The Huskies did what they were supposed to on Saturday and handily beat Fordham 35-3 in East Hartford. So far, so good for the Paul Pasqualoni era.
Coming into the game the big question for UConn was quarterback, and YouTube sensation Johnny McEntee was tapped for the start. He played well, especially by UConn-quarterback standards, completing 8 of his twelve attempts for 113 yards. He did not have touchdowns, but he didn't throw any interceptions either and his passes were crisp and on target.
McEntee's competition freshman Michael Nebrich wasn't nearly as impressive, going 3-8 for 60 yards with one pick. Much more interesting was fellow freshman Scott McCummings who came in mostly to run the option. McCummings had 7 carries for 23 yards and only threw one pass, though it was a great one -- a 55-yard TD connection with Ryan Griffin. I liked what McCummings did with his feet, though I felt he was probably limited by the fact he only passed the one time and the playcalling never made him a threat to do it again, so the defense was free to load up against the run.
After the game Pasqualoni refused to name a starter for next week's matchup with Vanderbilt, so I suppose we still have a nominal position battle on our hands, but from what was shown on the field yesterday McEntee is going to win. I don't expect McCummings to go away though, and I imagine he'll get some opportunities throughout the season, especially close to the goaline.
While we were expecting a position battle at quarterback, I think everyone felt pretty comfortable with DJ Shoemate at running back, that is everyone but Lyle McCombs felt that way.Shoemate hurt himself in practice on Thursday and didn't play, which gave McCombs the opening he need to explode for 141 and four touchdowns on 24 carries. The obvious qualifier is that this performance came against Fordham, but McCombs looked good -- very good -- against a defense built* to stop the run.
I'm sure Shoemate will have a place in the offense, particularily as a powerback (McCombs is fast, but at 5-8 and 172 lbs he's not going too effective going up the gut). However, McCombs definitely earned a regular spot in the offense, especially when McCummings is in as the two seemed to be a good combination for Pasqualoni's beloved option.
The defense was solid, especially Sio Moore and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. It's hard to complain when they only let up three points, but I'm going to reserve judgment until after the Huskies play a team on their level.
Overall I'm pretty happy. What we saw on the field yesterday was not a stark departure from what we would have seen under Randy Edsall, but the changes were welcome ones. The Huskies did throw down the field more and did so with some success. The option also looks like a good fit for the personnel. It felt like the Huskies took a couple of possessions to get going, but there are some weapons there, especially if McCombs can perform at anywhere near this level against FBS talent.
Bring on Vanderbilt.
*Again Fordham, but eight-men in the box is still eight men in the box.