Football: Huskies prep for Cincy

Quarterback Chandler Whitmer dives forward for UConn in last season's 41-0 loss against Cincinnati. The Huskies will take on the Bearcats this Saturday. (File Photo/Daily Campus)

After last week’s loss to South Florida, head coach Bob Diaco said immediately after the game in his post-game press conference that he would throw the game film away. He didn’t want to see it.

The offense performed well — gaining 528 yards of offense — but it was the defensive side of the ball that Diaco didn’t want to see again.

“We don’t have force issues. We don’t have busted coverages. So down the stretch, we have three just flat, busted coverages, just simple alignment issues and one guy just got cut loose,” Diaco said. “We don’t do that. We had force issues. The ball doesn’t go outside of our force player. We keep it inside.”

UConn (3-4, 1-2 the American) allowed 461 yards of offense against the Bulls.

But what happened last weekend during Homecoming has since been thrown out the window.

“Pitch the stat sheet because it’s not relevant,” Diaco called it after the game. “It’s a bizarre read.”

Now the Huskies head down to Cincinnati (3-3, 0-2 the American), hoping to expand on the positives taken from the USF game, a game that Diaco called a “sad, hard loss.”

Despite their record, the Bearcats had much higher expectations heading into 2015 (the three teams that have beaten Cincinnati are a combined 15-2). Cincinnati was voted to win the American in the conference preseason poll. They received 22 of a possible 30 votes.

Quarterback Gunner Kiel was injured against Memphis in the team’s fourth game of the season. Kiel was hit in the head by a Memphis defender and was carted off the field.

Backup Hayden Moore has filled in nicely, throwing for seven touchdowns this year, averaging 256 yards per game in the air.

Whether it is Kiel or Moore at quarterback on Saturday, the UConn defense will be tested, as the Bearcats average 546 yards of offense.

“They’re awesome on offense,” Diaco said. “They have the best group of wide receivers that we’ve played up to this point and maybe arguably all season. They have impact players at all positions. You’ve got matchup issues in every single spot. They have a big offensive line, which is fine, we’ve played big offensive lines before, but they have really talented [running] backs.”

Shaq Washington is the Bearcats leading receiver, catching 39 passes for 495 yards and two touchdowns this season. He also returns punts.

If there is anything that the Huskies can build off from last game, it has to be what the offense did. The Huskies put up 528 yards but only produced 20 points. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs had 465 total yards and running back Arkeel Newsome had 221 all-purpose yards.

With Shirreffs under center this season, the Huskies have turned the ball over less than previous years.

“I believe that the players are just taking more of accountable ownership when they have it, and that’s on a day-to-day basis,” Diaco said. “They really do a nice job at practice of working that in any time they have the ball in their hand, being very careful with it.”

Despite being ranked 10th in the conference in total offense (323.8) and scoring offense (19.8), UConn’s offense has been much better this year.

Diaco was very upset after the USF game. But now he and the Huskies have a chance to bounce back against a Bearcats team that has underperformed this season. Although the Huskies are under .500 through more than half the season, Diaco is looking up.

“We don’t feel like we’ve been beaten yet. We just feel like there are these moments in these games — two games in particular — where we beat ourselves. Nonetheless, it’s self-inflicted wounds and they’re very preventable.”


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.