JOE D’S NOTEBOOK
FOOTBALL- THE POST MORTEM. To paraphrase noted sports philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra, it was deja vu all over again for the UConn football team. For the second straight season, the Huskies needed to beat Cincinnati to become bowl eligible. For the second straight season, they couldn’t, losing 34-17 on Saturday at Rentschler Field.
In so many ways, it was a microcosm of the season. The Huskies did a few things right but also shot themselves in the foot, committed costly turnovers and gave up some big plays on defense. That’s the way the season went and that’s why UConn will miss out on the fun of a bowl game for the second straight year.
You can look back at the close calls, North Carolina State, Western Michigan, Temple and South Florida and play the shoulda, woulda, coulda game . But, good teams would find a way to win one or two of those games. UConn didn’t win any. Heck, the Huskies lost three games to teams who fired their coaches. I’m not sure anyone has ever done that before. The botttom line is the Huskies just weren’t good enough.
What were the bright spots on the season. I think you found a quarterback for the next couple of seasons in Chandler Whitmer. He got better as the season progressed but eventually succumbed to the constant beating he took from game two to the end. I think he’ll cut down on his mistakes next season and make better decisions. You found a couple of dependable receivers in Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips. Ryan Wirth was one of the bright stories of the season on defense. And Yawin Smallwood established himself as one of the best linebackers in the Big East, or what is left of the Big East.
The numbers don’t lie. UConn was last in almost all big offensive catergories and as good as the defense played for most of the season, at some point , you have to score points. Other numbers are equally alarming. UConn runs the ball on first down 64% of the time but averages just 2.9 yards per carry on first down. That makes it awful difficult if you are always facing 2nd and 7 or 8 or 9…The offense never scored a touchdown on the first possesion of the second half. Maybe not suprising considering the second half scoring woes but still eye opening. UConn managed just four pass plays of 40 yards or more, and two of them came in Game 12. There were only eight runs of 20 yards or more.three of them by quarterbacks and only three by Lyle McCombs. This was a program that was always among the best in the league running the football. Not this year
The coaches now hit the recruiting trail with the primary needs being offensive linesmen, tight ends, receivers and cornerbacks. They like the youngster who they were able to redshirt,wideouts Ricky Gutierrez and John Green, defensive backs Jhavon Williams,Ellis Marder, Obi Melifonwu and Jordan Floyd, offensive linesmen Richard Levy and Zach Rugg and defensive linesmen like Mykal Myers and Brendan Battle-Santos. Throw in freshmen who played like running back Mighty Joe Williams and offensive guard Tyler Samra and Graham Stewart, the transfer linebacker from Florida, and there are definitely building blocks.
But this is an important time for UConn football. The attendance figures indicate that interest might be at the low point since the move to FBS status. Fans got spoiled by the success from 2004 thru 2010. And while the fans want a good team to root for, the fans also have to come out and support the team thru thick and thin. It’s a two way street.
Finally, good luck to the seniors who have played their final game in the National Flag Blue and White. I’ve gotten a chance to know Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Trevardo Williams, Sio Moore, Jory Johnson, Ryan Wirth, Ryan Griffin, John Delahunt, Johnny Mc Entee ,Adam Masters, Mike Smith and Nick Williams . All are outstanding young men who were a credit to the university. I wish them well in all of their future endeavors.