The Huskies got the win on Thursday night, but it took a late comeback against an FCS opponent. Some things went right, others went drastically wrong. I’ll break down some of the things that caused UConn to get in the 20-7 hole, as well as how they were able to shut out the Crusaders in the second half while breaking down the defense by quarter. Of course, we start with the 1st.
OPENING DRIVE: Defensive coordinator Billy Crocker utilized the UConn base defense on 1st down and immediately the change from a season ago was apparent. On the outside, cornerbacks Tre’ Bell and Jamar Summers are up tight at the line on their respective WR’s. Redshirt freshman Tyler Coyle is the deepest safety at ten yards off the ball at the snap. Holy Cross has a detached TE which draws LB Chris Britton towards the outside, who fires on a blitz off the right side of the UConn defense. Holy Cross QB Peter Pujals attempts a quick pass to his right where Summers is in perfect position to knock the ball away.
On second down, Holy Cross was able to connect on a chunk play negated by an illegal man downfield, however, this was the first example of how the Crusaders were able to get their receivers open in space. Rather than playing up on the line, the UConn corners appear to be playing a soft zone on the outside as Tre’ Bell is over the top of his outside WR. Pujals looks at his slot receiver at the snap, who is running a quick out, which pulls Bell up and also draws LB Chris Britton, who is shaded to the right of the defense, allowing 16 to get in between the first level of coverage and in front of McAllister, who is on his way from his deep safety spot. Crocker brings pressure again, this time from Cam Stapleton, but Pujals delivers a perfect ball into the gap and McAllister is late arriving and misses the tackle.
After the penalty is enforced, it’s 2nd and 15 as Pujals tries to set up a quick WR screen as Crocker is back to his base man defense, with tight coverage on the outside. Chris Britton comes free on the blitz as the offensive line releases to set up downfield blocking, but the Huskies have this one sniffed out, as DE Luke Carrezola recognizes the lines’ release and with Summers up tight, Pujals has no where to go with the ball. He pulls it down and Britton records the sack.
On 3rd and forever after a snap infraction, UConn brings in a new package with six DB’s, you can call it their dime package. In practice, AJ Garson would replace Cole Ormsby and you’d see Marshe’ Terry and true freshman Omar Fortt sub in as well, which is what you see here. UConn shows a lot of pressure here pre-snap (6) and Crocker does dial up a blitz, this time with just LB Junior Joseph as the others showing pressure drop at the snap. DL Foley Fatukasi is able to beat his man to get additional pressure on Pujals, who is forced out of the pocket to his left and delivers a strike on a comeback that is well short of the first down. Early on especially, you can see UConn getting pressure with just four, which is a good sign. We’ll see if it continues as Fatukasi will only see part of another series before his targeting call.
TOTAL DRIVE: 3 PLAYS, -2 YARDS
SECOND DRIVE: On first down, Holy Cross runs play action out of the gun and with the entire o-line pulling to their left, captures the attention of the majority of the UConn defense, inlcuding S Anthony Watkins and LB Chris Britton, who hesitates on his blitz, giving Pujals time to his receiver on a slant for a pickup of 14 yards. This is the play that Fatukasi is called for targeting afer he was able to get pressure up the middle on his own.
After the loss of Fatukasi, the Huskies quickly get Holy Cross into a 3rd and 7 situation and UConn subs in their dime package, including Sheridan Lawley in for Kevin Murphy at NT. Omar Fortt, who made his collegiate debut as a true freshman comes on a blitz as the Huskies bring six on the play, but Pujals confidently stays in the pocket and delivers a strike over the middle, despite solid coverage from McAllister for the first down.
After the conversion, Holy Cross picked up the tempo going no huddle, but found themselves in a 3rd and long following several misdirection plays including a swinging gate that saw an illegal lineman downfield as well as a failed WR reverse that Cole Ormsby forced to the outside, allowing Summers to force him out of bounds on the edge. DE Luke Carrezola was able to get serious pressure on Pujals, causing an incompletion on 3rd down, before Holy Cross went for it on 4th and 8 from the UConn 40 yard line. The Crusaders set up a nicely designed WR screen that went for the first down, followed with another first down on a pass that brought the Crusaders inside the red zone for the first time all night, where they settled for a field goal. They ran one more play in the 1st quarter, to start the third drive of the game.
TOTAL 1ST QUARTER: 17 plays, 74 yards, 4.35 yards/play, 3 total points