Since assuming his role as interim head coach, T.J. Weist has mandated that every main door within the Burton Family Football Complex is taped with a sign stating "ALL IN" to reinforce his doctrine of full commitment to the team.
Today, those signs might have well been replaced.
The new message, after UConn's thrilling 21-point comeback victory over Temple that lifted the heavy, winless burden off the program, should read:
"On to Rutgers"
"I think [defeating Temple]'s a little bit of a relief after everything we've been through," Weist remarked to the press. "This team has stayed together. They have truly bought into what we have been doing as a team. It's a relief but it's short-lived because we celebrated on Saturday but we came back to work on Sunday. That's behind us. We have to focus on Rutgers."
Scouting the Scarlet Knights
For the second consecutive week, the Huskies will face a team led by its opening day back-up quarterback. As of last Monday, Rutgers has replaced senior signal caller Gary Nova, who had opened the previous 23 games under center, with fellow fourth-year player Chas Dodd. Dodd last started in the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl, and he has since appeared in eight games.
The switch comes after a wretched slide brought on by sluggish offensive play. The Scarlet Knights have dropped four of their last five, including a 41-17 defeat at no. 19 UCF two Thursdays ago. In fact, they've been outscored by a combined 105 points during this stretch, four more than UConn has over its most recent five contests. The two teams have played four common opponents in this time.
Since starting 4-1, Rutgers has scored an average of 16.1 points per game.
While preparing for the Scarlet Knights this Saturday, Weist has chosen to direct his team to take an inward focus.
"We try to focus more on what we're doing and how we're doing it. It's not that big of an issue to us," he said. "We're going to play physical and play fast and we're going to put pressure on the quarterback no matter who it is. I don't think there's a great difference between the two. They're both experienced and have won ball games."
Understandably, Weist spent much of his afternoon talking about the events of last Saturday, which he called "a great team victory". Questions about the team's confidence, comeback and the performance of its best players in the second half were in abundance. Yet according to Weist, it wasn't any one, two or handful of plays made by the elder statesmen of his team that sparked the Huskies. It was their leaders taking action on the sideline, before the ball was even kicked.
"I got after them a little bit at half to motivate them but the good thing for our coaching staff was that ... I came out of the locker room and the defense was already coming together. Yawin was getting the team together. I looked over on offense and Casey was getting the offense together, getting the plan ready for the second half."
Furthermore, as told by interim coach, the game's turning point came actually inside the game's opening thirty minutes.
"Going into halftime, the turning point for us was the stop and the fumble recovery by Tim Willman at the end of the first half," he said. "Then we came out in the second half and continued that momentum with a drive and a touchdown. It just built from there in the second half. It was our best half of the season ... all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, came together."
Oh captain, my captain
Lost in all the excitement of the team's first win was a very important announcement. Redshirt junior running back Lyle McCombs has been named as UConn's fourth team captain for the remainder of the season.
"I just felt that Lyle, from a football standpoint and everything else, he's been a leader for us," Weist explained. "Every single day he comes out and he's motivated. Every single day he's part of the group that motivates the team. So I made the decision to make him a captain last week and I think our team needs it."
McCombs joins middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen and left guard Steve Greene as a team captain.
Via his Twitter account, Weist announced the team's players of the game from last Saturday:
Offense: Geremy Davis
Defense: Smallwood and Tim Willman
Special Teams: Cole Wagner
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