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Improving UConn defense needs a little support

POSTED November 10, 2013
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn


Improving UConn Defense needs a little support

 

EAST HARTFORD – What do you get when you take six turnovers add a blocked punt for a touchdown and mix in an interception return for a touchdown? Usually a blowout loss, but the UConn defense did not let that happen Friday night against No. 20 Louisville.

 

The Teddy Bridgewater show rolled into town for a nationally televised night game and while the Huskies couldn't stop their season-long losing streak the defense held Bridgewater in check for the most part but got no support from the offense.

 

That's been a familiar refrain for most of the season and while the defense has not been stellar week in and week out, it is a unit that seems to be showing improvement.

 

If you would have told the Huskies that they would pick off Bridgewater to halt a scoring threat, allow him just one touchdown pass and have him throw just five more completions than incompletions, it would be hard to imagine the UConn staff wouldn't have signed on for that immediately.

 

UConn did all that and also limited Louisville (8-1) to just 81 yards rushing but didn't get any help from the Huskies offense.

 

Connecticut committed six turnovers, including three interceptions by freshman quarterback Tim Boyle, had a blocked punt returned for a TD for the game's first score and had an interception returned for a TD one play after redshirt sophomore safety Andrew Adams made his first career interception after the Cardinals had driven into the red zone in the third quarter.

 

"No question, our defense played well tonight. When you don't drive the football and keep putting the defense out there, sooner or later their going to break,” UConn interim coach T.J. Weist said. “No defense can handle that. I thought we were consistent and kept stopping that offense. They did their best and I'm proud of them."

 

Linebacker Yawin Smallwood led UConn with 10 tackles and also had two pass break ups. He spearheaded a defense that limited Bridgewater to 21 completions in 37 attempts and picked off the Heisman hopeful for just the third time all season.

 

Consider that Bridgewater, who has been mentioned a the possible first pick in the 2014 NFL draft, entered the game with 23 touchdown passes and a 73.7 completion percentage with just two interceptions.

 

“I feel like we played an OK game, just needed to come up with a couple more stops, force another turnover,” Smallwood said. “We played well but we have to keep improving.

 

Other Huskies who stood out on defense included redshirt sophomore linebacker Jefferson Ashiru, who recorded his sixth and seventh tackles for loss of the season and leads Connecticut in that category, and defensive end Jesse Joseph, who helped the Huskies pressure Bridgewater for much of the game and recorded a sack.

 

“We were able to pressure him and get in his face all game,” UConn defensive end Jesse Joseph said. “We're getting better there but we have to keep getting better and keep getting after the quarterback.”

 

UConn has four more game to get something out of this season. They are at SMU on Nov. 16 and at Temple the following week. The Huskies close out the season with home games against Rutgers and Memphis.

 

You can't call any game a winnable game when a team is 0-8, but if the Husky defense keeps playing the way it did Friday night, Connecticut will have a chance. The question is if the D will get any support to help make it happen.

 

“We have four games left and we have time to get something out of this season,” Joseph said. “It's a pride thing. You just have to keep working and getting better and try to get a win.”

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