UConn hoping scoring breakthrough leads to more in tilt with Wyoming

Published on Friday, 24 September 2021 16:51

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Going the first 10 quarters of a season against FBS competition without scoring a single point was especially painful for the players and coaches on the UConn football team.

So when quarterback Tyler Phommachanh broke free for a long touchdown run in the third quarter against Army, UConn coach Lou Spanos allowed himself to celebrate just a tad over the headset he uses to communicate with coaches watching from the press box.

“Finally, let’s breathe again. Let’s enjoy it,” Spanos said Tuesday when asked about his instant reaction to the Phommachanh score.

Yes, the Huskies still lost and fell to 0-4. And yes, they’ve got another tall order this weekend when unbeaten Wyoming (3-0) comes to Pratt & Whitney Stadium (3:30 p.m., CBS-SN).

But the Huskies believe that now they’ve started to score, they won’t stop.

“It felt good. We’ve been waiting to score, waiting to do things,” Phommachanh said of his breakthrough run. “We kept fighting.”

Expecting the best

Wyoming coach Craig Bohl has watched the Huskies on film quite a bit in the last few days. And despite their record, he’s been rather impressed.

“I think they’ve got good physical ability. I’m perplexed at their record,” Bohl said during his weekly press conference. “They’ve got big, strong guys up front. They move around well. They’re big in the offensive line. So we need to really prepare that we’re going to play them at their very best.

“There’s times they may go in and out of phase but our anticipation is we’re going to play a well-coached, motivated football team.”

The third degree

One of the big reasons why UConn has struggled to score this season, and while its opponents have flourished, is the Huskies’ play on third downs. UConn is allowing teams to convert 49 percent of their third-down attempts, while it is converting its chances only 30 percent of the time. Both marks place the Huskies near the bottom of the 130 teams in the nation.

“The thing that’s most important is get off the field,” Spanos said Tuesday in talking about his defense’s pitfalls.

The team staged a “third down competition” during practice Tuesday according to Spanos in the hopes of spurring both sides to better performances in that area this weekend.

Takeaway trouble

UConn has cut down on its turnovers of late, but still had one against Army and could be vulnerable to more. That might be music to the Cowboys’ ears.

Wyoming has seven takeaways in its first three games. In its 45-12 win over Ball State Saturday, Wyoming forced a fumble and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Chad Muma had one of those against Ball State, his second straight game with a “pick six.”

“Any time you score on defense, it’s a special thing. To do it twice? I thought that was great,” Bohl said. “We’ve really done a great job this year taking the football away.”

Muma was No. 3 nationally in tackles per game last season (11.8) and the 6-foot-3, 242-pound middle linebacker was named All-Mountain West.

Spanos praised Muma’s ability, as well as that of his defensive teammates, before quickly catching himself.

“If I mispronounce his name, I apologize. I mess up my own kids’ names,” Spanos said with a laugh.

Extra points

Bohl is in his eighth season at Wyoming. Before coaching in Laramie, he was the head coach at North Dakota State and won three straight FCS titles from 2011-13. … The Huskies may be some estimates the worst team in FBS but they are on the right track, their coach says. “We are doing better. We’re ascending,” Spanos said. … Some changes in UConn’s depth chart this week give it 14 freshmen listed as starters, including seven on offense. … Running back Kevin Mensah, who is closing in on the school’s career rushing record, has been passed by freshman Nate Carter on the depth chart. Spanos said Mensah has handled it well. “Kevin’s a mature player. He’s working hard,” Spanos said. “He’s been outstanding.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Friday, 24 September 2021 16:51. Updated: Friday, 24 September 2021 16:53.