USF games seem to bring the best, worst out of UConn
There may not be a team on UConn's schedule with more history than the South Florida team visiting Rentschler Field on Saturday afternoon.
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impressive three-game run as a rusher, receiver
and kickoff return specialist for the Huskies
Instead, a series of events transpired after the 48-20 loss to Oklahoma that sent the program reeling. Randy Edsall exited stage left to take the job at Maryland and the even though many of the decision makers were on the way out as well, the move was made to bring Paul Pasqualoni in to take the program to the next level. In retrospect it was the wrong man at the wrong time. Pasqualoni is one class act but also a decade removed from his last winning season as a collegiate head coach.
Fans and boosters scratched their heads at the hire and some did significantly more than that. The Huskies were actually in contention for bowl eligibility going into the 2011 season finale thanks to another win over USF but a loss to Cincinnati doomed the Huskies to a 5-7 record.
A 13-6 loss at USF in the 2012 season was the final nail in a four-game losing streak as the Huskies would once again finish with a losing season despite having five seniors taken between the third and sixth rounds in the 2013 NFL draft.
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Manuel aimed high and landed highly-respected Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
It took a while but Diaco's impact on the program is hard to miss. The Huskies are sitting at 3-3 after a convincing 40-13 win over Central Florida. UConn lost by three at Missouri and was within four points of Navy late in the second quarter, something that would likely never have occurred a season or even two seasons ago. Then the Huskies went on the road and was tied with BYU 10-10 heading into the fourth quarter before falling by 17. Suddenly there is a sense that this team has a chance to play in a bowl - not in five years but in December.
Quirky might be the most accurate word to describe Diaco, a man who perpetually acts like he is on his 12th cup of coffee. One of the most bizarre scenes in his brief tenure with the Huskies came in last year's 17-14 loss at USF. UConn attempted to pass the ball four times in the first quarter and the results were a holding call, an intentional grounding penalty and another call for an illegal block. The other attempted pass resulted in Chandler Whitmer being sacked. USF recovered to set up the game's first touchdown.
A few months earlier Diaco was surrounded by local media at American Athletic Conference media day and said he it gave him the best chance to win he would run the ball on every single play. Everybody within ear shot laughed except Diaco. Sure enough, playing in horrendous weather and not believing his team could drop back and pass without disastrous results, he had the Huskies run the ball on every single play in the second quarter. UConn ran the ball 13 straight times. Six of the 10 passes came in the final two drives as the Huskies' valiant rally fell short.
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Another bizarre move by Diaco was the creation of a trophy for the self-proclaimed "rivalry" with Central Florida, which had no clue about this so-called rivalry. Diaco was the butt of plenty of one-liners on social media and in various papers around the country. However, I have to admit that after seeing the UConn team celebrating with the trophy after the victory over UCF and posing for photos with it before leaving the field that there was a method to Diaco's madness. Say what you want about this trophy and rivalry but the players bought 100 percent in and really they are the only ones who really matter.
Is this team ready to come away with the three more victories needed to receive a bowl invitation? It's hard to say but this is not a question that was even being posed either last season or two years ago.
Stay tuned because there's a chance that this young head coach has a plan that has the program moving in the right direction. A win on Saturday would be a major step in Diaco's master plan.