Cougars enter Thursday suppressing desire for vengeance
On Thursday night, the Cougars will face the team that made them one game short of a complete takeover last season.
Even so, head coach Tom Herman said the Cougars aren’t treating this week’s game any different than others.
“We don’t have much to talk about,” Herman said. “But I do believe that our returning players on our team are better than they were last season. We don’t see this game as a chance for redemption.”
The 20-17 defeat last season snapped the Cougars’ 11-win streak. Despite having more yards than the Huskies, the Cougars weren’t able to protect the ball, as they turned it over four times.
Herman mentioned that the program has won a lot of big games since then, so the team doesn’t focus on the one loss.
Senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux said he will treat the upcoming matchup as another game. He called it another step toward the team’s goal of a conference championship, but remembered how it felt to lose last season.
“It’s not something you forget about,” Malveaux said. “We were 10-0 and on a roll. Being crushed like that stayed with us, but we still had our conference championship goal ahead of us.”
Malveaux wasn’t alone in his sentiment.
The players and coaches have thought about why they were beaten and how they were planning to avoid the same outcome.
“We’ve talked about how as an offense they out-prepared us,” Senior tight end Tyler McCloskey said. “You can say what you want. We had guys hurt, but they out-prepared and outplayed us. This week has been about how that will not happen again, and that we know how important every single rep is.”
The defeat was not in vain. Herman said that there were things he learned from the experience that made him and the team better.
Herman noted that the games leading up to UConn last season were hard-fought and took a toll on his team. Coupled with traveling to Storrs, Connecticut while the Huskies were coming off of their bye week, the Cougars were set up for failure.
“I learned that teams get tired,” Herman said. “I learned we have to be very mindful of the state of the team week to week in terms of their mental and physical exhaustion levels and take every step necessary to make sure they’re in peak mental and physical condition when the foot hits the ball on game day.”
The Cougars will look different this week than they did last year when they traveled to UConn.
Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. missed all but five plays in last year’s game and started the game on the bench with an ankle injury.
This season, the playing field will be leveled with both teams coming off of a Saturday game and battling a short week.
Even though the Cougars are enjoying a blowout win, they learned an important lesson last year: don’t underestimate the next opponent.
“There are a lot of things that I did wrong,” McCloskey said. “I’m sure there are other position groups that have done the same thing. You have to go into practice and make it a point to correct those mistakes.”