A STEP BACK – A week after the UConn offensive line celebrated the return of Mike Foley as coach with a 207-yard game on the ground against South Florida, it was back to the same old running on empty in Saturday’s 41-16 pounding at the hands of Cincinnati.
“This game we took a step back,” interim head coach T.J. Weist said in his Sunday conference call. “We took a step back as an offense. We took a step back from a line standpoint.”
Max DeLorenzo (46 yards), Martin Hyppolite (40 yards) and Lyle McCombs (24 yards) led the way as the Huskies gained 120 yards but they were also victimized by eight sacks against quarterback Tim Boyle, accounting for 64 yards in losses (according to NCAA stats, sacks are considered runs) leaving UConn with just 56 yards on the ground.
“We got some penetration, we had a couple decent runs,” Weist said. “But when you get the run game going like we did last week, obviously you throw less and you can mix it up better and that gives you a little more confidence. When the run game’s average, there’s frustration in the line, it makes it even worse from a confidence standpoint.”
Starting right guard Gus Cruz did not play Saturday due to what UConn officials are calling “cardiovascular symptoms.” Sophomore Tyler Samra took Cruz’s place and Tyler Bullock (back from suspension) also played, as did Xavier Hemmingway, Dalton Gifford and Bryan Paull.
“They both (Samra and Bullock) spilt time and they both … I think at times Tyler (Samra) played well, at times he was average and made some mistakes,” Weist said. “He (Samra) made a mistake at the goal line that cost us. His man beat him across his face and we were running right behind him. Tyler (Bullock) came in and was a little rusty. (Bullock) probably did a little bit better in the run game. They just did OK. We’ve got to be better up front. That hurt us not to have Gus play.”
GETTING SACKED – In his two games as starting quarterback, freshman Tim Boyle has taken a pounding. Boyle was sacked eight times by the Bearcats in that 41-16 loss and has already been sacked 11 times overall. Chandler Whitmer had been sacked 20 times in the opening four games.
Add them up, that’s 31 sacks in six games. Ouch.
Bring up that topic to Weist and the coach knows there’s a lot of blame to pass around.
“A good portion of those sacks (against Cincinnati) were a young quarterback not making a decision and understanding when he’s got to get rid of the ball from a timing standpoint,” Weist said. “They had good coverage and good pressure on him but he’s got to learn to throw the ball on time. There was pressure on him early and I think that affected him later when he tired to step up and throw it and he hesitated and then felt like he had nowhere to go with and got sacked.”
But it wasn’t just Boyle’s inexperience, it was the disappointing play of the line that also led to the pounding the young quarterback took.
“A good combination of those sacks was the line getting beat and the quarterback not making quick decisions and getting of the ball,” Weist said.
Trailing throughout the game, led to the Huskies using four or five receivers and no running back to pick up the blitz – which the Bearcats did with regularity – and it was tough for the linemen, and the quarterback, to have enough time to make plays.
“We were in ‘empty’ (backfield) a lot just trying to spread the ball around,” Boyle said after the game. “They brought a couple of blitzes, so when they’re playing zero and they bring blitz, it’s hard to complete the ball so you either have to take the sack or try to burn it.”
WHERE’S THE D? – The numbers are staggering. Cincinnati gained 525 yards of total offense (388 passing and 137 rushing) and scored 41 points. But the most telling stat was this: Bearcats quarterback Brendon Key was not sacked. The UConn defensive line never got close to taking him down.
But then, they haven’t gotten close to any opposing quarterback this season. In six games, the Huskies have totaled five sacks. And when the quarterback has all day to throw, you can put up huge offensive numbers.
“We didn’t get a lot of pressure defensively on the quarterback,” Weist said. “We let (Brendon) Kay just stand back there and chuck it up there and those plays made some plays. Their receivers all across the board made some good downfield catches when he had time to throw it. They made big plays.”
In their six losses, UConn’s defense is allowing 30.7 points a game and 377.7 yards of total offense.
“Defensively, we have to get more pressure on the quarterback,” Weist said.
CRUZ IN QUESTION – The status of guard Gus Cruz remains uncertain as the 6-foot-4, 309-pound junior is dealing with a medical issue.
“Gus has got some cardiac issue,” Weist said Sunday. “It wasn’t really an injury, it’s a cardiac issue that we’ve got to determine exactly what it is. So there’s not very much to comment about. We just found out about it late in the week and they (the doctors) just couldn’t allow him to play with any kind of cardiac issue. We’ve just got to get some things worked out, so we’re not sure when he’ll be back. He has to have some tests done and it’s a whole different medical arena when you start talking about those issues.”