It was a defensive battle today in UConn's annual spring football game. There were only 16 total points scored, but given what we know about the football team's offensive limitations juxtaposed with its defensive prowess, this result should not be very surprising.
In the preview, I mentioned that the Blue roster had most of the starters on both offense and defense while the White roster consisted mostly of backups. Bob Diaco explained the thought process behind this after the game.
"At some spots, we wanted to be sure there was a comfortability and some continuity," he said. So he kept the starting offensive line and the leading quarterback candidate together. Playmakers Arkeel Newsome and Thomas Lucas were on the White squad to test the starters, "We wanted to create some balance and some challenge for the Blue defense."
Bryant Shirreffs, the current leader for the starting quarterback job, led the Blue offense, going 13 of 24 for 168 yards and a touchdown. They reached the end zone in the second quarter when Sean McQuillan grabbed a pass in the flat and ran 30+ yards to the house behind some good blocking from his wide receivers. That play capped an 85-yard drive by the starting offense.
Team Blue had another chance to score at the end of the second quarter, holding the ball on the 6-yard line with 9 seconds left. Shirreffs attempted a fade to Noel Thomas for the score, but it fell incomplete. It was by far my least favorite play call of the game-- a game which had two punts on 4th-and-1. They ran the same play in a similar situation late in the game. BOOOO!
Shirreffs also demonstrated an ability to make plays with his legs, running for 25 yards. His competition at quarterback, Tim Boyle, looked pretty comfortable in the pocket and had good zip on his throws. He finished 10-for-19, throwing for 63 yards. His receivers had a couple of drops on good throws, but the primary culprit to his so-so performance was a lack of time in the pocket. Still, he looked more comfortable and fluid than he's ever been.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Davis saw his first live action today. His first snap was taken on his own 1-yard line, he almost ran out of the endzone rolling out to pass, but managed to make a decent throw despite rolling to his left. The pass was incomplete but it was nicely placed in space where only his receiver could make a play on it. Davis demonstrated a strong arm and ability to move in the pocket.
The offensive line didn't look great, and the running backs' performances suffered as a result. The fact that the defense did a really good job finishing their tackles didn't help. Obviously we didn't see the full spectrum of what the offense will look like this fall, but it's safe to say this will be a solid defensive team whose success will depend on the offense's ability to compete. The o-line should be better than last year, but by how much may be the deciding factor of the season.
Those who were not in attendance missed a beautiful, sunny day at the Rent. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and the tailgating was as live as the hitting in the game. Attendance was way higher than last year, which is a positive sign for the program.
We'll have more tomorrow and across the week on the quarterback situation, running back committee, standout defenders and more!