The offense from UConn took its turn in front of the media on Tuesday in Arizona. Here’s a look at what they had to say:
Connecticut Offensive Coordinator Joe MoorheadQ: Talk about being an underdog team?
A: “Coach Edsall does a great job with our in team in terms of what our mentality will be. He always stresses that we are going to play one play at a time, win that play and move on to the next one. Our guys have played in hostile environments against some pretty talented teams in the two years that I have been here. We have gone into those games with the right mindset and we just have to take it one play at a time and move on to the next play.”
Q: What are your impressions of Oklahoma?
A: “They are obviously a tremendously talented and well-coached team. They are going to be well-prepared to play. We are going to take the same mindset and play hard for four quarters and see where it goes for there.”
Q: What about Oklahoma’s speed?
A: “Defensively, their speed is tremendous. Their safeties, across the board, they all run well and they get to the football. Their defensive staff puts them in good positions to make plays. From the run-game perspective, pass protection and routes, it is going to be challenging.”
Q: Can you assess Jordan Todman?
A: “Jordan is a complete back. He is not a guy that is huge in stature, but he will get the tough yards in between the tackles. He has the ability to get on the edge and make plays happen. He is certainly a capable pass catcher and does things in the pass game. He can pass protect too. I think the major difference from last year to this year is that he is asked to do more and be the featured guy. He has certainly done a very great job with it.”
Connecticut Fullback Anthony Sherman
Q: Has the team rallied around the Jasper Howard tragedy?A: “I don’t think you ever overcome it. You put it in the back of your head and you use that for fuel or in a bad situation. You look at it and you’re like, ‘You know, we’ve been here before,’ or ‘We can do this for Jas.’ That’s the biggest thing this year. This is all for him that we wanted to do last year, but it didn’t work out as good. This year’s definitely his senior year, so we wanted to go out on top for him.”
Q: Has the tragedy brought the team together?
A: “We’re definitely a close-knit group. That brought us together last year because that was our family. We’re one big family now. If someone needed a shoulder to cry on, anyone would open it up and say, ‘You can do it on me.’”
Q: Did he hear about the big storm out East?
A: “There’s already been a couple of flights cancelled for family members trying to come out and join us. It’s definitely good that we got out. It started to snow right before we were taking off. We just beat it. My sister sent me a picture yesterday morning about how the snow looks in front of my house, and I sent her one off my balcony (at the team hotel).”
Connecticut Offensive lineman Zach Hurd
Q: Can you talk about the development of the running game?
A: “At UConn we’ve always prided ourselves on a great run game. It starts with our coaches and the offensive line. We’ve been really meshing together lately. We do a great job of getting the second level, getting on the linebackers. Jordan (Todman) is just a workhorse: 30-plus carries a game, and the way he’s taken care of his body this year, the way he’s done the extra lifts and everything like that, he’s really grown up this year. When he first got to UConn, he was a young little boy, and he needed some direction. He’s really grown up to a man and he’s done a great job this year.”
Q: What’s the most impressive thing about OU’s defense?
A: “I’d say their speed. They swarm to the ball, so you’ve got to stay on blocks and sustain blocks to the whistle. They’ve got some fast linebackers, and they do some things up there schematically that are good. They put themselves in the right position. They don’t do too much. They do base stuff but they get the job done with good athletes.”
Q: Does anyone you play have their speed?
A: “I’d say West Virginia. They’re fast. They come down and they’ll hit you.”
Connecticut Quarterback Zach Frazer
Q: How did the quarterback changes affect him?
A: “I’ve been through quite a bit of changes. I’ve been starting, I’ve been benched. I’ve been up and down. Pretty much a rollercoaster. I knew I was going to get another opportunity. I feel like we’re better as a second-half of the season team. It was rough when it happened, but going through it, I knew that I was going to get another shot.”
Q: Will UConn have to throw the ball more if OU tries to stop the run?
A: “If they’re playing us to stop our run, I feel confident in our passing game. Our game plan going in this week is pretty good. We’ve got a lot of time to analyze their defense and watch film. But I’m sure they’re doing the same on us. It’s going to be a tough game. It’s going to be an interesting game. That’s why it’s a big bowl game.”
Q: Are you happy for a shot at a team like OU?
A: “Not many people were giving the Big East any credit. It’s going to be nice to have that opportunity to show them how hard we work and what the Big East is all about and what UConn is all about.”
Q: OU has struggled against underdogs in the Fiesta Bowl?
A: “I’m sure they’re not going to go into the game taking us lightly. It’s going to be a war. It’s going to be a hard battle. It’s a bowl game. Each one of us wants to come out on top. No one really remembers the stats. They just remember who won and who lost.”
Tailback Jordan Todman
Q: Talk about the season?A: “The season actually could have gone better. At the beginning of the season, we did not start off as planned. Starting off in our league, we didn’t win out as we wanted to. Towards the end of the season, we were able to finish strong and put everything together offensively and defensively and also with the special teams. It was kind of like it was meant to be. We came out every game and busted our butt. Whenever you work hard, success comes with that and the Fiesta Bowl is the success and reward that we got for that.”
Q: How did the season go for you?
A: “The season went well. At the beginning of the season, could I have said that? No. Did I know it was a possibility? Yes. I missed a game and was still able to rush for 1500 yards and be No. 2 in the nation. That was a pretty good accomplishment for me and I was pretty happy. My thanks and my praise goes to the offensive line, doing their job and putting me in the situation to make big runs and put points on the board and be successful. I can’t complain, my season went pretty well.”
Q: What if other teams know that you’re going to run?
A: “It makes it a little bit harder. It is harder on the defense because it is their job to stop our running game. They do whatever they can to do that, loading the box or doing what they need to do. That is when the team effort comes in and being able to pass the ball and spread teams out. Hurt them with both ends, not only running the ball, and throwing the ball. That’s our goal. I think that is anyone’s goal, to have a good passing game and running game and working together. I’m not going to complain and ask them to make it easier for me because we know that won’t happen. Whatever the other team does, it is my job to be there.”
Q: What are you expecting from Oklahoma?
A: “I really can’t speak for them. In the same sense, they will try to do what other teams did to be successful. We would do the same thing towards them, if there are any weaknesses we are going to expose them. The same thing they would do to us. What defense and what they may run, honestly, I’m not sure. I guess on Saturday I will find out real soon.”
Q: Describe yourself as running back?
A: “Honestly, I think I can do everything. My hands are good. I am able to catch up the backfield. I can run in between the tackles and also hurt you on the outside with my speed. I think that is also hard work and putting time in the weight room. Being able to take the blows and having 20 or so carries a game. I’ve been able to stay healthy and keep running.”