UConn Football Struggles Have Nothing To Do With Talent
After an embarrassing 19-3 loss at Rutgers on Saturday afternoon, the UConn football team is now 3-3 on the season and 0-1 in the Big East. It could be worse. The Huskies were lucky to win two of those games. The cycle repeats itself: The offense is unable to build a big enough lead and the defense tires faster than the other units because of how much time it spends on the field.
But defense is not the issue for the Huskies. Overall, UConn a talented defensive unit, led by players such as Dwayne Gratz and Yawin Smallwood. The offense, although it took the brunt of the blame for Saturday’s beating, is also not the problem. While the O-line is young and weak, sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer continues to improve every game and has a decent corp of receivers and tight ends to target.
So what is wrong with the Huskies?
UConn has a dreadful coaching staff.
Offensive coordinator George DeLeone shouldn’t have a job. When UConn is on the field, you know what is going to happen. Whitmer is going to hand the ball off for a run up the middle, which will result in a few yards.
UConn is DEAD LAST — 120th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivison schools — in yards per carry with 2.8 yards and the team is 116th in yards per game with 102.2. UConn can’t run the ball, but it keeps trying: The Huskies are 42nd in total carries with 219. Running the ball so much might be a mistake. Compounding the issue is the fact that UConn runs constantly on third down, even in situations where there are more than three yards to the first down marker.
DeLeone is also the offensive line coach. Losing standouts Moe Petrus and Mike Ryan after last season should not excuse the front five from failing to block its assignments and protect the backfield. This unit needs to improve to give Whitmer more time and the running backs more space.
The quarterback has struggled in passing situations. Here is where I come to his defense. Everyone looked at Whitmer’s numbers at Butler (Colo.) last season and expected a star to take the snaps for the Huskies, but they overlooked the jump from JuCo defenses to FBS defenses. The sophomore is only six games into his FBS career.
Whitmer had been improving dramatically. He threw five interceptions in his first two games but only one in the next three. The QB also tossed four touchdown passes (compared to zero in the first two games) and raised his completion percentage in each game.
Whitmer struggled against South Florida, completing only 14 of 32 passes for 191 yards and throwing four picks. But don’t place the blame on him. DeLeone makes it difficult for Whitmer to get into a rhythm. Immediately after a big play, the odds are that UConn is going to run up the gut or quarterback Scottie McCummnings will come in to run a wildcat formation.
DeLeone fails on the football field, but there are deeper issues with the disciplinary decisions made by head coach Paul Pasqualoni. He benched running back Lyle McCombs for one quarter against Rutgers. Roughly 36 hours prior to kickoff, the redshirt sophomore was arrested at UConn’s Hilltop Apartments complex for allegedly yelling at, spitting on, and pushing down his girlfriend.
Is that a serious punishment? We don’t know the entire story, but Pasqualoni’s actions appear to put results ahead of the reputation of his program. Not that UConn can score touchdowns.
The head coach also mismanaged the clock near the end of the first half. With one minute remaining, the Huskies had all three of their timeouts and a chance to drive down the field. UConn used none of them, settling for a 52-yard field goal attempt. CollegeSpun writer Matt Stypulkoski put Pasqualoni’s clock management into words:
George Blaney calls more timeouts. RT @theuconnblog Andy Reid approves of Paul Pasqualoni’s time management.
— Matt Styp (@huskycrazy15) October 6, 2012
Defensive end Jesse Joseph was equally frustrated. The senior is out for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon and took to Twitter to blow off some steam. Most of the tweets have been removed but one remains and sums up the day:
My building might call RAs on my ass for how loud I’m yelling
— Jesse Joseph (@JesseJoseph91) October 6, 2012