Defense, special teams highlight Huskies 2014 campaign to date.
TORRINGTON: When Bob Diaco came to the University of Connecticut from the institution known as Notre Dame where he was one of the top defensive coordinators in the land, it was thought his impact would come on that side of the ball first, the offense next.
If the Huskies could muster some of the magic they showed during a three game winning streak at the end of 2013 when they had the ball, a possible six win, get-you-to-a-bowl game season didn’t seem out of the question.
While the defense has been superb, they are ranked 26th out of 125 nationwide, the offense has been predictably weak.
Diaco has pulled no punches this year when it comes to what he sees from his team and their strengths and weaknesses.
Losing Casey Cochran, the signal caller who led the team at the end of 2013 to three straight wins, didn’t help but behind a developing offensive line that has struggled for the longest time, it probably doesn’t matter who was trying to get the ball to a talented receiving group.
Teams have tailored their defensive game plan one way in 2014. Stop the run by putting large numbers in the box and dare the Huskies to beat them in the air, a near impossible task given the offensive lines growing pains.
The line, which is truly a young group, has improved in the run game over each of the last few games but has only allowed UConn to go over the 100-yard rushing mark once this season (133 against Temple).
Linebacker Marquis Vann is sixth in the American in tackles per game, averaging 9.3 per outing. Fellow linebacker Graham Stewart is 20th with 7.3 per game.
The Huskies defense is second in the AAC in total yards allowed per game with 325 and the top the league in holding teams to just a 31 percent third down conversion rate.
On the offensive side of the ball, wide out Geremy Davis is averaging just over five catches per game, a sign of the lack of time quarterback Chandler Whitmer has had.
Davis has three touchdowns and is averaging over 13 yards per catch but the Huskies need to figure out a way to get him the ball more.
Diaco has said from early on that the defense and special teams were ahead of the offense at the time and the same hold true six games in.
The kicking game, a cause for concern at times last season, has been reliable with Bobby Puyol converting on seven of nine field goals while Justin Wain is tied for 23rd in the country with a 40.1 yard per punt average.
Trouble is, the Huskies have been forced to punt 38 times already this year, more than six per game.
Arkeel Newsome has been all any Ansonia football fan could have hoped for so far this year in the kick return game.
The true freshman is seventh in the AAC in all-purpose yards with 101.3 per game.
His 74-yard catch and run for a score against Temple was certainly one he will remember for a good long time.
It marked the first time we had seen that breakaway speed that made him such a star in high school on the biggest stage.
He has a 47-yard kickoff return to his credit and was the workhorse running back against Tulane, carrying the ball 11 times for 40 yards.
After a bye week, their second of the month, the Huskies travel to take on # 18th ranked East Carolina on Thursday, October 23.
Not an easy task by any means but in a season that is truly an example of rebuilding a program, the little things are going to have to be enough for Huskie fans to hang their hats on.