Nov. 26, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team returns to action on Saturday when it plays hosts to Rutgers at noon at Rentschler Field. The game will be televised live on ESPNU and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Network.
UConn brings an overall record of 1-9 into the game and is coming off its first victory of the year, a 28-21 come-from-behind effort last Saturday night at Temple. UConn is 1-5 in the American Athletic Conference. Rutgers brings a 5-5 record into the game and a 2-4 mark in the conference. The Scarlet Knights have lost four of their past five games.
CLICK HERE for the UConn media notes.
UConnHuskies.com will once again host a live chat during the game. For more information on that, please scroll down.
Tuesday was media day in Storrs for the game. Here are some quotes and videos:
Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist
Opening statement: "I think this week was a great team victory. The team really rallied in the second half. It was a tale of two halves. Obviously, the first half was more representative of the season. We came out and didn't really stop them on defense and our offense didn't produce points. Going into halftime, the turning point for us was the stop and the fumble recovery by Tim Willman at the end of the first half. That gave us momentum for the second half. Then we came out in the second half and continued that momentum with a drive and a touchdown. It just built from there in the second half. It was our best half of the season. We put everything today, including a come-from-behind victory. All three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, came together. Some of our leaders made plays for us in critical situations. The offense produced points and produced points in the red zone. Our quarterback came through and made plays in the second half. I've done a lot of talking and motivating the team but the message has been the same since the beginning. We have to block, tackle, make plays, execute and do the things you have to do to win games. It's not magical play calling; it's not trick plays or special plays that are going to win it; you have to play sound fundamental football. That's what we had in the second half. I got after them a little bit at half to motivate them but the good thing for our coaching staff was that when I went into halftime and talked about the adjustments we needed to make, I came out of the locker room and the defense was already coming together. Yawin was getting the team together. I looked over on offense and Casey was getting the offense together, getting the plan ready for the second half."
On the team's confidence: "I think it's a little bit of a relief after everything we've been through. This team has stayed together. They have truly bought into what we have been doing as a team. It's a relief but it's short-lived because we celebrated on Saturday but we came back to work on Sunday. That's behind us. We have to focus on Rutgers. It gives us momentum but we have to get right back to work."
On the defense's performance in the second half against Temple: "We focused on effort and finishing last week, which was one of the things we were missing against SMU. The players didn't understand the effort it takes to win a game. You have to turn the film on and see that effort on the field play after play. I think our defense in the second half against Temple really came together and took it one play at a time and stopped them. Obviously, the interception was just Yarwin (Smallwood) doing his job. He studied the tape, studied their offense, read the progressions of their quarterback and was at the right place at the right time and scored. We take it one play at a time and every play is important. You just have to do your job within the 11 players on the field, and everything will come together."
On whether quarterback Casey Cochran brings something different to the table than the other quarterbacks: "I think that in the second half Casey made the decision that he was going to come out and play tougher and make sound decisions. He put in a little more focus and made some good throws. I don't really want to compare him to the other quarterbacks because they're different kinds of quarterbacks. It really comes down to decision making. You have to take the best player at the time and we think Casey gives us the best chance to win right now. He has made some bad decisions in the last two games, and he has to continue to prove himself. We still have two more games, and he will still be challenged every day to lead that offense. I'm excited to watch him grow and develop, but the other two quarterbacks in our system have to be ready. They all bring us different elements, and Casey is a great leader."
On Tyree Clark's play in the secondary: "To me it's about confidence in the secondary. When I look out there as lifelong receiver coach, every single DB has an identity, a fear-factor. I always look at it and say if a DB's out there, how can we beat him? Number one: how physical is he? But number two, can we beat him in the routes? When I look out I see Tyree Clark I trust him. I trust that he's going to cover receivers. I trust that he's going to be in the right place. That's more important to me than being physical. That's more important than coverage skills. The fact that I can trust him to be in the right place at the right time and make plays - that's what you want. You want to be able to look out on the field and say `I trust him,' that he's not going to make a mistake and let a receiver get behind him or play too deep or play too soft. Trust factor is big with me for the secondary and when Tyree's out there I trust him, I know he's going to do the right thing and he'll make plays."
On naming Lyle McCombs a captain: "I made him a captain. I think that Lyle has done a good job of leading the team. I want to make sure we put an emphasis on leadership these last games. Our three captains have done a good job of leadership. They've led this team. I just felt that Lyle, from a football standpoint and everything else, he's been a leader for us. Every single day he comes out and he's motivated. Every single day he's part of the group that motivates the team. So I made the decision to make him a captain last week and I think our team needs it."
On what a 3-9 finish would mean to the program: "We want to finish on a winning note. We plan on going 3-0. That gives us great momentum for anything for next season. My first concern is the seniors of this year and this year's team - finishing with wins for this year's team. That's my first focus, that's our first focus - to reward these seniors for their effort, reward this team for everything they've done by winning games, and reward this program, because winning solves so many things. What does it do for us? It gives us momentum in recruiting. It gives us momentum for the off season. It gives us momentum for next season. The confidence it will build in our schemes, in our payers, everything. Winning is the ultimate... winning is everything we do. The reason we do everything here is to win games. Of course, winning the right way with class, character, discipline, and pride -everything we preach every single day. Winning and winning the right way. Our winning in academics is getting good grades is graduating. Everything we talk about, in a way, is winning. Having a winning mentality in life. We know there's going to be setbacks, we know there's going to be adversity and fighting through adversity. Everything in a football game is about an end score. Somebody's going to win, somebody's going to lose. Winning validates everything you're doing, so we're going to do everything we can to fight to win and build momentum for the next game, for the off season, for everything we're doing in our program - for recruiting, for building next year's team. Everything goes together. To me it's part of the system every single season, every single year that I've coached is about yes, you want to finish for the seniors. You want to finish for the program. You want to build for the off season. Obviously you'd like to go to a bowl game, to get more practice, for recruiting. To have that part of a recruiting for a bowl game. But just to keep that momentum going for the off season, for the next season. I think that's our mindset."
On what this victory says about the team: "I think it's a testament to some of the things we've been doing. We go into the game expecting to win, I don't care if 0-9 or not. It wasn't a surprise. It's a disappointing when don't win or make plays. I don't care what we've done in the past; we go into games expecting to win. Our focus is so much on the things we have. If we take care of our business and do our jobs, giving great effort, then in our mind we're going to win the game. We played football the way we're supposed to. We played the UConn way. We stepped up and faced adversity. We told the team that this is not going to be an easy game. It is going to be 60 minutes of football. We're going to say the same things this week; it's not going to be easy. This week it could come down to the last five minutes of the game and we have to have great character, effort and discipline to win. I think if you want to step back and see it as a testament to what we've talked about all season long, it's a pleasure to see the players feel that."
On the Rutgers offense and quarterback change: "I think they look good at times. It'll be interesting to see how Rutgers reacts to having a new leader. We try to focus more on what we're doing and how we're doing it. It's not that big of an issue to us. We're going to play physical and play fast and we're going to put pressure on the quarterback no matter who it is. I don't think there's a great difference between the two. They're both experienced and have won ball games."