The UConn football team's spring season is officially in the books following Saturday's Blue-White game, a 16-14 win for the Blue team on a late touchdown pass from quarterback Blaise Driscoll to Teddy Baker.
The story of the game -- as it had been for most of spring practice -- was the defense. It was stifling, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. But the other spring subplot -- who will win the UConn quarterback job -- was also a storyline Saturday.
Driscoll, who didn't come into the game until the final, decisive drive, hasn't once been mentioned among the four candidates vying for the starting gig. The usual suspects -- Michael Box, Johnny McEntee, Scottie McCummings and Mike Nebrich -- were no better than average in the Blue-White game, although the weather (it was windy and rainy) didn't help. Still, Driscoll played on the same field in the same conditions. He ended his short night 2 for 3 for 43 yards, his first pass a 41-yard circus-catch completion to Nick Williams, and that set up his 2-yard winning-touchdown pass to Baker.
The other four Blue team QBs combined to go 6 for 18 for 94 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, and 3 sacks. Not exactly setting the world on fire.
(Also worth mentioning: the Huskies' offense ran basic sets all game, so they didn't get deep into the playbook. That said, the defense wasn't dialing up blitzes on every play; they were vanilla, too. The takeaway: much like the first few weeks of baseball season, the pitchers are ahead of the hitters. Eventually, the hitters will catch up.)
But it's still too early to make any proclamations on the quarterback situation. For one, one drive consisting of three passes does not a career make. Plus, as new head coach Paul Pasqualoni has said several times the past few months: the QB job won't be decided until the fall.
The inconsistent passing game by both teams meant the wide receivers weren't able to do much, either (Baker, Reuben Frank and John Delahunt led the game in receptions … with two apiece), and the running game, with Jordan Todman taking his talents to the NFL and not much depth remaining in Storrs, was a concern heading into the spring. But USC transfer D.J. Shoemate, made a big impression. He rushed 19 times for 110 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown that gave the White team a 14-10 third quarter lead.
While the execution isn't where it will need to be in a few months, there were bright spots. The defense dominated which, if nothing else, means that the Huskies should be in most games next fall no matter the state of their offense. And the running game was impressive, even if depth is still an issue.
"First off, I think we rushed the passer and pressured the ball well," Pasqualoni said after the game. "I think we're strong with the older guys up front. I think we all know that we have some experience on the defensive line, and Jesse Joseph did not play today, and he's another part of that. We certainly have to protect the quarterback; we've got to do a better job there. The conditions were pretty tough today as well. I thought we ran around, and I know we are athletic on defense we run pretty well."
Ultimately, this isn't the end of spring practice, but the beginning of preparations for the 2011 season.
You’re through the installation one time,” said Pasqualoni. “What I told the kids before coming over here was ... on their own, they have to review and get back into it this summer because obviously we can’t coach them over the summer.”
(Random note: there were approximately 2,500 spectators on hand to watch the Blue-White game. The sparse crowd had everything to do with the weather. By comparison, Alabama had more than 92,000 fans fill the stadium for its spring game.)