Football: Diaco speaks on Navy game’s final seconds

Members of the UConn offensive line are all smiles during the Huskies home victory win against Maine on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Rentschler Field. The Huskies take on Virginia at home this weekend. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Coming off UConn football’s 28-24 road loss to Navy last Saturday, head coach Bob Diaco’s decision making was questioned after the Huskies ran out of time and failed to score from the Navy 1-yard line, with UConn running just one play in the game’s final 17 seconds. As Diaco and the Huskies prepare for their matchup this Saturday against Virginia, the third-year head coach elaborated on the end of the Navy game and how it unfolded.

After quarterback Bryant Shirreffs hit Hergy Mayala to put UConn just outside of the Navy end zone with 17 seconds left, Diaco called the Huskies’ final timeout. Initially, the ball was spotted on the 2-yard line, but after review, the ball was placed inside the Navy 1-yard line, causing a play and personnel change.

“Now the ball is on the half yard line, which is all fine and dandy except for the fact now that we break the huddle at 10 [seconds], Bryant’s under center at about five…we weren’t going to get the snap off,” Diaco said. “If the ball was on the two and not the half-yard line, it wouldn’t have been a clock issue. If the ball was on the half-yard line and not the two, it wouldn’t have been a clock issue.”

This spot change affected the play call at hand and caused Diaco to burn the team’s final timeout in order to prevent a delay of game penalty.

After going over the tape, Diaco believes he might have been able to get away with not calling a timeout.

“Standing here and analyzing it, would Bryant have gotten that snap off? He would’ve. I believe that he would have,” Diaco said. “It was tight, it would’ve been at one [second]. I called a timeout at three [seconds]. It would have been at one but I think he would’ve got it off, the snap.”

While the coaching staff originally decided on a pass play, the offense felt strongly about running it in.

“They want to muscle the opponent into the end zone and win the game,” Diaco said of the offense. “They’re both good calls, so we obliged the group and called the play they wanted to call. And then time expired.”

With the ball just inches from the Navy end zone and the Huskies knocking on the door, Diaco and the offense opted for a power run play to running back Ron Johnson. Johnson was met by the Midshipmen defense in front of the goal line and was unable to push through. The clock kept ticking and by the time UConn had begun to set up for another play, the clock hit zero.

“I take full responsibility and I take full accountability for not having another play,” Diaco said.

“This is no one’s fault other than mine.”

Diaco went further in depth on the decision to run instead of pass with the game on the line.

“You want to throw a pass there so you can have two downs, but if it got batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted, you’d be the biggest idiot in the world, you’re on the half-yard line. I just saw a Super Bowl where they did that,” Diaco said. “If we punch it in on the half-yard line, it’s one of the greatest comebacks in UConn football history, and being that we didn’t, we should’ve thrown the ball there… I don’t have a crystal ball.”

Despite the heartbreaking nature of one of the best comebacks in program history slipping away in the game’s final seconds, Diaco and the team have moved on and are focused on Virginia.

“It happened. We tried hard, we didn’t win,” Diaco said. “I’m proud of the players and I love the players. I love coaching this team.”

Associate Managing Editor Stephanie Sheehan contributed to this article.


Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.

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