Offensive line’s “want to” has run game making strides

STORRS – Tailback Max DeLorenzo had seen it more and more, first on the game film and then on the field, from his offensive line over the last couple of weeks.
He called it “Want to.”
The “want to” to get that extra couple of yards. The “want to” to move the chains and get another first down. The “want to” to get the ball down into the red zone. The “want to” to score a touchdown.
That “want to” resulted in the UConn Huskies first victory of the season on Saturday as the Huskies offense engineered three second half touchdown drives in a 28-21 comeback victory over Temple in Philadelphia. After rushing just 15 times for 29 yards in the first half and netting just 45 yards (on six completions) in the passing game, the offensive line put that “want to” on display in the second half, as UConn rushed 25 times for 95 yards, putting together scoring drives of 75, 58 and 50 yards, totaling 16:25 in time of possession.
“Our line has done a much better job,” DeLorenzo said. “Just a little more ‘want to’ and fight out of them is what we’ve been seeing from them on film.”
It was the second straight 100-plus yard rushing game for the Huskies, who posted 124 against Temple and 158 versus SMU. And it was the second straight game that both Lyle McCombs and DeLorenzo, had solid games DeLorenzo had 61 yards in 18 carries against the Owls and has 123 yards in his last two games (and two touchdowns) while McCombs had 51 yards against Temple and has 154 yards in his last two games.
“That’s our goal every week. We want to be able to come out and run the ball,” guard Steve Greene said. “Because by us being able to run the ball, we can control the game. We keep the ball and we keep the other offense off the field, we keep our defense rested. That’s what our goal is coming out every week. It has been encouraging to see.”
The slow, but steady, progress has come, thanks to a return to more basic, and more physical, mindset from offensive line coach Mike Foley (who replaced George DeLeone after the Buffalo game). In these six games since the switch, the O line is averaging 115.7 yards a game rushing – as opposed to just 45.7 in the opening four games.
“I think really it’s more mentality,” Greene said. “A lot of the schemes have stayed the same but coach Foley has installed a different type of mentality in us that it’s a dog fight out there and you’ve got to play physical. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, just be physical and good things can happen.”
Another difference is that both McCombs and DeLorenzo are apparently running with more authority.
“I think the difference has been that me and Lyle were able to break some up the middle, he broke some outside and then, throw me in there, a different type of back that just goes downhill,” DeLorenzo said. “He likes to make people miss and I go straight ahead. We complement each other nicely. We knew if we could get a lead and just run the ball and manage the game like that, it would help the quarterback makes throws and … we’re in the end zone.”
In that tying, 14-play touchdown drive, UConn needed six cracks from the one to get in before Casey Cochran scored – but they were not to be denied.
“It was a lot of fun,” Cochran said. “Throwing touchdowns and all that is one thing but when you’re in those grueling drives and going down the field and it’s like, a third down and you look to the guy next to you, you look to the O line and everyone wants it at the same time, they all want to drive all the way down the field and that feeling was great.”