UConn's Diaco sees growth in offensive line
Memphis came into the game leading the American Athletic Conference in sacks and didn't have one and UConn, which came into the game third in the AAC in fewest penalty yards per game, had 115 yards on 10 penalties.
Diaco said giving up no sacks to the Tigers' physical, aggressive front seven was one of the most positive aspects of the game. It was also the second in three games that the Huskies have not allowed a sack.
"Timmy (Boyle) kept some of the plays alive, that one I wish he didn't keep alive that was a downright game changer right there, the fumble," Diaco said. "He kept a nice play alive, slid to his left and slipped it to Max (DeLorenzo) at the end. It was really nice to see. The offensive line is improving, they are getting better and better. I think Andreas (Knappe, the starting right tackle) played his very best game and now that is two weeks in a row that he looks like a dude, he looks like a real guy out there so that is exciting."
Diaco obviously is not a fan of the 115 penalty yards, just three off the season high in the loss to East Carolina. But he can live with penalties of aggression rather than pre-snap mental lapses.
"Ten penalties for 115 yards in a tale of the tape in that game, the score is not indicative of how that game went," Diaco said.
"They were basically aggressive penalties so it is young players trying to finish. You think about the game-changing (penalites). Right out of that chute Ronnie rips off that run (on UConn's third drive) and we get a hold. You watch the play and you watch Tommy (Myers), Tommy is blocking that guy and really giving him the business, finishes him into the ground. It is that finish that they flagged the hold on. That was a game-changing play, independent of whether we scored or not, the fact of the matter is that the exposure for our defense has been so great, in particular the last few weeks that is the main issue there from a point-production standpoint. The inability to get the field flipped in a problem early in the game.
"That was a great opportunity. We got the field flipped, at a minimum say we punt back or go for a fourth down and don't make it, nothing happens - they are not set up at midfield.
"The Jazz Clax penalty, now here is another game-changing instance. we cram the ball, the plan, the system is sound, it is working. Just like everything we saw, it is coming to fruition. We are mashing them down, we get the ball down inside the 10 and we get a personal foul. The personal foul, Jazz mauling the outside linebacker, really attacking him and the attack was emphasized. The physicality and physical play and the play carried (on), he ended up on the kid's helmet, his hands are clinched on the helmet, he is still straining and he rips the guy's helmet off. Absolutely a foul, an effort foul, an intensity foul, a foul of immaturity in the game. That was a game-changer, it backs us up, missed field goal.
"Those are two penalties that really tell a part of where the game was and where the game should have been especially when we fast forward that the game is 13-3 with 7 1/2 minutes to play in the third quarter. We had basically played them with all that stuff for 40 minutes to a 13-3 game. The fact of the matter is we weren't lucky to have it be that way. If anything it was just the opposite because the score shouldn't have been that, it probably should have been 13-10 or (13-10) the other way. The PIs (pass interference) are inexperience, it was all in the finish.
"It is all first and second year players basically at the point of attack in every one of those instances. It is great learning lessons and we are going to treat them that way
"That run (wiped out on the hold) stands and now he (Johnson) is over 100, he is at 120 and that is not even factoring in what is going to continue to happen because it was definitely a moment there, longer than an individual moment, where they were having a major problem with that piece. If you producing points, let's say we go ahead 7-6, he rips off that long run and punch it in there, 14-6. That is how the game is won. It is like you can't get out of your own way almost."
VITALE MAKES HIS DEBUT
Not only was Matt Walsh back on field for UConn playing special teams but his former Hand High teammate Nick Vitale saw what I believe is his first game action as a Husky as he was on the kick coverage units.
"He is a tough guy," Diaco said. "He is kind of a heartbeat kind of guy, the team loves him, he tries hard and we want to reward that great love, passion, energy and toughness and let those guys participate in the games."