BULLOCK BACK – Center Tyler Bullock’s suspension has been lifted and he is back practicing with the team, according to UConn interim head coach T.J. Weist.
“It was more me and (athletic director) Warde Manuel making the decision,” Weist said on his Thuirsday pre-game conference call. “Going through the legal process with the university and the legal system, we said it was going to be an indefinite suspension. We knew it was going to be at least one game. With him not having a prior record, not really having done anything wrong before, we took that into consideration. And also, the suspension lasted almost two weeks.”
On October 3, Bullock was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and failure to drive right and was suspended indefinitely from the team.
Bullock was stopped by campus police on Celeron Square Drive for failing to drive right while on Hunting Lodge Road in Mansfield. According to the police report, the officer who stopped Bullock suspected him of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and gave him a field sobriety test. Bullock failed the test.
Bullock went to court on Tuesday and was placed in a pretrial diversionary program. If he completes the program, his DUI charge will be dropped.
FOULED UP FIELD – If you’ve gone to any of the four games so far this season at Rentschler Field, you’ve seen them … stadium employees running out during TV commercial timeouts and working feverishly to replace chunks of grass that have been torn up by the UConn football team and their opponents.
And sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
For the last several years, the grass at Rentschler Field has been horrible. For the CIAC state playoffs last December, the field was basically sand and dirt (maybe that’s part of the season the CIAC is moving the games this year to Central Connecticut’s Arute Field) and was loudly ridiculed.
The same thing is happening again.
While the field seemed in solid shape for the season opener back on August 30 versus Towson, since then it has deteriorated rapidly.
On a 49-yard field goal attempt by Huskies kicker Chad Christen in the first quarter, Christen slipped on the field and fell flat on his backside. South Florida kicker Marvin Kloss changed his shoes to try and fight the conditions.
“It (the field) was tough,” Kloss said after the game. “I ended up switching cleats on my clamp foot because on my first couple of kickoffs, I was slipping. It got worse at the game went on, but luckily the equipment manager gave me some screw in cleats which helped a lot.”
Christen and Kloss talked about the field conditions after the game.
“Every kicker who comes into Rentschler Field is like, ‘This is ridiculous.’ “Christen said to the Hartford Courant. “When I tried to change (cleats) my plant foot, the field was in worse condition. It is frustrating. It is a very tough place to play. It’s a grass field in New England, it’s not going to be perfect. But it’s pretty unbelievable. Even when we play on the NFL fields, I’ve never been part of something where your foot sinks five inches. It’s beyond our control. I’ve just got to block it out. I’ve got to make these kicks.”
Interim head coach T.J. Weist tried to be diplomatic about the Rent’s grass, but it’s hard not to.
“There were some issues with it,” Weist said. “There were some divots out there. I thought at times it was loose. Anytime you go to a grass field, the players have to go out and figure out what shoes they’re going to wear. Is it fast? Is it loose? Is the grass high? I thought it was beat up a little bit, I thought guys slipped a little bit, that’s why we (receivers) did some double moves and things like that because we knew guys wouldn’t have good footing. I stress to our team that if you get in that situation, you’d better know where you are. You can’t let one slip, one fall, cost us.”
DRIVING THEM DEEP – Last week, Cole Wagner punted seven times for a remarkable 44.0-yard average and put six of those seven punts inside the 20. South Florida started drives from its own 14, 11, 2, 10, 3 and 9-yard lines thanks to Wagner’s booming leg.
“Cole can be a great weapon for us,” Weist said. “I think he did a good job from that standpoint and I probably could have used him a bit more. When he’s on … he’s on. And I think him punting like that and our punt team downing that ball inside the 10 was a great advantage for us. And I will use that more.”
With Rentschler Field’s grass a cause for concern, Weist said that he’s more likely to bypass the 40- to 50-yard field goal and punt the ball, hopefully pinning the opponent just outside the goal line.
“As the head coach, I’m the one that makes the decision about going for those field goals and I probably could make better decisions from that standpoint,” Weist said. “I was trying to build his (Chad Christen’s) confidence and get some points on the board but I think he (Cole) is a true weapon for us, just like anyone else, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, anyone that is a playmaker for us. I expect him to continue to do that.”
For the season, Wagner has punted 34 times for a 39.4 average. And for his career, he’s punted 271 times for an average of 40.8 yards.
VANN MANS UP – Sophomore linebacker Marquise Vann made his first start of the season against South Florida, replacing Ryan Donahue and contributed four tackles.
“Vann … he did well, he didn’t have a lot of statistics but he played a lot better than what his stats showed,” Weist said. “He was a constant force for us, he played physical, he made some plays for us and really did a good job. He’s been stepping up and playing well.”