So it wasn't the season-defining win we were hoping for, but there are still a lot of positives about the direction of this UConn team. Here are a few points to consider after taking some time to review the game.
1. This is a really good Navy team.
Star quarterback Keenan Reynolds is one of nine seniors leading a Navy offense which is executing at an extremely high level right now. The Midshipmen controlled possession, using just three drives to put up 21 points in the first half. Reynolds has eight rushing (nine total) touchdowns in his last two games- both against strong defenses. When the Huskies tried to mount a comeback late in the game, the Navy defense did a good job of making stops in the backfield and putting pressure on Bryant Shirreffs as he dropped back to pass. Now 3-0 after a comfortable win over ECU the week before, the Midshipmen are clearly going to be competing for the American-West crown with Houston and Memphis and also have a very good chance of winning the first AAC Championship game.
After all, they did just beat a pretty solid UConn team on the road.
2. Now is not time to lose faith in UConn.
This game may not have come down to the wire, and at first glance it may not seem like there are positives for the Huskies. But Navy won this game because its triple option was unstoppable in the first half and its defense was able to hold on to a big lead in the second. The defense dialed up the aggression late in the second half when they knew Bryant Shirreffs would be passing and it worked.
Luckily, there are no triple-option offenses remaining on the schedule, and if there were, it probably wouldn't be run as flawlessly as Navy's. For the remainder of the season, the UConn defense should be its usual stout self.
3. The UConn offense is better than the score would indicate...
The final score was 28-18 in favor of Navy, but the two teams performed similarly in many key offensive production factors. Navy held just a 343-325 advantage in yards gained, had only one more first down than the Huskies and the same exact yards per play (5.2). Navy only ran three more plays in the game.
True freshman Tyraiq Beals gained 78 yards from scrimmage and caught a touchdown pass on a long throw from Shirreffs. Arkeel Newsome showed that he, along with Ron Johnson, can shoulder the responsibilities of a feature back, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry on his way to 69 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards. Noel Thomas had yet another productive outing.
There are people on this team who can move the ball and the offensive line is improving. Overall the offense is decent, which is a big upgrade from last year. There are situational improvements which need to be made to have that point total match the production.
4. ...but definitely still needs work.
The Huskies suffered from poor efficiency on third downs. Execution errors included drops, bad throws, miscommunication, and penalties. The offensive line was solid, but still allowed five sacks and seven tackles for loss. When the UConn defense was able to stop Navy a few times in the second half, the offense struggled to take advantage. The Huskies only made two red zone visits all game, going 1-2 in those scoring chances. The offense needed slightly more plays in the situations that mattered most.
5. UConn should have the highest attendance of the season for its next home game.
Part of that is because the Huskies next home game- on October 17 against USF- will be on Homecoming. The size of the crowds at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field has risen with each home game this season, with some of that boost coming from the excitement of the Huskies' impressive performance in the nationally-televised Missouri game.
The Huskies will visit BYU and UCF before returning home to host South Florida. Hopefully, they can inspire some confidence in the fanbase across those two games so there are way more butts in the seats upon their return home.