Dec. 3, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team concludes its 2013 season on Saturday when it takes on Memphis at 1:00 p.m. at Rentschler Field for Senior Day. We ask all Husky fans to be in their seats at 12:30 p.m. for the Senior Day ceremony. The game will be seen on ESPN3 and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
UConn has won its last two games and brings an overall record of 2-9 into the game while Memphis has lost two in a roiw and is 3-8. UConn is 2-5 in the American Athletic Conference while the Tigers are 1-6. The game will be the first-ever meeting between the team teams.
UConnHuskies.com will once against host an online chat during the game.
Tuesday was Media Day in Storrs. Here are quotes and video from the event.
Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist
Opening statement: "This was a great team win. Our guys really did a great job. The staff and team pulled together, building off the momentum from last week's win. It wasn't a fluke that we came out and put everything together for a full game after doing that in the second half of the last game. It was special for us to do it against Rutgers, a worthy opponent and our biggest rival. It was nice to beat them in our last meeting with them. They have a really good football team and a good coach. I respect what he does. I was really proud of our team and their effort. They stuck together for four quarters and finished off the game with good character and class, the way UConn should be represented. Our staff is proud of the product of the last game. We are playing the way we should play and will do that again this week. We have to come out to practice and work on the fundamentals and effort and finishing."
On whether the two game winning streak is a result of an attitude change with the team: "It's more about getting results. They have worked hard and stuck together. Fundamentals are going to win football games like they always do. It's not something we did that's necessarily out of character for this team. We just finally made plays and didn't beat ourselves. We didn't have turnovers and we created turnovers. You want your team to respond to us coaching and to their teammates and play with enthusiasm. Guys were into it the whole game. It's what we expect every game. When we don't win it's a disappointment."
On the importance of getting a win to send the seniors out on a high note: "It's unbelievably important. It's critical to send these guys off right, because this senior class has been through the ups and downs. They've had to go through two losing seasons after perhaps the best season in program history in 2010. And then they had to deal with the coaching change this season and the emotional aspect of that. Now they've fighting back and winning some games and we want to send them off with some momentum. I want them to know they were part of something special. It may not be winning a championship or a winning season but I feel they could at least be a part of something that didn't go right, but they made it right."
On the successful play of wide receiver Geremy Davis this season: "I'm not surprised. He's one of the hardest workers on the football team not just this season either. Every day he works at his craft and stays after practice to work on his technique. It's been a tough year for him with the inconsistency at quarterback. He could be producing a lot more. If you put him in a system where they throw a lot more, he would have better numbers because he is a competitor. He doesn't want to come off the field and he wants the ball at critical times. He's one of the most competitive players I have ever been around. He has a great chance to have a career year and go onto the next level."
On what he liked most about Casey Cochran's improvement from his first two starts to his third start: "Continued decision-making. Every game is going to have critical situations where you have to make those decisions so I think he's continuing to make those decisions even better this game because he didn't have any turnovers. He led the team to an overall victory for the whole game. So I think it was the fact that he put together a complete game, with no turnovers, with good decision-making. And you're always going to take some chances, always going have other players help you out. But I think the fact that he put together a complete game, led our team as the leader on offense to a victory through all four quarters, was a good leader on and off the field, I think he's earning more and more respect as he goes. There's nothing I can say that he's unbelievably different between now and the first two games. He's just making sound decisions with the football."
On what Max DeLorenzo has done to earn more playing time: "Every time he gets the ball he does something with it, that's all it is. That's all you want from players, when they get the ball they do something with it, they make plays. For a running back you want him to make good cuts when he gets the ball in his hands. He always ends up going forward, he's always ready to go again. He's excited about it, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever had. Part of confidence is making plays. He's always had a good attitude and now it's even more important you have a good attitude when you're playing and when you're a vital part of the offense which he has become."
On if Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain is one of the best UConn will see this year: "I think so. He is a top player. He'll be a tough guy to run routes against because he's one of the better playmakers we've seen. I respect his game because of what he does he's fast, he's athletic, he's tough, you watch him on film and you can tell he's a tough player. He's physically a tough player but he's a tough competitor at corner. I think he's a guy they can trust."
On the seniors on the offensive line and their improvement: "You know I think they've kind of just pulled it together. After the first part of the season where we had a lot of sacks they caught a lot of the criticism. I think they've stepped it up and played better and more consistent every game. I think Dalton (Gifford) has stepped in and done a good job. They've pulled a decision as a group that they were going to keep guys off our quarterback. I think they take a lot of pride in that nad take pride in the run game, coming off the ball and being able to run the ball. I think our team has done a better job of starting faster, scoring early, not getting behind. I think our line has taken pride in that."
On the impact on the staff of a coaching change and uncertain future: "Well these situations are always tough on any staff. Our guys have done a great job, both offensively, defensively, and on special teams. Every day, holding it together and motivating our players - it's not just me getting up there and talking to them, it's our whole staff. Buying in, having our whole staff be `all-in' in a tough situation. For the players it's a season, for us, it's our careers. So it's not easy. It's never easy. I commend them for working hard, for staying together, for being aggressive with their players, keeping them together, for coaching hard during a game and at all times in practice. A coach can easily give up, just like a player can, on a season. Our guys have not done that. They've worked hard, they've been loyal to the university, moreover to me and us, to our staff, and to this team. So I'm proud of them from that standpoint. They've done a really good job. We've got one more game to go and then we'll see from there. We're not basing whether we get the job or not, whether I get the job or not, on our effort or our performance in practice today or the game Saturday. That's how we have to look at it as coaches. All the coaches know that if we want to continue working here, the best bet is to do a great job while we're here."
On the success of other UConn athletic teams and how that helps the atmosphere on campus: "The teams at this university continue to win, which they have done for all time. It does help our players. It brings an air of confidence to the university, to the campus, to the players. A lot of the players live in the same areas, they work together. It makes a huge difference. It's the pride in Connecticut. We say this all the time - we're playing for UConn. Pride in our performance, for your university, for your teammates... all of those things play a big role in our motivation. It's a big part of it so I take big pride in the other sports and the other players on that sports. It's a big help for us. Did you see [the basketball game against Florida] last night? It gets you real excited. Then all the fans and everybody gets excited about football winning, and they talk about it and they give our players confidence. You walk into the game last night and players get congratulated. Same thing with basketball players here, everybody's excited about them winning . Same with other sports, other athletes. Coaches congratulate each other, because they deserve it. When teams win, people respect that. You respect coaches and teams that work hard, that put it together and represent the university well. It's pride in UConn, and that's what we want. We want our campus to be proud of us winning but also proud of the way we do it. Coaches, players, everybody involved. That's the great thing about working here, that's the great thing about this campus is that our athletic department, our teams win and they win with class. We've seen other teams that don't win with class. Our athletes win with class and take a lot of pride in it. That's how we want to win."
On Shamar Stephen as a force on the defensive line: "He's been consistent. Like we said before, being a senior lots of NFL scouts have been coming in repeatedly to watch him because he's getting a lot of attention because of his consistency. You're not going to find a defensive lineman or nose guard that just make plays all the time because they're going to be double-teamed. But he's very consistent, he's a force inside, he doesn't get knocked down a lot. He's gotten better all season. It seems like every game he gets better. I tell anybody that asks about him is that the's one of our best leaders - he's one for our team captains. The players respect him, the coaches respect him. He works hard and he has a good attitude every day. He walks in, he has a good attitude. He comes to work every day. He gets the team motivated and we trust him in everything that we do. The coaches and players trust him. I think that makes a big difference, especially if you want to play at the next level. The NFL guys want to know how important is football to the player, and football's very important to him. He shows that every day by working hard, by studying the opponent, and then by going out and performing."
On evaluating his year as a coach: "It's easy to say that I've gotten better as a head coach because we're winning games. That's the ultimate deciding factor to if someone is doing their job better. I think it's hard for me to rate myself because it's easy of me to be critical of the things I've done. I want to win more than anyone. I'm going to work harder than anybody. I'm trying to be more and be more efficient in everything that I do as a coach. I'm also trying to be more aware of the other factors involved in coaching, whether that be reaching out to players or families. I think one of the things I've focused on is to not just be a better coach on the football field every game but to try and reach out to the families, parents of the players and alumni to be involved with the university. I try to go to the other sports games and be supportive of those things. It's a learning process for me as it's the first time I've done it. I've been around a lot of good head coaches that have gone through the process so I have learned from them. The bottom line is we have won some games and we'd like to win one more."
On the senior class: "I meet with those guys every week. I think they do a good job and are very serious about leading this team. I've been around different senior classes before; some are average and some are great. I think them coming together and leading this team to these victories late in the season is good. They've been very mature about their approach every day. I'm proud of them from that standpoint. They deserve the recognition that they will get on Senior Day on Saturday. They get the respect of the guys on the team and the coaches. No one may ever look at this team and see anything special about it because of our record but the respect that the senior class gets for finishing off this season makes the difference."