Something terrible happened last football season. Well, more than one terrible thing happened, but today we will focus on just one. The Cincinnati Bearcats lost to the UConn Huskies. In one of the more brutally upsetting games of the season, UC squandered a 9-7 halftime lead and took a 20-9 setback while visiting the Huskies in Hartford. It was the first time since since 2010 that such a result came to pass and we all know that the rest of the season played out equally as unfavorably.
However, even though they exacted revenge after years of futility, the Huskies didn’t improve either. The win over the Bearcats was one of only three they would earn all season. So much for Bob Diaco changing the course of the program. More accurately, so much for Bob Diaco. After going 11-26 in three years at the helm, Diaco was fired last winter. We can commiserate with letting a coach go and searching for a new one, but whereas the Bearcats hired a seeming up and comer, the Huskies went backward and rehired Randy Edsall who coached the team from 2000 to 2010. Um, OK. To be fair, Edsall headed up a revolutionary time in the program’s history, leading it to four-straight bowl games before exiting in 2010. Still, it was an odd hire.
What They Do Well
Its tough to say for a number of reasons. First off, a team that just went 3-9 isn’t likely to do much well. Secondly, with Edsall back in charge, there will be a whole new look to the squad and its tactics. Some bright spots from last year were the team’s ability to defend against the run and discipline. Houston was the only team in the American Athletic Conference to allow fewer rushing yards than the Huskies, who did so without creating many negative plays for opposing offenses. They also avoided going in a negative direction and didn’t give many free yards by keeping the field free of yellow flags. They averaged 3.6 penalties per game and actually were tagged with the fewest penalty yards in the league (339).
What They Don’t Do Well
Offense. It’s been a problem for years, even during Edsall’s successful run. The Huskies just can’t move the ball or do anything creative on offense. Part of the reason that last year’s matchup with UC was such an assault on the eyeballs was the utterly boring offensive strategy put forth by both teams. Constant runs into a clogged line and short passes away from the middle of the field don’t make for exciting football or offensive success unless you have a great offensive line (UConn didn’t) or receivers with exceptional elusive ability (Noel Thomas was great as a possession receiver but not a yards after catch guy). With uninspired playcalling, the Huskies ranked dead last in the conference in total offense (320 yards per game) and I’m not convinced much will change in 2017.
Players to Watch
Arkeel Newsome, RB
Somewhere in there is a great running back. You can put some of the blame on a less than sturdy offensive line, but Newsome has not reached his full potential yet. Last year he did fine, rushing for 715 yards and adding 273 through the air. He should be the centerpiece of an offense that lost Thomas and his 100 receptions.
Vontae Diggs, LB
One constant with the Huskies has been solid linebacker play and Diggs has continued that tradition. He ranked second on the team in tackles last year and also racked up 8.0 tackles for loss.
Luke Carrezola, DL
He’ll be a senior this season and was a big reason the team played so well against the run, piling up a team-high 11.0 tackles for loss as well as 3.0 sacks.
Do They Play Cincinnati
Yes they do. In fact, the regular season finale features a clash between the Bearcats and Huskies at Nippert Stadium on Nov. 25.
There are some players to like on defense, especially Diggs, but the offense is as much a mess as ever and Edsall isn’t going to lift this team up from the ashes all in one year, if he does at all. The Huskies will finish 2-10 and may not win a game in league play.