The Pack is 1-0 after a somewhat peculiar 24-14 win at UConn. It wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but wins all count as one, and UConn may very well end up being better than we initially thought.
Offensively, State still struggled to run the football outside of Brennan Armstrong on the draw play or just purely improvising. O-line play probably registers as the largest question mark coming out of Thursday night. The Pack’s front did not create a lot of push. State still compiled 209 rushing yards, its highest total since week two of last year, but nearly half of it came from the quarterback.
Take this play from late in the first half with State trying pick up a third-and-short conversion. McMahon (54, center) takes an L here.
Look at the penetration from the UConn front. McMahon is generally a pretty good run blocker too. This was a really strong defensive play from the defensive tackle. Carter gets up field and blocks the linebacker, so this probably goes for a decent gain if McMahon can establish some leverage. Houston reads the play side penetration and considers the cut back but there is nowhere to go either way.
This was the best run of the night, and it’s just a product of Michael Allen’s ability mostly.
This is not a well-blocked play. UConn is gap sound here. You can see Allen look back to the cutback lane, which the linebacker has filled. He tries to hit the B-gap (between the guard and the tackle), but the defensive linemen have leverage and it closes. This should have been a loss, but the linebacker overpursues and Allen makes him pay for it. It’s a good individual play by Allen and terrible tackling form from the linebacker, and then Allen does some more stuff up the field because he’s really good.
A lot of people had things to say about the offensive line, and I don’t want to say it was all bad. This was a great play.
McMahon does a great job sealing here and Anthony Carter (75, left guard) eats the linebacker’s lunch. Apparently it was a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is gnarly, but he ate it anyway.
Armstrong ended up being the leading rusher, which was no surprise. State depended on some misdirection and his improvisational skills to generate a ground game. He was a warrior in the run game, and State doesn’t win without that. A lot of his dropbacks turned into scrambles when UConn was more than willing to drop everyone into coverage, which they did a lot. The Huskies seemed particularly concerned with getting beat over the top on Thursday night, and Armstrong was perfectly happy just letting them run away and taking off. That was basically the game for State on offense. I bet it was a lot of fun for Armstrong, who definitely burned a lot of calories.
This play goes for a touchdown.
Armstrong is too shifty to spy with one guy, and UConn was vastly more interested in preventing the big pass play than stopping Armstrong's legs. Just look at what the box looks like after the snap. UConn rushes four and plays with some deep safeties (not as deep here because they're at the goal line), which they did a lot, and has a linebacker as a spy/running back cover guy person. There is so much space to escape. I’m not even 100% sure if this was designed or not, but it’s easy pickings. Also, check the blocking by Bradley Rozner at the goal line.
Through the air, Armstrong was a little off. A lot of his completions were underneath throws or screens, which is where the under 6 yards per attempt comes from. He made good decisions, but the accuracy wasn’t there.
Porter Rooks is wide open here. UConn drops into a tampa 2-type deep zone, with three underneath defenders, two very deep safeties, a DB getting mid-depth in the seam, and then man on the top of the screen. Concepcion’s post carries the seam coverage to the right side. The safeties are deep, and it leaves a huge window for Rooks. The read is good, but the throw is bad. It’s short and behind, and it doesn’t make it into the window. This should have been intercepted.
This was also a miss.
Coit probably should have caught this anyway, but it’s a much tougher play now because the pass is behind him instead of leading him toward the sideline.
I’m not worried about this. Armstrong has shown plenty of accuracy over his career. I just thought it was noteworthy when we talk about the lack of explosiveness on Thursday. UConn’s defense kept everything in front of them, so that’s part of it, and the throws were just off when the senior quarterback did find windows. It happens.
I have high expectations for Armstrong, so it's easy to be critical. He has a great arm, and he did finally get to show it late in the game.
This was his best throw of the night, an off-balance toss hitting Rozner on the deep out.
Defensively, State was solid all around, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. It wasn’t the best defensive effort of all time, but it was more than enough. The Pack basically had one bad play after the first drive, which of course was a rather annoying 71-yard touchdown run.
State will be happy to get Savion Jackson back. He’s generally more effective against the run than a guy like Travali Price.
Price (13, defensive end) gets sealed to the backside by the guard here, which creates the running lane that results in UConn’s first touchdown. State got run on a bit early in this game, something that may have been more alarming if it didn’t settle down over the course of the night. After the first drive, UConn managed 198 yards, 71 of which came on one play.
It’s hard to try and analyze secondary play when you don’t have all-22 film, but I barely heard Battle or White’s name all night, which is usually a good thing. Dudes be not open. UConn took a few shots downfield, all to no avail. They did get this guy wide open on a play action setup in the first quarter, and State was lucky Fagnano missed. Also though, the linebacker pressure helped create that miss.
I think it’s easy to look at a 24-14 win over UConn and go “ew,” but I’m not sure that’s fair. This was not a great game for State, but this was a better opponent than its recent history would lead you to believe. It was a solid group at the end of last year. The Huskies held Boston College to three points, which is more than State could say, and they beat an 8-1 Liberty team. This isn’t going to look as unimpressive as it may have felt by season’s end.
There are a lot of areas to grow for sure, but State found something that worked on Thursday and rode it until UConn opted to try and stop it, which was never. Now it’s 1-0. It will need a better all-around effort to beat Notre Dame, but we can worry about that this week while remembering that State is 1-0, which is not 0-1.