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The After Action Report, UConn

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Henson owes Odom a beer

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Offense

Play-calling/Coaching

It's hard to fault the play-calling when the offensive line can't open holes, the running backs can't find them when they're there, the quarterback can't find open receivers, and the receivers don't catch the ball when it's thrown to them. Ultimately, though, all of that falls on Henson as well. We all know the familiar reasons/excuses, but ultimately, a team with our talent should be able to generate more offense against a team that gave up 17 points to Army and 15 to Villanova. Maybe it's poor fundamentals, maybe it's trying to do too much from a playbook perspective, but it needs to be fixed in a hurry.

Offensive Line

One thing I did like, from a play-calling perspective, that I think might be a good fit for our OL, was more Power and Trey, as opposed to Zone. One of the other challenges for McGovern moving outside, beside needing to pass block the defenses best pass rusher, is the need to reach and seal the end on zone runs. Rather than asking him to do that, on Power he's just asked to bury the defensive tackle, while either the pulling guard or H-back kicks out the defensive end. It's a better fit for his skill set, and we appeared to have more success with it.

Running Backs

Not much new to say here; Ish and Hunt pretty much are what the are. I have faith Ish will develop the vision and instincts to know when to cut back, when to bounce outside, and when to just drop his head and take what he can get, but I don't think it'll happen this year. He did, however, have back to back runs of 10 and 12 on the touchdown drive, so he's showing flashes of what he's capable of. And Hunt can't keep making plays like that, can he?

Abbington also had a 12-yard run where the OL opened a hole, and he showed vision and burst getting through it, so there's promise there as well.

All that said, we'll be happy to have Hansbrough back.

Receivers

I'm glad kacc56 already talked about vertical read routes, because Maty's interception was at least 90% on Culkin. Culkin had good position and Mauk threw the ball well enough to get it there before the safety could come over to help. So what did Culkin do? He stopped his feet and waited for the ball. What did the corner do? He got his body between Culkin and the ball, came back to the ball and caught it at its highest point, which is what Culkin should have been doing. Mauk has many well publicized faults, but he didn't get any help on that one, and I don't think he deserves much, if any, of the blame.

On the other hand, Culkin is a heck of an open-field blocker on screens. One more thing he probably doesn't get nearly enough credit for, and which the rest of the receivers need to get better at. It's hard to teach young receivers to love blocking, but go rewatch that video of Braxton Miller's spin move, and you'll see 3 great open-field blocks. It's a hallmark of great teams.

Quarterbacks

Much like the RBs, I think Maty is what he is. I suspected we may miss Yost as a QB coach, and given Mauk's development, or lack thereof, there's really only two people that could be to blame. If Lock similarly fails to develop (which he certainly has room to do), that'll be the second datum. Hard to say anything too bad about the guy that scored our only touchdown, and gets some credit for Hunt's ridiculous run for finding him open on a checkdown.

Speaking of Lock, I don't know if the offense looks better with him in the game, but it definitely looks smoother. The team gets up the line quicker, the ball gets snapped quicker, the ball comes out quicker, and the receivers are actually catching the ball. There could be a number of reasons for this:

  • The coaches have Lock running a smaller subset of the playbook so he's thinking less.
  • Lock is sufficiently inexperienced that he doesn't know what he doesn't know, and is just out there having fun. The coaches have eluded to something similar with trying to develop Mauk without taking away his natural play-making ability.
  • Lock's skillset (great accuracy/touch/timing on short passes, but not a threat to run) is a natural complement Maty (a running threat with a big arm, but not great accuracy/touch/timing) who the defense has spent all week getting ready for.

I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that at some point, for one of the reasons mentioned, Lock is going to score a TD in his limited snaps when Maty can't, and then the sharks will really start circling. Would Lock be as good running the whole playbook, managing a game rather than a series, against a defense that has all week to prepare just for him? We may not have to wait two years to find out.

Defense

Play-calling/Coaching

Something that confirmed much of what we suspected was what the defense did when UConn came out in there 21 personnel (2 backs + 1 TE): we walked the Sam backer up into an Under front to show a 5 man front. I don't know if this is an every-down look, but it validates what we had been hearing, and may be a harbinger of things to come as we get into conference play against teams that play more Old Man Football.

For some reason, after playing mostly press-man in the first half, and before going back to it late in the game, the defense started playing a softer zone when UConn came out in the shotgun hurry-up after the half, no doubt trying to replicate some of SEMO and ASU's success. That doesn't necessarily bother me (it was Steck's bread ‘n' butter) it was just interesting to see.

It's hard to quantify "attitude" but this defense has it. Every time the ball is snapped it looks like the guy with the ball just kicked a hornet's nest and has 11 very angry hornets flying after him.

Defensive Backs

With one exception on a bomb (where the receiver did functionally what Culkin should have done on the interception) the DBs have held up admirably in man coverage. I don't know if we can keep doing it regularly against conference opponents, but it's nice to know we have that in our toolbox.

Linebackers

We continue to show more 3 linebacker sets than we've been used to, and they keep working. Much like the man coverage (and particularly the Sam LB in man coverage), I'll be interested to see how much we lean on that in conference play.

Defensive Line

So much for the DL being a question mark, I suppose.

Special Teams

A blocked punt and a blocked extra point are pretty cool, but yaknow what else would be cool? Not DOINKing one off the upright or letting a punt bounce off your leg to give the other team a huge first down. Just sayin'.

Logistica Miscellanea

I should have worn the SPF 100. Even if you have SPF 30 on, if someone offers you 100, you take it.