EAST HARTFORD — New year, new players but a little of the same ol', same ol' was reflected in UConn's 37-0 thrashing of UMass before 35,270 at Rentschler Field Thursday night.
The Huskies got 16 points from special teams, including a trio of Chad Christen field goals (36, 47 and 19), and a blocked punt by Taylor Mack that was pounced on in the end zone by Max DeLorenzo.
The Huskies' defense was outstanding. That's the good news. But truth be told the three field goals should have resulted in touchdowns, had the O been clicking properly.
The defense was plain cold and nasty, holding UMass to 59 total yards, including three yards rushing. Dwayne Gratz returned a 37-yard interception for a touchdown, just like he did in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago.
"Believe it or not I was thinking Fiesta Bowl when it happened," Gratz said. "It was almost the same amount yards, too, I think."
UMass did not achieved a first down until 33 seconds remained in the second quarter. The Minutemen had just three in the game.
Now the offense did score 14 points. Running back Lyle McCombs (23 carries, 82 yards) scored the first points of the season on a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter. Wildcat quarterback Scott McCummings scored on a 1-yarder in the fourth.
Receiver Nick Williams accounted for 143 all-purpose yards, including 24 rushing, 16 receiving and 66 on punt returns.
New quarterback Chandler Whitmer was 15 of 25 for 219 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, the second coming in the red zone in the third quarter. It was the Huskies' second possession of the quarter. Between McCombs and McCummings the ball got forked over to UMass at their own 5 on the first one.
"I was a little bit disappointed that we had the ball to start the second half, got down there and turned it over," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "Three turnovers is not acceptable so we've got to go back on that."
Otherwise, Pasqualoni was pleased with the defense, special teams, and some of the production he got on offense, tempo and effort.
The Huskies need to work on preventing turnovers, and have a little time before North Carolina State rolls in next Sept. 8. If they don't fix the thurnover problem, they'll be 1-1.
N.C. State is not UMass. The offense will have to be better than it was.
Still doesn't mean the defense can't win a game if it has to. It pretty much won it Thursday night.
"We've gone through a long training camp just going against our team, it was great to go against players we didn't know," said middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who had seven tackles (3.5 for loss and a sack). "I feel like last year the experience we had wasn't experience that we liked so we wanted to come out and get a good start.
"Our offense got a lot of confidence from what they did. Our defense got a lot of confidence from what we did out there so, you know, we're ready for N.C. State. They're a top team in the country. They're No. 25 I believe so it's going to be a great challenge. They're coming to the Rent. They're going to have to game plan around our defense."
UMass could have played its best and it wouldn't have mattered. The Minutemen were playing their first Division I-A game and looked like it. It was the first time UMass had been shut out since 1995, a span of 199 games. The offense never got into enemy territory.
Although The UConn offense needs some work, Nick Williams was almost a one-man wrecking crew who turned in 143 all-purpose yards.
"Anywhere I can contribute, passing game, running game, return game, blocking, I'm all for it," Williams said. "I'm excited. I'm just happy to be on the field."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun