Any Good Lines Lately?

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EAST HARTFORD — It starts with the offensive line. And it starts with a good line.

It usually does.

As Adam Masters and Jimmy Bennett stood there Saturday, two 300-pound mountains trying to explain how the slants by the N.C. State defense had so throttled the UConn running game, there was another big guy across the room with another slant.

And a good line.

"It's not going to be hard to get fired up for that one," defensive lineman Ryan Wirth said of the next game against Randy Edsall and Maryland. "That's all I'm going to say about that."

So there's still animosity about being deserted in the desert after the 2011 Fiesta Bowl?

"I'm not going to comment on that," Wirth said. "I'm just going to say we're going to get it done. We're going to practice our ass off and get it done."

Good slant, Ryan, but not as good as N.C. State's slants in its 10-7 victory over UConn before 34,202 fans and 6,000 empty seats at Rentschler Field.

Good line, Ryan, but now it's time for the offensive line to be good. Or else this 2012 season is going to be an increasingly frustrating exercise where the defense does extraordinary things and the offense drags the Huskies back down to ordinary.

Coach Paul Pasqualoni saw it in the opening 37-0 rout of overmatched UMass and introduced the topic immediately. He didn't like the way the run game looked. He didn't like the way the run game was being blocked. Some saw 147 yards. Good. Others saw only 3.4 yards per carry and a lack of third-down conversions at times. Not so good.

Turned out Pasqualoni was right.

"Frustrating afternoon to put it mildly, very disappointing from a rushing standpoint," Pasqualoni said after the Huskies produced a pitiful 35 net yards on 32 carries for an average of 1.1 yards. "They slanted the front … played a lot of guys close to the line of scrimmage. We didn't do a good job of blocking."

Bennett said Pasqualoni lit into the team afterward.

"When Coach was talking after the game, it was dead silent," Bennett said. "A lot of guys were shaking their heads. He was obviously upset with the offense. All 11 of us have to work together and move the fricking ball down the field."

The Huskies had 18 net rushing yards in the season finale against Cincinnati last year, but in college football, you include the sacks. They had 81 yards gained and 63 lost that day. Johnny McEntee was a sack a minute. On Saturday, the Huskies gained 78 and lost 43. There was no sustained push down the field. They were 2-for-14 combined on third- and fourth-down conversions.

The limelight isn't fair to offensive linemen. They work. They sweat. They pound in the trenches, piles of flesh anonymous beneath a bunch of numbers like six and seven. They are oxen engaged in an intricate ballet. Yet about the only time the media wants to talk to them is when something goes wrong.

So while quarterback Chandler Whitmer and running back Lyle McCombs, who both had their problems, spoke mostly in the typical modifiers of the skill positions — "a little bit" and "sort of" — the big guys didn't hold back.

"I saw a lack of execution and, really, a lack of communication and focus," Masters said. "What happened today is unacceptable and something we need to change."

"It's really upsetting," Bennett said. "I took a lot longer than I usually do to get dressed [afterward] … coming off the field frustrated so many times it's hard to take."

How's that for honesty of emotion?

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