JOE D’S NOTEBOOK
MICHIGAN, THE RECAP: It was almost one of the greatest nights in UConn Football history. Almost.
The Huskies fell just short of upsetting Michigan on Saturday night at the Rent before losing 24-21 on Brendan Gibbons chip shot field goal with 4:36 to play. The kick capped 17 unanswered points by the Wolverines who kept UConn’s offense off the scoreboard in the second half.
There was so much good about this game from a UConn perspective. First off, the crowd, much criticized in this corner, was terrific. Electric from prior to kickoff, the Huskies fans gave their team a home field advantage. Sure, there were a lot of Michigan fans in the crowd of 42, 704 but for most of the night, they had little or nothing to cheer about. And that’s because the Connecticut defense and special teams played so well. Until midway thru the third quarter, the Michigan run game wasn’t very effective. The UConn front seven dominated the line of scrimmage. But once Fitz Toussaint got loose on a stretch play for 35 yards and a touchdown midway thru the third quarter, momenteum changed in the Wolverines favor. The UConn defense, led by Yawin Smallwood, Jefferson Ashiru and Ty-Meer Brown, played their tails off. The front four, didn’t get pushed around. The secondary made plenty of big plays too. In his first extensive action, Jhavon WIlliams stood out at the corner.Michigan threw for less than 100 yards.
In fact, when the Huskies held Michigan on a 4th and 2 to start the 4th quarter, it looked like UConn was ready to win the game. But then an ill advised pass by Chandler Whitmer was picked off by Desmond Morgan and one play later, Toussaint scored the game tying touchdown.
Offensively, it was another rough game for the Huskies.Thanks to four sacks for 31 yards, UConn averaged 1.9 yards per game running the football. 17 rushing plays not involving Whitmer, averaged almost 5 yards per carry. Max DeLorenzo ran hard and Lyle McCombs averaged 4.8 yards per carry. The passing game averaged less than five yards an attempt,not good. Deshon Fox had his best game and the walk-on Spencer Parker caught an 11 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7. There were times in this game that Whitmer was very accurate but there were plenty of times when he was forced to throw the ball away because of Michigan pressure. UConn went 3 and out 6 times , forcing the defense to spend too much time on the field. Out of 12 possesions, only five of them lasted five plays or more.
So despite the great effort, the Huskies are 0-3 to start the seson for the first time since 2001.It will be interesting to see how UConn reacts to its first road game of the season at Buffalo. It will be incumbent on the Huskies to generate the same type of enthusiasm they showed on Saturday. There won’t be a big crowd to fuel their fire, it will have to come from within since I don’t think UB will draw much of a crowd.
Sunday night was a terrific evening at Gampel as Heart of a Champion, a tribute to Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun was held. The turnout of former players and assistant coaches was staggering. Several spoke including Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon and Donny Marshall. The highlight of the night was the announcement that Stadium Road has been officially renamed Jim Calhoun Way. It was a special night.
The Paul Pasqualoni coaches show starts at 6:05 Monday night at Wood-N-Tap in Vernon. Join us in person or on the radio.