Diaco talks slow starts, Benedict talks Big 12

Head Coach Bob Diaco talks to officials during the Huskies 20-9 victory over the University of Cincinnati at Rentschler Field on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. During a press conference on Tuesday, Diaco talked about how he was proud of the Huskies ability to not turn over a ball during the game against USF but that slow starts were still a a problem that plagued the team. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus) 

Turnovers have been a persistent problem for the UConn football team this season. In their first six games, they turned the ball over six times, with three of those turnovers resulting in touchdowns.

Although the Huskies left USF with a 42-27 loss on Saturday, they succeeded in not turning the ball over for the second game all season, something that head coach Bob Diaco was proud of.

“I love that we didn’t turn the football over. I love that piece. It was a major emphasis point and that got done,” Diaco said.

Another positive takeaway from the game was that the Huskies scored on their opening drive, something they have not done all season. Although they were only able to muster up a field goal for the entirety of the first quarter, it was still a step in the right direction, Diaco said.

“I really enjoyed the game really kind of starting with a drive and a score. Not that it was an explosive first quarter, but it was better than it has been,” Diaco said.

To Diaco, the slow starts have been an anomaly, and something that is “hard to get a handle on.” A lot of the emphasis last winter and this spring and summer were about strong finishes, so the team’s mentality and tactical choices were mainly centered around just that, Diaco said. The team has altered practice slightly to accommodate for this issue, emphasizing some tactical aspects to increase their likelihood of scoring earlier.

“You put your finger and your toes in the dam over here, and all of a sudden, another little spurt starts squirting out on the other side,” Diaco said. “Everybody’s trying hard, whether it’s tactically on offense, with how we’ve run our system at the very beginning of the game, you know, trying to create some juice. So we’re working hard at it, and it’s almost like a vapor we’re trying to catch here.”

UConn’s defense has been one of the better defenses in the country, but one of their weaknesses lies in preventing quarterbacks from rushing. Quarterbacks have run for eight touchdowns against UConn this season, all of them coming in losses. Although they have played some of the better quarterbacks in the nation with Greg Ward, Jr. of Houston and Quinton Flowers of USF, the defense still has to be in perfect position to prevent them from scoring, Diaco said.

“I can look at several of the plays that produced scores in Saturday night’s game, and there are defensive players that are out of their fit. So, would that have been a play if they stayed in their fit, and why did they exit their fit? … Part of it is the spectacular athleticism of the players, and the other part is us getting better in our fits,” Diaco said.


Monday evening, the Big 12 officially announced they were not going to expand, ending speculation and rumors that circulated for months. UConn athletic director David Benedict called the speculation process “not good for anybody,” hammering home that while UConn remains in the American Athletic Conference, they will be fully committed to it.

“I think it was a good effort, we were resourceful as it related to developing the materials we presented,” Benedict said. “But we are committed to the American Athletic Conference.”

With expansion off the table, speculation has immediately begun to emerge as to what UConn’s next step is going to be. Benedict said UConn’s national brand remains strong, but their goal is always to keep expanding it and to get as many people wearing the brand as possible.

“We got to get people wearing our brand and affiliating with our brand every day. Because that’s a mentality. When you’re at places where they think that their university and their athletics program is that important, they’re going to affiliate with it all the time. We need to occupy mind space with our fans every day,” Benedict said.

Benedict emphasized that UConn’s number one focus will continue to be on enhancing the student-athlete experience. This includes the much-asked question of attendance, especially at football games.

“Attendance impacts a lot of different things outside of just revenue. When we bring recruits to a game, the difference between walking on the stadium and standing on the field pregame and seeing a full stadium versus coming into a half empty stadium and not a lot of people excited to be there, it’s a big difference,” Benedict said. “There’s a lot of intangible things that come from having full venues.”

Stephanie Sheehan is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan