SHIRREFFS LATE GAME HEROICS ON OPENING NIGHT
Redshirt senior QB Bryant Shirreffs was asked to lead his team from behind in yet another second half season opening comeback, coming off the bench in this one, marking the third straight year he’s done so. This one took a little extra, as he entered with just under two minutes left in the third, trailing 20-7. Five plays later it was 20-14 and the Huskies were on their way, scoring three TD’s in the four possessions prior to running out the clock. Following the game, he was quick to defer praise to his teammates, rather than take the credit for himself, exemplifying the leadership qualities he brings to such an important position.
“You all act like it was me, but there’s eleven guys on the field and they made plays when I was on the field and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “In my mind I thought of myself as the starting quarterback this week. It doesn’t bother me whether I am or whether I’m not, as long as we are in the best position to win. All that, you can ask Coach Edsall, but for me I’m always going to prepare like I’m taking the snaps. The worst feeling in the world would be being put into a position where you weren’t ready to succeed. Whenever you get the opportunity, you need to make the most of it.”
EYE DISCIPLINE HURT DEFENSE
With a switch to a new system, especially defensively, plays are going to be given up as assignments are missed in the first live game action running the defense. Holy Cross threw the ball 56 times on Thursday night, but even with a number that significant, it probably wasn’t enough. Throughout the first half, en route to a 20-7 lead, Crusaders QB Peter Pujals picked apart the 3-3-5 and specifically the middle of the defense with play fake after play fake that caught defenders biting, pulling themselves out of position, leaving wide open space for receivers to run freely. I’ll have much more of a breakdown of this issue in the first half in this week’s film session and it’s something the UConn defense will need to clean up quickly ahead of a matchup with an experience and talent-laden USF offense and Heisman Trophy candidate Quinton Flowers. Strides were made in the second half, which is something that head coach Randy Edsall echoed on this afternoon’s conference call.
“We have to do a better job overall; offense, defense and special teams,” Edsall said. “Defensively, we have to rely on focusing on the fundamentals and the techniques. One of the things is we did have some eye violations as well and once we started doing some of those things in the second half, we were better. In the first half, they were 4-for-11 on third downs, so they were able to extend some drives. In the second half, they were 0-for-6 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down, so that was the kind of the difference right there. We started playing a little bit better with our fundamentals and our techniques and guys were doing the things they needed to do. We need to get a lot better with a lot of things right now, but very happy that we did get the win.”
LINEBACKER POSITION GETS EVEN THINNER
Senior middle linebacker Junior Joseph went down with what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury in the third quarter, leaving the Huskies defense without their entire projected starting linebackers as they began spring football back in April. E.J. Levenberry suffered a likely season ending ACL injury in the spring and Vontae Diggs injured his MCL in training camp, although it seems his return this year is promising, perhaps as soon as week two. Joseph’s status is unknown, but Edsall did suggest a further update after a full evaluation would be given on Tuesday when he meets the media.