First off, it’s good to be back at it with year #25 calling UConn football and basketball. The summer was a great one but it’s time to get back to work.
And it started Thursday night with a closer than anyone expected win over Maine. First off, let’s give the Black Bears credit. First year head coach Joe Harasymiak had his team ready to play and they executed their game plan to near perfection. They put pressure on Bryant Shirreffs ,shut down Arkiel Newsome and quarterback Dan Collins was given all day to throw the ball.
And when Najee Goode pulled off a strip, scoop and score on a Shirreffs fumble early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies were in big big trouble. But unlike a year ago when UConn couldn’t finish games, they made the plays to win. Shirreffs led two scoring drives ,Mikael Myers blocked a potential go ahead field goal and cool as the other side of the pillow Bobby Puyol drilled the game winning 37 yard field goal for the 24-21 win.
I thought for the most part Shirreffs played well. He had a couple of second half passes that should have been picked off but did a good job of decision making as to when to pull the ball in and run in. Because Maine sold out to rus h the quarterback, he had plenty of room to run. Ron Johnson showed the hard work of the off season payed off and was the better of the two running backs. Noel Thomas had a career high nine receptions, Tyler Davis showed he will be a weapon as a tight end,F-back. And Brian Lemelle had the biggest catch of the game to set up the game winning field goal.
Defensively, there isn’t as much to praise. Vontae Diggs played well in his first start at linebacker but the d-line did not put much pressure on Collins and the secondary, which I think is the strength of the defense, struggled. There were too many receiver who were wide open.
But the end result is what matters most And at the end of the day, the Huskies are 1-0 heading into the AAC opener at Navy next Saturday.
But….the crowd was a major disappointment. Despite the pleas of Athletic Director David Benedict, the stands weren’t even close to half filled at kickoff. The game wasn’t even close to a sellout and there were maybe 15,000 people in the building when Puyol kicked the game winner. The optics were not good when it comes to trying to impress the Big 12. Everyone wants to know if UConn will get in the Big 12 if it expands. Fans have to understand they plan a critical part in the equation. Cincinnati had only 28 thousand for it’s opener against UT Martin but still, it’s imperative for UConn fans to show up early and stay late, if not just to impress Big 12 presidents but to support the players and coaches.
Ok, enjoy the Labor Day weekend and join Gresh and me weekeday afternoons at 3 for Joe D and Gresh.