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September 4, 2012
Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni and his Huskies opened the season with a victory over Massachusetts, 37-0. That was UConn's first shutout since the 2007 campaign and they led the FBS with just 59 yards allowed in week one.
Sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week after he paced the squad with seven tackles, including 3.5 for loss and a pass breakup.
Pasqualoni talked about his team's season-opening victory and this week's opponent, NC State, on the Big East coaches' teleconference.
I thought that our team played well-focused against UMass. I thought that our defense and special teams really afforded us a night of field position. We turned the ball over three times, which is not acceptable - normally when you turn the ball over three times, you're going to lose the game. Fortunately, we had a pick that went back for a touchdown and we had a punt [return] for a touchdown, which nullified them, but we're going to have to take care of the ball and do much better this week against NC State.
NC State is obviously an outstanding team, they have outstanding players, high-level players. It's going to be a real challenge for us to play a team like NC State.
NC State cornerback David Amerson had a tough week last week, but what makes him one of the better corners around the country?
First, I think it's his size, he's got great size, that's number one. Number two, he's got great athleticism, he can jump, he's long, he can go for the ball, he can come over the top and get the ball. He's got maybe the best plant and drive that I've seen in a while. I've seen a lot of good corners, but he can put the foot in the ground and he can really drive on the ball, he gets his hands on a lot of balls. He's an outstanding player, Tennessee obviously has some speed and outstanding wide receivers, but we've got a lot of respect for him. He's an outstanding player.
What were some of the things that Tennessee did to counter his size and athleticism?
I just think that Tennessee has a multiple offense, and sometimes defenses try to do too much by trying to defend everything on every play. You also have to understand that Tennessee has an outstanding quarterback and an outstanding team. That's a very, very high-level game. NC State is an outstanding team, an upper-echelon team in the ACC, and Tennessee is fighting to get back there, back to where they were. It was just a great game.
Looking at last year's defense, which played really well at times, what would you say is the biggest differences are between last season's and this year's defense?
I think we're a little bit more experienced. At the safety position, we played two freshmen as the year went on and we didn't really have any experience to speak of at the linebacker position. I'd say that, overall, we have more returning players and we're more experienced. We've been in the system for a full year, we know the system better and they know each other better. That, to me, is the biggest difference.
How big are these matchups for the Big East?
There's so much to get ready for and there's so much to focus on, to be honest with you, I don't waste my time and energy on that stuff. My feeling is that, each week, you try to concentrate on your opponent, and that's what we'll do. I don't ever remember saying to these kids, it's one conference against another, or any of that other stuff. We try to look at each team, the players that they have, and what they're doing; we try to figure out a way to be competitive against them. That's our approach, and that's not ever going to change.
After you've looked over the tape, are you trying to get some more consistency in the run game?
No question. We just didn't do a good enough job blocking the UMass front, which was a very formidable front. I thought it was one of the very strong areas of their team. We're just going to have to do a better job of the details. We're not going to change the run game, we can't do that because we want to run the ball. We need to be more consistent - we had some good runs - but we have to be more consistent in the overall run game.
Do you have an update on [defensive end] Teddy Jennings?
Teddy Jennings, right now, we're going to wait a week and let it calm down a little bit. We'll re-evaluate in one week. He'll definitely be out for this week.
What do you like about the way Chandler is progressing?
I really like the way he prepares, I think there is a sense of urgency about him each day. I like him in the pocket, I thought his ball security in the pocket and his sliding around in the pocket was good. I thought he threw the ball down the field [good] on the deeper routes - we need to throw better on the short routes, but I thought the medium to intermediate routes, he threw well.
Defensively, what's the point of emphasis against Mike Glennon?
The point of emphasis is they have got a senior group of offensive linemen who have started about 100 games. They have three outstanding running backs, they have outstanding speed at the wide receiver position, they have athleticism at tight end, they have a blue chip quarterback - a drop-back, pro-style quarterback who is smart and can make all the throws. It's hard to emphasize all of those things, but they can beat you with all of those things.
We're going to try to play good, sound defense and not give up big plays, which is what we would really like to do.
The Big East averaged about 32 points per game this weekend, does that say anything about the conference?
I don't know. It may, but that's the furthest thing from my mind - how many points teams from the Big East are scoring. I'm just focused and concentrated on our team and what we've got to get done. I think it's no secret that we think we have a very competitive conference that can compete with any conference in the country.