Tuesday presser: Game of Quarterbacks

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn. —  I had a plan when I came up for the weekly luncheon  at the Burton Family Football Complex cafeteria.

When the herd goes one way,I tried to go the other way.

The story on Tuesday was Casey Cochran, the latest starter at quarterback for the UConn football team.

Cochran was named the starting quarterback and was the first player into the cafeteria. He was excited, ebullient and fired up. Why wouldn’t he be?

Deposed starter Tim Boyle came in a short-while after.

The plan was to sit back while the media horde descended on Cochran, this week’s starter and feel-good story, and watch how last month’s feel good story in Boyle reacted.

That’s my story. That’s what interested me.

Everyone wanted to talk with Cochran, he’s starting on Saturday. What I wanted to do was see Boyle and how he would react.

The pair sat at separate tables and ate their lunches. Cochran was escorted to the media throng and Boyle took a look at him and glared at the media questioning him. Boyle’s face was stone cold, he played with his food and his left leg tapped nervously.

Boyle, composed and mature on the outside, is eating up inside.

His freshman year as a redshirt was burned for four games, all losses, and zero touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The first lesson of a quarterback is to handle adversity. Boyle didn’t give any fake answers and show false optimism at his benching.

This is tough for him, and something he did not want to happen. He understands it, but that doesn’t mean he is in agreement with it. There’s a difference.

“I am a competitor, there is always going to be competition at the quarterback and they made a decision that is best for the team,” Boyle said. “I can’t dwell on it.  I have to move forward. My job is to help Casey as best as I can.”

Boyle, who completed only 43 percent of his passes in short stint, said the reason for the benching is simple — he didn’t play well.

“I think the decision was made because I wasn’t performing at the level they wanted me to,” Boyle said. ” I am disappointed in that. That is best for the team. I can only look forward.”

“Accuracy, speed and getting accustomed to the speed is a challenge for me. I can’t hold a grudge against Casey. If he is putting us in the best position to win, I am fine with it.”

There may be no grudge against Cochran, but Boyle’s competitive side don’t allow this to sit well.  Boyle came here to play, he wants to play and losing four games and not playing well isn’t what he had in mind when the redshirt was lifted.

The move away from Boyle is complicated for head coach T.J. Weist. They believed in Boyle four games ago, what changed?

Boyle decision-making and his accuracy took a nose dive against Louisville where even the easy throws he was missing. Boyle looked rattled against the No. 2 ranked defense in the nation and Weist, searching for a win anywhere on the schedule, thought it was time to make a change.

“We think he gives us the best chance,” Weist said Tuesday. ” He’s done a great job last two games. He made good decisions in practice throughout the whole fall .we feel he gives us the best chance.”

Cochran’s chance comes with the previous two quarterbacks unable to start the passing game.

Cochran has waited patiently for his time at quarterback. he was beaten out by Whitmer last spring and beaten out by Boyle during the summer and early fall. He has throwing 17 of 28 and two touchdowns the last two games against second-stringers.

He has to come in an do what Whitmer and Boyle have failed, generate offense and get a win. UConn quarterbacks have thrown seven touchdowns and 15 interceptions this year.

Cochran isn’t the physical specimen of Boyle, he’s a stocky 6-foot-1 and doesn’t possess a rocket arm, but he makes up for it with smarts and decision-making.

“The biggest thing is just, in every game we have played our offense has been that close to breaking out,” Cochran said. “You saw it in the Michigan game, the USF game, we were that close to winning that game.

“I think, through watching that, it comes down to one or two plays in the game. Going through progressions. Taking what they give you is the biggest thing we have to work on.”

While Weist raved about Boyle’s physical gifts a month ago when the true freshman moved into the lineup, Weist was singing the praises of Cochran’s mind. The son of a coach, that grasp of the offense and quick-decision making is what the team is looking for.

“He’s made smart decisions,” Weist said. “He’s shown ability to handle pressure and handle efficiently and make good decisions. For Tim, we’ve given him time to develop. He needs more time to develop.”

For now, the 0-8 Huskies’ merry-go-round at quarterback has produced a turn for Cochran.

A month ago, Boyle stepped in as the quarterback to great fanfare and Cochran was on the outs. This week? It’s Cochran’s start and Boyle is left humbled and sitting alone at the table.

That’s how fast things can change.

“I came in, I was down, then up and now I am down again,” Boyle said. “I can’t get down and can’t get too excited. It’s hard, but it is not something that I will hold a grudge against Casey with. He’s a great guy and works hard.”
Who knows, Boyle could be the quarterback once again in a couple of weeks, or Whitmer, or someone else.
Everything is on the table, especially when you are 0-8.