The UConn football team looked into a mirror at Pratt and Whitney Stadium on Friday night. They saw the way that Head Coach Bob Diaco would like his team to look in a perfect world. Right now, the Huskies world is anything but perfect.
Temple steamrolled the Huskies in the first quarter, that put the game on ice for a 21-0 win. The Owls scored on their first three possessions on drive of 74, 65 and 77 yards. It took all of 14 plays and a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds for Temple to put the game away. Philip Walker torched the Huskies leaky pass defense , completing all six of his passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns. The Owls threw the ball three times on first down for 87 yards. For the rest of the game, they threw the ball a mere three times on first down and ran it 17 times as they controlled the clock with a two back, one or two tight end offensive look.
Defensively, Temple made life miserable for freshman quarterback Donovan Williams who made his first collegiate appearance against one of the best defensive teams in the AAC. Williams was impressive with his legs, reeling off two big runs. But he was sacked five teams, hit countless others and never given much chance to throw the ball downfield. Although, it didn’t look like throwing downfield was the plan in the first game for David Corley as offensive coordinator. And you can’t blame Corley if it wasn’t. He knew Williams was a newbie and the Temple defense would put hellacious pressure on him. Noel Thomas was targeted only seven times and had three of his four receptions in the space of four plays in the third quarter. Arkeel Newsome again struggled against the Owls defense, gaining just 21 yards in 10 carries.
You can argue Diaco’s decision to burn Williams redshirt with three games to go in the season until you are National Flag Blue in the face. He told us (and subsequently the rest of the media) that they planned to move Williams into the starting lineup after the Houston game but the freshman suffered a lower leg injury in practice and wasn’t ready til this week. I, myself, wouldn’t have played him this late, but again, that’s me.
So now, the Huskies have a week off to get ready for the final two games of the season, at Boston College and home against Tulane. There will be no repeat trip to a bowl game, and no matter which way you look at it, this has been an extremely disappointing season. There are so many areas where the Huskies have regressed. Especially in the offensive line, which struggled again on Friday night. If that are doesn’t improve greatly before 2017, it doesn’t matter how good a quarterback Williams is.
And the defense has not been anywhere near as good as we expected it to be going into the season. The lack of a pass rush exposed a secondary that was thought to be the teams’ strong point going into the season. It hasn’t been.
For the players who will return next season, the final two games are a chance to show the coaching staff they won’t quit. For the players who won’t return, it’s a chance to leave the football program with their heads held high.