Huskies running game seeks improvement
One of the most discussed facets of the UConn football offense of late has been the performance of the run game.
Last weekend against Rutgers, the Huskies only managed 53 rushing yards and scored zero rushing touchdowns. Sophomore running back Lyle McCombs only rushed for 32 yards in the 12 times that he touched the football. McCombs only played in three quarters of the game against Rutgers, due to an arrest for second-degree breach of peace. Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni feels that off- the-field issues may have contributed to his performance in the game.
"Anytime things happen they're a distraction, let's be honest," said Pasqualoni. "Was he distracted? Probably he was, but I thought when he got to the game he was upbeat. He didn't know what was going to happen, but he was focused and ready to go."
UConn is ranked 107th in the country in rushing this year, with 613 yards on 219 attempts. The Huskies have seven rushing touchdowns on the season and average just 102.2 yards a game. Pasqualoni has been very outspoken that the play of the run game has been a work in progress for much of the year, but he has not lost faith in the run game's potential for the rest of the season.
"My point to you guys is 'no way am I discouraged by it,'" said Pasqualoni. "We got three guys who have been playing who really didn't play last year very much and were playing really good teams. Just last week the team we played just happened to be a really good team. I wish we had finished a couple things, I wish we had beaten them off the ball in a few places, but those things didn't happen."
Offensive line working hard to support the run game
UConn's offensive line has been trying to improve in order to support the play of the running backs. The offensive line has seen some changes over the past few weeks. Junior Tyler Bullock was moved from the guard position to center and has shown improvement in his game, according to Pasqualoni.
In order for the UConn run game to improve, it is important for the offensive line to work together as a cohesive unit. However, Pasqualoni said that it's more than just the play of the offensive line, but rather the offensive unit as a whole.
"Were working really hard at the run game," said Pasqualoni. "Sometimes when you look at the big picture and you start to do the statistical thing and how efficient it is, there are more people involved than just the offensive line."
Looking ahead to Temple
UConn will face their second Big East opponent of the season this Saturday when the Temple Owls come to Rentschler field for the first time since 2007. The Owls are coming off a 37-28 victory over South Florida, and a 2-2 season so far. Pasqualoni will spend the week preparing his team for an expected hard fought game. "Temple is going to come in and they're going to play hard," said Pasqualoni. "I promise you, you are going to see effort out of that team."
The Owls boost a strong core of running backs, including senior Montel Harris, who was named offensive player of the week after his 133 yard performance against South Florida. Harris, a Boston College transfer, has 168 yards on the ground, as well as 65 yards receiving to complement his two rushing touchdowns. Pasqualoni is expecting Harris to be a big contributor to the Temple offense. "Montel Harris, the transfer from Boston College is really a downhill tough runner," said Pasqualoni. "I would say he's going to run their power game and zones very well, no question."
The quotable Paul Pasqualoni
Coach P on sensing frustration with the season thus far,
"We have played six games; we have played some good teams in that bunch of six. I think we have battled, every one of those games were winnable games. I think it magnifies the need for detail."
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