"We've had this game circled on our schedule because it was an embarrassment last year."
-- Army linebacker Cason Shrode talking about UConn's 40-3 victory over Army last season.
UConn (2-1) visits Army (0-3) at noon Saturday in the Huskies final non-conference game of the season. The Huskies are coming off a bye week and lost to Georgia Tech, 28-13, in its last game on September 17.
Army has lost to Boston College and Baylor and was on the losing end of a 28-21 heartbreaker to then-No. 22 Iowa State on Friday night at Michie Stadium.
Here are excerpts from Army coach Bobby Ross and selected players during the Black Knights' weekly media luncheon.
Coach Bobby Ross
On this season UConn team
Connecticut is a very good team. They are the third team that we will have played out of our first four opponents that won a bowl game last year. Connecticut soundly defeated Toledo in the Motor City Bowl. We know what they have.
They are a very talented football team. We saw them last year and I was amazed by the skill level of their football players, and on top of that, they were very solid across the offensive and defensive lines. They lost a few along the offensive line, but they return three of their four starters on the defensive front. They are very well-coached.
Defensively, they get off of blocks as well as any team I've seen. They run to the ball exceptionally well. They are good tacklers. They have all of the things you look for in a good football team.
Offensively, they are running more this year than they have in the past. They have a good runner in Terry Caulley. He's not a big guy, but he can run. He has great speed and he's a very fine football player. We'll have to try to contain him. Last year they ran well against us, but they dominated us in the throwing game.
This year, their throwing game is just as good, but their running has improved, too. They are well-rounded offensively. They spread the ball around, but the biggest thing is that they can run.
Their quarterback (Matt Bonislawski) can run well and throw the ball well. He runs two or three variations of the option, which we did not see (from them) last year. Obviously, they've added (the option) because of the skill level and running ability of the quarterback. That's another dimension that we'll have to stop.
I think going into it, we're going to have to be good against the run and restrict big gainers. If we can continue to do that, it will be a big step as we try to improve defensively. Offensively, we want to continue to build on our running game and try to get some big plays.
On Army's offensive line
The offensive line will stay the same. We'll stay with (Nathan) Collier, who did a nice job at left tackle. We'll stay with Dan Evans, who did a good job at left guard. We'll stay with Matt Weisner, who did a good job at right guard.
All of them were new at that position and we'll stick with them. They made progress last week, but that is a thing of the past. We've got to focus on this ball game and that means preparing well.
On Army's improvements this season
We improved our yardage output on both sides of the ball. We cut back what we've been giving up, and we gained more yards offensively.
The other factor is that we are a better football team. I thought we would progress faster defensively than offensively, and that's kind of where we are right now. We're making some really nice improvements defensively, but we've got to continue it.
I don't want to become an up and down football team. I want us to be a fully-focused group of young people getting ready for each and every ball game.
On how Ross views moral victories
I don't believe in moral victories. I'd much rather win the game. Over a period of time, moral victories tick me off because I look back and think that we were that close and didn't win it. What we've got to do is get over that hump of being able to put a game away when we're in position to do it.
On special teams changes
We'll look at other people there, because we have to cover better. I've always taken great pride in how we cover kicks. We did not cover well versus Iowa State.
We had the momentum each time before their big kickoff returns and each time they took the momentum back on one play. It is the job of the special teams to get momentum for you, and we didn't get that out of them this week.
We're looking for different people on the coverage-side of things, not the return side.
On the mindset heading into the UConn game
They are more deflated than discouraged because we had a chance to win the game and didn't get it. We talked about seizing the opportunity all last week.
We weren't able to do that, and many of them felt that disappointment. At the same time, they are playing better and they are getting better collectively as a team. In one respect they are feeling good about it, and in another respect they are feeling bad about it.
On Watertown, Conn., native and Army tackle Tony Fusco
Tony is doing a great job. He's not just a big guy. He has speed and quickness, too. Tony is our biggest guy and he gives us a force inside that we haven't had in the past. He's holding the point for us pretty well.
We are very pleased with where he is right now in our program. We are excited to have him here. I was very impressed when I first met him.
On film, I thought he looked heavy, but in person, I saw that he is a very strong young man. He's maybe the second or third strongest guy in our program, and we're very happy to have him here.
On developing a rivalry with UConn
I think it is great to have a big crowd. I don't think they will out-yell our corps though. They will be in full force to support us.
Supposedly the weather is going to be good and it should make for a great day of college football. I'm hoping that we can continue to play Connecticut. I think it's a natural rivalry, but we have to play better for it to be considered a rivalry.
I think it would be a very good game for each of us year in and year out because of the location of each school. I'm looking forward to the game and I'm delighted to hear they will be bringing a good crowd. Hopefully we'll have a nice, packed stadium.
Army wide receiver Jeremy Trimble
On this Saturday's UConn game
It's one of the biggest games of the year. We are coming off a couple games we could have won. I think this is going to be a pretty good test for us against a team that beat us last year.
On Army's mindset this week
We are all playing with a little chip on our shoulders. People say we can't compete, but all 200 people on this team know that we can compete with any team in the nation. We're just trying to go out there, show it every week and eventually the wins are going to come.
On the UConn defense
They are big and fast, just like the previous teams on our schedule. It comes down to execution. We have to run our plays, run them to perfection and good things will happen.
Linebacker Cason Shrode
On UConn's offensive scheme
They like to run the ball. They have two good backs in the backfield and I think they will try to come right at us. I think our run defense is one of the strengths of this team, so I think it will be a good battle.
On preparing for UConn this week
They beat us pretty bad the past two years. We've had this game circled on our schedule because it was an embarrassment last year. We want to come out and have a strong showing this week. I expect it to be pretty intense.
I expect our defense to come out on fire just like last week because that's what we'll have to do to stay in the ballgame.
The Army athletic communications staff helped compile this report.
Adam Gorney covers UConn sports for Rivals.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.