The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Confidence, not controvers­y

Zergiotis remains the guy at quarterbac­k for UConn

- By Doug Bonjour

There isn’t a quarterbac­k controvers­y in Storrs. For better or worse, Jack Zergiotis will remain the starter.

Head coach Randy Edsall was careful not to blame the sophomore for the Huskies’ ineptitude in last Saturday’s opener at Fresno State. Edsall instead directed much of the heat toward the offensive line, saying quarterbac­ks tend to get too much of the criticism when things go wrong and too much of the credit when they go right.

“It’s good to know that Coach has my back,” Zergiotis said Tuesday. “Obviously, it wasn’t (the performanc­e) we wanted. It’s tough after training for two years to have that happen, but in the end it’s one out of 12 weeks.

“Now it’s on to Holy Cross.”

Holy Cross is one of two

FCS teams on UConn’s schedule. The Crusaders, who won the Patriot League title during the abbreviate­d spring season, are listed as slight underdogs heading into Saturday at Rentschler Field (noon, CBS Sports Network).

It’s a game the Huskies

win — a ‘get right’ opportunit­y after a humbling loss in which they gained just 107 yards and were blanked, 45-0, for the first time since 2016.

“It was kind of a wakeup call for us,” Zergiotis said. “Everyone’s a little more focused. Instead of talking and joking around, everyone’s focused on their job. I definitely think the team’s more locked in.”

After winning the starting job over sophomore

Steven Krajewski this summer, Zergiotis completed just 12 of 23 passes for 61 yards and was replaced late in the second half. Zergiotis was sacked three times and pressured multiple others. He also missed some throws, including what looked like a sure touchdown to running back Nate Carter, and had a fumble returned 31 yards for Fresno State’s first touchdown.

Zergiotis, who rewatched the game on the flight back from California, tried not to dwell on it too much.

“It was tough for us to get the ball moving,” he said. “Obviously, I missed a couple shots down the field. It’s good to see that those shots are there. Now it’s just about me being able to get them the ball.”

Zergiotis has earned a reputation as a gunslinger, unafraid to take risks. It’s gotten him into trouble at times — he threw 11 intercepti­ons in 10 games in 2019 — but it’s also led to some impressive highlights.

He said he’s trying to find the balance between being bold and conservati­ve.

“I do think I can make every throw on the field,” he said. “At the same time, you have to find a balance. When you’re going to make the risky throws, is it the right situation? You can be smart with the risk taking.”

Senior running back Kevin Mensah, speaking with reporters Tuesday, joked that Zergiotis reminds him in some ways of a very notable NFL quarterbac­k.

“When I watch Patrick Mahomes and the throws that he makes, from the side and all of that, I kind of see Jack, too,” Mensah said. “Jack has a really strong arm. He knows how to use his arm. I have so much faith in him. I know what he’s capable of, he knows what he’s capable of, the whole offense knows what he’s capable of.

“He’s just got to relax out there on the field. Once he does that, he’ll be the best player on the field.”

Zergiotis laughed off the comparison, saying he appreciate­s that teammates think highly of him. He then added, “I think of myself as a throw-first guy. Obviously, my strength is my arm. It’s just about developing everything else. I’ve tried to lose weight and be more mobile.”

Zergiotis said when he first got to UConn, he didn’t have any understand­ing of pre-snap reads. He credited the coaching staff for teaching him to slow the game down and better decipher the different looks that defenses may throw at him. He’s had other help, too.

“If I’m not seeing something, (the offensive line) will let me know. If they’re not seeing something, I’ll let them know,” Zergiotis said. “The past two years have been good for that, just knowledge of the game and knowing what to do in different circumstan­ces.”

And so, his football education continues.

“He’ll get better,” Edsall said. “Everybody can do a better job to help him. He can do a better job to help himself. It’s a matter of repetition, studying the playbook. Everybody thinks they’re a football expert, and they always want to critique the quarterbac­k because that’s the guy in the limelight.

“We had Dan Orlovsky here, and he said it almost took him until his fourth year to figure out what was going on.”

 ?? Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press ?? UConn quarterbac­k Jack Zergiotis steps to the line against Fresno State on Saturday.
Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press UConn quarterbac­k Jack Zergiotis steps to the line against Fresno State on Saturday.
 ?? Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press ?? UConn quarterbac­k Jack Zergiotis rolls out against Fresno State on Saturday.
Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press UConn quarterbac­k Jack Zergiotis rolls out against Fresno State on Saturday.

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