Johnny McEntee looks over the Iowa State defense.
We may finally have some closure on the UConn quarterback situation. It's taken nearly five months, going back to the springs, and one player (Michael Box) has already transferred out of the program, but Johnny McEntee appears to be the big winner.
The reason it took four weeks of regular-season football had everything to do with McEntee not separating himself from freshmen Michael Nebrich and Scott McCummings. But that changed last Saturday in Buffalo, when McEntee threw his first two touchdown passes of the year, and completed 12 of 21 throws for 213 yards.
“I think Johnny played his best game,” head coach Paul Pasqualoni said earlier this week, according to the Norwich Bulletin. “Certainly the best game of the year, maybe the best game of his career at Connecticut. He was able to make some key plays the past game — avoided the rush on a couple occasions, he made one first down with his feet (and) made some good decisions. He was not perfect but made some good decisions, and I think he’s got something to build on.”
Of course, Pasqualoni hasn't made it official (and it doesn't sound like he has any plans to), but added “he has clearly separated himself, put himself in a position now to move forward" is confirmation enough.
We suppose this also gives Pasqualoni some wiggle room should McEntee revert to the old habits that got him in trouble in recent weeks against good opponents. The Huskies had opportunities to beat Vanderbilt and Iowa State, thanks largely to the defense, but a McEntee late-game turnover, stalled drive or both sealed UConn's fate.
Now it appears that he won't have to look over his shoulder after every series to see if Nebrich or McCummings is coming in. The continuity of staying on the field and having the confidence of the coaching staff should help McEntee grow into the job.
And as we mentioned several weeks ago when there were serious discussions that McEntee should be benched, there's a reason he was out there in the first place: there's no experience at the position, and he's been the most consistent QB of the bunch. Things won't magically improve with Nebrich or McCummings, at least not right away, and McEntee -- for all his flaws -- gives the Huskies the best chance to win.
If he can seize this opportunity and just manage the game, UConn could make some noise in the Big East. They're not going to score 30 points a game, but with that defense, they don't have to. All the offense needs to do is stay out of the way and avoid mistakes. And maybe McEntee's now capable of that.