On Saturday, UConn football fans felt the same old things they’ve grown used to over the past decade. After two weeks of feeling like they were making more progress than expected with a close defeat to Utah State and a win over Central Connecticut State, a 48-14 romp at home against Syracuse felt like an ice-cold splash of water.
As it turns out, Utah State is performing worse than they were initially projected to. If last week’s 55-0 loss at Alabama didn’t tell us that, then this week’s 35-7 defeat versus FCS Weber State should be a pretty good indicator. And Central? They’re listed by Jeff Sagarin as the thirty-second-worst team in all of NCAA Division I college football. Syracuse is the only team actually better than people realized. The Orange now rank as the 30th best team in the nation per FPI and their talent was on full display against the Huskies.
None of this is to say that I’m disappointed in head coach Jim Mora. Three games is far too early to be disappointed. Especially since they’ve performed exactly as expected in these contests. We’ve learned a lot about this team — they have spirit. Mora could not be clearer about that. “It’s a very disappointed team in there,” he said. “They fought…they showed character. There was a feeling in the locker room of competitiveness and we will build on that.”
Even without the team’s starting quarterback, top two receivers and now backup running back, they’ve continued to show effort. But that doesn’t mean it was pretty. Now, the Huskies look ahead to their three toughest games of the year, No. 4 Michigan, No. 16 NC State and Fresno State — all in the next three weeks. The odds that they’re going to win any of these games are slim. The players and coaches all know this. With this knowledge, the best they can do is keep it interesting for fans. Here’s a few ways how.
SET SMALL GOALS WITHIN THE GAME
This one is pretty simple. Once the team is fully rebuilt, then we can work on the goal of winning every game they play. Until then, it’s smarter and more attainable to publicly set specific goals for the team to hit so that fans can be excited about something. So for the Michigan game, maybe the goal would be to surpass 25 yards rushing each quarter. Or the goal could be to score once a half. These are things that may sound silly, but accomplishing them would still be an uphill battle against a team as talented as Michigan and something to be proud of.
SHOW MORE DEPTH
Right now, we get to see Zion Turner for the vast majority of the snaps, with the occasional Cale Millen run. There is no better opportunity than these few games to give each quarterback a chance to prove that they deserve minutes. Mora could use these games as live position battles. Fans would get the chance to see Turner, Millen and Tyler Phommachanh duke it out series-by-series to see who will take the reins once the schedule softens up. The only player that has been solid all year has been running back Nate Carter. He’s young and although there’s a lot of youth behind him, there’s no real reason to displace him. Every other spot could be up for grabs. Once again, I’m not saying I’d necessarily do this, just that it would keep fans more engaged and interested.
It’s going to be a long 180 minutes of football over the next three weeks. The fans can either leave that stretch sad about losing or happy about progress. The way this group responds will make all the difference in the tone going into the second half of the year.