1. Progress has been made, thanks to the #process.
Bob Diaco's tenure has been met with heavy skepticism since the start of last season. Diaco remained confident in the way he and his staff are preparing the players and the improvements this relatively young roster has made in one year. Beating a team like Villanova, the class of the FCS, is the first concrete sign of on-field progress.
UConn needed this win more than people think. Nobody cared that they were underdogs according to the off-shore sports books, or that Villanova is a very good football team, FCS or not. Losing would have hurt the perception of the program and piled more doubt on the Diaco era.
2. This team has been trained to prepare for adversity, and it showed.
Despite the win, there were many unfortunate moments on the field, whether they occurred due to bad luck or a mistake by one or multiple players. The missed PAT, holding penalty to cause a safety, interception at the end of the second quarter, allowing a 3rd-and-22 conversion, Fatukasi's fighting penalty (he was ejected and will have to miss the first half of the Army game) after making a big 3rd down stop, are all negative plays that could have caused a tailspin for the Huskies. But they persevered and kept their eyes on the prize. For many reasons, I don't think you would have seen that last year.
3. Bryant Shirreffs can quarterback.
Nobody knew what to expect from the NC State transfer. Bryant Shirreffs hasn't seen live football against another team since his freshman year and hasn't started a game since high school. But the former Jefferson High star, who was recently named the No. 1 player in the history of his high school, showed tremendous poise in leading the Husky offense. He made his reads quickly, and when they weren't there he was able to make plays with his legs. It is also clear that he is a very confident player. With what is looking like a significant upgrade at quarterback, this season may go much better than expected. He also seems to have target he really likes in redshirt sophomore TE Tommy Myers.
Shirreffs finished 12-20 on his passing attempts, going for 202 passing yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. He added 33 rushing yards as well.
4. The offensive line is showing some much-needed improvement.
There were definitely some breakdowns, and UConn's yards per carry wasn't great, but the offensive line held up well against a solid Villanova front seven. The Wildcats All-American linebacker Don Cherry was mostly a non-factor and Bryant Shirreffs didn't have too much pressure on him as he threw. It remains to be seen how this will hold up against FBS competition, but it is clear that this is a better unit than last year. Brendan Vechery was just moved to center and performed about as well as you could expect under the circumstances.
5. UConn enjoyed key contributions from many young players.
Luke Carrezola, Myers, Shirreffs, Fatukasi, Ron Johnson, Arkeel Newsome, and Junior Joseph, the team's leading tackler with nine, are all sophomores. Carrezola was a monster out there, finishing with six tackles, two TFL and one sack. Myers made a great play for the touchdown on the game's opening drive and had a 69-yard reception in the first drive of the second half to set up a Ron Johnson touchdown. Fatukasi was having a great game along with the rest of the D-line before his ejection. Johnson and Newsome form a very formidable backfield duo, with Johnson serving as the battering ram Diaco said he would be and Newsome showing how dangerous he is in space with his 27-yard TD reception.
While the immediate future is looking good, the long-term future is very bright for this team.
Did we miss something? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!