Just about a year ago, UConn football was one of the most unattractive college football jobs on the market. Three-quarters through the year, the team was 1-8 and lost one of their two games to FCS schools. The excitement around the program was low. They hadn’t seen a winning season since 2010 and surpassed three wins just once in that stretch of time. After Randy Edsall was canned two weeks in, there was a feeling around the program that the next hire was going to be a make-or-break moment for Connecticut football, with the past three failing.
Jim Mora Jr. was similarly at a pivotal point in his career. Nearing 60 years of age, the former NFL coach was coming off a five year break. Prior to the hiatus, he had a flurry of questions surrounding him at UCLA after posting two straight losing seasons in his first college coaching job, along with some questionable off-field issues. On Nov. 11, the two parties, each with a lot to prove, joined together when the Director of Athletics Dave Benedict announced Mora’s hire.
There was a lot of skepticism for UConn fans. Many condemned the hire on the internet, creating a situation where Mora needed to earn the love of the Husky faithful through his actions. He started this by attending various UConn sporting events and calling recruits and local high school coaches late into his nights. He proved early on just how serious he was about this job, but it would take on-field success to make it real.
Nobody expected much out of him and the Huskies this year. A first year head coach in this big a rebuild doesn’t need to do much. The bar coming in was around two to three wins–beat Central Connecticut and hopefully grab a win over either FIU or UMass. He was on pace after two games, winning against CCSU and losing tight to Utah State, a team that was receiving votes in the AP Poll. The next three games meant nothing, as they were all blowouts against top 25 teams. The way they responded meant everything.
The Huskies came back home to play Fresno State as 23 point underdogs without star running back Nate Carter–one of the bright spots during the first third of their season. A defensive masterpiece by Mora and Co. gave the Huskies their first FBS win in years, one that was completely unexpected.
The next game at FIU proved that Mora had separated UConn from the bottom portion of the FBS, even in this early stage of his time in Storrs. They completely dominated the Panthers 33-12, with the defense allowing just a single touchdown for the second straight week. Things looked good for the Huskies in the first half of the next game at Ball State, but the wheels completely fell off when they were outscored 15-0 after halftime to take the loss.
With two weeks to prepare, UConn hosted Boston College and Zay Flowers, an NFL prospect hoping to light up UConn’s secondary in front of NFL scouts. Instead, Flowers just got a pair of receptions for 35 yards, completely shut down as the Huskies defense led the way in the 13-3 win. Last week, UConn got past a slow start and beat UMass by a comfortable 17 points, putting the Huskies at 5-5. This is UConn’s first time at .500 in November in eight years.
With this success, teams are going to come calling for Mora. Some may argue that getting this UConn team to .500 this early is akin to winning the national championship at an SEC school. If you’re a Power Five school looking to get your program out of a rut, you’d have to be delirious to not give Mora at least a look to fill your coaching vacancy.
With that being said, UConn needs to do everything in its power to keep Mora in Storrs. Give him a raise, an extension, anything he wants. He has done such a phenomenal job and the entire fanbase has rallied around him. UConn football has not seen excitement like this since 2010. Heck, build a Jim Mora statue outside of Rentschler Field or by the Burton Family Football Complex. This man has revived UConn football and there is no understating how crucial this is. UConn football is back and it’ll stay–as long as Mora does.