EAST HARTFORD, CT - AUGUST 30: Fans high five the players from the Univeristy of Connecticut Huskies as they are introduced prior to the game against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen on August 30, 2012 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
It was not perfect, but UConn fans should have very little to complain about after an opening win that gave us more than a reasonable person could have asked for. Let's break this down with bullet points:
- The defense was stellar, shutting out UMass and keeping them from ever crossing the UConn 50. There are absolutely no complaints here. The linebackers were ferocious, Don Brown's playcalling was fun to watch and Dwayne Gratz had a very nice pick-six. If you have a worry it's in the depth of the DL after backup end Ted Jennings went down with a knee injury, here's hoping he's okay.
- The special teams was as good as the defense, if not better. Nick Williams had a couple of impressive returns and showed he'll still be a threat this year. Chad Christen has big shoes to fill in replacing Dave Teggart, but did fantastic work tonight converting four extra points and three field goals. The best of the bunch was a 47-yard bomb that would have been good from five or ten yards further out. Cole Wagner only had to come out twice but he was great as well, pinning one punt within the UMass five yard line. For a finishing touch the special teams also blocked a punt for a touchdown. You really can't say enough good things about them, it was stellar work.
- It's now clear that Chandler Whitmer is UConn's QB and that's great news. He had a better first half than a second but this was the best debut of a UConn quarterback in years. He got in some trouble trying to force some deep throws but for the most part he was accurate and on the same page as his receivers. He was also the victim of an incredible pick by UMass. He'll get better as the season goes on (today was his first game after all) but with ten days until NC State there is definitely some room for improvement.
- The receivers were very impressive. Geremy Davis had a hell of a game, pulling down five passes for 79 yards. He seemed to be on the same page as Whitmer all night. Nick Williams also showed that he'll be a very, very dangerous weapon in the slot. He can cause a lot of damage on short passes and UConn used him on a couple of nice reverse packages as well. BC transfer Shakim Phillips did not have a big night stat wise but he sure looked athletic and could blossom into a deep threat if he gets on the same page as Whitmer.
- Lyle McCombs played alright and showed flashes of the brilliance that were on display his entire freshman year. He put up 84 yards and a touchdown, but he was limited by the most glaring flaw of UConn's night: poor offensive line play. The line was slightly (only slightly) better in pass protection, but struggled either way tonight, allowing UMass's front seven easy access to UConn's backfield. Part of that could be chalked up to the lack of a set lineup (the composition of the line rotated throughout the game), but whatever the reason it will certainly be UConn's biggest concern going into next week's game.
- The other concern might not be UConn's but it certainly is mine: overuse of Scott McCummings and the wildcat package. McCummings can be very effective in it (and he did score a touchdown tonight), but UConn's use of the package is so limited and predictable (McCummings never, ever, ever throws) that it really only makes sense to do it inside of the red zone. Instead McCummings made regular appearances tonight, interrupting the flow of the offense over and over again. He simply does not need to be out there on second down when UConn is on its own 45 yard line. It's also worth noting that McCummings fumbled a handoff to McCombs inside the 10 on a play that A) cost UConn at least seven points and B) probably should not have been called in the first place -- it was an inside draw, something Whitmer is perfectly capable of executing.