Here are a few of my impressions after UConn handled UMass 37-0 Thursday night to open the season.
Chandler Whitmer is a definite upgrade over Johnny McEntee at quarterback, though as discussed in the chat Thursday, that is probably not saying much anyway. He showed some good moments and some bad moments, throwing for 219 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. I liked the command he had of the offense; but there was not much consistency. Nice-looking drives stalled, resulting in field goals instead of touchdowns, and there were some untimely turnovers. He made some really nice throws, too, showing off a good arm. Geremy Davis had a nice night at receiver. I don't expect everything to be perfect in Week 1 with a first-time starter at quarterback. But I thought there was much more good than bad, and definitely something to build on for the future.
I am sure coach Paul Pasqualoni wants to see more out of the running game. Averaging 3.4 yards a carry is not going to cut it this season. Run blocking is an area that I am sure will be worked on this week in practice.
As anticipated, this defense is going to be among the best in the league. I loved the way Jory Johnson, Yawin Smallwood and Sio Moore got after the ball. It makes a world of difference when you have all of your starting linebackers return, and you could see that Thursday night. In a league with some pretty outstanding linebackers, this collective position group could end up being in the best in the Big East. UConn held UMass to three first downs and 59 yards of total offense (just 3 yards rushing). I don't care who you are playing, those are impressive numbers.
Special teams looked great as well. Nick Williams had a really nice night, but more importantly, so did rookie kicker Chad Christen. That is a huge deal, because he is replacing the best kicker in the Big East in Dave Teggart. Christen made three field goals (36, 47 yards, 19) in his collegiate debut.
Really nice start for UConn. Up next: NC State.