After starting off their 2011 campaign with a 1-0 win against Fordham, the UConn Huskies evened out their record on Saturday with a 24-21 loss at Vanderbilt.
All in all, it was a rough loss for the Huskies, who led late in the fourth quarter and put together a solid performance throughout the game. The Huskies showed resiliency after Vanderbilt jumped out to an early first-quarter lead—a good sign for their new head coach, Paul Pasqualoni.
Here's a report card grading each facet of the Huskies game last weekend.
UConn's quarterback situation has been well-documented and highly scrutinized. Entering Week 2, it was unsure as to who Pasqualoni would use for the majority of the snaps. Although all three quarterbacks saw game action, McEntee got the nod.
Needless to say, it did not go well.
I really don't want to pile more blame on this kid any more than everyone (myself included) already has, but Johnny McEntee did not play well on Saturday night.
He was responsible for all four of the team's turnovers, including three interceptions and one in the fourth quarter. His completion percentage was below 40 percent and he failed to throw for more than 100 yards.
It's being reported that, despite McEntee's ineffectiveness, Pasqualoni is sticking with the junior. Obviously his head coach believes he has more to offer than what we saw in the Vanderbilt game, and McEntee showed flashes of being a starting quarterback.
Overall Grade: D-
With senior tailback D.J. Shoemate out with an injury, redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs took the ball and ran with it, literally.
The pint-sized running back invokes shades of Darren Sproles with his shifty upfield running and No. 43 jersey. McCombs carried the ball 27 times for 118 yards against a defensive front committed to stopping the run.
Following up his big game against Fordham with another solid performance shows that this kid is no fluke. With D.J. Shoemate most likely returning to action next week against Iowa State, McCombs is unlikely to see nearly as many carries.
That being said, look for the quick scatback to both spell and compliment the thunderous Shoemate.
Overall Grade: A-
Kashif Moore and the rest of the Huskies' wide receivers had a tough time getting chances to shine with McEntee's spotty quarterback play.
The receiveing corps combined for only 55 yards on six receptions for the entire night. That being said, when called upon, the receivers did a solid job of making some grabs and showed the ability to get open against the Vanderbilt secondary.
Freshman Tebucky Jones Jr. made an impressive third-down grab on a high throw from McEntee, catching the ball before getting whacked by a Vanderbilt defensive back.
Overall Grade: B-
Huskies tight end Ryan Griffin led the UConn receivers with four receptions for 47 yards against Vanderbilt. His biggest gain came on a 30-yard reception on a beautifully thrown ball by McEntee.
The 6'6" junior from New Hampshire is getting some NFL looks and is currently rated as a Top 10 tight end for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Griffin has also been named to the preseason watch list for the 2011 John Mackey Award, which recognizes the most outstanding tight end in college football.
Griffin showed off his receiving skills, but also contributed in the running game as well. All things considered, Griffin had himself a solid game that will hopefully be yet another step in solidifying himself as one of the better tight ends in college football.
Overall Grade: A-
The veteran UConn offensive line had a tough assignment on Saturday. Although Vanderbilt is not necessarily known for their defensive line, it is one of the stronger points of their team.
Couple that with the blitz packages and a focus on stopping the run, and the offensive line had their work cut out for them.
Despite a solid performance by Lyle McCombs, someone besides the quarterback needs to be blamed for the offense's utter futility, and it's easy to point fingers at the guys up front.
Led by senior All-Big East tackle Mike Ryan and preseason All-Big East selection center Moe Petrus, the offensive line needs to make improvements in this week's game against Iowa State.
Overall Grade: C-
Uconn's defense played extremely well as a unit, with the Huskies' down linemen doing a particularly exceptional job. The defense recorded seven sacks for a net loss of 46 yards—with 3.5 of those sacks coming from the defensive line.
They also added 5.5 tackles for loss for good measure. The UConn defensive front was giving Vanderbilt's offense a whole lot of trouble.
Junior Teddy Jennings put in a terrific individual performance, posting four tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.
It's going to be exciting to see if the Huskies defensive line can continue this productivity throughout the rest of the season.
Overall Grade: A
In 2010, the Huskies graduated all three of their starting linebackers, two of which, Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson, moved onto the NFL.
However, you might not have known that after watching last week's game. Juniors Sio Moore and Jerome Jory led the Huskies' linebacker corps with exceptional individual performances. Jory may have led the Huskies in tackles with eight, but it was Moore who stood head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Moore contributed six tackles of his own, but it was the havoc he wreaked in the Commodores' backfield that turned some heads. Moore led the Huskies' defensive assault with 3.5 sacks, one of which included a forced fumble, returned for a touchdown by freshman linebacker Yawin Smallwood.
It's exciting to see this relatively inexperienced group perform so well, so early. Who knows, maybe UConn is becoming the next linebacker U.
Overall Grade: A
Junior safety Jerome Junior led the Huskies' secondary and tied for the team lead in tackles with eight. He also led the Huskies with two pass breakups.
The secondary was responsible for one of Larry Smith's two interceptions during the game. The pick was courtesy of cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who returned it 18 yards.
Aside from allowing a few big plays, the Huskies' secondary performed admirably on the road. However, Vanderbilt's passing game rivaled Connecticut's in inefficiency at times, which does concern me moving forward.
Overall Grade: B
Aside from the blocked punt (and what a play that was), I was not overly impressed with the Huskies' special teams on Saturday.
But positives come first.
The blocked punt for a touchdown could not have come at a better time, and, had the Huskies held on to win, it would have undoubtedly been the memorable moment of the game.
Dave Teggart made both field goals (although chip shots), and did everything that was asked of him throughout the game.
That being said, I was not impressed with the Huskies' return game, and although Richard Kent did blast a punt 67 yards, his average—excluding his long—was only 37 yards. There were definitely some good things here, but I think the coaching staff would agree that it is not yet where it needs to be.
Overall Grade: B
Paul Pasqualoni and the rest of his coaching staff did a solid job in this game. Although it didn't yield the best results, I support the coach's decision to stick with McEntee as the starter throughout the game.
I also really like Pasqualoni showing faith in the kid by immediately naming him the starter for this Saturday's game against Iowa State. Clearly they see something in McEntee, and, although fleeting, he showed signs of becoming a quality starting quarterback. We know he has the accuracy to do it—it's now up to the coaching staff to make sure he's ready.
Overall Grade: B+