Just as we did in previous weeks, Cherry & White Huddle reached out to a blogger of the opposing team to provide some insight on Temple’s next opponent. This week, Temple takes on Connecticut, so we got in contact with Kevin Meacham of SB Nation’s, The UCONN Blog.
UCONN is coming off a 19-3 loss to Rutgers, who has proven to be one of the better Big East teams. What went wrong for the Huskies last weekend?
A little bit of everything. The defense played exceptionally well, I thought, holding a solid Rutgers offense to one offensive touchdown. But the offense continues to sputter, and a mindbogglingly dumb sequence at the end (involving 21 seconds, 3 timeouts, and some impressive coaching incompetence on Paul Pasqualoni’s part) of the first half cost the Huskies three points and a potential tie.
Rutgers is no doubt a better team than UConn, but as was the case against NC State earlier this year, there were opportunities for the Huskies to make a play and have a good chance to win the game. It just never happened.
Just give some insight on UCONN’s defense. They’re ranked high in multiple categories. What makes them so dangerous?
UConn has above average players at every level of the defense, although the obvious strength is with the linebackers, particularly MLB Yawin Smallwood, who seems to make every big defensive play, and versatile OLB Sio Moore. The defensive front 7 has been hurt a bit by injuries to a couple starting defensive linemen, but Trevardo Williams is still a good edge rusher, and DT Ryan Wirth is having a very productive year. I’m also a big fan of our cornerback tandem, Blidi-Wreh Wilson and Dwayne Gratz, who are very reliable in coverage.
But yeah, we’re all pretty thrilled with UConn’s defense. It is likely the best in our brief I-A history, and defensive coordinator/mad genius Don Brown is pretty much the only member of the coaching staff who isn’t angering us all right now.
What defensive players should Temple fans be worried about?
Smallwood, definitely. You’ll see all three linebackers blitz at different times, but Smallwood is the most explosive and the best tackler.
What are your thoughts on sophomore QB Chandler Whitmer, who has thrown 10 interceptions compared to 4 TDs?
Well, he hasn’t been good. I think he has potential, and he’s one of the more accurate quarterbacks we’ve had in the last 7-8 years, but there are definitely some issues. Namely, he stares down receivers way too much, which is kind of a problem in the red zone (and there aren’t many guys on our team who are capable of breaking 50- and 60-yard touchdowns, so any scoring drive will necessarily have to involve a pass in the red zone at some point).
If he remains the starter for the next two years, I can see Whitmer becoming a fine Division I-caliber quarterback; unfortunately, that’s a long time to wait and it’s unfortunate that this excellent defense is being wasted in 10-7 losses.
Who is UCONN’s biggest offensive weapon and what does he bring to the Huskies’ offense?
Um…either of the tight ends? It’s been that kind of year on offense. Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt are the most reliable receivers on the team (though WR Geremy Davis has had a solid first half of the season) and the most likely guys to get open down the field.
There might be UConn fans who would tell you RB Lyle McCombs, but they are wrong. Two reasons: UConn’s offensive line is not all that good, and McCombs is remarkably easy to tackle despite being the shifty speed-back type.
How do you feel UCONN stacks up against Temple?
I dread this game, given that the last three UConn-Temple games were all agonizing in their own way. It’s a home game, and I think UConn is substantially better on defense, a little better on special teams, and worse on offense (Montel Harris is excellent). Neither team will finish in the top four of the Big East, but I do like Steve Addazio and wish UConn had a coach who would bring excitement in any form…
If UConn can jump out to an early lead, their defense can pin their ears back a little bit and go nuts, and that means turnovers and good things. If Temple does, I’m not sure we have the offense to make up any substantial margin.