Rentschler Field.
Once again, UConnHuskies.com will host a live chat during the game. Please scroll down for more information.
Monday was UConn media day for the game and here are quotes and video from the event.
Head Coach T.J. Weist
Opening Statement: "This team looks forward to a great opportunity against one of the best teams in the country, a team that really lost a tough game that they were winning, especially against one of the best defenses in the country, a defense that's ranked top two in the country in seven different categories. It's an impressive team, it's a very well-coached team. They're on a roll. They had an off week like we did, so I think they'll be well-rested, their players will be healthy, and they'll be hungry. We're just looking forward to the opportunity on Friday night for them to our stadium, our home, and have a great battle on national television. Our players are still very motivated, very excited and ready to prove that they're a team that can win football games; that can play solid football; that can execute on offense and defense and special teams. They've got a lot of pride. We've got a lot of pride as a coaching staff, as a team, in everything that we do. We're ready to get back to playing some football. We had an off week- our guys are hungry."
On keeping the players motivated: "Our players have a lot of character and they have a lot of pride. We keep saying those things but we're hungry. These guys are hungry. We have a lot of players that have a lot of personal pride intensity. They're embarrassed to be 0-7 and they're embarrassed by some of the products we've put on the field. We don't think it represents us. We don't think it represents this department, this athletic department, this university. We're excited to go out there and prove that we can win and prove that we can be a team that really is not what we've put on the field in the last seven games."
On Casey Cochran as the second quarterback over Chandler Whitmer: "Chandler had an injury to his hand and really couldn't practice yesterday or function that well, so we're going with Casey. It's not a serious injury but it's enough that he's having a hard time functioning as quarterback."
On young players on the field this year: "It's a little different when you use sophomores compared with freshmen. We always evaluated the guys on how well they make plays, how experienced they are on the football field. Sometimes you have some seniors that aren't very football smart, aren't football savvy from that standpoint. It really comes down to the maturity of the players on the field. Some of that comes from experience, and sometimes it doesn't. Every player that comes in from high school is on a different level. Some players are truly raw, some come from great programs and have a lot of experience and have been coached very well. It's easy to say we play a lot of young guys, but you look around the country and you see that's not an excuse. There's teams all around the country playing young guys, playing true freshmen, not necessarily redshirt freshmen or sophomores. We don't really evaluate that way or use it as an excuse, saying `we're playing too many young guys or that's why we're losing or that's why we're not functioning because we've been playing young guys.' No. We're playing who we think are the best players."
On what the team worked to improve on in the bye week: "We're lacking in execution, number one, which is obvious. Number two: physicality. We don't think we controlled the line of scrimmage in most of our games, especially against Central Florida. We had to improve our physicality overall - offense, defense, and special teams. We haven't played as physical as we'd like, we haven't played as physical as we're used to playing, as we need to play. Especially against the best team in our league -statistically, ranked as one of the top twenty teams in the country. We can't afford to come out and not be physical as a complete football team. So we focused on that. We had three good practices, three physical practices, long practices, obviously worked on fundamentals. It was more about our mentality and our physical and our finish and everything. We're working on our players' confidence, not just an assignment with technique, but big things. You've got to play physical."
On encouraging tackling in practice: "We put more emphasis on it with tackling surface, like any coaches do. We've done more good-on-good, one-on-one, ones against ones during the off-week, which everybody does, but you want to put more emphasis on it. Number one, for speed. When you have scout tapes you don't see the speed you need against opponents, so in the off-week you always go more one-on-ones, good-on-good, ones against ones, twos against twos, to get that speed. We did do some live situations so we could work on that speed and work on that tackling."
On what makes Teddy Bridgewater so good: "Efficiency. Just look at their overall efficiency as an offense. They're number one in third down efficiency and offense. You don't do that without having a quarterback that's smart, that makes good decisions, that's athletic, all that. They're passing efficiency - they're second in the country. That's what's impressive about him. Everybody wants to say Teddy's an athletic quarterback, he's this and of those things, but he's a very sound, fundamental quarterback that makes good decisions and that's efficient. That's what it comes down to. That's where we have to have disruption, to disrupt that efficiency."
On having to face Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and other good quarterbacks from the American this season: "Unless you have a great tailback, you're not going to have a good team without a good quarterback that is dynamic and can lead offenses down the field and finish off in the red zone. That's what it comes down to, and that's what we're trying to develop with Tim (Boyle). Then when you look at Louisville's defense, they're number one in the country, and in five categories they're number two. That's impressive and their defense coordinator does a great job. Offensively, they have their weapons spread out. They function on offense very efficiently with all their shifts and motions. I'm familiar with their offense and I know they play with a lot of talent and confidence."
On his impressions of UConn's victory over Louisville last season: "It's like any other big game, when a team gets momentum and makes play. Last year's game doesn't mean anything because it's last year. It's nice that they won, but that wasn't this year. It sure gives you confidence, but it's going to be a whole new game Friday night. Any big game you go into, it comes down to momentum and making plays. We have to make catches and make throws and put it all together during drives. We've looked at last year's film, but we're not focusing on it. We're starting over this Friday night. We look at the confidence we've built this week going into the game. It's going to come down to turnovers and efficiency on offense and defense. A lot of people say statistics don't mean anything, but I think they really tell the tale of where your offense and defense stands. Some of those statistics in a big game don't matter though. You could be the number one defense or offense in the country and still lose a game. For us, it's going to come down to execution and playing and keeping momentum. When you are the number one defense in the country at stopping opponents on third down, that's impressive and something coaches all strive for their team."
On facing Louisville's pass rush: "They do bring pressure. You look at their two defensive ends, and they have probably 15 sacks between them. They put pressure on both edges, and I think that makes a difference. They bring pressure from all around the field at different times. It's not always all out pressure. I think their defensive ends are two of the best in the country."
On what he said to UConn quarterback Tim Boyle after the loss to UCF: "You have to be careful with quarterbacks so that you don't pamper them. He's a starting football player for us, and he's responsible just like any other play and has to go out there and produce. I got after him during the game and this off week about making better decisions when faced with pressure. We've worked on those situations when there are blitzes. On Sunday or Monday, you always go back and look what individuals did wrong, and then walk them through it on the field and say here's what you did wrong, and here's what you should have done. It's a constant process with Tim and with any young player to learn from your past mistakes."
On the team's commitment to Tim Boyle: "Like I said in the beginning, we're going to be patient. We're going to do what's best for this football player. We're going to play the best player that we think can lead us to win. It's a constant competition every single day for us, at every position, especially for him. He's still showed us things this week that make us think that he can start this week, but if a situation arises where maybe he's not playing well, we have to do what's best for the team. So no, we're not locked in. I have to handle it as a head coach and say we're not locked in at almost any position. We've got to find a way to win football games. We're not going to be locked into anyone and we're not going to be locked into Tim if he's not producing the way we want. That's a tough decision because we made a decision to play a true freshman. We've also made decisions to play other true freshmen, so we're not treating him any different from that standpoint. It's just that from any offensive standpoint, he's got the keys to the car so he's got to make plays for us."
On using Louisville to motivate the team: "I think there is a lot of hype for it and a lot of players are fired up. It's a nationally covered game and a Friday night game. I tell them the same things; if we can make more plays than them, we're going to win the game. That's got to be our focus. You have to use that hype, that momentum and intensity on the football field to make good decisions, to be physical, and to make plays. That's what it comes down to. Yes, our guys are fired up. But let's be fired up in the locker room after the game after we execute and use that energy and mentality that we have going into the game to go out there and make plays. That's what it comes down to."
On two of his first five weeks as head coach being bye weeks: "I think it's a good thing. Obviously you like to have more time to get guys healthy, to develop players and develop our mentality as a coaching staff and put somewhat of our stamp on this team. But, it comes down to we have to find a way to win a game and get some momentum. I can sit here every week and say the same things over and over again until we win games but that's what it's going to take. I'm not going to say we're not going to change some things, but the game of football doesn't change. The same thing that have always been done will win games. We just have to find ways to put our players in position to allow them to make plays. Sometimes you don't want to have off weeks, especially coming off a loss. But we have to find ways to ge tour guys healthy. Every advantage we can have in this situation, we need every advantage we can have going into this game. We have to use time to our advantage to develop our players and try and find a way to win."
On keeping up with the `All In' mentality: "I think that the more we go in this situation, the more we keep moving on, `all in' means more because if and when you lose people start to get selfish, our players understand that's even more important now to be together and be all in. Now it means something. I told our players, you have to be all in in every area. Whether it's academics, the weight room, the training room, in every area. It's not just football. We don't want any distractions to take away from us winning on Friday night. We need everybody to do everything they can in their power to help us win. The same thing is going to be true when we do start winning. I'm proud of all our guys, I'm proud of our program from the stand that they've taken. We're just going to keep working until we win."