The UConn football team has been preparing for this Thursday night ever since the final whistle of last year’s St. Petersburg Bowl.
Now that winter conditioning, spring practice, summer conditioning, and now preseason camp have come to a conclusion, the Huskies can put their full concentration on the Sept. 1 opener vs. Maine at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., and the game is being televised on the American Sports Network, locally in Connecticut on WCCT-TV, and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
Head coach Bob Diaco made the following comments during Media Day in Storrs recently:
Opening Statement: “We’re excited to get formally into game week and prepare for our first opponent. It’s great when you turn on ESPN or you look in the paper and you see college football. There are games being played, touchdowns being scored, and people making tackles. It’s exciting. It’s a great time when college football season starts. You can’t help but come to work excited today, and I’m sure I’m speaking for the whole team and our football family. Maine is a formidable team, and we’re really excited to have the opportunity to play them.”
On establishing the run: “For us, and this is probably philosophical dating back to when I was a player, if you surrender 300 yards passing, you might win or you might lose. The result is up for grabs. If you surrender 300 yards rushing, you’re going to lose. Having that pounded into my head since I was 17 or 18 years old, it works in both ways. You definitely need to be able to run the football to run at the level you want to. In the Northeast, in particular, it becomes even more critical when you think about terrain and climate. We definitely need to be able to run the football. It is a core belief for us.”
On the improvements of the offensive line: “The offensive line has a deeper understanding of fundamentals and the system. There’s a high level of anticipating based on the play and how they fit in relation to the other guys based on the play. They’re bigger, faster, and stronger. All of that has improved for the guys you had a chance to see in 2015. But now you add a really talented player in Matt Peart. He’s a super talent, as anyone in our organization will tell you. Now we have Ryan Crozier coming back, who was one of our best linemen when he went down last year. To have Ryan back, anchoring that offense back, and to have a new tackle who is going to be a special player is exciting. It adds two more guys into the function and our depth.”
On the challenges of the season-opener: “It is different and this one is different in particular. Two-thirds of the team we’re going against really is basically new. They have new coordinators and leadership. We don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. When you have someone who has coordinated over the course of six or 10 years, you get a chance to track and watch them. There’s typically a consistency there. These two units in particular, in the offense and special teams, are completely new. They have talented workers and talented minds. It creates a challenge for us not knowing what they are going to do. It is unique.”