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Chat Live From UConn-Cincy Football

Nick Williams averaged better than 40 yards per kick return vs. Rutgers.

Nov. 29, 2011

STORRS, Conn. - The UConn football team visits Cincinnati to wrap up its 2011 regular season and seek its sixth win to become bowl eligible for the fifth straight year.  The Huskies (5-6, 3-3 BIG EAST) and Bearcats (8-3, 4-2) will take the game for a noon kick-off.  While Connecticut plays with a potential bowl birth on the line, Cincinnati looks to revenge a 38-17 loss from a year ago and gain a share of the league title as well as a spot in a BCS game.

Once again, will hold a live chat during the game. Please join us by clicking HERE.

Saturday's match-up will be televised on ESPN.  Live game audio can also be heard on WTIC-UConn Radio Network.

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

Opening Statement:
“Saturday we had a day, where for the most part, things went our way.  We were fortunate to be on the short-field quite a bit.  That was a big factor in the game.  We scored some touchdowns in the red zone and played well on special teams.  Saturday was probably our best effort at playing complimentary football.  This week we’ve got a very talented Cincinnati team, scoring a lot of points per game.  They’re not giving up very many points on defense. This will be another huge challenge in our conference.”

How will you carry the momentum from the Rutgers win into Cincinnati?
“I think we’ve got to prepare [for Cincinnati] and move on.  The Rutgers game is over with and we need to have a great day, today, on the first heavy workday of the week.  We just need to concentrate and focus on what we need to do against Cincinnati on the road, which will be a pretty hostile environment, a pretty tough place to play.  We’ve got to focus on that and just hope that we can concentrate on just playing a good game.  We can’t be distracted by anything else.”

What is the team’s mentality, knowing that a bowl game is on the line?
“[The opportunity to play in a bowl game] is on the line every week.  I don’t think you muddy the water at all.  I think we just focus on what we have to do to prepare to play this game and go into this game to be a competitive as we can be.  Everybody knows what the consequences are.  I’m not going to bring it up [to the team].”

Is this team close to becoming a top BIG EAST program?
“We didn’t play well enough early in the year.  We’ve got work to do.  There’s no question.  This league is a very well balanced league.  I think when you look at the players that we having in this league, I think we have a very good conference.  I think it is much tougher than what the national perception of what the BIG EAST might be.  This conference is loaded with good players, good coaches and good teams.”

Have you seen a chance in the Cincinnati offense since their change at quarterback?
“[I haven’t seen] a lot of change.  The system is the system and it might be a little late [in the season] to change the system.  But there is no question that there is more of a run game.  I think that the snaps are still pretty balanced.  The run to pass ratio is still close to fifty-fifty.  With the two-quarterback system they employed last week, which was very productive for them, is what has been a little more of their niche right now than it was before.”

What makes Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead and good running back?
“First of all, [Isaiah Pead] has got what I would consider to be ‘long speed’.  He gets to the second or third level of the run game.  I don’t know if there are too many teams that can run him down.  He’s very explosive and can cut on a dime.  He’s excellent catching screens.  They will flank him out and throw quick wide receiver screens.  He’s a pretty special back with good hands, good vision and good in protection.”

What clicked for UConn on Saturday?
“I think we started the game well.  We talked during the week about how good Rutgers’ defense is and knew it was going to be very difficult to drive the ball a long way on them.  We thought that we would have to be able to generate some good field position, especially on special teams.  That happened on the first play for us.  Fortunately for us it clicked and Nick [Williams] got us a great return.  It was a short field; we executed and started to play with some momentum.”

What do you credit to not giving up and sacks against Rutgers?
“Pass protection in this day-and-age is a full-time job.  With the way the game has evolved, the one thing you learn about protections and rushing the passer is that it is every single day.  There is not a day that you’re dialed in and focused on pass protection.”

What do you think of this team’s work ethic?
“I think the work ethic of this team is very good.  The one thing that we’ve been, for the most part, is we’ve been competitive every single week.  These kids have worked hard each day of the week.  They’ve worked hard in the weight room.  I think we have a good work ethic, but we can improve.  Everybody is capable of [improving].”

#43, Lyle McCombs, RS Freshman, RB

How big is the confidence level after Rutgers game?
“We knew we could do it all year, but things weren’t falling into place for us and they finally are. This past weekend we were really able to build some great confidence on Nick Williams returns.”

Do you feel like this upcoming game is like a playoff game with a Bowl Game on the line?
“Absolutely, it was a playoff game for us against Rutgers too. We aren’t trying to disappoint the fans.”

Did the team get fed up after the Louisville loss?
“Not so much fed up, we just needed to learn from our mistakes. The great thing about football is that you can take everything to the next game. We are grateful we have the opportunity to take it to the field one more time.”

Was it satisfying to play the best game of the season against Rutgers?
“It definitely was. It was nice not to let them come in our stadium and get a BCS bowl. There has always been animosity between UConn and Rutgers and that felt great.”

#48, Trevardo Williams, Junior, DE

On 12.5 sacks:
“Very happy with that. It is a very big deal for me.”

On meeting in the middle with the quarterback:
“I’ve been practicing this a lot. It shortens the distance and helps me get to the quarterback much faster.”

How do you overcome being undersized for a defensive end?
“Explosiveness. That is the one thing that helped me play against bigger guys. I get to this point from a combination of explosive workouts and aggression. You always have to play fired up.”

#18, Johnny McEntee, RS Junior, QB

On playing two quarterbacks:
“The plan is starting to finally work with two quarterbacks and I think people can finally see where we were going with this.”

 Is the intensity higher in this weekend’s game because of what is at stake for both teams?
“I really do. We are trying to make a Bowl Game and they are trying to win a BIG EAST Championship. Both teams will be trying to play the best football possible. We are looking forward to it.”

#31, Nick Williams, Jr., WR/KR

Is it frustrating to go this long without having a complete performance like you guys did in that one game against Rutgers?
“Yeah I guess it’s kind of frustrating that we haven’t been playing complete football you could say.  Sometimes, that’s just the way it is with a transitional year.  We had new players at a lot of key positions. Not to make excuses or anything, but sometimes it just takes a little while for the ball to get rolling.”

In all honesty, did it mean a little extra to ruin Rutgers’ hope of getting the BCS bid from the BIG EAST?
“Any time you can get a win it’s a nice day.”

You play another team Saturday with a lot to play for, what’s the team’s mindset heading to Cincinnati?
“We’re real focused.  We can’t be worried about any distractions.  We can make a bowl, we don’t make a bowl, we can’t do anything without a win.  We’re just real focused going into this game.  We have to go on the road and beat a real good Cincinnati team.  They have a great record.  They are good on all three phases as well.  It’s going to be a tough game.”

Does having two completely different quarterbacks help the offense keep opponents confused? Does that give you confidence?
“It definitely gives us confidence because it’s basically like the other team has to prepare for two different offenses.  Early on we did a little of this, a little of that, but now we are confident in putting Scotty (McCummings) to do the read option and Johnny (McEntee) to drop back and pass.  Team’s don’t really know what to prepare for or where we’re going to go with either option.”

Are there times when you look across the line and say, “these guys have no idea what’s coming right now”? That must feel good right?
“It’s a good feeling knowing that you confuse the defense.  The game is all mental. Any time you can win a step in that battle makes a big difference.”

The coaches have talked about how important field position has been.  That’s basically you.  Do you take that upon yourself as “I am field position for this team”?
“I put a big responsibility on myself to help the team out in that regard.  Anytime you can eliminate first downs without the offense having to go on the field - that really helps out.  If you get a big return, that’s three or four first downs.  That’s less work the offense needs to do to get in scoring position.