Before we get into the negative I do have something nice to say: it was nice to see UConn's football game listed under "Top 25" in the ESPN ticker.
On to our regularly schedule programming.
While fans look at the schedule and see the Huskies' next opponent, it appears Bob Diaco sees the practice partner for the Huskies' next live scrimmage. Earlier this week, Bob the builder explained to us that the Huskies are doing very little in the way of gameplanning for opponents given how many other aspects of American tackle football they need to work on. This was his stance at the beginning of the season, but now it looks as though this will be the case for its entirety. Great.
For those of us with the unfortunate luck of being deeply invested in the outcome of these games, or who have spent hard-earned money to attend them, this should come as somewhat of a disappointment. It's hard to buy into a vision of the future when the present looks so bleak.
We expected more going into the season. Even though we knew the offensive line would be bad, there was talent at the skill positions and young Casey Cochran showed some promise at the end of his redshirt freshman season. Unfortunately the O-line has been terrible, Cochran had to stop playing football, and the results on the field have been miserable.
I place all of the blame on this lost season squarely on Jeff Hathaway and Paul Pasqualoni, in that order. Quite frankly, I feel bad for Bob Diaco- who couldn't have possibly imagined the roster having such a massive gaping hole in one of the most important parts of the game. And then for him to have to start the guy who was meant to be a buffer between Tim Boyle's redshirt and the field... well that makes things tough.
For as ugly as the offense has been, one must not overlook the fact that the Huskies actually do have a pretty stout defense. Given the departures from last year's front seven, there were no guarantees the defense would perform at the level that we have been able to expect in years past. The New Haven Register's Jim Fuller pointed out that, statistically, UConn's defense is doing quite well this year. When you factor in the circumstances (no offense- no rest, turnovers leading to short fields) the results are that much more impressive.
So while most of us are mentally preparing ourselves for a likely blowout tonight, I'm excited to see what our defense can do against one of the best offenses in college football. Tonight will be a good test for the UConn defense, and I think they can contend- at least until lack of rest and poor field position catch up to them.
The Pirates' senior Quarterback Shane Carden is one of the leading passers in the country, with 354.8 yards per game (5th in FBS) and 16 touchdown passes to only four interceptions in six games which included match-ups against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Carden has two extremely reliable receivers in senior Justin Hardy (47 rec, 593 yards, 5TD) and sophomore Isaiah Jones (42 rec, 478 yards, 4TD); there are also two deep-threat receivers who are averaging over 19 yards per reception in Cam Worthy and Trevon Brown.
ECU Running back Breon Allen has 504 yards on the ground and four touchdowns while averaging a stunning 8.4 yards per carry. He is also a legitimate receiving threat, with 18 receptions, 150 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. While I believe our defensive line can hold up against the run, the Pirates will test the discipline of our linebackers and secondary in space with short passes out of spread formations.
While I fully expect the Huskies' offensive incompetence to ultimately be our undoing tonight, mayyyybe the defense can keep it close. Mayyyybe we get a special teams and/or defensive TD or the offense breaks a couple of big plays and we can take the No. 18 team in the country to the wire. If we can just limit turnovers, who knows what this team is capable of. USF was up 17-7 on ECU at halftime, only to be shutout in the second half en route to a 28-17 loss. Maybe we could do the same.
One can hope.
I would love to be surprised by the Huskies tonight, but we've reached Game 7 and, to borrow a Diaco-ism, my energy bucket is running low. I understand that a complete re-build can take time, but gosh darn this has been a rough season to watch, to care so much about. I hope the Huskies can come out of that tunnel tonight with enthusiasm and take the field with some fire, believing that they can win. That is what culture change is all about.
I would love to leave this game with something new to be optimistic or excited about-- maybe seeing Andreas Knappe hold his own, or Geremy Davis have the huge game that he is capable of, or see a second receiving option emerge from the depth-- anything to fill the energy bucket.
And if not,