Coming into last night, I felt something I haven't felt in a long time. Real, palpable excitement for UConn Football. Seriously, after all we've been through as fans, wasn't it nice to actually come into a game like last night and feel GOOD about the team?
Obviously it didn't last for long, as last night was a painful reminder that UConn still has a ways to go before it gets back to where it needs to be. As much as I love Bob Diaco's approach to the job, I think EDSBS said it best when he tweeted this last night.
When Paul Pasqualoni leaves the cupboard bare he even eats the box of baking soda on the fridge— Spencer Hall (@edsbs) August 30, 2014
Now that's not entirely fair, because it's clear that UConn has some talented players on its roster this year, but last night was a wake up call. So where do we go from here?
First, some positives. I liked that the Huskies played with fire and never folded even when BYU began to build an insurmountable lead, and I liked that the Huskies took some risks, went for it on fourth down, and even that fake field goal attempt was a nice change of pace even though it didn't work.
There were a lot of plays, especially in the red zone, where had the Huskies executed better it would have been a much more competitive game, and that's something that will need to improve over time. And Josh Marriner and Arkeel Newsome are both going to be studs, and probably sooner rather than later.
That being said, the big issue I had with Diaco's coaching, and I don't think I'm alone on this, was the way he handled the quarterbacks.
Casey Cochran and Chandler Whitmer both played ok. Not great, but decent, especially by UConn quarterback standards. Cochran went 17-31 with 171 yards and an interception, while Whitmer went 8-17 with 113 yards. Each quarterback strung together some nice plays, led good drives but for the most part stalled once they got to the red zone for one reason or another.
To me, there doesn't seem to be an obvious difference in the two quarterbacks' style of play, which is great from a gameplanning perspective since it doesn't shout to the other team "ok, here's our passing quarterback and now here's our running quarterback!" (glares angrily at George DeLeone) The biggest difference that I could tell between them is that Cochran appears to have a much better presence in the pocket, and that could make all the difference in the world down the road.
Despite heavy pressure, Cochran was sacked by BYU only once. It's true that he did overthrow a bunch of key passes, including the interception early in the game, but whenever the Cougars came, he got the ball out of his hand. That has always been an issue for Whitmer, and it was again last night, as he was sacked three times, including on back-to-back plays towards the end of UConn's first drive of the second half.
The fact that Whitmer was even in at that point was strange, because at that point Cochran had led the Huskies down the field over the previous 10 plays. Why Diaco would want to disrupt that rhythm, I'm not sure, but that's the main issue I have with this two quarterback system. You've got two guys, a senior who has a long track record of inconsistent play, and a sophomore who has largely played well whenever he's been on the field. Why not just hand the keys to the sophomore, let him play, and give everybody a chance to rally behind him so the team can grow as a unit?
Casey Cochran is UConn's quarterback of the future, and based on everything we've seen from the end of last year through last night, he's the guy who should be leading the team, at least right now. He's not perfect, he'll make mistakes, but he deserves a chance to learn and improve without having to look over his shoulder after every play.
Hopefully Diaco will see it that way soon and give him a chance to be the guy.