INJURY UPDATE – Aside from a couple of bumps and bruises to defensive ends Angelo Pruitt and Jesse Joseph, the Huskies came out of Saturday’s win over Rutgers pretty healthy heading into this week’s season finale against Memphis.
Pruitt suffered a foot injury early in the second quarter but returned in the second half and Joseph left with an elbow injury in the second quarter.
“Angelo should be OK,” interim head coach T.J. Weist said on his Sunday post-game conference call. “He came back and played and he was OK this morning, it wasn’t serious. We think he’ll be all right. Jesse had some damage to his elbow, we don’t know yet whether it’s a strained ligament. We may be able to brace him up. He’ll be day-to-day but it’s nothing too serious. We have to wait for the swelling to go down. With the elbow, sometimes you can brace that thing up and play. Those were the only two injures we had that were really significant.”
A MATTER OF TRUST – He’s not the prototypical quarterback. He’s not big, athletic and really doesn’t have a rifle for an arm. But Casey Cochran has a lot more working in his favor. He’s smart. He’s experienced. And he’s a leader.
After working out the kinks in his opening start three weeks ago in a loss at SMU, Cochran, a redshirt freshman, has guided the Huskies to two straight victories, the latest a 28-17 win over rival Rutgers, where he completed 25 of 33 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s (Casey) been doing great. It all starts in practice,” receiver Geremy Davis said. “This guy’s always been a leader and now that he’s got the starting role he’s just been pushing and pushing to get better.”
Cochran hooked up with Davis five times for 98 yards, while he also connected with Deshon Foxx for nine catches and 117 yards (both career highs). In addition, he found Brian Lemelle for a three-yard touchdown pass and Dhameer Bradley for an 18-yard TD strike.
“He doesn’t look like the typical quarterback but he’s smart and he gets the ball in there,” Foxx said. “I’m not complaining. He’s a great quarterback. I’m glad to have him.”
“As soon as he got that stating job, he’s taken advantage of it,” added Davis. “He’s a leader. He wants perfection in practice and in games, he wants it even more.”
Cochran engineered scoring drives of 79, 31, 80 and 56 yards as the Huskies have now won two straight for the first time in just over a year.
“Casey did a good job of handling the offense from a leadership standpoint,” interim head coach T.J. Weist said. “He’s got a command presence out there, on the sidelines, in the huddle, on the field and he made good decisions. Really handled the offense well.”
MACK ATTACK – Over the course of the season, the Huskies secondary has come under criticism for allowing one big play after another. Heading into the game with Rutgers, the secondary had surrendered 41 pass plays that gained over 20 yards. And although three more big plays (26, 40 and 84 yards) were added to the season total, Taylor Mack made sure that those play didn’t haunt UConn as Mack, a senior cornerback, made two fourth quarter interceptions to preserve the Huskies second win of the season.
“Well, the first one, he (the receiver) kind of ran a wheel route, with a stop at the top of it,” Mack said. “And it kind of just slid right in because the ground was frozen, it was pretty tough to plant all day and he was kind of off to my left and the ball just came back to the right and it just fit right in.
“The second one, we were in a zone and I read the QB’s eyes and baited him into throwing into the seam. He had been throwing the seam all game when he was reading man and the next thing you knew he threw it and I cut in front and tried to seal the game.”
He did. It was the first two interception game by a UConn player since September 25, 2010 against Buffalo when Jerome Junior picked off two passes.
“It was really big for the team,” Mack said. “Coming into this game, we talked about keeping the momentum and even though we got down we never got down on ourselves and we ended up with the victory.”
SLY LIKE A FOXX – After dropping a pair of potential touchdown passes against South Florida, Deshon Foxx was determined not to let something like that happen again. He put those plays behind him and decided to work even harder to make himself better.
That effort was rewarded on Saturday as Foxx, caught a career-high nine passes for 117 yards in the Huskies 28-17 win.
“Playing football you’re going to have your ups and downs,” Foxx said. “You might drop a few like South Florida … I wasn’t at my best performance but I just got back on the field and kept working at making catches and getting my confidence back.”
With four receptions and just 37 yards at halftime, Foxx and Cochran really clicked in the second half, hooking up four times in the third quarter alone, the biggest one being a 40-yard completion that put the ball at the Rutgers 16. Four rushing plays later, the Huskies had regained the lead 21-17.
And two possessions, Foxx caught a 13-yard pass on a third-and-3 from Rutgers 29 that gave the Huskies a first down at the 16. Six plays later, UConn had scored the clinching touchdown.
“Dehson had a great game,” Cochran said. “We were throwing short bubbles and he catches the ball like, three or four yards behind the line of scrimmage and he makes a move on a guy and he’d get the first down for us. He’s been working hard since he’s gotten here and he really showed up today.”