NEW ORLEANS -- The goal the last two weeks for the UConn offense was the scale things back and try and do a small contingent of plays well.
The Huskies were going to get back to basics and try and find someway to generate offense.
The only thing that was scaled back was the scoring.
The Huskies scored only three points and had another sub 300-yard offensive game managing 217 yards in a 12-3 loss to Tulane before 23,076 fans.
The Huskies (1-5, 0-3 American)) scaled back on offense all right. They were different, went with quick throws early to isolate receivers, got Arkeel Newsome involved with Ron Johnson spelling him at running back. They tried. They mixed things up. They tried to cover up weaknesses. UConn took the pass rush out of the equation for a three quarters by going with quick dropbacks.
But, the production still wasn't there. And, the turnovers were all over the place.
Newsome, the talented back who has to play, HE HAS TO PLAY, committed two fumbles. Tim Boyle, who came on for one series in the entire game, threw an interception.
UConn was in Tulane territory for eight possessions. They manged three punts, three turnovers, a field goal and a missed field goal. That's the price of youth.
“I’m not surprised about anything,” Diaco said. “We are playing so many young players and they have a maturing process. They have a cooking process that needs to happen. They have to play in the games. There’s no way to simulate it. There’s no other way to simulate the game other than to play in the game. They’re doing a fine job. They’re just creating at the point of attack some game-changing plays.
For the Huskies, now 1-5 and facing a game that will be impossible in East Carolina on Oct. 23, are stuck in a bad place.
What offense is UConn trying to run?
Six games into the season their is no identity, cohesion or theme. Boyle comes in for one series and never returns. Max DeLorenzo loses his starting job as running back, and gets one carry, an unfortunate safety in the end zone. Geremy Davis is ignored for much of the games and finishes with eight catches after some throws late. Deshon Foxx had two catches. The tight ends had a single target the entire game.
Chandler Whitmer, now turnover adverse that he is taking sacks instead of throwing the ball away, has 141 yards passing on 17 pass completions and hit the passes at a 70 percent clip. Whitmer threw for 280 or more yards four times in 2012, and before he was pulled last year, threw for 349 yards against Maryland.
It's just not working now for the UConn offense, which has managed two offensive touchdowns in three games. The defense is also giving up points. UConn 3, Tulane defense 2 was the score on Saturday.
"We squandered away scoring opportunities with turnovers," Diaco said. " Turning it over on plus 30, 24-yard line.Tthe 24-yard line ended up producing a saftey on the back end. That was a 5 pt swing, maybe a 9 pt swing. The game ended up 12-3, you can not make mistakes like that."
The Huskies' defense had its second worst performance of the year (sarcasm) giving up 302 yards of offense, the most in five games. UConn has held their last five opponents to 302 yards or less. The team record is 1-4 in that span. Diaco attacked the thought about himself and the coaching staff being frustrated.
“We are sick that we lost this football game and that we lost those other games and what the record is. The guys are in there crushed because we lost the game and we’re going to mourn this loss for 24 hours and then we’re going to get better as a football team," Diaco said. "We’re not going to let anybody splinter us apart. We’re not going to let anybody try to drive a wedge between the offense and the defense, certainly not you (spoken to me), or create a frustration between one group or the next.
"We’re going to love each other. We’re going to care about each other and we’re going to practice the plays and we’re going to get better. That’s all we’re going to do. We’re going to try hard and everybody’s trying as hard as they can and we’re going to keep getting better and better and better and eventually we’re going to stop making the game-changing, mind-altering, mind-boggling mistakes and the points will show on the scoreboard. That will absolutely happen ”
At this point, the Huskies don't know what they are on offense and don't know what they can do. That's a problem going forward.
Newsome is a very good talent, and showed on Saturday with 40 yards rushing, 27 receiving and a 47 yard kickoff return. He also had two fumbles. The Huskies have to play him, but can't continue with the turnovers.
What do you do?
It's not getting any easier for the Huskies. East Carolina, Central Florida and Cincinnati are on the horizon and those teams can move the ball. The Huskies have tried just about every style on offense, and haven't clicked.
UConn is out of answers and imagination. They have some talent and ability on offense at the skill position, but the pieces aren't meshing.
In the end, you are what your record and stats say. UConn is 1-5, and it isn't an accident. Sometimes that truth hurts. Definitely, taking a look at the stat sheet definitely hurts.
"It stinks. You don't want to turn it over. We prided ourselves this week in practice on not turning it over. We just got to carry it over to games."
News and Notes* Newsome, who is not allowed to speak to the media, had two fumbles but did show big play ability. When Newsome can get into a crease and has space, he makes plays. He just can't get started and had 11 carries for 40 yards. He's also a weapon in the pass game. Diaco took him out after the second fumble, and would have put him back in if he felt he was mentally there. Diaco said Newsome wasn't ready to return.
* I don't like giving the ball to DeLorenzo once, and giving Boyle only 1 series. Interceptions are a concern with Boyle. But, the DB did make a good play reading Boyle's eyes. Quarterback isn't the issue right now. The quarterback play, to me, looks like a symptom of the offense. Whitmer has the talent and ability to throw the ball. It's just not looking right right now. Geremy Davis, with eight catches, a lot late, has to get more touches somehow. Ditto for Deshon Foxx.
*Justin Wain had four punts, and had balls downed at the 15, 2 and 1. UConn punted three times on the Tulane side of the 50.
* Bobby Puyol took the blame for missing a 36-yard field goal. Puyol said he was struggling in practice this week with his form and it reared its head on Saturday. He hit a 44-yarder easily, but even though the snap was low he wouldn't put the blame on it. Blake Feagles got the snap from Dom Manco and got the ball up. Puyol seemed to hesitate, but he didn't put the blame on anyone after.