Football: Huskies hungry for revenge in homecoming game against USF

Coach Bob Diaco stretches his arms out to contain the team before they make their entrance at the Sept. 3 game against Villanova. The Huskies are currently 3-3. (Ashley Maher/The Daily Campus).

After a two-game road trip, UConn football returns to Pratt and Whitney Stadium take on South Florida Saturday in a true homecoming matchup for the Huskies. 

In the 12 previous meetings between UConn (3-3, 1-1 American) and South Florida (2-3, 0-1 American), the home team has won 10 of them, according to the UConn athletics department’s notes on the game. The Bulls lead the all-time series 7-5. Last year, South Florida defeated UConn 17-14. 

UConn head coach Bob Diaco held his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon where he talked about a variety of things. Here are some of the highlights: 

More tight end play

Diaco said he likes to involve the tight ends. In games where they have involved the tight ends in the passing game, UConn has been successful.

“We like throwing the ball to the tight ends,” Diaco said. “We like running our offense with tight ends. We’d like to continue to attract big, long and athletic tight ends. You saw Chris Lee come in the (UCF) game at the end and play about 15 to 17 plays. You can see how big, long he is at about 6-foot-6. They’ve become a weapon.

“Tommy (Myers) can attach on the line of scrimmage and detach in the slot. He can get in the backfield and move around. When a guy can do those things and create overloaded formations, defenses need to adjust accordingly. And then when you do that, the guys can detach and become functional receivers, it’s a problem on defense. It’s always a part of our plan to keep those guys involved.”

This season, the tight ends have combined for 17 catches, 298 yards and two touchdowns. 

Running back situation

Once again, the running back position on the two-deep depth chart is listed as “Arkeel Newsome OR Ron Johnson.” However, it has been clear over the past few games that Newsome has been receiving the majority of the carries. 

Against UCF on Saturday, Newsome had 13 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns while Johnson carried the ball eight times for 21 yards and a touchdown. 

Given the nature of the game – UConn won 40-13 – that could have been a reason why Johnson had more carries. Johnson had one carry the previous two games.

“He’s an explosive player. He’s an electric player. He’s doing a real nice job. He’s producing, he’s productive in the conference, even in kickoff return, he’s doing a nice job there,” Diaco said of Newsome. “But Ron (Johnson) is a strong runner and he’s back to running the ball the way he should be. We were real pleased with him, too. So we’ll just continue with those two. The fact of the matter is the more you put on any one particular young player, you run the risk of decelerating their game so the tendency would be to continue to pour things on people that are producing, but that doesn’t necessarily work. That could be a more-becomes-less situation from a production standpoint. As young players, we have to just constantly analyze that.”

Reports of UConn-Boston College series

First reported by Mark Blaudschun of ajerseyguy.com, the Huskies have scheduled a home-and-home series with Boston College. UConn will travel to BC in 2016 and the Eagles will visit the Huskies in 2017, according to the report. 

UConn sports information department spokesman Mike Enright didn’t comment on the report on Tuesday and said the school wouldn't have any comment until all contracts are signed.

“All I can say on that is we can’t as employees speak about contracts that aren’t executed,” Diaco said. “So I don’t believe that one is.  So I can’t really talk about it because it’s not an executed contract. But I will say, to play regional teams is awesome. As many times as we can play a Syracuse, a Boston College, (Pittsburgh), West Virginia, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, these are great games for our fans and for our team and for our university community.”

Impressive start to the season (comparatively speaking)

After winning just two games last season, UConn has already surpassed that total this season with three wins. During the American Athletic Conference media day, Diaco said he had expected to win all their games, but that obviously hasn’t happened.

But despite that, Diaco is impressed as to where the team is after six games.

“I’m so pleased with the guys, in particular the seniors, he said. “You end up starting with good, strong improvement and then you don’t win a few times, but you can still see improvement.”

The Huskies started the season 2-0 with wins over Villanova and Army, then went on to lose three straight games (Missouri, Navy, BYU), before winning last week at UCF. 

“For those seniors to not lose heart, to be so excited in believing what we can become, that they will continue to persist and push in the preparation on a Monday, on a Tuesday, on a Wednesday, it’s just awesome,” Diaco said. “I’m pleased at where the team is. I’m pleased with the leadership from the seniors and how they’ve been a strong backbone for the younger guys to follow.”


Matthew Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus, and also covers UConn football. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @matt_zamp.