In a game which left many Husky fans feeling quite angry, there was still an impressive comeback which involved UConn scoring 24 unanswered points. It's not all bad. In fact, there was plenty to be encouraged by.
Here are some of our takeaways from the road loss in Annapolis.
The Secondary Needs to Step Up
What was expected to be a neutral, at best, day for the secondary given Navy’s offense turned into another disappointing outing for the back four. Midshipmen quarterback Will Worth completed 6-of-8 passes for 130 yards, which is practically unheard of for them.
The big plays do not bode well for the secondary after a disappointing performance against Maine which also saw multiple deep passes allowed. Hopefully we can chalk this week up to excessive emphasis on stopping the triple option and see a redeeming performance against Virginia. This unit was supposed to be a strength with three returning, experienced starters. So far it hasn’t looked like it.
Clock Management 102
It’s not crazy for Bob Diaco to think he could get two plays off with 17 seconds left and no time-outs, but he needed to either not use that last time-out if he wanted to run first, or call a pass so that the play could end with a clock stoppage. Clearly there was a lot of confusion managing this late-game situation.
Taking the delay of game could have saved the time-out, but Diaco didn’t want to move five yards away from the 1⁄2 yard line. He wanted to line up, put pad on pad, and take the win with a power run.
Out of many decisions across the day, this one will obviously stand out. With some clock management issues in the Maine game as well, hopefully this is not a trend.
Offensive signs of life!
The success of the Huskies’ two-minute offense at the end of the first half perhaps inspired UConn to take that same approach for the rest of the game. Could Frank Verducci and staff adjust to make this more of a permanent offensive style? We sure hope so.
Bryant Shirreffs seemed really comfortable once they started spreading out, as he completed 88% of his passes. Seeing the Huskies move the ball the way they did was a breath of fresh air to Husky fans who have had to endure years of anemic offense. Hopefully this is a turning point.
Offensive line, especially pass protection, is going to be a challenge, but there are many ways to quickly get the ball out and mitigate the defense. They can also still hold on to the philosophical approach and be balanced with the run to keep defenses guessing more often. Verducci did a good job with it after the Huskies adjusted.
Conservative Playcalling Must End
We know UConn prefers to have a conservative, run-oriented offense, but the playcalling has simply been too conservative- the two do not need to go hand in hand. Punting twice in a row in Navy territory early in the game and running the ball on 3rd and 8 from deep inside their own territory late is not going to set the team up for success.
The defense is not an airtight unit at this point, so Diaco and his staff need to stop making decisions assuming they’ll make a stop on every possession. This is perhaps the mark of a team with a defensive-minded head coach, but it needs to change. The offense can’t be playing not to lose. It has too much talent at the skill positions for that.
Noel Thomas Early and Often
UConn has not done a great job of getting its best playmakers involved in previous years under Diaco. So far, that seems to be less of an issue as Noel Thomas has started his senior season with two very productive games. He caught nine passes for 70 yards in the opener and against Navy had 11 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown.
There are other playmakers being underutilized, particularly the tight ends at the moment, but Thomas' targets and production are a great sign for the offense as a whole.
What were your key takeaways from the game? Feel free to share in the comments!