It was more of the same for the UConn football team in their season finale Saturday against Tulane. The only difference was it came against a team that came into the game with six straight losses, making the 38-13 drubbing by the Green Wave even tougher to swallow.
There were breakdowns in all three phases of the game. Offensively, the Huskies went three and out five times and struggled mightily to move the ball. Defensively, Tulane scored on four of their first five possessions to take a 24-0 lead that everyone realized would be insurmountable, considering the problems UConn had putting points on the board. And even the special teams struggled with the normally reliable “Kick Squad” of Justin Wane and Bobby Puyol each getting a kick blocked in the first quarter. All in all, it was a carbon copy of the second half of the season that proved to be the worst stretch of Connecticut football in the FBS era.
There were bright spots. Noel Thomas with nine receptions, became the first Husky to catch 100 passes in a season. Arkeel Newsome, who ran four times for zero yards in the BC loss, ran for 166, caught passes for 28 more and scored the Huskies first two touchdowns in forever. And Obi Melifonwu became the fourth UConn defender to record 24 tackles in a game, joining Troy Ashley, John Dorsey and Jeff Thomas in the record book.
I was one of many who predicted big things for this team coming off last season’s appearance in a bowl game. I thought they would be an 8 or 9 win team. Like many others, I was wrong. The offensive line, mediocre at best last year regressed. The defense, which everyone thought would be the strength of the team, also took a big step back. They got little or no pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the secondary allowed too many open receivers. Where did things go wrong? I’m not sure…But they did.
Many are calling for the firing of Bob Diaco. I say no. Not after three years. But it is incumbent on the head coach to make bold changes on his coaching staff. And on both sides of the ball, not just the offense. That’s step one. You can’t deny the head coach is enthusiastic. But that sometime’s leads to him saying things that leave the fans (and the media) shaking their heads. UConn fans are looking for results, not promises.
Saturday was a sad day for the 18 seniors who played their final games in National Flag Blue and White and also for their parents. First, the players. Getting to know young men like Noel Thomas, Matt Walsh, Andreas Knappe, Mikel Myers, Sean Marrinan, Obi Melifonwu, Jhavon Williams, Bobby Puyol and Justin Wain has been an absolute pleasure. Fans should understand that even though it was a rough year on the field, they should be proud of these young men for the way they conduct themselves off the field. A truly classy group of individuals.
And I have also gotten to know some of their parents well. It won’t be the same on road trips not seeing Amy and David Wain, Suzie and Orlando Puyol or Rich and Sharon Walsh at the team hotel or after games. These people spend a lot of money to follow their sons around. They too will be missed by me.
Finally, thanks to my broadcast colleagues. Wayne Norman, Ken Sweitzer, Bob Joyce, DJ Wrexx (aka Anthony McCalla), Devin Raeli and Kyle Tait make it a whole lot of fun to broadcast the games. They are all terrific people and very good at what they do and I thank them for their teamwork and friendship.
Onto basketball where the Huskies try to get back on track at the XL Center against BU on Wednesday Night. Broadcast time is 6:30, hope you can join us.