UConn avoids upset, gives Diaco his first win
EAST HARTFORD – If there is one thing we’ve learned about first-year UConn football coach Bob Diaco, is that he’s the most positive person on Earth.
OK, maybe that’s stretching it. A bit.
So, it was to be expected after his first career win, a mostly sloppy 19-16 triumph over Stony Brook Saturday at Rentschler Field, that Diaco would have nothing but praise for his team.
He did not disappoint.
“The team showed a lot of grit and grind,” Diaco said. “Our brotherhood and culture shined through. They played hard for four quarters and they were able to withstand adversity.”
Yes, they played hard. But, most importantly, the Huskies withstood a loss that could have sent this early season spiraling out of control.
Two big plays were the reason why. The first came on Chandler Whitmer’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Geremy Davis - by far UConn’s best player - with 1:15 left in the first half. That connection gave the Huskies a 12-10 halftime edge (the extra point was inexplicably blocked) after Stony Brook led for most of the first two quarters.
Early in the third, Deshon Foxx electrified the 23,543 in attendance with a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown, out-running the Seawolves’ coverage after the punt initially went over his head.
UConn’s offense did not score a point in the second half, amassing a mere 74 yards in that time. Thanks to their defense, the Huskies (1-1) barely snuck out of The Rent alive.
“We had a lot of opportunities today,” Diaco said. “We have to make those connections in the future. It always takes long with a lot of moving parts, especially on offense. We will get there.”
This week, the Huskies had to deal with a late injury substitution with Chandler Whitmer taking over the starting quarterback reigns from Casey Cochran, who was out with a concussion. Whitmer did throw a great pass on the touchdown to Davis (six catches, 113 yards), but struggled overall, completing 12-of-27 passes for 142 yards.
The UConn offensive line was pushed around by an aggressive Stony Brook attack, allowing three sacks and several hits on running backs behind the line of scrimmage. In what may have been the worst sign of the day, Whitmer led the Huskies in rushing with 52 yards on 13 attempts.
But wait, there’s more.
Josh Marriner fumbled in UConn’s end zone and the ball was recovered by Naim Cheeseboro (great name) for a touchdown. Whitmer lost a fumble that led to a field goal and punter Justin Wain, who had a decent game, was bailed out by a soft running-into-the-kicker flag after his boot went only 10 yards with the clock under a minute.
Wain’s second chance was significantly better, pinning Stony Brook, which had no timeouts left, on its own 6-yard line.
UConn then stopped the Seawolves on downs to secure the win. Disaster averted.
“We came out on top today, which matters the most,” Diaco said. “We love winning. All of the players are singing and dancing (in the locker room) – as they should.”
The Huskies are in the very early stages of rebuilding and their two-game sample size is clear evidence why.
Diaco’s positive approach, though, is what the team, and certainly the UConn fan base, needs at this time. There are sure to be more bumps in the road like we saw on Saturday.
“We have the 24-hour rule after a game, whether it’s mourning or celebrating. We’re going to celebrate this one,” Diaco said.
Then it’s back to work. There’s a lot to be done.