Last night was bad, and if it's any indicator of what's to come, UConn is looking at a long, painful year.
UConn lost 32-21 at home in a game that really wasn't as close as the score would indicate. The Huskies only trailed 13-10 at the half, but couldn't get out of its own way in the second half and eventually let Maryland QB CJ Brown and his talented core of receivers run wild over an overmatched UConn secondary. The result, the Huskies are now 0-2 and looking at possibly dropping three straight games at home to start the new year.
Andrew will go over what went wrong in more detail later this week once he gets a chance to look at the film, but the most important takeaway from last night is that despite Maryland's four turnovers, UConn just couldn't keep up with the Terps, and the disparity in talent really showed in the second half, when Maryland finally pulled away.
Coach Paul Pasqualoni was visibly frustrated by his team's performance, and after the game he laid out the areas where the team needed to perform better.
UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni:
"We did not make enough plays on CJ Brown tonight. He had a really big night running the ball. We had a hard time tackling him. We didn’t have a minus yardage play, we didn’t have a sack on him."
"On the other side… we just weren’t able to run the ball. We tried…. We were just not creating enough space for the backs enough to find a crease, so its frustrating. Losing Kevin Friend again so early in the game, hurt us again… big part of the offensive line."
"I thought our wide receivers played well... We did not do a good enough job containing... the pick-six at that point in the game really hurt."
Pasqualoni went on to say that he was encouraged by the team's effort at certain points in the game but that the team had to cut down on its missed tackles and assignments and stop giving up self-inflicted points. He also said that the punting game needed a lot of improvement and that the team's younger players have to step up.
So for those of you reading at home, basically what we're dealing with is a team that can't run, can't block, can't pass consistently without giving up a bad pick at an inopportune time, can't pressure the quarterback, can't prevent big plays and can't do a damn thing on special teams. About the only thing the team can do with any consistency is stop the run, but it's not good enough at that to overcome everything else a talented team like Maryland can throw at them.
Now, they'll have to figure out an answer to Michigan, a team that is much better than Maryland and boasts far more talent than UConn at just about every position. If that's not bad enough, kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., and the game will be broadcast as ABC's Game of the Week.
Look, this UConn team sucks. They sucked against Towson and they sucked against Maryland, and if history is any indicator, they are probably going to get blown out by Michigan too. I don't want to suggest that there is any real reason to believe that next Saturday is going to go any differently, but it has to, and here is why.
Since the team was blown out by Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and then throughout the whole conference realignment period, the narrative surrounding UConn football has been that the program is inferior and doesn't belong on the big stage of college football. For the most part, the team has encouraged this perception by losing to low-level opponents while playing boring and uninspired football.
If UConn wants to change this perception, it not only has to win, but it has to make a statement, and next Saturday UConn will have a chance to play a nationally-ranked, brand name opponent on primetime TV at home. These kinds of opportunities don't come around very often, and if UConn wants to turn around the perception that it's anything other than a subpar football program, it needs to show up and win this game. Otherwise, we're going to continue to see tweets like this going forward.
This is looking like it's going to be a disastrous season, but it still doesn't have to be. If you show up and beat Michigan at home, suddenly you're looking at upcoming games against Buffalo and USF with a chance to start 3-2. And besides, Michigan did just come within an inch of losing at home to Akron, which is without a doubt one of the worst teams in college football.
UConn will have the stage this weekend, and now they have a week to prepare for what should be the biggest game of the season. The question now is whether they will respond by playing inspired football like they did against Louisville last year, or if they throw up on themselves, get blown out and reinforce the perception that UConn just isn't ready for primetime.