Nov. 22, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - The UConn football team will rush out of the tunnel for one final time at Rentschler Field this season as the Huskies host BIG EAST rival Rutgers at noon on Saturday. Connecticut (4-6, 2-3) will honor its seniors in a special "Senior Day" ceremony prior to the game. The Huskies need to win their final two games of the season to become bowl eligible for the fifth straight season, while the Scarlet Knights (8-3, 4-2) are vying for the BIG EAST title.
Saturday's game will be televised on ESPN2. Live game audio can also be heard on WTIC-UConn Radio Network.
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For a look at UConn's weekly media release CLICK HERE.
Head coach Paul Pasqualoni held his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, below are quotes from the coach and selected student-athletes.
Paul Pasqualoni, Head Coach
"We didn't come out of the bye week playing as well as we needed to. We're hopeful that we can get things going because we are going to need to. We're playing a team that is having a great season and winning a lot of games and winning a lot of close games. We've got out work cutout for us this week."
What makes Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu such a good player?
"I would say he has all of the critical characteristics that you need to play the wide receiver position. [Mohamed Sanu] can really catch. He can make the awkward, out of position catches. He catches the ball when it's behind him, when it's in front of him. He is the quarterback's best friend. He has got terrific hands and a terrific kinesthetic sense. Secondly, he has excellent size. He's a big guy and he's a physical receiver. I would also put him in the category of being a really good route runner. He is crafty in how he does it and explosive."
What do you tell your wide receivers after the performance they had on Saturday?
"I tell them [the wide receivers] have to shake it off. They better have a short memory. [Dropped passes] are a part of the game. At one point in a receiver's career, they've all had a day when they dropped the ball. We had our day. We're going to move on. They can catch the ball. They've made all those catches. They've just got to focus, concentrate and come out of the break at full speed."
A lot of your players have never beaten Rutgers. How much does that impact the motivation this week?
"I think [having never beaten Rutgers] it is motivation. It has to be. Rutgers is a metropolitan team. We're a metropolitan team. A lot of [UConn players] know the Rutgers players. Everybody knows each other. It's exciting. At this time of the year, to be able to play a team in your geographic region is interesting. It should be a real good college football game."
What can you say about this senior class?
"[The seniors] have meant an awful lot to the program. They've done a lot [at UConn] and gotten a lot accomplished. I think the best thing we can do for the seniors, and what the seniors can do for the team, is to play a great game on Saturday. I look forward to shaking their hand after the game."
What do you think of Kendall Reyes' future in football?
"I think that Kendall [Reyes] has a bright future as a football player. In my opinion, Kendall needs to show what kind of toughness he has and what kind of leadership he has. He is captain on a team that is trying to fight back at the end of the year and play good football. In my position, evaluating players, I paid strict attention to player's performances at the end of the year. The thing that Kendall could do, that would help the team the most, is play great and as a result that helps Kendall the most. I think he's got a bright future and he's got a chance to make a statement here as to what kind of player he is and what kind of team we have."
How do you bounce back after last week's loss?
"We have two games to go. We are 4-6. We can end this regular season on a positive note, which would be a great accomplishment and a great achievement. [The players] know that and they'll understand that. We had a very disappointing Saturday, but that game is over. At the end of the day, we've got to move on."
What are the dominant traits of the Rutgers defense?
"Number one, [Rutgers] is very athletic. They have done a good job of putting athletes on their defense. They have outstanding playmakers. Defensive back Khaseem Greene and defensive linemen Justin Francis and Scott Vallone are all playmakers. Their defensive linemen are very active. They make a lot of tackles, tackles for loss and sack the quarterback. They have excellent production throughout the defense. The two safeties have combined for eight interceptions. They've got great athletes and run very well. They are also and attacking, pressure blitzing style of defense."
What does reaching the 1,000-yard mark say about Lyle McCombs' season?
"Lyle [McCombs] has been a valuable player to our football team. He has really helped the production of the offense and the run game. He does other things well too. He can catch the ball and is very good in protection. He is smart. He knows who to block and what the protections are. This has been a real good first year so far for Lyle. He has got a chance to improve on [his season] and we're going to need him to. He's a young player and still developing. We're not done yet with this year. We're looking for big things out of Lyle this Saturday."
Kendall Reyes, RS Senior, Defensive Lineman
On having his family close by in New Hampshire
"It's always good having your family right there to always have your back. It's definitely been a blessing."
Legend has it that you took a kick off back for a touchdown in high school. Now you are a big defensive tackle with NFL aspirations. How do you explain the transformation?
"It's definitely the coaches. The coaches saw something in me when I was in high school and they've basically shown me the way. They knew I had potential but potential is just something that's so raw. They've worked with me the last five years to get better and better every single day. That coaches, the strength coaches, everybody. The whole program really molds you to grow. That's why we've had success."
What would you want to say to Hank Hughes (Assistant Coach, Defensive Line) on senior day as to where he's helped you get as a football player?
"Me and coach Hughes, we have a great relationship. It's a very intense relationship but at the end of the day, he's always looking out for the best of the group. He's a good coach. He's tough on us, but that's how you have to be in this business. I want to thank him for staying on me and keeping me humble and pushing us. Teaching us to play with passion, that's what you really need to be a defensive lineman. You have to be a passionate player."
If you win these last two you are bowl eligible. Rutgers has a lot to lose as well. There must be a lot of motivation for Saturday.
"Yeah definitely. Us and Rutgers, it's a very intense rivalry. Even though they've won the last few games, They've all been down to the last couple seconds, the last minute. We all feel it's a very bitter taste we got in our mouths. We want to get this one. The seniors, since we've been playing we haven't beaten these guys. We want to end the season off the way we know this team can play. It starts with Rutgers.
What will you miss most about being a Husky and with this being your last game at Rentschler Field?
"The whole environment. I know that's a vague answer, but it's really just... the bus rides with my teammates. The whole experience of playing college football with my teammates at Connecticut, you can't describe it. It's been the best thing that's ever happened to me. I'm gonna miss it and miss all my teammates and coaches. I'll miss all the experiences I've gained these past years."
Moe Petrus, RS Senior, Center
You've had a lot of success here during your time at UConn. This season hasn't gone exactly like you hoped at the start of the year. What are your thoughts now heading into your final home game?
"It's exciting. I haven't beaten Rutgers since I've been playing. The last time we beat them was 2007 when I was redshirting. I'm happy we have the opportunity to play Rutgers at my last home game. I want to come out of there with a win.
Will it be a little sad being senior day and your last game at Rentschler?
"Well it will be a little sad. I'm excited for it thought. It's been a long time coming. It's not our last game. We still have one maybe two more hopefully."
What about Thanksgiving? I know it's not really as celebrated where you come from (St. Laurent, Que.) but what are you thankful for?
"I'm thankful we have an opportunity for two more games and to get ourselves bowl eligible. I'll be eating some turkey on Thursday and I'll have a good Thanksgiving."
Can you talk about last Saturday? Coach said the team didn't play that well on the line on either side of the ball. What can you change coming into this week? What are your thoughts?
"I think it was just some execution things. This week we really need to go out and focus at practice and try to transfer it over to the game. I thought we had a good week of practice last week. We weren't able to carry that over to the game and we need to do that this week."
You mentioned a while back that you were looking forward to the rivalry with Rutgers. What is it about Rutgers that gets you so excited?
"I don't know. It's just something about them. They look down on us. We drive there when we play them so it feels like a cross-town game almost. I'm just looking forward to it."
Rutgers has a championship on the line. Can you talk about having the chance to spoil that?
"Yeah, that'll just add to the sweetness after we beat them. We aren't really focused on spoiling their season and all that. We're just focused on turning our season around as much as we can right now."
#38, Dave Teggart, RS Senior, K
On the upcoming game and remaining season:
"The game still means a lot because we are still trying to make a Bowl Game. It is a definitely huge game and Rutgers is always a close one for us. It will be an emotional day all around because of senior day."
Does it help you guys get more focused because it is Rutgers and everything they are playing for?
"I think so because they are still in the hunt for the BCS bid. Every year I have been here it has been very close with Rutgers and even has come down to a field goal or the last couple plays of the game."
On the feeling of the team:
"In the locker room after the Louisville loss it was a little heartbreaking, but I have to give it to the guys and the captains the morale is good right now. We are focused on making a Bowl Game. We want to beat Rutgers and pay them back for what happened last year."
On team embracing Rutgers as a rival:
"I don't know that it is more than any other team. Any BIG EAST team is a rival for us. Obviously, Rutgers is close to us in geography but I think the fact that the games have always been close makes it more of a rivalry for us."
#4, Twyon Martin, RS Senior, Tackle
On getting over Louisville loss:
"We've got to look forward to the next day and win the game this week. We bounce back quick.
On understanding what Rutgers is going through to keep the BCS bid alive:
"We definitely understand that they hold their destiny and we hold our destiny. We just have to play a really good game with them and go out and see what happens."
On Rutgers rivalry:
"It makes it special that we get to play them as the final home game of our careers. With it being senior day there is no question I will have a chip on my shoulder and come out and play hard."
On it being last home game:
"I really can't believe it. I've been through so much here. It seems like just yesterday that I got here and was overweight at 315 pounds. I've made it so far. I'm proud of myself and proud of the program."
#83, Isiah Moore, RS Senior, WR
On getting excited and prepared for Rutgers game:
"We won't have a problem getting ready for Rutgers. It has been very close with Rutgers and we have only won one out of the past six game. It's a big day with it being senior day and trying to make up for last week. We need to do it to apologize to the fans, that was unheard of and uncharacteristic by everyone. We're looking to do that and still make a Bowl Game run.
On motivation of still having chance at Bowl Game:
"We felt like that last game against Louisville we really gave that up. Obviously, it was from the production of receivers and I feel like it was a lot on me. Four drops is uncharacteristic of me and I take that personal. I had two good days of practice and I'm looking forward to Saturday. The team knows we are not down and out yet and we are fighting hard."
#71, Mike Ryan, RS Senior, OT
On getting over Louisville loss:
"I'm still not over. I hate losing. We just haven't found our niche yet, we have two games left and we are still looking for it as a team."
On the team's production this season:
"It's just the little things we aren't doing. A couple of things here and there and the season would be a lot different."