Curran: Patriots show signs of hope on defense


Curran: Patriots show signs of hope on defense

FOXBORO Two games ago the Patriots threw a blanket over the St. Louis Rams offense, allowing seven points in Wembley Stadium in a 38-point blowout win.

A glimmer of hope? No. Just headlights from a freight train in a tunnel. The Bills came into Foxboro last week and smashed the notion the Patriots defense was all fixed by putting up 31 points and 481 yards of offense in a too-close-for-comfort, 37-31 loss to the Patriots.

Thats worth remembering in the wake of the Patriots electric effort against Indy and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck on Sunday. After a flat start, the Patriots defense made it hard for Luck, forcing four turnovers, returning two Luck throws for touchdowns and allowing just a field goal as a 14-7 deficit at the end of one turned into a 45-17 advantage by the end of the third.

All fixed? Probably not. Better. No doubt.

After weeks of passive defense in the secondary where receivers would wind up uncovered and DBs would look at each other with upturned hands as if to say, I thought you had him there were no occasions of Colts receivers running free.

And, of the 27 passes Luck completed (21 after the first quarter), the vast majority were on tight fits. The Patriots played faster and with more confidence than they have all season.

Obviously, weve been catching a little criticism but we know the type of players we have on the back end and what were capable of and I think today showed a little bit of that, said safety Steve Gregory. "But the thing for us is being consistent and thats what we have to focus on. We have to get in there and correct things. Theres some things we didnt do that well and in a game like this, sometimes things go unnoticed. We have to go in, get those things corrected and be consistently that way every week. Play like this every week. And thats what were going to focus on.

The presence of Aqib Talib and his aggressive style seemed to rub off on the rest of the secondary. Talib gave up his share two touchdowns went to his man but the Patriots seemed comfortable having a cover corner they could move around and get innovative with. And the safety play so horrid in terms of support picked up as well.

Aggression and confidence seemed to carry the day in the secondary.

Playing fast comes with experience, said Gregory. Obviously we have some young guys out there but you have to find a way to play free and fast within the scheme of the defense. You cant go beyond yourself and leave an area open where thats your responsibility. Its about picking and choosing and knowing those times when you can go beyond and do a little bit more. For us today, we did a great job of that. We made a lot of plays and you see the results.

With Talib starting at one corner and Alfonzo Dennard on the other side after Kyle Arrington picked up a 40-yard pass interference on the opening Colts drive, the Patriots suddenly have two players on the outside who are known for their coverage ability, not their versatility. And thats a good thing. Theres confidence on the outside with those two and communication continues to improve.

We had a good week of practice, said Talib. We put a lot of emphasis on that in practice - communication and playing fast. We coulda did better today. We gave up some stuff. We felt good today but it can be better.

It already is better than it was.

I think we settled in, said Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. Obviously they gave us their best shot early. Everything they were doing, they game plan just like we do. You dont want to give up those drives, especially the first drive, you want to get the offense the ball. So its just another one of those, Hey, lets watch the tape and see the things we werent doing correctly. I was happy that we were able to settle down and stop them there towards the end and then we were able to just kind of keep rolling on that momentum there.

The first Colts drive ended with T.Y. Hilton scoring on an in-cut at the back of the end zone with Talib in coverage.

On the short one, I just got undercut at the goal line, Talib explained. I didnt play good technique. I let him widen me and then cut back inside.

As for the second touchdown Talib allowed a 43-yarder to Hilton - Talib said, I didnt have my eyes in the right spot. My eyes were exactly where they shouldnt be, on the quarterback, so I watched him throw a touchdown on me, thats what I did, so Just gotta get a lot better.

Hes a cog in a broken machine. Hes not enough to fix the Patriots secondary all alone. But his presence Sunday made the whole operation more smooth. And with the calendar soon to flip to December, its not a minute too soon if youre a Patriots fan.

South Carolina holds off UMass, 34-28


South Carolina holds off UMass, 34-28

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Freshman Jake Bentley threw for two touchdowns and 201 yards in his first college game and South Carolina matched its victory total from last year with a 34-28 victory over Massachusetts on Saturday.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp was expecting to redshirt Bentley this season before the team's mounting offensive problems - they entered dead last in points per game in the Football Bowl Subdivision - left the first-year coach open to any solution.

Bentley proved the right answer against the Minutemen (1-7). He led the Gamecocks (3-4) to touchdowns on their first two series, and then threw a pair of pretty fade passes for TD, the first from 16 yards out to K.C. Crosby and later a 24-yarder to Bryan Edwards to lead 27-7.

When UMass cut things to 34-28 with less than 5 minutes left, Bentley accounted for 30 yards to help the Gamecocks run out the clock.

It was the first time South Carolina had scored more than 20 points in a game this season.

UMass did its share to help with three turnovers in the opening half, two which led to two South Carolina scores.

Tight end Adam Breneman had two TD catches for UMass, which fell to 0-3 against Southeastern Conference teams this fall.


UMASS: The Minutemen have been outscored 131-77 in its four games this season against teams from the Power 5 conferences.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Its future - and offensive recovery - may have started with Bentley behind center. The freshman, who'll turn 19 next month, is sure to have some bumps ahead, maybe as soon as next week's home game against No. 18 Tennessee. But there was little benefit keeping the strong-armed Bentley on the bench if he could spark up the offense this season.


UMASS: The Minutemen return home to play Football Championship Subdivision opponent Wagner. The game ends the UMass home season as it finishes with games at Troy, BYU and Hawaii.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks go back to the Southeastern Conference grinder against No. 18 Tennessee. The Gamecocks have only won two SEC games the past two seasons and will face a difficult challenge against the Vols, who are in the thick of the Eastern Division chase.

© 2016 by STATS & The Associated Press


UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16


UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -McKenzie Milton threw for a season-high 317 yards and three touchdowns to lead Central Florida to a 24-16 win over UConn.

The freshman completed 29 of 45 passes and the Knights (4-3, 2-1 American) moved over the .500 mark by scoring 17 unanswered points and holding the Huskies (3-5, 1-4) scoreless in the second half.

Arkeel Newsome ran 21 times for 101 yards and Noel Thomas had his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game for UConn, catching nine passes for 165 yards.

But Thomas dropped a pass in the end zone on a third down with just over 3 minutes remaining, and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs came up short on a fourth-down scramble.

The Huskies got the ball back near midfield with just over 2 minutes left and drove to the 21, but failed to convert a fourth-down pass.

The Knights took the lead on the first drive of the second half, when Milton hit running back Adrian Killins over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown. It was the third consecutive drive of more than 70 yards for UCF.

A career-long 50-yard field goal by Matthew Wright early in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to eight points.

UConn scored the game's first 13 points, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Newsome.

The Huskies final points came on a 35-yard Puyol field goal, one of three he kicked in the first half.

The lead was the first at halftime this season for the Huskies.


UCF: The Knights have apparently found their quarterback in the freshman Milton, who started again over senior Justin Holman. It was Milton's fourth start this season. His 317 yards passing were the most since Holman threw for 336 yards against Temple in 2014.

UConn: The Huskies have two offensive weapons in Newsome and Thomas and need to find a third. Shirreffs was again the team's second leading rusher with 49 yards. Alec Bloom was the team's second-leading receiver. He had two catches for 20 yards.


UCF: The Knights visit No. 11 Houston next Saturday

UConn: The Huskies travel south to face East Carolina.

© 2016 by STATS & The Associated Press