UConn defense dominates UMass in 37-0 win
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012 00:08
59 total yards. Three first downs. 11 punts. On offenes, there was not so much as a sniff of the endzone.
The UConn defense swarmed and suffocated the UMass attack all night in a performance that shined from the line to the secondary. Returning nine starters from a year ago, the Huskies flowed to the ball exceptionally well and set the table for the offense with good field position on each possession.
“Defensively we really, really played well, “ said coach Paul Paqualoni. “Considering this was the first game of the season, we did very well. We’ve got things to work on…but got the win and played a lot of people.”
The tone was set early on as the Huskies forced an immediate three-and-out from the Minutemen backed up in their own end. Over the course of the first quarter, UConn pushed UMass back for seven negative yards over nine plays. The next drive for the visitors was no better when back-up defensive back Andrew Adams tossed Jordan Broadnax for a nine-yard loss. The loss was sandwiched by two plays of no-gains.
The Huskies totaled 13 tackles for loss on the night.
“I thought that we did a very good job on first down,” Pasqualoni said. “They were in a lot of second and longs. It seemed like they never got ahead of the chains. We had field positon all night and I think our play on first down was most impressive, to me.”
The biggest play of the opening half came on a third-down pass intercepted by Dwayne Gratz. Playing sticky man-to-man defense the entire night, the senior corner snatched the errant ball thrown towards the sidelines and raced it to the end zone. The pick-six pushed UConn to a 20-0 edge and picked up the slack after recent offensive drives that stalled at midfield.
Gratz’s pullaway speed was notable. Not a single Minuteman player had a chance to catch him on the return. Speed was in abundance on the defensive side of the ball.
“I don’t know if we’re gonna look that fast next week,” Pasqualoni said. “But tonight we looked pretty fast. We’ve got some guys who can really run…We’ve got some guys that are pretty athletic.”
The second half yielded little more for the Minutemen offense, which suffered from pressure all night. Senior defensive end Trevardo Wlliams broke through on a third-down pass play and smashed into freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn for his twentieth career quarterback takedown. Pasqualoni called off his starting dogs late in the game, but the second-unit followed suit, allowing eight yards over two drives.
“I thought from a defensive standpoint we hit what we thought what we could get,” Pasqualoni said. “We met our expectations”
Rolling to his left midway through the first quarter, Chandler Whitmer seemed to have made the smart decision. With coverage downfield blanketing all possible Husky receivers, the redshirt sophomore quarterback let the ball sail towards the sidelines. Problem was the football never got out of bounds.
Tapped back into play by leaping safety Darren Thellen, the errant ball was picked off by linebacker Tom Brandt and returned to midfield for the first of three UConn turnovers. Whitmer tossed another interception later in the game, on a reverse of his earlier fluke, a good decision matched with poor execution. Rolling right again, the signal caller lofted one right into the breadbasket of corner Antoine Tharpe.
“Three turnovers is not acceptable,” Pasqualoni remarked postgame. “So we’ve got to go back to that this week.”
The quotable Paul Pasqualoni
“Don’t worry about plays. We could wallpaper this room with plays.” – Coach P upon being asked whether the team had revealed too much of the playbook to future opponents.