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Defending Diaco's decision to go for it with the game on the line

After miscues on special teams, UConn was forced to fake a field goal with the game on the line on the road against a nationally ranked SEC team.

UConn head coach Bob Diaco watches his team compete against No. 22 Missouri.
UConn head coach Bob Diaco watches his team compete against No. 22 Missouri.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

They just needed 25 yards. It felt like a mile, but UConn needed only 25 more yards to pull off the most improbable victory in program history.

It just wasn't meant to be.

The Huskies were 20-point underdogs to No. 22 Missouri. They had no business winning that football game. But you can tell that to the players on this team that hung in there against an SEC team playing at home in front of over 70,000 fans decked out in gold and black.

But what about that call at the end of the game?

Many of the people last weekend all had the same thing to say. "Was Bob Diaco kidding me with that call?" some fans complained. "Why not kick the field goal and go to overtime?" muttered others.

Me? I don't hate it.

In a perfect world, a coach has faith in his kicker and his special teams unit. But has that unit given Diaco or anybody watching at home a reason to be confident? Missed field goals and even worse missed PAT's have plagued the Huskies since the opening kickoff against Villanova. Last Saturday UConn kicker Michael Tarbutt missed from 49 yards, while Bobby Puyol's longest field goal of the season was 39 yards. A field goal from 42 yards out just felt out of the question. Especially with special teams blocking struggling the way that it was.

I don't blame Diaco for calling the play that he did. If you watch college football you've seen this situation before. The coach reaches into his bag of tricks and will either be an evil genius that leads his team to victory or the goat (no not greatest of all time), which called a dumb play and cost his team when it mattered most.

I don't think Diaco is either of these. I think Diaco is a guy who lacked faith in his special teams unit and went with what he thought was the best way for UConn to win a football game. We all wish the result was different, but that's football. On Tuesday, Diaco defended his call during his weekly press conference.

"If I had to do it again, I still wouldn't have kicked," Diaco said. "Based on past performance, the situation, the SEC, we went there to win the game. We didn't go there to play to a tie on the road to the SEC. We went there to win the game. Hindsight is 20/20 and if you're giving me a do over I run the offense back out there and call a play."

All of that being said, if the Huskies find themselves in this situation again this season I hope Diaco will find a way to trust his kicker. Diaco needs to put his guys in the situation to succeed under pressure. Special teams is often lost in the shuffle, but clearly it can be the difference between wins and losses. However, trust is a two-way street. The special teams units needs to show us all that they can handle the responsibility.

Looking back the Huskies performed well on the road in a hostile environment. UConn was held to just 233 yards of offense, but the Huskies also did their job defensively holding the Tigers to 270 yards. In what was a bizarre game all around (9-6 final score with no field goals), UConn received national media attention for the right reasons.

Will the Huskies grit and determination on the road help fill the stands at The Rent? Maybe. Expectations for this team were at rock bottom at the end of August, now fans have a reason to believe. UConn will not get a break this Saturday when the Navy Midshipmen come to East Hartford.

Navy (2-0) will rely on its triple-option offense to remain undefeated after back-to-back double-digit victories over Colgate and East Carolina. In the next few weeks, we will learn what this UConn team is made of as AAC play gets into full swing. Diaco's goal of winning every game may be over, but there is still time for the Huskies to have a successful season.