Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Category: UConn Football (page 1 of 2)

Weekend Sports Recap: Pats, Bruins, UConn, and Revs

weekend-recap-10-24-16

This was a busy weekend for New England sports teams, especially those I am particularly interested in following. Let’s take a look at each game from this weekend.

NFL

Final
New England Patriots 27
Pittsburgh Steelers 16

The New England Patriots overcame some early mistakes to beat Pittsburgh on the road. The Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger, so resorted to starting Landry Jones. Jones wasn’t terrible for the Steelers and took another step in his development, but didn’t have enough in the 4th quarter to hang with New England and even make an attempt at a comeback. The Steelers defense looked good at times, but Brady found ways to use his plethora of weapons throughout the evening. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards and 2 TDs (74 yards after halftime) against his former team and Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for Gronk’s 68th TD. It was all smiles after the game for Gronk who pointed out to those assembled that his next TD will be his 69th. “One more and I got 69 touchdowns. You know what I mean.”

NHL

Final
Montreal Canadiens 4
Boston Bruins 2

After a 3-1 start for the Bruins and a 3-0-1 start for the Canadiens, the two bitter rivals matched up for the first time this season. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the Canadiens looked like the better team throughout. The Bruins again allowed the first goal and found themselves playing from behind the entire night, down 2-0 and 3-1 in the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Bruins made a lot of mistakes and had some sloppy play throughout the game, which tends to happen when teams have younger talent developing under the bright lights. It’s early, but the Canadiens look strong after a blockbuster off-season trade sending PK Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. The Canadiens have now won 9 straight in Boston against the Bruins.

College Football

Final
UCF Knights 24
UConn Huskies 16

It was homecoming for UConn on Saturday as they hosted the UCF Knights. The Huskies came into the game at 3-4 and needed a W against the Knights, but looked flat and couldn’t muster anything in the 2nd half leading to their 5th loss of the season. UCF moves above .500 to 4-3 with the win, rebounding from a 1-pt loss to Temple a week prior. UConn travels to Greenville, NC for a matchup with East Carolina next week desperately needing a W to keep bowl hopes alive. The 2-5 East Carolina Pirates are coming off a 12-pt loss to Cincinnati on the road this past weekend.

MLS

Final
New England Revolution 3
Montreal Impact 0

Despite a disappointing season overall (11-14-9), the New England Revolution finished it off with a strong 3-0 win over the Impact at Gillette Stadium. The Revs made a late push for the playoffs, but knew prior to Sunday’s match that their season would be over finishing in 7th place, 1 spot out of the playoffs. With nothing to lose, the Revs played a strong match and got goals from Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo, and Kei Kamara. Coach Jay Heaps summed up the season after the game. “It’s disappointing that we waited too long to really find ourselves and express ourselves throughout the last part of the season. Five (wins) out of seven is really good, but we just didn’t do enough.”

UConn Celebrate Homecoming in Need of a W

Today’s UConn Football game vs USF is important for many reasons. Here are three quick reasons to watch today’s game:
1. It’s UConn’s homecoming, which is an enjoyable time for the UConn community to come and celebrate. Alumni will travel from around the country (CT) to tailgate and drink away some of the bad losses earlier this year. In all seriousness, homecoming adds an extra layer of energy in the stadium and hopefully will help UConn put up a big W. 

2. At 3-4, this is a must win game against a beatable conference opponent. UCF is 3-3 on the season and the Huskies need to win 3 of their last 5 games to be bowl eligible. If they lose today, that task gets much harder and more improbable. 

3. It’s another installment of the UConn created conFLiCT rivalry between the two schools. Nothing better than a 1-sided rivalry artificially created to get your juices flowing! 

UCF at UConn, Noon ET

The Silver Lining of No Big XII Expansion

big-12

It was announced yesterday that after months of will-they, won’t-they, the Big XII will not enter a period of expansion. This decision leaves UConn and others out in the cold and stuck in their current conferences. For those who have been following this closely and were excited about the possibility of a conference move, this may seem like a negative for UConn athletics. For me, the longer the process wore on, the more I felt a Big XII move would be better than the AAC, but still not a great fit.

Let’s start with the most obviously reason: football competition. Through 7 games this year, UConn football is 3-4 (1-3 in the AAC). If this UConn team was in the Big XII, there is a real chance they would be a 1-win or no win team at this point in the season. With 1 or no wins, fan support would be at rock bottom and TV ratings would be even lower. They would get a recruiting bump from moving to a more prominent conference, but that impact wouldn’t be visible for at least 3 years after the move. That means another at least 3+ years of terrible football with no bowl appearances and no success. Yes the matchups would be more interesting, but success drives fans and viewership, not matchups.

The second is the obvious challenge from the beginning: travel. Of the 10 teams currently making up the Big XII, 4 are in Texas, 2 are in Kansas, 2 are in Oklahoma, 1 is in Iowa, and 1 is in West Virginia. The closest to UConn, West Virginia, is 524 miles from the Storrs campus and the furthest is Texas Tech at nearly 2,000 miles away. With away games being such great distances from home, the travelling fan base (what limited one there already is) would take a significant hit (especially if the team isn’t going to win many games on the road). Like the competition, this isn’t a deal breaker, but makes the Big XII less than ideal for UConn.

Regardless of whether you loved this potential move or were unsure, it’s now off the table. The AAC appears to be the home for UConn athletics for the near future. If another opportunity arises, I’m sure UConn will be front and center making a case, but so long as football is the main money driver in college athletics, a big move will be relatively hard to come by unless something turns around quickly. Below .500 in a mediocre conference doesn’t do anyone any favors.

UConn Football Comes Up Short in Tampa

Photo from UConnHuskies.com

Photo from UConnHuskies.com

After a slow first half with a solid defensive showing, UConn looked to take back the game in the 3rd quarter against USF on Saturday night in Tampa. In the course of a 2+ minute span, UConn had an interception (Obi Melifonwu) leading to a 70-yard Arkeel Newsome receiving TD and then forced a fumble leading to another Newsome score, this time on the ground. Just like that, in a game that UConn looked flat, they were leading 17-14 in the 2nd half. Unfortunately for Husky fans, that was where the joy and momentum ended.

Despite 4 forced turnovers for UConn, the South Florida Bulls flexed their muscles and re-took the lead on an 8-yard QB run for Quinton Flowers, who was too much to handle for the Huskies. On the day, the South Florida QB was 23 for 37 through the air for 213 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions, which was ok, but it’s what he did on the ground that killed UConn (16 carries for 157 yards and 3 TDs). Historically, mobile and athletic QBs pick apart the UConn defense and Saturday was no exception.

The high-scoring Bulls kept pouring it on and eventually won 42-27, marking the 11th straight game with at least 35 points, 11th straight game with 440+ yards of offense, and the 12th straight game with 200+ rushing yards. They moved to 6-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to powerhouse Florida State. USF looks like a legitimate top-tier team in FBS and they had a real shot at finishing the year with just 1 loss.

On the flip side, there were some positive things for UConn. The defense forced 4 turnovers after having forced just 3 in the first 6 games of the season, a trend they need to see continue in order to get 3 more wins and become bowl eligible. On the offensive side of the ball, Bryant Shirreffs was 22 for 39 passing with 306 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions. A very strong night for the junior who helped UConn put up 27 points, their highest output of the season. He was looking to pass first most of the night, rather than just tuck and run every single down. When he takes the time and has the blocking, he can find receivers down field for big gains.

In the end, very few people had UConn winning this game on the road against a very powerful offensive team. The final line was -20 for USF, so in that sense, UConn did better than expected and frankly held on longer than I would have thought. There were some encouraging signs going forward for this squad. UConn comes home to play UCF (3-3) next weekend as they look to climb back to .500 on the year.

The Fall Sports Overlap and Overload

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It’s about this time every year that my head begins to fill will a jumble of sports craziness. Ok, maybe that’s unfair, my head is filled with sports craziness all year long, but this time of year it kicks into overdrive. With professional football beginning to pick up in week 4, professional baseball in the stretch run, and college football in full swing, life is crazy. Then you add the beginning of professional hockey now and professional/college basketball in the next few weeks and my eyes don’t know where to focus. It’s hard enough to keep up with 2 sports running simultaneously, forget 4 or 5. Here’s how I prioritize my limited sports viewing time in order to get the most bang for my buck during a nutty fall of sports.

Baseball

Since the Red Sox are very much in contention, they become the priority viewing experience, weekdays or weekends. Baseball is my true love and with just days left in the regular season and a potential championship contender in town, it has to be the focus. Once the Sox clinch the AL East (magic number is 1) and hopefully lock up the best record in baseball, I’ll have a small breather until the playoffs. Obviously, playoff baseball takes precedent over all else in October.

Also, since this week is the Fantasy Baseball championship for me, that will shift more of my focus away from other sports.

Pro Football/College Football

I limit my football focus to the weekends (unless UConn or the Patriots are playing another day) for now. Saturdays are for college football and Sundays are for pro football. It seems pretty logical, but can be surprisingly difficult to limit myself when both pro and college football are full-time viewing and following experiences. Between injury reports and match-up information, it’s an easy rabbit-hole to get sucked down on weekdays, but I must be strong!

Once the Red Sox season is over (hopefully not for another month+), I will shift the major focus of my attention to football. Since my Fantasy Football teams are terrible (combined 1-5), I may not have to worry too much about the fantasy aspect once baseball is over.

Pro Basketball/Pro Hockey

I know it’s blasphemy to say in Boston, but I’m just not a big NBA fan. I consider myself a periphery Celtics fan and enjoy watching an occasional game and following an interesting storyline, but can’t bring myself to watch on a consistent basis during the regular season. My wife would say that’s a good thing, because I love college basketball and pro hockey, which significantly overlap in seasons (not to mention the serious overlap with football), so I don’t know if I would have the time to avidly follow the Cs even if I wanted to.

The Boston Bruins are a newer passion for me. I grew up outside of Hartford, CT and was a big Whalers fan growing up. When they left Hartford in 1997, I denounced hockey for about a decade in protest. In 2007 when I moved to Boston, I began watching the Bruins and got the hockey itch back. Ever since then, for about 9 years now, I have been an avid hockey fan and a strong Bruins follower. On days when football is not being played and there isn’t a big UConn game (basketball or football), hockey is my major focus.

College Basketball

Being an obsessive UConn sports fan, college basketball season is often a joyous time. I follow the early season games as much as I can, but really start to watch obsessively after the turn of the year. January-April is prime college basketball watching season, with a special focus in early March and into April. Thankfully there are only a handful of earlier season games that are must-watch TV, allowing me to focus on other fall/winter sports until things really pick up. Regardless of what UConn does, the NCAA Tournament is the greatest sports viewing experience of any sport at any time hands down.

There are a smattering of other sports I follow casually during the fall/winter timeline, but everything else is secondary (or thirdary, or fourthdary, or fifthdary).  For right now, discipline and focus are the keys to successfully managing the sports nuttiness that is the fall. Happy watching everybody!

GAME DAY

uconn-football-game-day-vs-virginia

UConn vs. Virginia
1:30pm ET on SN

Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut

Clock Mismanagement Overshadows Great Performance for UConn

Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

Everyone will remember the final drive from Saturday’s UConn vs. Navy football game as a blown opportunity. In a game that seemed like a sure-fire loss for UConn, on the road against a very good Navy team, UConn had a chance to win with seconds left on the clock. Down 4 points with 3 minutes to go, UConn went on an impressive 10 play, 79-yard drive and put themselves in a situation to win the game. The only problem? They needed 80 yards, not 79. When the clock turned to 0s, the scoreboard showed a 28-24 loss for UConn, but it was truly a game of inches (and clock mismanagement).

The late game clock mismanagement is on Bob Diaco and he has to improve if this program is going to take the next step in development, but you can read more about that elsewhere. As frustrating as it was to lose when the W was so close, I want to focus on the players and their incredible performance to even be in the game down the stretch. Down 21-0 in the 2nd quarter, this game could have easily been a 2+ touchdown loss like we have seen a lot of in past years, but the UConn Huskies showed heart and passion and roared back. Their 10 play, 80-yard drive late in the 2nd quarter that ended with a 34-yard TD throw to Noel Thomas began to swing momentum.

Early in the 3rd quarter RB Ron Johnson finished a 10 play, 60-yard drive with a punishing 3-yard run and in the blink of an eye, UConn was within 1 score. Just when it looked like Navy was going to score and maybe swing back the momentum on a big drive late in the 3rd quarter, there was a massive turn of events when DT Mikal Myers forced the ball loose from Navy RB Chris High and CB Jamar Summers scooped the ball and ran 86-yards for the game-tying TD. Everyone, Navy and UConn fans alike, were in shock after that play and couldn’t believe the game was tied going into the 4th quarter.

UConn took the lead on a Bobby Puyol 38-yard field goal, before Navy ultimately scored the game-winning TD with 3:08 to play. QB Bryant Shirreffs played well on Saturday, completing 23 of his 26 passes with a TD and rushing for 45 yards in 13 attempts (not including the 13-yard loss on a sack). The defensive struggled with the option run game in the first half, but locked-in during the 2nd half, allowing just 1 score to keep the game within reach at the end. Overall, a commendable performance and a huge improvement over week 1’s squeaker win over Maine.

Play of the Game

Diaco dialed up some trickery in the 3rd quarter when TE and former QB Tyler Davis had a massive 25-yard throw on his 1 attempt to fellow TE Alec Bloom on a 4th and 4. It kept the drive alive and led to the Huskies’ 2nd TD.

Next up

UConn (1-1) vs. Virginia (0-2) – 1:30pm on Saturday, Sept. 17th

Virginia has losses at home against Richmond (37-20) and at Oregon (44-26) so far in this early season.

GAME DAY

UConn Football Game Day vs Navy

UConn Huskies at Navy Midshipmen
3:30pm CBSSN

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland

When a W Isn’t Really a W: What UConn Needs to Improve

David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

After watching the UConn Huskies barely squeak out a victory against the Maine Black Bears on Thursday night, I didn’t feel happy or even a little bit satisfied. I decided to wait before writing about the game hoping that I would feel better about the performance a few days later, but I still just don’t. It was ugly at times and there were several moments of confusion and uncertainty, on offense and defense. Being bailed out by a Bobby Puyol FG is nice, but doesn’t erase the overall performance.

I know it was just 1 game, but here are some of my concerns going forward based on the 1st 60 minutes of the season.

  • If Bryant Shirreffs continues to run as often as he did against Maine, he will not start all of the Huskies games this season. Shirreffs took a ton of big hits and put himself in some dangerous positions on Thursday, a bad injury waiting to happen. Some designed runs make sense and occasionally pulling the ball down and running is the safest option with good pass coverage, but it appeared he barely read his receivers on most non-designed runs. He would drop back, take 1 look at 1 receiver, then pull it down and run. He must be more patient and make more than 1-read in the passing game if this team has any shot against higher-level competition.
  • The much-hyped UConn defense was meh at best. Maine found huge holes in the secondary as they net 269 passing yards and had 2 big 40+ yard completions. The Black Bears averaged 14.2 yards per completion, which is just way too high for this defense. The D stuffed the run quite effectively, but without a solid pass defense, opponents with even better QBs and receivers will eat them alive. Missed assignments and bad coverage technique needs to improve quickly.
  • UConn didn’t use their TEs enough in the passing game. The Huskies have 4 primary TEs who rotated throughout the game but caught 3 total passes. Bob Diaco loves to run 2+ TE sets to help with the run game, but if you focused a bit more on getting the ball into their hands in the passing game, it would open up holes for Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson in the run game and keep Shirreffs upright in the pocket more often. Quick curls or slants that pick up 4 or 5 yards would make a huge difference on 1st and 2nd downs and lessen the pressure to run constantly.

At the end of the day, a mark in the W column looks the same whether you upset a top opponent or barely beat a low-level one, but the first game of a football season makes a statement, good or bad. For the Huskies, game one was concerning.

GAME DAY

UConn Football Game Day vs Maine

 Maine Black Bears at UConn Huskies
7:00pm ESPN3

Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut

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