The UConn Huskies' first real test of the young 2011 football season came last Saturday night, as the Huskies traveled to Nashville to face perennial SEC whipping-boy Vanderbilt. The Commodores are coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons and have only produced one winning season since going 8-4 in 1982.
UConn rode into the Music City with some questions surrounding their football team, not the least of which is who will be the Huskies quarterback in 2011?
Unfortunately for Paul Pasqualoni, that question remains unanswered. Although it seemed Pasqualoni had finally settled on Johnny McEntee as his starter, he can't feel good about his decision after Saturday's performance.
The junior quarterback completed only ten of his 27 pass attempts for just 99 yards. McEntee was responsible for all four Huskies turnovers, including a fourth-quarter interception by Commodores cornerback Robby Barbieri, which was returned for a game-tying touchdown. As bad as it sounds, it could've been worse for McEntee, as Vanderbilt's defense dropped a couple easy interceptions.
Statistics aside, McEntee never looked comfortable under center. Although Vanderbilt's front seven did a good job of creating pressure, there were times where McEntee's indecision led to sacks.
McEntee's inability to look off the coverage, coupled with his poor decision making, ultimately resulted in three interceptions for the Huskies quarterback.
On the bright side, the Huskies defense did more than their fair share in this game. The defense produced the Huskies' only two touchdowns of the night, including a blocked punt in the end zone by Byron Jones.
The Huskies' second touchdown came late, as Sio Moore's forced fumble was picked up by freshman linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who took it 64 yards to the house to give the Huskies the lead.
The defense added two interceptions and recorded seven sacks, all while holding the Commodores to 2-16 on third downs.
With senior tailback D.J. Shoemate sidelined with an injury, true freshman Lyle McCombs got the majority of the carries for the Huskies. McCombs carried the ball 27 times for 118 yards—an impressive feat considering the Commodores stacked the box against the Huskies' weak passing game.
The Huskies play at home next Saturday night against Iowa State (2-0). The Cyclones are coming off a thrilling triple-overtime win against rival Iowa on Saturday.
It will be interesting to see if Pasqualoni will stick with McEntee or call on freshman Michael Nebrich to take the snaps at Rentschler next week. Either way, the Huskies need to find a way to generate some offense before they enter conference play against West Virginia on October 8th.