<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Dog House]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/blogs/dog-house http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:02:01 -0400 Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:02:01 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[USF, UConn Football Have Much in Common]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:52:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/willie-taggart.jpg

The University of South Florida and UConn are separated by more than 1,200 miles but the football programs -- which will square off Friday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN have plenty in common. Namely: Both teams have new coaches trying to breathe life back into programs that at one time were in the national conversation.

Since playing in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2010 season, the Huskies have gone 13-23. And the Bulls, which didn't have a football program 20 years ago, ranked No. 2 in the country during the 2007 season.

''You hear a lot about No. 2, No. 2, No. 2. That's not fair to our guys right now to compare them to No. 2. We're not that team right now,'' said USF coach Willie Taggart, via the Associated Press. ''We're trying to build that foundation and get it back to that.''

Like UConn, USF is 1-2 this season, and Taggart sounds many of the same tones we hear from Bob Diaco when he talks about rebuilding what once was.

''Our football team is still fragile. ... We need to continue to find as much success as we can and be as positive as we can, keep going in that direction,'' Taggart said.

That's right out of the Diaco playbook.

'This whole year is building. We can't do anything to compromise our development. We can't do anything to compromise our ability to get better,'' Diaco said. ''We need to get batter as a team every week. We need to get better as a team at the end of the season. 'That has to happen. That will happen.''

Interestingly, one of the best chances for a win -- for both teams -- will come when they face off Friday night.

<![CDATA[Diaco Looking for More From Offense]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:49:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+bob+diaco+stony+brook.jpg

It's been a recurring theme since Paul Pasqualoni took over for Randy Edsall before the 2011 season: The lack of offensive firepower put immense pressure on the defense to keep games close, a unplanned strategy that has gotten progressively worse with each passing season.

But first-year coach Bob Diaco is going about the arduous task of changing ... well, everything -- from the players' mindsets, to their on-field performance to, ultimately, the outcome. It won't be quick or easy, but Diaco has a plan and given all that's transpired in the last three seasons, it's a start.

But all the positive thinking can't change the reality that UConn's offensive line just isn't very good right now. They've given up more sacks than any other FBS team (15), rank last in the country in tackles for loss (32) and the team's leading rusher is quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who didn't even start the first game.

“Too many negative plays,” Diaco conceded earlier this week, via SNY.com. ” Too many plays we can not get started properly because people are in the backfield. We understand it’s a work in progress, but it needs to be addressed at a higher level. Sacks and TFLs. It’s hard to get going when you are behind the chains or players are being harassed before they get started.”

The immediate problem: Reinforcements aren't on the way. As the old coaching bromide goes, it is what it is, and for Diaco, right now it isn't very good. Even the always-positive coach was realistic about this.

"There are only a couple of guys who played some, guys that we are really counting on like a Richard Levy, Andreas (Knappe), Dalton (Gifford), they never really played let alone (Tyler) Samra, (Trey) Rutherford, (Ryan) Crozier," he said.

"They need a lot of work. They are working, they are trying. We need to be more sensitive as a whole team to their needs than we have been. We have been working hard but I think it even needs another layer of care. That might be with the daily structure, that might be daily assistance. Maybe we really inspect the installation so we aren't a jack of all trades and master of none. We ave a chance to maybe master a few jobs, maybe we decrease some of the run menu and give them a few things that they can really sink their teeth into. It is not a play selection issue, it is play execution issue. Every play looks bad when every play looks like they are storming the castle."

The next test comes Friday night when the Huskies face USF.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Announces Series With Missouri]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:55:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/diaco+with+uconn+team_1200.jpg

The UConn football program announced Thursday a home-and-home series with the University of Missouri that will begin on Sept. 19, 2015, when the Huskies visit Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri, and the Tigers will return the favor on Sept. 23, 2017 when they come to Rentschler Field.

"We are very excited about playing a football series against Missouri as we continue to build a competitive non-conference schedule for our team and an exciting one for our loyal fans," UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel said in a statement. "Our future football schedules have a number of games from various leagues around the country and I am happy to add Missouri and the Southeastern Conference to those contests."

Missouri joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012 and in that time appeared in one bowl game, beating Oklahoma St. in last year's Cotton Bowl Classic.

The Huskies, meanwhile, are 2-2 against SEC schools, including a win over South Carolina in the 2010 Papajohns.com Bowl and a 1-2 record against Vanderbilt.

UConn's future non-conference games include (via UConnHuskies.com):

2015: September 5, Villanova; September 12, Army; September 19, at Missouri; October 2, at BYU.
2016: September 3, Maine; September 10, at UMass (Foxborough, Mass.); September 17, Virginia.
2017: September 2, UMass; September 9, Holy Cross; September 16, at Virginia; September 23, Missouri.
2018: September 8, at Boise State.
2019: September 7, Illinois; September 21, at Indiana.
2020: September 12, at Illinois; September 26, Indiana.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Stewart Looks to Seize Team USA Chance]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:39:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

Team USA made their way to Paris Wednesday ahead of three exhibition games with Australia, China and France. Coach Geno Auriemma, in only the way he can, talked about the team's preparation for the upcoming games.

"We sat around a lot on the bus trip yesterday,” Auriemma said, via USA Basketball. “We sat around a lot on the plane. Then we got here and we were stuck in traffic. So there was a lot that can make you sluggish and stale a little bit. We came out here today to get our legs back, and I thought they were great. Everybody really wanted to move. Lindsay Whalen just said that, ‘It was good to get our bodies moving.’ And we got some things done. We got a little better as a team, and tomorrow we’ll get a couple new guys in, throw them into the mix. We’ll get a little better tomorrow and then we’ll play Friday.”

One player very familiar to Auriemma trying to make the national team is the 2014 collegiate player of the year, Breanna Stewart. She arrives in Paris after scoring nine points in Team USA's 76-51 win over Canada.

“I’m much more comfortable,” Stewart said at the time, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “We’ve been with each other for a week and each day you can tell in practice or like tonight when we’re in a game that the chemistry is growing.”

Meanwhile, Stewart leaves behind her UConn teammates, who have started the fall semester.

“I’m keeping up pretty well so far," Stewart said of her schoolwork. "I’m making sure I get things in by the due date. I met with my academic advisor in Bridgeport and she helped me stay organized. I think the biggest thing is making myself do the work. There’s no one else here making sure I do the work besides me.”

It also doesn't hurt to have the ear of someone who's been through this all before: Former Huskies great Maya Moore.

“The advice Maya has given me is basically making sure you stay on top of it,” Stewart said. “Once you get behind, you’re always going to be behind in your schoolwork.”

<![CDATA[Omar Calhoun Ready for 2014]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:38:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-napier.jpg

Omar Calhoun had a very good freshman season -- averaged 32 minutes and 11.1 points a game -- one that has been all but forgotten after he was buried on the bench as a sophomore. A slump saw his playing time -- and production -- slip to 13 minutes and 3.8 points. It was a tough six months for the shooting guard, even as the Huskies were on their way to winning a second national title in three years.

But now, fully healthy and with the full support of coach Kevin Ollie, the junior sharpshooter has regained his confidence and hopefully his form -- and minutes -- follow.

"It was definitely a tough year," Calhoun said last week, according to the Hartford Courant. "I knew I wasn't 100 percent from the start of the season, but I feel like I learned a lot throughout the season, what it takes to be a champion. I feel like it happened for a reason; maybe this year is supposed to be the year I'm supposed to lead the team to another one."

Ollie has faith that Calhoun, who had surgery on both hips heading into last season, will be ready to go both mentally and physically this time around.

“He’s healthy, springy, even more explosive,” Ollie said in August. “He’s shooting the ball great, in workouts he is leading, working hard. I expect some great things for him this season. Him not giving up, staying with the team throughout his battles, not shooting the ball well, he never gave in, he was always a great teammate. That’s what I really, really enjoyed seeing because a lot of kids give up in certain situations like that, when it gets tough. It shows me that he‘s got a mind-set that he’s going to be a team player and he’s going to get better from that.”

Meanwhile, Calhoun has been working -- in the gym, with a trainer -- pretty much since the Huskies won the national title in early April. It started with a "let's put everything on the table" talk with his father.

"We sat down to re-analyze everything," Calhoun said. "Where are we going to go from here? I was going to come back stronger than ever. I've gotten a lot stronger in a lot of different areas. Coaches see that. My father's message was, 'Just dedicate myself, whatever happens in the future is what I put into it.' So every single day, every single second, I'm always trying to do something to better myself."

And that will go a long way in helping the 2014-15 Huskies. who are officially in the post-Shabazz Napier era.

<![CDATA[USA Assistant Coach Recalls Beating Geno]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:36:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

There are grand total of two schools that can claim a winning record against Geno Auriemma. One no longer exists -- U.S. International of San Diego, which is now Alliant International University ... and doesn't have a basketball team -- and the other is LaSalle.

U.S. International of San Diego is 1-0 against UConn after a 96-88 win back in November 1986. LaSalle, meanwhile, holds a 3-0 lead over the Huskies and Auriemma, the last meeting coming in December 1989.

Such obscure facts might remain obscure if not for Cheryl Reeve serving as a reminder. She's an assistant on Auriemma's Team USA staff who played at LaSalle from 1984-1988.

“I was on the bench and I remember it well, like it was yesterday,” Reeve told SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I remember Kelly Greenberg got hurt, tore her eardrum, near the end of the game. We came back and won.

“I actually go back a little further with Geno. In 1986, UConn came down and played in the La Salle tournament we had. I was a player and we beat them. I let him know about it. Not that many people can say they were on a team that beat Geno’s team. But that was before UConn was UConn.”

Reeve's line from the '86 game: six points, three assists, four turnovers.

Auriemma's response upon hearing this?

"She reminds me of it all the time,” he told Adamec. “Four turnovers? We’ll be talking about that.”

<![CDATA[QB Tim Boyle Showing Growth]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:42:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+football_generic+shot.jpg

The plan was for Tim Boyle to redshirt the 2014 season. He was thrust into the lineup as a freshman in 2013, five games into a season that had already been lost. The results were predictably disastrous. But first-year coach Bob Diaco wanted to bring Boyle along slowly, a luxury he had with Casey Cochran and Chandler Whitmer ahead of him on the depth chart.

But that all changed when Cochran retired from football earlier this month. Boyle was elevated to No. 2 quarterback and saw action in last Saturday's loss to Boise State. And while his numbers don't jump off the page -- 6-of-9 for 33 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions -- there are reasons for optimism, and most of them came during the Huskies' final offensive drive when Boyle was able to move the ball down the field.

"It gave me a lot of confidence," Boyle said afterward, via the New Haven Register. "I know it wasn't their starting defense but any time you play a Boise State team their backups aren't going to be a bad backup group so it definitely gave me confidence in my leadership ability because I definitely was in control of that series. It was slower this year than it was last year for me, it came to be a lot easier. Seeing defenses, getting the play call in, the substitutions and all that kind of stuff. It was definitely s confidence booster for the next couple of games and I want to keep building on it."

Boyle admitted that his freshmen season was a whirlwind that extended beyond football to to everything regular freshman have to deal with too.

"Being a true freshman coming in and four weeks in college of still trying to know where my classes are, figuring out what book is for what class and trying to learn an offense and manage an offensive line where the oldest guy was 23/24 years old so I think the big picture scared me last year," Boyle told the Register. "I just had to let the game come to me, take a deep breath and everything is going to work out."

Boyle now has a year under his belt and is becoming more comfortable in the offense, which will hopefully translate into more consistency on the field.

"I think it was more confidence in myself, I knew I could do it but it is unfortunate it wasn't being done on the field," Boyle said to the Register. "The ball is definitely coming out a lot easier this year, I am not forcing anything and that has worked well for me."

The Huskies are still 1-2 and a long way from the 2010 team that won the Big East and played in the Fiesta Bowl. But for the first time in a long time it appears UConn has a plan. And that's a good start.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[UConn's Men's Team Announce Staff Additions]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:41:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

With the college basketball season just a few weeks off, Kevin Ollie's Huskies announced several changes to the coaching staff Tuesday. David Sevush has been named Director of Scouting-Video, and Dan Griffin has been named Director of Player Development.

Details of their responsibilities via the university's news release:

Sevush, 28, has assumed his new position following two seasons as a graduate assistant coach. He will be involved in practice and game planning, player workouts, opponent scouting, film breakdown and on-campus recruiting. ...

Griffin, 43, will be working primarily on the off-court development of the student-athletes, dealing with their roles as productive, positive forces within their communities. He will have close interaction with the UConn players and assist them as they progress through college.

"Dave has contributed a lot to our program as a grad assistant the last two years and he will be even more involved as a fulltime member of the staff," Ollie said in a statement. "We're pleased that he is going to remain part of our team."

On Griffin, Ollie added: "I think it's important for us to have someone who can focus on the players' development off the court. Dan will be able to help them become more well-rounded people, which will help them succeed no matter what they do after they leave college."

<![CDATA[Ollie Meets With 2 NJ High School Players]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:37:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Days after UConn landed a commitment from 6-10 Steve Enoch Kevin Ollie was back on the recruiting trail. On Tuesday, the coach of the defending national champion Huskies met with the two best high school prospects in the state of New Jersey: Tyus Battle and Isaiah Briscoe.

Battle is a 6-5 guard from Gill St. Bernard's who will graduate in 2016; Briscoe is a 6-3 guard from Roselle Catholic and will graduate this spring.

“Ollie is one of the best young basketball minds in the country,” Gary Battle, the player’s father, told SNY.com. “Coach is so smart and he has so much wisdom.”

The Huskies aren't alone in recruiting Battle; we're just two weeks into September and already this month he has hosted Louisville's Rick Pitino, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Rutgers’ Eddie Jordan, Michigan’s John Beilein, Ohio State’s Thad Matta and Florida’s Billy Donovan. By the end of the week, Virginia's Tony Bennett and Kentucky's John Calipari are expected to stop by.

Meanwhile, Briscoe's coach echoed Gary Battle's comments.

“We had a great meeting this evening with Kevin Ollie and Glen Miller,” coach Dave Boff told SNY.tv. “They did a great job of explaining how Isaiah’s style of play and his strengths would fit in well in the UConn system.”

Briscoe is expected to take an official visit to Storrs on Sept. 26.

<![CDATA[Diaco's Defense Coming Around]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:34:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/diaco+with+uconn+team_1200.jpg

The Huskies are 1-2. There's no getting around that, and first-year coach Bob Diaco isn't trying to. That's the reality of rebuilding, but Diaco has a plan, one that will take time to implement. The good news is that we've seen glimpses of what will be, even if the scoreboard doesn't fully reflect it.

We say "fully" because UConn's 38-21 loss to Boise St. Saturday comes with some bright spots. Chief among them: The defense played relatively well. You're first reaction might be that allowing 38 points isn't much to hang your hat on those numbers, on the surface, are misleading.

"Fourteen uncontested points, where the defense or the special teams is not on the field, against any opponent we are going to play, it becomes impossible to win the games," said Diaco. "When you factor in another plus-field turnover, you're talking about 21 points."

So, back to that improved defense.

"Hopefully the people that were there saw our DNA and what we are going to be," Diaco said of the unit. "Hopefully they can gain some pride in that, look to the future and tell a friend because it's a heck of a way to spend an afternoon."

We mentioned it Monday but the Huskies were able to slow all-everything running back Jay Ajayi and an explosive Broncos offense, limiting the former to just 39 rushing yards and the latter to 292 total yards.

"It shows the work that we have put in," safety Obi Melifonwu said, via UConnHuskies.com. "Boise State is a great offensive team. I think there are a lot of positives that we can take away from the game."

The recent success isn't anything more than execution, which is encouraging news going forward.

"The defense, playing basically the same system they played in week one, looked nothing like it looked in week one. So the defense is moving its game forward," Diaco said. "I'm proud of the way that they played today."

And Melifonwu added: "It is great to be able to get off the field. We would love to create more turnovers and help out field position but limiting them on third down is definitely a key."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Commit Napheesa Collier Draws Praise]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:29:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-PVAM.jpg

Over the weekend, Sue Bird talked up incoming Huskies freshman Kia Nurse, who also plays for the Canadian National Team. Now it's Dawn Staley's turn to talk about future Husky, 2015 commitment Napheesa Collier, who played with Staley, the South Carolina coach and national team assistant, on the United States' U-18 squad that won gold at the FIBA Americas tournament this summer.

“Napheesa was great,” Staley told SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “She’s relentless. She plays hard all of the time, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a game or if it’s practice. She sets the tone for how the game should be played. She sets a great example for others.”

Collier averaged 14 points a game as the US went 5-0. At 6-1, her versatility is what sets her apart. She averaged 8.6 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from behind the arc.

“She’s probably one of the most efficient players on both of the sides of the ball,” Staley said. “She made stuff happen. She’s a magnet for the ball, a great offensive rebounder that can knock down open shots from inside and outside the 3-point line. She picked up things well and was a pleasure to work with.”

The scary news for UConn opponents is that the 2015-16 Huskies could be better than this year's version, which is loaded. The 2015 recruiting class includes the nation's best player in Katie Lou Samuelson, and Collier and De’Janae Boykin are both top-10 players. There's also Nurse and Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

<![CDATA[Cochran Speaks About Leaving Team]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:45:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/cochran_speaks_out_091514.jpg

The Huskies began the post-Casey Cochran era Saturday against Boise State.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback retired from football following a Week 1 concussion against BYU – he has suffered multiple concessions in his career – and on Monday, he spoke with the media for the first time since leaving the game.

"Talking to my parents, talking to the medical staff and everyone there was a consensus this is the decision that needs to be made," he told the New Haven Register. "It is tough and it will be tough for a while but it makes it a lot easier that I played the way I did and I left everything on the field and I played for my teammates so I wouldn't have any regrets."

That doesn't mean Cochran won't miss what he had.

"There were times in came or times in the spring when I would sit back and think, 'This is awesome. I am a D1 football player. I am having fun, playing a sport and going to college for free.' Having those thoughts, taking a step back and appreciating what I had made this decision easier because I didn't have to sit there and think, 'Well, maybe if I had done this, it would have been easier,'" Cochran said.

"I play a certain way, went about thinks a certain way. All my support staff has been unbelievable. My parents, my family and friends, people I haven't even talked to for years have reached out to me. The staff has been unbelievable with me. I appreciate the job they do for me and will continue to do with me, the opportunities they have given to me," he added.

"It was a tough decision, but I literally have no regrets," Cochran reiterated. "I want to be healthy, not just now, but in 20 years, in 40 years, in 60 years from now, and to live a long and happy life. I'm happy right now, I'm happy with my new roles."

Cochran is set to graduate next summer and will attend graduate school after that. He could pursue a coaching career like his father, but he's also considering sports broadcasting. Whatever he does, he will no doubt be successful.

"He was selected to quarterback the team because of his leadership and his intangible component," coach Bob Diaco said. "And the ability to continue that and continue to add that to the team is a positive, and he did that."

<![CDATA[Kia Nurse Relishes International Experience]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:55:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+kia+nurse_1200.jpg

Kia Nurse spent part of her summer training with the national team. But unlike many of her teammates, it wasn't the United States squad. Instead, Nurse was the point guard for Team Canada, an experience that can only help her as she prepares to begin her freshman season with Geno Auriemma and the Huskies.

On Sunday, however, Nurse and her countrymen were on the court scrimmaging against the Americans, which included 33-year-old Sue Bird.

The advice I would really give her is to take it one day at a time and try to get better," Bird said of Nurse, according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec. "Be a good teammate and everything will probably fall into place for you.

“As far as international play, that’s different because her role will be different. Even at UConn though you’re a freshman and you’re young, the oldest player is only three years older. You go on the international stage, like with me, 17 years is the difference. It’s a much more physical game.”

Nurse, meanwhile, is seizing the opportunity to not only play against some of the best players in the world, but to use her UConn connections to pick the brains of these players.

“It’s really exciting to play against some of the players that I watched growing up,” Nurse said. “Some of the things they do are just crazy to me now. But to think that one day I’ll be able to do them … It’s just so much fun.

“I’m really lucky to have this opportunity. These are great players that will expose my weaknesses and show my strengths and you can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Auriemma was asked about Nurse's unique predicament. “Kia’s in kind of a difficult situation,” the coach said. “There are a lot of veterans on their team and they’re trying to incorporate a lot of youngsters. When you’re 18 and playing with pros, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. She holds her own out there. She doesn’t look intimidated. She doesn’t look like she’s overwhelmed. But this was only a scrimmage. We’ll know more Monday night.”

Not surprisingly, the Huskies' 2014 class is formidable. In addition to Nurse, it includes Gabby Williams (5-11, Nevada), Sadie Edwards (5-9, New Jersey) and Courtney Ekmark (6-0, Arizona).

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[6-10 Steve Enoch Commits to Huskies]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:28:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

Steve Enoch, the 6-10 big man from Norwalk who spent last season at St. Thomas More prep, committed to UConn Saturday as expected.

“I will be playing College Basketball at The University of Connecticut as of next season," Enoch tweeted.

Over the summer, Enoch didn't hide the fact that he wanted to play for the Huskies.

“Growing up I’ve always wanted to play at UConn and my family wanted me to,” he said at the time, via SNY.com. “And they’ve all been fans of UConn. Now that I have [a scholarship offer] I gotta take it slow because I really have to study their program.”

Enoch was on his official visit this weekend, but he has previously made several unofficial visits and built a good relationship with coach Kevin Ollie. Also not hurting: that national title.

“I watched them win but I was just rooting for them,” Enoch said. “I didn’t have anybody special that I was really rooting for. It was really good that they won and I’m happy for them.”

Not long ago, Enoch wasn't even on the national recruiting radar, which means that he's still growing as a player.

“I think I can get way better,” he said. “I’m just coming off a [thigh] injury and I’m feeling good out there. My wind is up and my motor is running, so just have to keep pushing.”

<![CDATA[Diaco: "I'm Excited About the Team, Future"]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:35:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+pumped.jpg

It's a process. We have to remember that when evaluating the 2014 Huskies. That was on display again Saturday as the Huskies hosted the Boise St. Broncos. And while the results weren't as one-sided as the season-opening 35-10 defeat to BYU, it was a loss nonetheless. And at this level, even when coaches admit they are in full-on rebuilding mode, there are no moral victories.

"I would say we are further ahead than I thought we would be," Diaco said after the game, via the Hartford Courant. "I'm very excited about the team and the future. Not only the future years ahead, but the future of 2014. As we move from the preparation, and there isn't one person in that huddle that feels good [about the loss], there also isn't one person who isn't better than we were three weeks ago. Coach or player."

Put another way: Despite being on the wrong side of the 38-21 outcome against Boise St., there are reasons for optimism -- even if they're not readily apparent to the casual observer. The Broncos' all-everything running back Jay Ajayi came into Rentschler Field averaging 152.5 yards a game (5.8 yards per carry), and his 305 total yards was good for sixth best in the country. On Saturday, he was held to 39 yards on 18 rushes, good for 2.2 yards per carry.

"There are some moments we can hang our hat on, sink our teeth into, and say, 'Yes, this is something we have accomplished," Diaco said. "The defense, playing basically the same system they played in Week 1, looked nothing like Week 1. I'm proud of the way they played today."

Still, there's work to be done.

"Fourteen uncontested points, where the defense or special teams are not on the field, against any opponent, it becomes impossible to win the games," Diaco said of turnovers early in the game. "Let alone a nationally branded powerhouse. When you factor in another plus-field turnover, you're talking about 21 points. That has to get solved."

Next up: The Huskies start their conference schedule Friday when they travel to South Florida.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Takes On Boise State]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 19:09:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+boise+cheerleader.jpg UConn came up short against Boise State on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn's Freshman RBs Impressing]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 12:53:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/arkeel+newsome+run_uconn.jpg

There seemed to be little concern when coach Bob Diaco parted ways with running back Lyle McCombs this offseason. Partly because the former freshman All-American had struggled in recent seasons, but also because Diaco was excited about the other backs on the roster

Max DeLorenzo entered the season with the most experience but it's two rookies -- Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson -- who could prove to be the most exciting. The stats don't completely tell that story -- not yet, anyway -- but we've seen glimpses of just how good this duo can be.

Newsome ripped off a 22-yard run against Stony Brook and added a 18-yard reception against BYU the week before.

"He is a great back, very explosive and he is quick on his feet and he is a very special player, UConn wide receiver Deshon Foxx told the New Haven Register. "I like how he gets the ball and he goes vertical, he doesn't believe in dancing and when he gets the ball he is running."

Johnson, meanwhile, eschews the quickness that makes Newsome so dangerous for sheer power and will. The 217-pound back has yet to have a signature carry but it's only a matter of time.

"They are two great young backs," offensive tackle Dalton Gifford told the Register, "Arkeel is explosive, Ron is a huge dude who can run people over. It is like a perfect little duo of running backs, one coming down on you to take you out and the other is going to run right past you."

A reliable running game is a quarterback's best friend. And with Chandler Whitmer now the starter after Casey Cochran's retirement -- and Tim Boyle as the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster -- a solid ground attack becomes even more important.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Hoping for Fan Support at The Rent]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 19:42:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+sideline_1200.jpg

First-year coach Diaco knows this is a team in transition, one that's become accustomed to losing. In the last three years, the Huskies are 13-33, which is what a punchless offense and a porous defense will get you. But Diaco, who comes to Storrs by way of South Bend, where he served as defensive coordinator under Brian Kalley at Notre Dame, a program used to sustained success, knows UConn can't do it alone.

During last Saturday's game against Stony Brook, 23,500 fans showed up at Rentschler Field. That's the third-smallest crowd ever in the building. So while Diaco has his hands full with improving the on-field product, supporters can do their part by, you know, supporting their team. "I don't want to come across as berating in any way of people that were not there [Saturday]," Diaco said, via the Hartford Courant. "The fact of the matter is, we're so honored and pleased to have all of the Husky fans that were in the stadium cheering hard however many there were, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, whatever so thank you for coming. We're honored to have you there and we were pleased to share in that experience with you.

"And, to the people that didn't come, I understand," he continued. "I got it -– but please come. It's not a money deal. It's surely not for us. It's about the engagement. It's about a state engagement, a university pride. It's about an awesome thing to do on an afternoon, cheer on your state school and a great contest. We hope more will come engage and the more games we win, what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the fans come and the team won or did the team win and the fans came? We have to have a great product out there and we're going to so please come."

Of course, winning fixes just about everything, including attendance. What better time to start than now: the Huskies host Boise St. this Saturday in a nationally televised game.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Byron Jones Knows He Has to Get Better]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 11:24:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-ucf-loss.jpg

Just like BYU in the season opener, Boise State's reputation precedes them. Another week, another high-powered offense, which means that the Huskies defense will have to play at an uncomfortably high level if they're going to have a chance (Vegas doesn't seem too worried; they have the Broncos favored by 16).

One of UConn's best players, cornerback Byron Jones, knows that there is virtually no room for error Saturday, and that starts with him.

"There's been good play here and there but overall I think I need to step it up," Jones told the Hartford Courant. "Being as athletic as I am, I have to apply that to the game of football. There's no reason to be in a good position and not get an interception or not bat the ball away and make the tackle."

Before the season, first-year coach Bob Diaco called Jones one of the best cornerbacks in the country. We haven't seen it through two games but Jones remains focused.

"I'm working on it every day," he said. "I talked to Coach multiple times. We're on it together. He's down my back. I'm down my own back. I was frustrated with the play but you have to roll with the punches and keep playing. I couldn't crawl into a corner."

Diaco, speaking in more general terms about his team, says getting better from one week to the next is a mindset.

"It's a focus. It a winning focus," he said. That's the difference.e I've tried to articulate it. I haven't necessarily done a great job of it but it has nothing to do with winning and losing or not wanting to win or not wanting to lose. ... It's all about winning the day today. That's where we have a disconnect. We're interested in winning today; the process. ... That's the part our program. That's the phase we're in right now."

And if Jones can flash some of those "best cornerback in the country" skills, that wouldn't hurt either.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[SEC: No Comment on Mo'ne Davis Infraction]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:30:24 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Geno-and-Mone.jpg

The plot, as they say, thickens. Earlier this week, there was a report that Tennessee, which has a long, storied rivalry with UConn, didn't complain to the NCAA that Geno Auriemma's two-minute phone call with 13-year-old Little League World Series star Mo'ne Davis constituted a recruiting violation.

The NCAA said the phone call was an "infraction," but didn't identify the school or conference that initially notified them about what Auriemma and UConn considered an innocuous, congratulatory conversation.

Another report said that the responsible party weren't associated with the AAC or ACC either. Then later, the Big12 announced they didn't make the complaint. But on Wednesday, according to the Hartford Courant, "A spokesman for the Southeastern Conference would not comment when asked if one of its members was responsible for filing the complaint."

No comment isn't an admission of guilt, but it's interesting nonetheless that other conferences have made a point to distance themselves from the story.

Last week, Davis said Auriemma did nothing wrong when he called to congratulate her on a great season.

“I heard about [the NCAA violation] this morning, and it’s sad,” Davis told the Associated Press Friday. “There wasn’t anything about recruiting in the call, he was just congratulating me.”

In the NCAA's eyes, that's still a violation.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Byron Jones: 100% Behind Cochran's Decision]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:27:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-ucf-loss.jpg

Senior cornerback Byron Jones had two brothers play for Jack Cochran, Casey Cochran's father, at New Britain High School, so he knows just how much that family loves football. This week, Casey retired from the game after suffering his latest concussion but will remain with the Huskies to pursue his next challenge: coaching.

And while UConn is losing its starting quarterback, it's gaining someone who is wildly passionate about the game.

"He's been a guy who has given it 100 percent," Jones said, according to the New Haven Register. "We are 100 percent behind his decision. You use it as motivation because anything can be your last play. ...

"It is tough to see a guy up there who has been around football for so long and probably didn't think for one second, this is going to be my last game to go down like that," the cornerback continued. "It is just one of those unfortunate moments, people get inured and don't come back. We will 100 percent support his decision, no doubt about it.

"He is a very high-quality person, a leader and a person who does everything at 100 percent. He is definitely going to be missed with the football team but he is still going to be a part of us in a coaching capacity."

team captain Marquise Vann added: "You just see a very strong person. He was strong with it, very confident. He wasn't crying, he was very excited tat he was going in a new direction with his life. We are all backing him and he is still going to be around. It wasn't a hard time, it was an exciting time for Casey because we saw how great of a man he was, how great of a leader he was so."

And tight end Sean McQuillan took to Twitter to echo similar sentiments: "Casey Cochran is one of the best kids I know and never gave anything but his best in everything he did, unbelievable teammate and friend."

Which is why no one will be surprised if Cochran's wildly successful in his next endeavor.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cochran Didn't Want Suffer Long-Term Effects]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 19:42:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Casey+Cochran+1200.jpg

Casey Cochran's college career may have ended abruptly this week when the redshirt sophomore retired from football after suffering a concussion in the season opener, but he won't ever be far away from his teammates.

When coach Bob Diaco announced that Cochran's playing career was over, he added: "A silver lining in this matter is that Casey has an interest in pursuing a career in coaching. We can now accelerate his development in that area as he transitions from a player role to a mentor role as he continues to serve the team."

Diaco added to those comments Tuesday when talking about Cochran's role as a mentor.

"Casey is excited about playing a role with the team, and is excited about learning how to be a coach," Diaco told reporters. "We can immediately get started with his development in that area, give him a few jobs and a few roles. He has no change in his scholarship, all that still pertains and the requirements are still during this time period 20 hours, and out of season eight hours. He's still working in some kind of role."

Casey hasn't yes spoken with the media but his father, Jack Cochran, says his son "made the best of his opportunity when he came up," adding: "As he told me, he has no regrets. He had a great career; it's time to move on."

Jack Cochran also couldn't speak highly enough of Diaco's decision to help Casey jump-start his coaching career.

"From the first second he learned of this, he put my son's well-being ahead of what might be better for the success of the team," the father told the Associated Press. "Without this, who knows what Casey would be doing with all his time. I applaud coach Diaco. I really owe him for that."

Cochran's decision to quit playing football didn't come lightly, but it was made easier in light of recent concussion research.

"He just didn't want to be one of those people who were affected by it long term," Jack said. "He knew his age group can live another 60 to 70 years if healthy and wanted to have a strong mind and a strong body for those years."

<![CDATA[UConn Men Release Home Schedule]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:32:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

The defending national champion UConn men's basketball team announced its 15-game home schedule Tuesday that will include visits from Texas and Memphis to Gampel Pavilion and Cincinnati and SMU to the XL Center.

Details via the school's announcement:

"The 2014 National Champion Huskies will play seven home games on campus at Gampel Pavilion and seven home games at the XL Center, as well as an exhibition game at each venue. In addition, UConn will return to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for the second straight season to play one home game."

The home schedule now stacks up like this:

* Nov. 4: Southern Connecticut, Gampel (exhibition)
* Nov. 9: Assumption College, XL Center (exhibition)
* Nov. 14: Bryant College, Gampel
* Nov. 30: Texas, Gampel
* Dec. 22: Columbia, Webster Bank Arena
* Dec. 31: Temple, XL Center
* Jan. 10: Cincinnati, XL Center
* March 1: SMU, XL Center
* March 5: Memphis, Gampel

Additional AAC opponents coming to the XL Center include South Florida (Jan. 25), Tulsa (Feb. 12). AAC opponents headed for Gampel: Central Florida (Jan. 22), East Carolina (Feb. 4) and Tulane (Feb. 19).

The Huskies have previously released their full conference schedule, and their non-conference schedule.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Women Unveil Home Schedule]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:31:12 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-PVAM.jpg

The defending national champion UConn women's basketball team announced its 13-game home schedule Tuesday that will include a visit from non-conference powerhouses Duke and South Carolina.

Details via the school's announcement:

"The 2014 National Champions will play six games at Gampel and six games at the XL Center. Connecticut will also return to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. for a home game against DePaul on Dec. 19."

The home schedule now stacks up like this:
* Nov. 2: West Chester, Gampel (exhibition)
* Nov. 9: Post University, XL Center (exhibition)
* Dec. 19: DePaul, Webster Bank Arena
* Dec. 21: UCLA, Uncasville
* Dec. 27: SMU, XL Center
* Dec. 29: Duke, XL Center
* Jan. 7: Tulsa, XL Center
* Jan. 14: Temple, Gampel
* Jan. 18: USF, Gampel
* Jan. 28: ECU, XL Center
* Feb. 3: Cincinnati, XL Center
* Feb. 9: South Carolina, Gampel
* Feb. 14: Tulane, Gampel
* Feb. 17: Houston, XL Center
* Feb. 28: Memphis, Gampel

Meanwhile, The 14-game non-conference slate includes seven opponents that qualified for the 2011 NCAA Tournament and four opponents that finished the season rated in the top-six of the RPI," the school said in an announcement. "In addition to the 14-game non-conference schedule, the Huskies will also play a pair of exhibition contests."

The second annual AAC Tournament will be March 6-9 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

<![CDATA[Diaco, Huskies Preparing for Boise State]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:30:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+bob+diaco+stony+brook.jpg

The Huskies head into Saturday's matchup with Boise State without their starting quarterback, Casey Cochran, who has retired from football after suffering multiple concussions during his career. But first-year coach Bob Diaco knew his rookie campaign wouldn't be easy and he sounds as if he's prepared for whatever may come.

And that starts with the remaining quarterbacks on the roster: redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer, who will assuming the starting duties, and sophomore Tim Boyle, who now can't redshirt this season because he's the only remaining quarterback on scholarship.

"Tim Boyle is going to play," Diaco said Thursday. "Tim needs to play. He needs to get his opportunities, whether they happen during the course of the game or not, we need to make them happen. Tim has all top-notch traits. He's fast, he's big, he's got great vision over the linemen, he's got a very strong arm. He can throw all the passes, he's got good touch on the shallow passes, nice touch on the deep passes. He can zip from the hash to the field flat, he's got that kind of strength in his arm. He's got enough escape ability to be a problem. So those are things I like about him. He's got top-flight tangible traits."

Diaco also weighed in on Boise State.

"They are a really exciting team. I think that has kind of been captivating for the country as it relates to Boise," he said. "They have a very unique offensive system, very explosive. Not only explosive in the style that they run their offense, but the players are explosive. So it creates a major problem, it creates a lot of points and pizazz and that is kind of fun for the whole community and fan experience.

"Defensively, they play hard, they fly around, they are a very aggressive bunch over the last ten years, and this year is no different. Same drill: explosive players, explosive offense. Last week they had 63 plays on offense at halftime. That's the kind of football they like to play. They're all set and ready before the official is even ready to walk away from the ball."

The good news is that the Huskies got their first win out of the way last week. The bad news is that it was a struggle against middling FCS opponent Stony Brook. But again, this is a process, one that one magically fix itself overnight.

As for positives, Diaco offered this: "I would say effort. I thought that defensively, the defenders played with a high level of effort. Communication increased on defense, more demonstrative communication with more people on the same page. I was pleased with the tackling, I felt that improved from week one to week two. Although we had two pre-snap penalties, we dropped penalties from eight to three, so that was positive."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco: Cochran Walks Away With No Regrets]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:33:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+sideline_1200.jpg Bob Diaco talks about Casey Cochran ending his days as a player and starting as a coach.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Deshon Foxx Wins AAC Honors]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:47:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/deshon-foxx-2013.jpg

While Deshon Foxx is looking to become a more consistent receiver, he continues to wreak havoc on special teams. He earned American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors Monday for his performance against Stony Brook over the weekend.

"Foxx finished with 91 all-purpose yards and scored what proved to be the decisive points in the win," the AAC said in a statement. "Foxx had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter to put the Huskies ahead 19-10. He finished the game with 85 yards on three punt returns and added a six-yard reception. Foxx ranks 14th nationally in punt return average (14.0) through two weeks of the season."

And Geremy Davis, the Huskies' best wide receiver and one of the best pass-catchers in college football no one has heard of, was named to the AAC's weekly honor roll after his six-catch, 113-yard, one-touchdown effort.

Next up: UConn hosts Boise St. at noon Saturday in a game that will be televised on ABC and ESPN2.

<![CDATA[Report: Tennessee Didn't Contact NCAA]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:45:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Geno-and-Mone.jpg

When we heard that the NCAA considered Geno Auriemma's call to Little League World Series star Mo'ne Davis an infraction, our first thought was "The NCAA continues to be one big joke." Our second thought, which came seconds later: "So, who would rat Auriemma out?"

Because complaints can be made anonymously our knee-jerk reaction was "This has Notre Dame written all over it." But a report claims that the complaint didn't come from an ACC or AAC school, which means the Fighting Irish had nothing to do with it.

That brings us to another long-time UConn rival: Tennessee. But SNY.com's Carl Adamec writes, "Don't blame Tennessee this time. According to Knoxville News-Sentinel's Dan Fleser, the Volunteers didn't contact the NCAA either.

The Tennessee-UConn rivalry goes back years. Details via Adamec:

In 2007, the NCAA launched an investigation into the UConn women’s program after receiving a complaint from the Southeastern Conference. The SEC asked the NCAA to look into an allegation that UConn had arranged an ESPN tour for Maya Moore during an unofficial recruiting visit in 2005 after receiving a complaint from Tennessee. The three-time Wade Trophy winner received improper benefits the NCAA said. UConn admitted to a secondary violation.

Tennessee and UConn have not played since Jan. 6, 2007. That summer, former Tennessee Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt ended the series unilaterally.

Current Lady Vols’ coach Holly Warlick approached Auriemma 15 months ago during the 2013 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., about renewing the rivalry. A source said that for UConn to possibly to agree to play, Tennessee has “explaining” to do from Summitt’s decision of now seven years ago and how its actions put Auriemma, some of his players, and the way he runs his program in a very negative light.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Casey Cochran Makes Right Decision ]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:33:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/casey-cochran-starter-smu.jpg

Ten years ago, Casey Cochran would still be playing football. But after suffering a concussion in the season-opening loss to BYU, and knowing all that we now know about head injuries, the redshirt sophomore has called it quits on a promising college career.

Ten years ago, there would be questions about Cochran's toughness. But not now. Not with all the recent research, the NFL's impending $765 million concussion settlement, and the never-ending stream of retired players who are mental shells of their former selves from repeated blows to the head that went undiagnosed, ignored or both.

Twenty years from now, Cochran wants to be able to remember college, even if that means never playing football again.

''A silver lining in this matter is that Casey has an interest in pursuing a career in coaching,'' UConn coach Bob Diaco said in a statement. ''We can now accelerate his development in that area as he transitions from a player role to a mentor role as he continues to serve the team.''

Cochran was one of former coach Paul Pasqualoni's prized recruits, the in-state all-everything quarterback that would give the Huskies something they lacked since Pasqualoni took over in 2011: a smart, talented quarterback who could put points on the board. Cochran didn't make his first start until nine games into the 2013 season, more than a month after Pasqualoni had been fired. But when Cochran took the field he did what no one else could: win. He led UConn to three straight victories -- their three only victories -- and entered the offseason as the heavy favorite to keep the job under new coach Bob Diaco.

After a strong spring and preseason, that's exactly what happened. Right up until Cochran suffered that concussion at the end of the BYU game. But sometimes life has different plans for us, and for Cochran, that means no more football. It had to be an incredibly tough decision but ultimately, the right one for Cochran and his family.

The Huskies, meanwhile, are left with Chandler Whitmer, who started every game in 2012 and four games last season, and who replaced Cochran in the lineup last week. Behind him: sophomore Tim Boyle, whom the team had hoped to redshirt.

<![CDATA[UConn QB Ends Playing Career]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 05:23:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnweb9814.jpg A rising star on the UCONN football team says its time to stop for health reasons. Quarterback Casey Cochran says its all because of a series of concussions.]]> <![CDATA[Mo'ne Davis: Auriemma Call Not About Recruiting]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:45:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP495622037686.jpg

Mo'ne Davis says what we all already knew: Geno Auriemma did nothing wrong when he called the Little League World Series star to congratulate her on a great season.

“I heard about [the NCAA violation] this morning, and it’s sad,” Davis told the Associated Press on Friday. “There wasn’t anything about recruiting in the call, he was just congratulating me.”

The NCAA knows this too, which is undoubtedly why they deemed it a "secondary rules violation," which amounts to nothing more than some tsk-tsking on official NCAA letterhead.

Auriemma, who checked with the UConn compliance department before placing the call, lasted a grand total of two minutes.

“I told her, ‘Make sure they treat you like a baseball player," he said of his conversation with Davis. "They didn’t pick you because you’re a girl. They picked you because you’re a really good baseball player.' Then I said, ‘It would be really nice if you got a couple of hits.’ “

Davis has stated previously that she'd love to play basketball at UConn, but Auriemma doesn't even know about prospective players until they're in high school. Davis is 13.

"Under normal circumstances, I would probably not know anything about her until she was in ninth grade," he said. "I have no idea if the kid is very good, kind of good, not good at all or a superstar or can even reach the basket. How is that a violation?"

Of course, it shouldn't be.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn QB Casey Cochran Quits Playing Due to Concussions]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:49:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+casey+cochran_1200.jpg

UConn quarterback Casey Cochran will quit playing football because of several concussions during his career.

UConn released a statement on Monday saying the University of Connecticut football program, the UConn Division of Athletics medical staff and the Cochran family made the decision.

Cochran, of Monroe, is a redshirt sophomore who led the Huskies to three wins in four games last year. He also holds numerous high school state passing records.

School officials said everyone involved in this decision felt it is in the best interest of Cochran to end his football playing career and focus on his well-being. 

“A silver lining in this matter is that Casey has an interest in pursuing a career in coaching,” UConn head coach Bob Diaco said in a statement. “We can now accelerate his development in that area as he transitions from a player role to a mentor role as he continues to serve the team.”

Dr. Subramani Seetharama, medical director of rehabilitation at Hartford Hospital, said Cochran's decision seems to be a smart one.

"It's like taking an egg yolk inside a bowl and shaking it around," Seetharama explained. "Educating kids on how to play the game, tackling properly and being fair and trying not to injure other folks will make a big difference."

Earlier this year, the NFL reached a $765 million concussion settlement with retired players over concussion-related lawsuits.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Davis Continues to Shine for Huskies]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:41:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-catch.jpg

The Huskies' offense continues to find its stride, a recurring theme since the 2010 squad won the Big East Tournament and earned a BCS bid into the Fiesta Bowl. In the years since, the faces have changed but the results have remained the same.

First-year coach Bob Diaco is trying to remedy that with the quarterback duo of Casey Cochran and Chandler Whitmer. And it doesn't matter who's under center because everyone's favorite target is senior wideout Geremy Davis. A week after Davis had seven catches for 96 yards in the season-opening loss to BYU, he returned against Stony Brook to haul in six passes for 113 yards and a score. It was the sixth time in his career that he had more than 100 receiving yards in a game.

"I'm just happy to contribute to this team," he said, according to the school's website. "I praise God for giving me the abilities to play football and he is the one who has allowed me to be the player that I am today."

Davis' touchdown gave the Huskies a 12-10 lead late in the first half.

"It was a double move play, Chandler and I were patient waiting for the corner to bite," Davis explained. "Once he did, Chandler threw a perfect ball over my outside shoulder and I caught it and got my feet down."

And there's no doubt in Diaco's mind that Davis is one of the offense's best players.

"He's a weapon," the coach said. "He's strong and big, he can catch and he blocks. He runs crisp routes and he's a challenge. He would have had six more catches (on Saturday) but we were just slightly off target here and there as you saw. We are going to keep wearing him out. He's a great player and he's having a breakout year after two games and it will continue."

Opponents know that the key to slowing the Huskies' offense is to blanket Davis. Which is why players like speedy Deshon Foxx need to step up. After returning a punt 72 yards against Stony Brook, he'll get another chance Saturday when Boise St. comes to town.

<![CDATA[Auriemma NCAA Violation As Silly As It Sounds]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:21:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Geno-and-Mone.jpg

The NCAA has cited UConn for a secondary rules violation after coach Geno Auriemma called Little League World Series standout Mo'ne Davis to congratulate her on a great season. And, yes, it's as silly as it sounds.

Davis, 13, has said that she wants to play basketball for Auriemma. But the coach only called her after the 76ers contacted him through a friend. Auriemma then cleared it with the UConn compliance office before coordinating the call through Little League.

No matter. In the NCAA's eyes, that's unacceptable. This development did not make UConn athletic director Warde Manuel happy.

"Over the last 24 hours, the University of Connecticut, the American Athletic Conference and the NCAA have been working together to determine whether a violation occurred when head women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma spoke with Mo'ne Davis over the phone during the 2014 Little League World Series," Manuel said in a statement. "The NCAA has determined a secondary rules violation of bylaw did occur and while UConn accepts this decision, we do not agree with it.

"Prior to attempting to reach Davis, Coach Auriemma checked with the UConn compliance department and was advised such a call would be permissible since Davis is not considered a prospective student-athlete by the NCAA and the call was to be congratulatory rather than recruiting in nature.

"While UConn will continue to adhere to the NCAA and conference rules, I believe that upon request from a friend to Geno, a proud Philadelphian, to call a young lady representing the City of Brotherly Love who had accomplished historic feats in the Little League World Series, should not constitute a violation especially due to the fact that NCAA rules do not classify Mo'ne as a prospective student-athlete.

"The nature of Coach Auriemma's two-minute conversation with Mo'ne had nothing to do with recruiting and instead had everything to do with congratulating and encouraging Mo'ne to continued success."

The NCAA likely became aware of the matter after another school filed a complaint. The school lodging the complaint doesn't have to publicly identify itself, though sources tell the Hartford Courant that neither the AAC nor the ACC were responsible.

At the end of the day, "secondary violations" are nothing more than a censure -- a public tsk-tsking and nothing more. The Courant notes that typically there are no sanctions, but "Instead, corrective action is usually taken that includes rules education ... a letter of admonishment is usually included and in some cases contact with the specific recruit is banned for a set period of time."

Hopefully, Auriemma frames that letter and hangs it next to his nine NCAA championship trophies.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Calhoun to Join ESPN]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 13:56:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jim-calhoun-be-careful.jpg

Two years ago, and after a quarter-century in Storrs that included three national titles, Jim Calhoun announced his retirement. Kevin Ollie, who had played for Calhoun in the 1990s and later served as an assistant, succeeded him, winning 20 games in his rookie season and earning a national title of his own last April.

With the program in good hands, Calhoun's work appears done here, which could help explain why he'll spend the fall and winter covering college basketball for ESPN, reports the Big Lead.

More details:

Plans are still fluid, but the former UConn coach will provide regular analysis in the Bristol studio. Calhoun will be the third former head coach that ESPN is adding this year, joining Stan Heath (Arkansas) and Barack Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson (Oregon State). Attempts to reach Coach Calhoun were unsuccessful, and ESPN declined to comment.

The Hartford Courant reports that Calhoun will work mostly from ESPN's Bristol headquarters as a studio analyst, the 72-year-old Hall of Fame coach will occasionally travel and contribute to SportsCenter.

<![CDATA[No Decision Yet on Cochran's Status]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:42:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+casey+cochran_1200.jpg

A year ago, UConn didn't get its first win until Nov. 23. Under Bob Diaco, the 2014 team matched that total on Sept. 6, in its second game of the season. Yes, it was against FCS member Stony Brook, and yes, it was a ragged game that ended 19-16, but if there's ever an occasion where "scoreboard" applies, it's for this group.

Ironically, the Huskies earned the win without quarterback Casey Cochran, who was under center for all three wins last season. Cochran didn't play because of an "upper body injury" which reports identified as a concussion.

“I have no update on Casey. I will make a formal announcement on Tuesday in the press conference,” Diaco said, via SNY.com.

Diaco also acknowledged that while the Huskies are now 1-1 getting there wasn't pretty. As was the case after the BYU game, work remains.

“They did some good things, some things we need to work on,” he said. “They fought hard and a lot of guys played and got better as the game went on. They were handling movement better. They added a wrinkle that guys got to get used to…I was overall pleased.”

Chandler Whitmer, who replaced Cochran in the lineup and was the Huskies starter in 2012 and early in 2013, finished 12 of 27 for 142 yards. But he was close to putting up much better numbers.

“Just a little bit of timing," Diaco said. "Assigning blame or accountability, you are talking about an inch here or there. You got guys open, seven or eight balls that were just a hands reach from beyond being an explosive play. One or the other, overthrown, under thrown, dropped, when they get their timing down it will be nice.”
BUConn isn't close to a finished product and Diaco will be the first to tell you that. But a win -- no matter how you get it -- never hurts. Next up: Boise State comes to Rentschler Field Saturday at noon.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Cochran Out, Whitmer to Start Saturday]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:21:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/whitmer-maryland.jpg

When the Huskies take the field Saturday against Stony Brook they'll do so without starting quarterback. Casey Cochran, who suffered what's being described as an "upper body injury" in the season-opening loss to BYU.

“Casey Cochran will not participate in Saturday’s game,” coach Bob Diaco told WTIC-1080AM on his weekly coach’s show, via SNY.com's John Silver. “He will not be cleared for participation on Saturday afternoon. He sustained an upper body injury during the BYU game that was brought forward midweek.”

Cochran, who came off the bench late last season to lead UConn to three straight wins (turns out, those were the team's only wins), also got the nod in the 2014 opener, a 35-10 loss to BYU last Friday. According to The New London Day, the "upper body injury" Diaco describes is a concussion Cochran suffered on the last play of the BYU game. Silver writes that UConn will not confirm the report.

Redshirt senior Chandler Whitmer will start for Cochran. Whitmer won the starting job two years ago, leading the Huskies to a 5-7 record under former coach Paul Pasqualoni. Whitmer was also the starter early last season, but was benched after the team's 0-4 start and Pasqualoni's dismissal. He was replaced by Tim Boyle and later Cochran.

Whitmer as Diaco promised in the days leading up to the opener, played against BYU. He finished 8 completions on 17 attempts for 113 yards. He was sacked three times.

<![CDATA[Geno's Call to Mo'ne Violated Rule: NCAA]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:21:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Geno-and-Mone.jpg

The NCAA has found Geno Auriemma violated an NCAA rule when he called Little League pitching prodigy Mo'ne Davis during the Little League World Series, UConn announced Thursday.

UConn had been working with the NCAA and the American Athletic Conference since Wednesday afternoon to determine whether Auriemma's two-minute phone call with the 13-year-old constituted a violation of recruiting rules, after an unnamed school reported it to the AAC.

"While UConn accepts this decision, we do not agree with it," UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel said of the decision Thursday, after the NCAA notified the school of its determination.

Mo'ne was launched into the spotlight earlier this month when her 70-mile-per-hour fastballs helped the Taney Dragons, of Philadelphia, reach the semifinals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Mo'ne has said she would like to play basketball for Auriemma at UConn one day. Auriemma grew up in Philadelphia.

Auriemma said someone from the Philadelphia '76ers contacted a friend of Auriemma's and suggested the UConn head coach give Mo'ne a call to congratulate her.  

On Wednesday, Auriemma said he called the Little League offices. Mo'ne happened to be there, and he asked to have someone put Davis on the phone.

"The conversation lasted like two minutes, and we hung up," Auriemma said. "And then I was told a school turned us in for a recruiting violation, because we are not allowed contact of July 1 before her junior year of high school.

"That's the world that we live in," he added.

Manuel said Auriemma checked with the UConn compliance department before making the call and was told it would not be a violation, since Davis is not considered a prospective student athlete.

"The nature of Coach Auriemma’s two-minute conversation with Mo’ne had nothing to do with recruiting and instead had everything to do with congratulating and encouraging Mo’ne to continued success," Manuel said.

The bylaw Auriemma is found to have violated bars schools from making phone calls to students before the July 1 after their junior year of high school. An exception to the bylaw for women's basketball allows schools to call students after Sept. 1 of the beginning of her junior year.

It was not clear what type of punishment, if any, could be handed down.

NBC Connecticut has not reached Auriemma for reaction to the NCAA's ruling, but he was in disbelief over the controversy when he spoke about it on Wednesday.

"So what does this mean? If a kid wins a swimming contest somewhere and is wearing a [UConn] sweatshirt and I call to congratulate her in seventh grade, is someone now going to say you are not allowed to do that? Well, why not? Isn't that unbelievable?" he asked.

"There are guys playing college basketball driving around in cars worth more than my house, and we're worried about a phone call to a little girl?"

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Auriemma Confused by Davis Call Complaint]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:21:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ap-mone-davis_1.jpg

Little League World Series dynamo Mo'ne Davis said last month that she wants to play basketball for UConn and Geno Auriemma before graduating to the WNBA. In recent days, she has appeared at a WNBA playoff game and thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. So it doesn't seem out of the ordinary for Auriemma to call Davis to congratulate her on a fantastic Little League season.

Except that some people had a problem with it.

A friend of Auriemma's who had been contacted by the NBA's 76ers asked him to make the call "because [Davis] loves basketball, and congratulations or something seem in order," Auriemma explained. The Little League communications office agreed that Auriemma would call and leave message but Davis was in the room and was handed the phone.

"The conversation lasted like two minutes and we hung up," Auriemma said. "And then I was told a school turned us in for a recruiting violation because we are not allowed contact of July 1 before her junior year of high school. ... That's the world that we live in."

The school lodging the complaint doesn't have to publicly identify itself, Auriemma said, adding that he's never even seen Davis play basketball.

"Under normal circumstances, I would probably not know anything about her until she was in ninth grade," Auriemma said. "I have no idea if the kid is very good, kind of good, not good at all or a superstar or can even reach the basket. How is that a violation?

"So what does this mean? If a kid wins a swimming contest somewhere and is wearing a [UConn] sweat shirt and I call to congratulate her in seventh grade, is someone now going to say you are not allowed to do that? Well, why not? Isn't that unbelievable?

"There are guys playing college basketball driving around in cars worth more than my house and we're worried about a phone call to a little girl?"

The man makes a good point.

Photo Credit: CSNPhilly.com]]>
<![CDATA[Stewart Excited About US Team Opportunity]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:14:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

Breanna Stewart's junior season at UConn is still a few weeks off but in the meantime, college basketball's best players is working to make the U.S. squad that will compete in the 2014 FIBA world championships in Turkey later this month.

“I’m really excited about it," Stewart told the media Wednesday. "It’s an amazing opportunity just like (the training camp) was last fall in Las Vegas. The world championships are at the end of this month and it’s something that I want to be a part of.”

Stewart, whose national team coach just so happens to be Geno Auriemma, is the the only college player among the 27 competing for 12 spots on the national team roster.

“Judging how she performed at the Las Vegas camp last fall, I would say that Stewie has as good a chance to make that team as anybody else not named ‘Previous Olympic Gold Medalist,’ ” Auriemma said. “It’s still going to come down to going there and earning a spot and a lot of things go into that. But is she talented enough and mentally able to handle all that? Absolutely. We talked this morning and she feels comfortable and ready and excited.”

Stewart's not new to international competition, but this time is different.

This will be the first time where she’s competing against the absolute best players in the world," Auriemma explained. "I think without being biased or anything there isn’t anything they can do that Stewie can’t do. They’re just at another level in terms of knowing the game. There’s nothing she can do about that. They’ve done things with their lives that Stewie hasn’t had a chance to do -- yet.”

<![CDATA[UConn to Build Memorial for Slain Football Player]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:39:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/032511+jasper+howard.jpg

Five years after University of Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed to death in the center of campus, the university is raising money to build a memorial in his honor at Rentschler Field.

Howard was fatally stabbed outside the Student Union in Storrs just hours after the team’s win over the Louisville Cardinals on Oct. 18, 2009.

Eight people have been charged in connection with his death, including John Lomax, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Now the university is collecting donations to construct a memorial statue in his memory.

UConn hopes to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 and unveil the statue at the homecoming game in November, according to athletics spokesman Michael Enright.

He said the statue will likely be made of stone and will include No. 6, for Howard's jersey. It will be situated on the concourse in front of the scoreboard.

You can donate online through the UConn Foundation.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[School Files Complaint Against UConn Coach Over Call to Mo'ne]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:39:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP495622037686.jpg

UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma said on Wednesday that his call to Little League World Series phenom Mo'ne Davis has been reported to the American Athletic Conference as a recruiting violation.

Davis is the 13-year-old girl who took the LLWS by storm with her 70-mph fastballs as a pitcher for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia earlier this month. She helped her team reach the semifinals before losing to a team from Las Vegas.

During the tournament, Davis said she hopes to play basketball for Auriemma's dominant Huskies at UConn one day.

Auriemma said he talked to Davis to offer her congratulations on her success after someone from the Philadelphia 76's organization suggested it. He said he called the Little League offices while Davis was there, and they briefly spoke.

"The conversation lasts about two minutes," Auriemma said on Wednesday. He said he was informed after the phone call that another school filed a complaint with the AAC, calling the conversation a recruiting violation.

"That's the world we live in," Auriemma said.

He said the reporting school complained that Auriemma is not allowed to contact Davis before July 1 of her junior year in high school.

The school that filed the complaint can remain anonymous, according to Auriemma.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Ranked in 'Bottom 25' Football Poll]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:32:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/181*120/UConnBYU+-+33.jpg

The first time UConn's football program cracked the top 25 came in 2007. And following the 2010 season, the team appeared in the Fiesta Bowl. But times have been tough in recent years, as evidenced by the 13-24 record since Paul Pasqualoni was hired in 2011.

And now, after a thorough defeat at the hands of BYU in the 2014 season opener, the Huskies sit at 0-1 in what will almost certainly be a rebuilding year. And that reality helps explain this one: The top-25 may be a distant memory but UConn found itself on CBSSports.com's bottom-25 Tuesday.

Yes, it's an unofficial ranking but it doesn't make the point any less glaring: The program is going in the wrong direction.

CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli ranks UConn No. 4 (from the bottom) ahead of only Florida International, Bowling Green and Troy. Fornelli writes: "The Huskies only lost by 25 points to BYU, but if you actually watched the game it felt like a lot more. And if not for a couple BYU turnovers and 15 BYU penalties, it probably would have been."

The Huskies can look to improve their rankings with a win over Stony Brook Saturday. Because God help us if they lose.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Adds 14th Commit to '15 Class]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:27:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/New+UConn+Helmet_722.jpg

Part of the process of rebuilding the UConn football program is stocking the roster with Bob Diaco's players. That will start in earnest this summer, when his first wave of recruits makes their way to Storrs. As it stands, the Huskies have 14 commitments for the 2015 class, the latest is 6-6 wide receiver Frank Battle from Belen Jesuit (Fla.)

He's the No. 38 player in the '15 class coming out of the Miami-Dade area and as recently as June he looked to be headed to Syracuse. On Tuesday, Battle's coach, Richard Stuart, confirmed that he has committed to UConn.

"UConn's a great spot for him," Stuart told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "He's an outstanding student and UConn is a great academic school. He has great hands, he plays basketball here as well and he has a lot of upside."

Battle has played primarily in a Wing-T offense and Belen, which emphasizes the running game over the passing game, but Stuart adds that "we are definitely going to try to get him the ball more this year."

UConn's other 2015 commitments include: QB Tyler Davis, DT Kevin Murphy, OLB Connor Freeborn, DE Phillipe Okunam, FS Marshe Terry, TE Ben Hartwick, WR Aaron McLean, TE Ian Campbell, LB Nazir Williams, DB Aaron Garland, DB John V. Robinson, TE Chris Lee, CB Justice Pettus-Dixon.

<![CDATA[Diaco Has Plan for Each Quarter of Season]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:39:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/diacotemp_temp.jpg

Bob Diaco used 50 players in a sloppy first half against BYU last Friday, a game the Huskies eventually lost 35-10. If that number seems high, it should. But Diaco, UConn's first-year coach, has a plan.

He said Tuesday that he'll continue to rotate players at this fevered pitch for two more weeks because after three years of less-than-mediocre football, there's a lot to sort through and that can't be accomplished during one preseason worth of practices.

"I broke the season down to particular quarters," Diaco told reporters Tuesday, via the Hartford Courant. "The first quarter is about preparation and that's where we are at as a program. … This is going to be a long, long deal. There's a lot to fix. It's going to get fixed. The team is going to win. How long that takes, we'll see.

"We're not going to cut any corners. The whole locker room needs to look a certain way. The uniforms, we're sending guys in pregame because they came out one sleeve down and one sleeve up, one leg down one leg up. I'm not going to let anything go. Players got to go to class. Period. Not going to worry about winning the game Saturday. A key starter doesn't go to class this week, he's not going to play. Every little portion of our program, we're going to get it right," he told the Courant.

Luckily, the Huskies should be able to build their confidence against Stony Brook Saturday but any positives to come from that game may be quickly erased seven days later when Boise St. comes to town. But short-term goals aside, this isn't the long-term point.

"We're not at that point in our program where we are drilling down on who the opponent is and drilling down on some kind of energy from that matchup," Diaco said, adding: "BYU and our next opponent and the opponent after that, characterize it as partners in our games. It's not something I came up with, but nonetheless very true."

Diaco continues to stress that the program he took over, the one that 13-23 in its last three seasons, will take time to rebuild.

"The concerns are our detailed understanding of our jobs," Diaco said to the Courant. "How to actually play the plays when everything starts moving fast. There's not a depth of knowledge. There are a lot of guys on both sides of the ball that really have never played or haven't played in any significant role. None of them have played in our systems."

Put another way: A victory Saturday would be nice, but ultimately, it will mean little if that doesn't become a consistent part a program that last had a winning season in 2010.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>