On Saturday, the Connecticut football team debuted under first-year coach Bob Diaco at the annual Blue and White Spring Game.
Talk about a tough act to follow.
Chandler Whitmer continues to make a bid to win his old job back as he threw for 163 yards and a touchdown at the annual Blue and White Spring game before roughly 7,000 fans at Rentschler Field on Saturday.
The White team defense defeated the Blue offense 46-37 led by linebacker Jon Hicks' eight tackles. Defensive end Angelo Pruitt added a sack and a tackle for a loss as did B.J. McBryde, who had a sack and a tackle for a loss.
“There's a long way to go,” Diaco said. “Everyone, including me, has a long way to go collectively. I am excited a bout the role, the job and the task in front. I am energized by the change emotionally and physically with the team. We are enjoying that work and it's been very fulfilling.”
The Huskies used a modified scoring format where points were given for tackles, turnovers and stops for the defense.
On offense, Whitmer was the most impressive of three quarterbacks on the day working mainly with the second team offense. Whitmer started to begin last year before being benched after an 0-4 start for the Huskies. Casey Cochran, the leader coming in, was 10 of 20 for 91 yards and an interception. Tim Boyle, who also has starting experience, is third-in line and was 7 of 14 for 97 yards.
Max DeLorenzo led the offense in rushing with seven carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. Kamal Abrams had four catches for 51 yards including a 24 yard touchdown reception from Whitmer.
The game was the debut of the team under first-year head coach Bob Diaco, who was hired in December after serving as associated head coach and defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.
Whitmer, who started all of 2012 and began 2013 as the starter before being benched after an 0-4 start, is working with the second team backing up Casey Cochran. Cochran finished last year 3-1 as the starter and set a school record for yardage in the final game of the season.
“I thought they all did things well,” Diaco said. “Casey (Cochran) had his moments and struggled and took negative plays and had some nice strikes. Timmy (Boyle)went right in there and went down the field and Chandler (Whitmer) got some moxie and a pretty mature game and high level football intelligence. He's more aware of the clock and has pocket presence.”
Diaco came to UConn in December after serving as defensive coordinator and associate head coach at Notre Dame and takes over a program that has struggled in recent years. UConn is coming off a 3-9 season where it fired head coach Paul Pasqualoini after four games. UConn is 13-23 the last three year's in football after going to the Fiesta Bowl following the 2010 season.
Diaco has remade the entire program from repainting the practice facility to changing nutrition and diets to gameday preparations. The team went through a dry run for the spring game and performed everything like gameday including pregame entrances and halftime. Diaco, 41, is a first-time head coach and ends the spring having put in a strong base in what he wants to do.