John F. Silver
The Huskies are 0-6, are off the play No., 21 Central Florida this week before playing at No. 18 Louisville two weeks after that on a Friday night. The two best quarterbacks in the conference in Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater are next.
If the Huskies (0-6, 0-2 AAC) don’t dramatically turn things around and play much better than they have, 0-8 looks likely.
The only way to combat that reality is the truth.
Interim head coach T.J. Weist and the staff are giving the Huskies the truth. UConn is 0-6, has fired its head coach and has two ranked teams on tap.
This isn’t going to be easy.
“We don’t look at it any other way,” Weist said. “You have to be honest with ourselves and be straight forward with them. We have to tell them when they do bad and tell them when they do good. We have to be positive with our team, but we have to be brutally honest about how we play on the field.”
Weist’s third press conference as coach was different than the first two. The uncomfortable feeling of being thrown into the head job has subsided for Weist. He looks to be finding his stride and in command of the team right now. He is exhausting all the possibilities this week before the Huskies face Central Florida.
This is the biggest test of the season, and at 0-6, the biggest test this program has ever faced. It’s a full-time job to keep everyone on board, which Weist believes he has.
“You can’t accept losing, under any circumstance,” Weist said. “Once you accept it, it will happen again. We will never accept it. There is a selfishness that comes into a programs, that can happen if you allow players to be selfish and go their own way and not focus on the team. That can happen easily in this situation.”
The brutal truth is something that the players are owed and Weist is doing all he can to cite, and then fix the problems. The receivers played better in Saturday’s 41-16 loss to Cincinnati, but the defense regressed back to its problems giving up the big plays, which it did against Maryland.
The Huskies’ biggest problem, according to Weist, is pressure on the quarterback. UConn has a scant five sacks in six games with no one more than a sack each on the season. With Bortles the opponent, that can’t happen this week or the Huskies will get carved up.
“We talked about that. (Defensive coordinator) Hank Hughes has talked about getting more pressure,” Weist said. “He has a good plan from there. We are facing a solid team and experienced quarterback.
We got to find ways to get to the quarterback. We know it is an issue,” Weist added.
Of the Huskies’ five sacks, only four have come from the defensive line with Tim Willman, Jesse Joseph, Ruben Frank and Shamar Stephen all with one. The Huskies run a 4-man rotation at defensive end and getting to the ball and getting the quarterback down is the focus. There is talk of getting the athletic Frank more involved to take advantage of his athleticism.
“We got the talent there and got to work on the finish of getting to the quarterback,” Weist said. “We think we got the best personnel starting now, we have to stress to them competing more and more finish. Last finish is to make a sack. Getting hits on quarterback, that’s what we got to put pressure on from that standpoint.”
On offense, a week after challenging his wide receivers, Weist put the pressure on his quarterback Tim Boyle. Boyle has progressed immensely in two starts, but three interceptions, including a crucial INT towards end fo the first half aren’t acceptable.
Weist said he is sticking with Boyle at quarterback, but he expects improvement.
“He made some mistakes and threw some interceptions and bad balls. He has to learn from it,” Weist said. “Is it accepted? No. You are a football player on this team. You are a player who is a starter and making decisions for all of us. It is not accepted to make bad decisions whether you are a freshman or not.”
Boyle isn’t a freshman anymore.
“You are a starter,” Weist said. “You take role as starting quarterback and you are held responsible for your actions. If he were a senior we would be treating him the same way from a responsibility standpoint. He has maturity and understands it and works at it to get better.If he didn’t we might have moved on, but he does.”
Lastly, all this isn’t for naught. It’s for getting something the team needs — getting a win.
There is no sugar-coating how to correct it.
“No. 1, you tell them the truth,” Weist said. “Where they stand, and why they are there and the direction you need to go. Don’t try and B.S. them. They want to hear the truth, whether it is good or bad.”
* Weist also said he is considering some play-calling changes. He wants to get offensive coaches Shane Day, Mike Foley and Kermit Buggs more involved in the playcalling.
* Tyler Bullock will start at RG and the Huskies will have linemen that are all 308-317 pounds. Size won’t be an issue this week. Bullock played last week and knocked off the rust of his two-week suspension after being arrested for DUI. He is in a diversionary program right now.
* LB Marquise Vann is No. 1 on the depth chart, but he and Ryan Donahue will battle it this week. Vann returned a fumble 40 yards for a TD last week.