John F. SilverSTORRS, Conn. — In the end, UConn football players are only human. There is only so much enthusiasm and false bravado one team and player can do before confidence is shot. UConn interim head football coach T.J. Weist gets that. Every week since he was named the interim head coach he’s came out for media interviews and conference calls and lauded the team on its work-ethic. It isn’t false praise, Weist is generally happy with the effort, focus and energy.
That doesn’t make the Huskies or its player immune to confidence and shock during a game. When UConn runs out of the tunnel gameday, the team is fired up. When things start to go bad, Weist can see the problems start on the sideline.
The look is the face of an 0-9 unsure of how to get out of a funk and with little confidence in of itself.
The fact the Huskies get that look and play lethargic at times — think UCF and Buffalo — isn’t because they aren’t trying and don’t care. It’s because they are human.
Losing and poor play breeds self-doubt and a loss of confidence.
It’s what’s called a loser’s mentality. Tough to say, but when you are 0-9 and going nowhere, it’s very hard to get out of. Weist can bring in Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant or Lou Holtz to give a pep talk. The Huskies don’t need talk, they need action.
“You can see it and feel it,” Weist said Tuesday. “You spend all week motivating players. We had good practices, every Friday and Saturday guys are fired up, focused and determined, they want to win…what truly matter is what happens on the field.
“When you don’t have big plays, successful guys, sometimes on the sideline they are like ‘here we go again.’ They have to break that mold, fight that…it’s hard, it’s easy to stay motivated when you are scoring.”
Yes it’s hard, and as Weist and every coach before has also said “winning football games is not easy.”
The Huskies aim to do it on Saturday when it plays at 1-9 Temple on Saturday night at 7 p.m. (why it’s a night game, I have no idea).
There’s a lot of losing between UConn and Temple this season with only an Owls win over Army preventing this from being a wineless matchup. That said, the Huskies and Owls appear to be going in opposite directions.
The Owls beat Army 33-14 and then loss 59-49 to SMU, 23-20 to Rutgers before a stunning miracle loss to UCF on Saturday 39-36 in what’s going to end up being one of the more famous games in UCF history.
It’s been a tough go of it. The Huskies’ defeats the last four games are 41-16, 62-10, 31-10 and 38-21. Only Saturday’s loss to SMU was close, with UConn with the ball down 28-21 in the fourth quarter.
In each of these games, Weist saw the Huskies begin with energy only to wilt when the going got tough. After a little adversity in the first half against SMU, with the Huskies trail 21-7, Weist got on the team for its effort and deer-in-the-headlights play. It’s ahrd to overcome, but it’s something that the Huskies have to break out of.
That’s easier said than done
“It’s like ‘Oh no’, and It’s hard,” running back Max DeLorenzo said. “We got tough guys on hard team. Coach Weist called us out at halftime, he said ‘let’s go.’ Where’s the fight?’ It’s not a 30 minute game. “
The Huskies have three games left this season and if nothing else happens, Weist would like to see energy and plays being made. There is only so much manufactured bravado and excitement can do, in the end, the only thing that can get UConn really excited is playing well on the field.
* The Huskies have bad news on cornerback David Stevenson, who left Saturday’s loss to SMU with a knee injury. Stevenson will be out the rest of the year and will undergo surgery on Friday for his knee injury.
* The Huskies also have bad news on Ty-Meer Brown. Brown’s appearance on the depth chart was a mistake and the junior safety hasn’t practiced in two weeks and won’t practice this week as he nurses a neck injury. Brown’s injury is concerning and his status going forward this year is tenuous.
* LB Marquise Vann, on the other hand, is questionable with a sprained knee. Vann sprained his knee on the opening kickoff against SMU and came off the sidelines and went to the trainers. His injury was the reason for the bizarre defensive timeout to start the game for the Huskies against SMU. When Vann was hurt, he didn’t know how bad and walked off the field. He went to see the trainer quickly, who then started to look at the knee. Because he walked off the field, the defense walked onto the field and was ready to play, only Vann was missing. The UConn sideline had to a call a timeout before LB Ryan Donahue came into the game as Vann’s replacement. If Vann can’t go, Donahue will start.
* Lost in the losing and the quarterback merry-go-round, the running game has shown signs of life. The Huskies have run effectively in recent weeks and Lyle McCombs had 103 yards on 17 carries and max DeLorenzo 62 on 15 carries and a touchdown. The Huskies, after much work, seem to have settled on an effective two-back set. The line, even with injuries, is blocking better in the run game. That’s an encouraging sign going forward.