Option happy Army invades "The Rent" on Saturday.
STORRS: As they prepare to take on an option offense that caused them fits a year ago, the UConn football team will see a different and perhaps more talented Army quarterback on Saturday at noon in East Hartford.
Head coach Bob Diaco talked during the American Athletic Conference weekly call on Monday about the challenge that lies ahead for the 1-0 Huskies, who look to go 2-0 for the first time since 2008 on Saturday.
“Playing an academy team is always a true team effort,” Diaco said, “They have a quarterback this year (Ahmad Bradshaw) who is a little faster and more athletic than last year.”
A year ago in New York at Yankee Stadium, UConn dropped a 35-21 decision to the Cadets behind the work of senior QB Angel Santiago and an option offense that racked up 328 yards on the ground.
UConn had a chance late in that game to tie or win it but a 99-yard interception return of a Chandler Whitmer pass sealed the win for the team from West Point.
The Huskies come off an opening night win over Villanova by a 20-15 final and played very well on offense in the second half after starting well on their opening drive but then stalling the remainder of the first half.
Red-shirt quarterback Bryant Shirreffs had a good night running the offense in his first action in nearly two years while tight end Tommy Myers earned Player of the Night honors for a pair of key receptions, one that resulted in the team’s first points of the season, the next a 69-yard catch and run that led to the score that gave them the lead they would never gave back.
Defending the option that gave the Huskies a bunch of trouble a year ago may have helped them better prepare for it this year, as did their effort against John Robertson, the Wildcats dual threat signal caller.
A large number of this year’s Huskies participated in the Army game a year ago, something that should help them this season.
Bradshaw and Army lost their season opener at home on Friday night to Fordham by a 37-35 final in a game in which their defense failed to force a punt all game.
Bradshaw rushed for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns while throwing for 133 yards on a 6 of 17 effort.
Last time the two teams met, Santaigo passed but three times, completed two of them, further illustrating how challenging it might be for the UConn defense to stop Army this time around.
“He (Bradshaw) can make all the throws,” Diaco said, “He’s got good vision and a strong arm.”
NOTES: Diaco stressed on Tuesday that the personal foul penalties that occurred in the second half against Villanova are not something the team is prepared to tolerate.
“We won’t be putting up with the jaw-jacking,” Diaco said, “It shows a loss of composure.”
Running back Ron Johnson received a 15-yard taunting penalty after a terrific run was negated and nearly cost the team points.
Fortunately for Johnson, teammate Arkeel Newsome caught a screen pass for a touchdown two plays later to put the Huskies up 20-9.
On the ensuing drive by the Wildcats, defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi was ejected from the game for fighting after he had sacked Robertson for a loss that set up a fourth and 17 that was turned into a first and goal because of the foul.
Fatukasi will miss the first half of the Army game as a result of his ejection, according to AAC rules.
UConn rolled up 307 total yards on offense while holding Villanova to 303, well off their nearly 500 yard per game pace from a year ago.
Myers and fellow tight end Alec Bloom accounted for 99 of the teams 202 yards of passing and will surely be featured again on Saturday.
Johnson netted 69 yards on the ground on 23 carries and a touchdown. Newsome’s pass and electric run went for 27-yards and reminded some of what they saw during his days at Ansonia.