Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: bob diaco

Clock Mismanagement Overshadows Great Performance for UConn

Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

Everyone will remember the final drive from Saturday’s UConn vs. Navy football game as a blown opportunity. In a game that seemed like a sure-fire loss for UConn, on the road against a very good Navy team, UConn had a chance to win with seconds left on the clock. Down 4 points with 3 minutes to go, UConn went on an impressive 10 play, 79-yard drive and put themselves in a situation to win the game. The only problem? They needed 80 yards, not 79. When the clock turned to 0s, the scoreboard showed a 28-24 loss for UConn, but it was truly a game of inches (and clock mismanagement).

The late game clock mismanagement is on Bob Diaco and he has to improve if this program is going to take the next step in development, but you can read more about that elsewhere. As frustrating as it was to lose when the W was so close, I want to focus on the players and their incredible performance to even be in the game down the stretch. Down 21-0 in the 2nd quarter, this game could have easily been a 2+ touchdown loss like we have seen a lot of in past years, but the UConn Huskies showed heart and passion and roared back. Their 10 play, 80-yard drive late in the 2nd quarter that ended with a 34-yard TD throw to Noel Thomas began to swing momentum.

Early in the 3rd quarter RB Ron Johnson finished a 10 play, 60-yard drive with a punishing 3-yard run and in the blink of an eye, UConn was within 1 score. Just when it looked like Navy was going to score and maybe swing back the momentum on a big drive late in the 3rd quarter, there was a massive turn of events when DT Mikal Myers forced the ball loose from Navy RB Chris High and CB Jamar Summers scooped the ball and ran 86-yards for the game-tying TD. Everyone, Navy and UConn fans alike, were in shock after that play and couldn’t believe the game was tied going into the 4th quarter.

UConn took the lead on a Bobby Puyol 38-yard field goal, before Navy ultimately scored the game-winning TD with 3:08 to play. QB Bryant Shirreffs played well on Saturday, completing 23 of his 26 passes with a TD and rushing for 45 yards in 13 attempts (not including the 13-yard loss on a sack). The defensive struggled with the option run game in the first half, but locked-in during the 2nd half, allowing just 1 score to keep the game within reach at the end. Overall, a commendable performance and a huge improvement over week 1’s squeaker win over Maine.

Play of the Game

Diaco dialed up some trickery in the 3rd quarter when TE and former QB Tyler Davis had a massive 25-yard throw on his 1 attempt to fellow TE Alec Bloom on a 4th and 4. It kept the drive alive and led to the Huskies’ 2nd TD.

Next up

UConn (1-1) vs. Virginia (0-2) – 1:30pm on Saturday, Sept. 17th

Virginia has losses at home against Richmond (37-20) and at Oregon (44-26) so far in this early season.

When a W Isn’t Really a W: What UConn Needs to Improve

David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

After watching the UConn Huskies barely squeak out a victory against the Maine Black Bears on Thursday night, I didn’t feel happy or even a little bit satisfied. I decided to wait before writing about the game hoping that I would feel better about the performance a few days later, but I still just don’t. It was ugly at times and there were several moments of confusion and uncertainty, on offense and defense. Being bailed out by a Bobby Puyol FG is nice, but doesn’t erase the overall performance.

I know it was just 1 game, but here are some of my concerns going forward based on the 1st 60 minutes of the season.

  • If Bryant Shirreffs continues to run as often as he did against Maine, he will not start all of the Huskies games this season. Shirreffs took a ton of big hits and put himself in some dangerous positions on Thursday, a bad injury waiting to happen. Some designed runs make sense and occasionally pulling the ball down and running is the safest option with good pass coverage, but it appeared he barely read his receivers on most non-designed runs. He would drop back, take 1 look at 1 receiver, then pull it down and run. He must be more patient and make more than 1-read in the passing game if this team has any shot against higher-level competition.
  • The much-hyped UConn defense was meh at best. Maine found huge holes in the secondary as they net 269 passing yards and had 2 big 40+ yard completions. The Black Bears averaged 14.2 yards per completion, which is just way too high for this defense. The D stuffed the run quite effectively, but without a solid pass defense, opponents with even better QBs and receivers will eat them alive. Missed assignments and bad coverage technique needs to improve quickly.
  • UConn didn’t use their TEs enough in the passing game. The Huskies have 4 primary TEs who rotated throughout the game but caught 3 total passes. Bob Diaco loves to run 2+ TE sets to help with the run game, but if you focused a bit more on getting the ball into their hands in the passing game, it would open up holes for Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson in the run game and keep Shirreffs upright in the pocket more often. Quick curls or slants that pick up 4 or 5 yards would make a huge difference on 1st and 2nd downs and lessen the pressure to run constantly.

At the end of the day, a mark in the W column looks the same whether you upset a top opponent or barely beat a low-level one, but the first game of a football season makes a statement, good or bad. For the Huskies, game one was concerning.

Optimism for UConn Football in 2016

Bob Diaco

Entering his 3rd season at the helm of the UConn Huskies football program, Bob Diaco has a lot to prove this season. He has attempted to add some energy and excitement around the team and the overall program, and the results have been improving, but just ok. In his first season, the team went 2-10 thanks in large part to his predecessor and a team lacking veteran talent, but last season he began to put his stamp on the program going 6-7 and making his first bowl appearance as a head coach. Below .500 isn’t anything to write home about, but +4 wins in a year is an accomplishment. Now that he has won 6 games and made a bowl, the pressure is on to at least maintain that level of success and take the next step forward.

Year 3 is when a new coach’s recruits start to take roles on the team and the needle moves (or doesn’t). With 10 of the 11 starting offensive players returning, Diaco will show the college football world the impact he can have as a player development coach. The skill players on offense are poised for better seasons, led by redshirt Junior QB Bryant Shirreffs. The team is his for this and next season, he just needs to control the tempo and not make make bad decisions. He has returning weapons around him, RB Arkeel Newsome, WR Noel Thomas, and 2 strong TEs Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers. If he can play smart and get the ball in his playmakers’ hands, then this offense could dominate time of possession and, gasp, put up some points (key word is some).

The UConn defense continues to be the staple of the program. They were one of the best defenses in the AAC conference last season and continue to breed playmakers at all levels of the defense. For fans of the team, there are many familiar names returning, including Foley Fatukasi and Mikal Myers up front, Junior Joseph and Jamar Summers at linebacker, and Obi Melifonwu and Jhavon Williams in the secondary. The heart of the defense is very strong and will have a serious impact on both the run and pass game. With a strong, but not high-powered offense, the defense needs to be stingy in order for this team to win 6 games and be playing in bowl season once again.

Overall, the UConn Huskies appear to be in a good place ready to make a bigger name for themselves on a national stage. They are a long way from being ranked, but could turn some heads in 2016 as the program continues to rise.

Our UConn football family is very fortunate to call The Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center our home. These facilities are among the finest in the nation and fully serve the needs of our football student-athletes. I want all Husky student-athletes and my fellow coaches to be able to enjoy the same caliber of facilities, which they richly deserve.

UConn Football Coach Bob Diaco on his $250,000 gift to help with the construction of facilities for UConn’s men’s and women’s soccer program, baseball program and softball program.