The time has finally come.
The highly anticipated UConn vs. Central Florida matchup is finally upon us, or as UConn head coach Bob Diaco referred to it, “The Civil Conflict.” Except now, there is a new name. According to Diaco, it is now called “The Conflict.”
“We changed the name,” Diaco said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “I mean I say we, I’m not sure if it’s a one-man show or there is more than one man involved. I don’t know. It’s all good either way. We changed the name to Conflict so as to not offend anyone and I don’t mean that facetiously; I’m trying to do the right thing so that it’s taken as it’s intended to be, which is quintessential college football.”
In order to incite some excitement into this conference game, Diaco created the idea of this rivalry over the summer, unbeknownst to UCF.
“I think it’s cool, I hope other people do. It’s not intended to be anything other than that,” Diaco said.
Diaco’s comments went viral on the Internet. That was then. This is now. Diaco has stuck to his comments. He is still bringing the trophy down to UCF on Saturday. He noted Tuesday that both scores from the previous two matchups have been added on the trophy.
“We’ve made the appropriate changes to it, so that everybody…well not everybody is going to be happy, but as many people as we could,” Diaco said. “There were pertinent, well thought out points and we didn’t want to dismiss them.”
As much heat as Diaco received because of this, all he was trying to was to “add some fun, positive energy to a football game in a conference and half of a conference.”
Here are some takeaways from his press conference:
Concerns with the running back protection
On the two-deep depth chart this week, there is no clear-cut No. 1 tailback. UConn listed the position as Arkeel Newsome OR Ron Johnson on the two-deep. Johnson was listed as the No. 1 back for the first five games of the season.
Newsome has 17 carries over the past two games (Johnson has one carry in that span), but Diaco played down the idea of Newsome being the No. 1 running back.
He told the media at the press conference not to think into it too much and that both Newsome and Johnson do different jobs well.
One thing that he was concerned with, however, was the blocking.
“It’s not great. That’s an area that really has been a liability,” Diaco said. “I don’t mind saying it and I’m not trying to place blame, we blame ourselves — the coaches — more than anything else. But that position has created a lot more of the pocket stress than the offensive line has.”
Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant asked Diaco if he had any plans to make changes to the offensive line. His answer was straight and to the point.
“No. I think they’re doing a nice job,” Diaco said. “They’re really growing, getting way better. They’ve come a long, long way.
Through the first five games of the season, the UConn offensive line has allowed quarterback Bryant Shirreffs to be sacked 16 times for a loss of 78 yards.
UCF’s junior quarterback Justin Holman has been out since the beginning of the Stanford game on Sept. 12. He injured his hand on the first drive. He was ruled out for two to four weeks.
Since then, freshman Bo Schneider has started for the Knights. He has completed 53 percent of his passes and thrown two touchdowns.
Freshman Tyler Harris has also seen time at quarterback, completing 51 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns.
“They’re very similar players,” Diaco said. “Bo looks a little bit more elusive, [has] a little bit more escapability, a little bit better runner. Strong arm. [Tyler Harris] is a really good passer. When he has come in he’s moved the ball, he’s produced first downs, he’s been a very accurate passer.”
“Both freshman are big, strong, smart, tough. Listen, we expect to see Justin. So we’re expecting to see all of the guys. Hope that we can.” Diaco said. “You want college football players to be healthy and participate and play in games.”
According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, doctors cleared him to throw last week, but he’s only engaged in “light activity” because coaches aren’t trying to rush his recovery.
The UConn offense has struggled a bit lately. Despite these struggles, Diaco isn’t worried. He has seen improvement.
“It’s any combination of things. They’re way better. It’s not even close,” he said. “Bryant is doing a fantastic job. He cares so much. They [the offense] are improving. They are getting much better. The ball security is improved. The protection overall is better than it was 12 months ago.”
The Huskies have scored 20 or more points just twice this season (both wins). The times they scored under 20 points have all been losses.
UConn will go up against a UCF defense that is ranked fifth in the American in total defense (389 yards per game).
“They [UCF defense] have talented players. They play hard. They do what they do. They make it tough sledding in terms of running the football.”