East Hartford — Defensive tackle Ryan Wirth is a political science major, which probably explains his diplomatic response to UConn's woeful offensive performance.
"There were a couple of plays (if) the defense takes away it's a completely different game," Wirth said in the aftermath of the Huskies' frustrating 10-7 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday before 34,202 at Rentschler Field.
Wirth was taking one for the team, obviously, but truth be told the UConn defense validated its status as an elite unit even more by slowing down an experienced, dynamic N.C. State offense that featured one of the nation's best passers in 6-foot-6 quarterback Mike Glennon.
The Huskies sacked Glennon six times (2.5 by end Trevardo Williams), rushed him out of the pocket on countless other occasions, and limited him to very average numbers - 15 for 30, 204 yards, one touchdown.
It was the one touchdown, however — when Glennon hit wide receiver Bryan Underwood in stride for a 46-yard score on third and 15 — that gave the Wolfpack (1-1) a 10-0 lead in the third quarter and provided enough cushion to come away with a big road win.
Underwood beat reserve cornerback Taylor Mack on the play, although safety Ty-Meer Brown admitted later he failed to slide over and provide help. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn's best corner, was on the sideline, coach Paul Pasqualoni said, because he was a bit dehydrated and was receiving fluids.
It was that kind of a frustrating day for the Huskies (1-1), especially on offense where first-year quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw three interceptions and was sacked three times, tight end John Delahunt coughed the football up after a 19-yard reception, a turnover that N.C. State turned into six points three plays later.
"It was a frustrating afternoon, to put it mildly," Pasqualoni said. "N.C. State's a good, solid team, but you can't turn it over four times against a team like that and expect to win."
And you have to be able to sustain drives, something the Husky offense failed to do.
They had only 11 first downs the entire day, squandered great field position in the first quarter and came away with nothing, had their running game limited for the second straight week (UConn averaged just 1.1 yards per carry) and had strange breakdowns at the worst possible times. Whitmer, for instance, tripped over two different offensive lineman, both times stalling potential drives.
"Those things are lost play and lost opportunities … and they're very frustrating," Pasqualoni said.
Added Whitmer, who finished 15-for-27 for 204 yards, "The defense is doing a good job for us and we have to hold up our end of the deal on the offensive side of the ball and make some more plays."
To Whitmer's credit, the offense did make it interesting late.
He orchestrated a three-play, 63-yard drive, hitting Geremy Davis on a slant for 15 yards, finding tailback Lyle McCombs in the flat a 43-yard gain to the N.C. State 5 (tight end Ryan Griffin sprung McCombs free with a great block) and then handing the ball off to McCombs for a 5-yard TD with 7:00 remaining.
But when the defense stopped N.C. State short on fourth-and-two from the UConn 27 with 3:17 left - giving the offense one more chance - Whitmer was sacked a third down play by Brian Slay and he tried to force a ball to Davis in coverage and the ball was batted away by David Amerson.
"All we can do is rally around each other and make sure we work together and get better next week," said linebacker Sio Moore.
Ah, next week. The Huskies will hit the road for the first time to play their former coach, Maryland's Randy Edsall. The Terps are 2-0 after holding off Temple 36-27 in Philadelphia, and you can bet emotions will reach a peak.