T.J. Weist’s debut as the Connecticut football team’s offensive coordinator hardly went as planned. The Huskies lost by 15 points at home to Football Championship Subdivision Towson on Aug. 29. Ten drives lasted four plays or less. They punted six times and reached Tigers territory five times.
With a bye week immediately after the season opener, Weist and the Connecticut staff had extra time to review the loss, correct mistakes and plan for Maryland’s visit this weekend. Weist chatted by phone this week about stewing over defeats, fixing small errors and guess-work among coordinators.
How have the past two weeks been?
Anytime you lose, you prefer to jump right back and play again just to erase the loss. Then you have to live through a whole ‘nother week of losing. It just drags it out. But we’re all right. We got some things corrected. Every year is different. You never know how kids will handle it. They’re kids. You have to teach them how to handle it. That’s the key. They have to understand even though it’s a loss, it’s not the end of the world. We still have to keep practicing and keep playing. You have to keep their spirits up, coach them up in what they did wrong, get after them if they didn’t give good effort, praise them if they do good things. Just keep coaching them and get ready for the next one.
Did it work?
We’ll find out. You never know until you get back on the field. Everyone says your biggest improvement comes from game one to game two. You want to believe that. You hope that these kids learn their lessons from game one to game two. That’s what it’s really about. Now this week, when you coach them up on a technique, they understand how important it is because before they didn’t believe number one they were going to make that mistake, number two they didn’t understand how important that assignment was or whatever.
You don’t want them to take losing lightly. Because then it won’t mean as much. You want guys to be competitive, you want guys who hate losing. You want guys who take it personally. We lost, we never want to feel this again. If they lose, then you’re like okay, well no big deal, then they’ll keep losing. They have to feel bad. There’s got to be some pain, some competitiveness, saying I don’t want to feel like this again. I don’t want to work that hard in the offseason and that hard in the summer and that hard in two-a-days and go out and have that kind of result. There’s too much pain and sweat and passion put into it, to go out and have that kind of result.
I think our guys have responded really well. They’ve been positive. Little time off, I think they’re hungry, ready to win a game.
What do you see looking at Maryland?
They’re a very disciplined, well-coached team. I think they’re aggressive. It seems like on defense they’ve got a good plan. They’ve played two different teams offensively. Florida International is a new team, then Old Dominion is a spread team that throws the ball a lot. Two different plans to stop them. I think they’re well coached because you can see they’re two different plans. I think they’re aggressive and they’re physical.
When you’re game-planning, do you ever talk with your defensive coordinator and ask him, ‘How would you best scheme against us,’ knowing that Maryland’s defensive coordinator probably thinks along those same lines?
A lot of it comes down to the coordinators. What type of coordinator is he, who knows him, what do you think he’s going to do, what do you think his plan is. Everyone’s got some flexibility in their systems to say okay, we’re going to blitz or play cover two or run this sort of situations. I think for me, a lot of times as a coordinator, you try to talk to coordinators you just played. Hey listen, tell me what you just saw. What did you see in this offense? What did you think we’re going to run on first down, third and long, what were the giveaways to tell you, as a defensive coordinator, what we were doing.
When Maryland looks at our offense, what do they see? What are they getting ready for? What do they think we’re going to do? I try not to say what do I think. I try to say what do I think the defensive coordinator is going to do. That helps me call plays. I think we’ve got some work to do from an execution standpoint. The good thing is, when you lose, you know you’ve got some work to do, whether it’s execution or effort or personnel. I don’t think Maryland says that our game plan is a successful game plan. They may be expecting something else, which is a good thing. Bottom line is, we didn’t have a lot of drives, so we didn’t have any continuity. We didn’t have any rhythm to our offense. We had six three-and-outs, so it’s hard to tell what we’re going to do in other situations. I think that defensive coordinator’s going to have to figure us out as we go.
So do you think Maryland has some guesswork involved, assuming you will have changed things up after two weeks?
A lot of it comes down to how good they think our quarterback and receivers are, whether they can stop all that. What are they doing personnel wise? Who’s their best players? That’s probably where they’re putting their focus on, whether it’s loading the box to stop [running back] Lyle [McCombs] in the running game, double teaming receivers, I don’t know. When you don’t have a great game on offense, there’s not a lot of giveaways to our personnel necessarily.
(Bonus!) Were you able to pinpoint what went wrong against Towson?
I think we never got into a good rhythm. It’s hard to say. When you turn the film on, individually we had really good plays. There were probably 10 plays in that game when we had one guy do the wrong thing. One guy didn’t finish his block. There’s so many plays where if that one guy would have done his job on that play, we would’ve gotten the first down.
Especially when that happens, in short-yardage, it happens on the goal-line, those are things that can kill you. That’s what happened to us. We didn’t execute on the goal line, cost us a touchdown. We didn’t execute on two third-and-short and fourth downs, that stopped two drives. Those were our faults. That was us. Those were things that just can’t happen in critical situations.
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