This comedy of errors got started early, as UConn’s first drive went four-and-out, starting what we believed would be the game-long battle for field position one would expect given the two teams’ inept offenses.
Instead, Justin Wain’s punt was blocked and Tulane started its first drive on UConn’s 23, getting three points on the board quickly after the drive stalled in the red zone.
After UConn’s ensuing three-and-out, Tulane moved 60 yards downfield in five plays for its first touchdown of the game to build an insurmountable 10-0 lead. The Huskies would have had to outpace their output from the past three and a half games combined to come back from that deficit. They ended up doing it, but the points came far too late.
The Huskies committed three turnovers in the second quarter, and also had a field goal attempt blocked on their only first-half drive which was worth a damn. The Tulane Green Wave, the team which came into the contest riding a 13-game conference losing streak, that was also shutout in its previous outing and only put up six points against UCF, had a 24-0 lead at the half.
Arkeel Newsome broke UConn’s hideous scoring drought, which had been at three games since the 3-point performance against East Carolina on October 29 and without a touchdown since the first half of the #conFLiCT game against UCF on October 22, with a 62-yard touchdown run. Newsome finished with 166 rushing yards on 15 attempts for a solid 11.1 yards per carry.
Another bright spot was senior wide receiver Noel Thomas, who caught nine balls for 60 yards and finished the season with 100 receptions, 1179 yards, and three touchdowns. Fellow senior Obi Melifownu posted a remarkable 24 tackles in his final game, ending his season with 118 to go along with four interceptions. Both of these guys will be playing on Sundays; we were lucky to see them.
18 hard-working student-athletes ended their collegiate careers today. For many of them, it will be their last time wearing pads and playing competitive sports as they stare down the uncertainty of the next chapters in their lives. These guys represented UConn with pride and stuck with the program through thick and thin, mostly thin, or whichever is worse, so it sucks that their careers had to end in this way.
Quarterback Donovan Williams performed about as well as you could expect a true freshman to behind a weak offensive line and with below-average playcallers. He did notch his first career touchdown pass with a 20-yard completion to Arkeel Newsome on a wheel route.
As for the future of this program, Bob Diaco’s indefensible handling of the quarterback situation combined with a complete collapse to end the season warrants serious reconsideration of the assumption that the $5 million buyout for his contract is too much for the athletic department to bear.
Not making a bowl game would have been acceptable if it had happened with actually competitive losses. But once the Huskies suffered a blowout loss at East Carolina, and Bob followed it up with some face-saving panic moves which only made it worse, his leadership of the program deserves the highest scrutiny. This end to the season is inexcusable.
Given the complete lack of excitement which fans of the team will take into the offseason, it may be penny wise and pound foolish to keep Diaco on board, especially given that football is what will get UConn into the power five. All we need is for this program to be passable and make good on the potential which we know it has.
We aren’t asking for a national contender. Being relevant in our conference—the one most Husky fans feel UConn is too good for—would be a great start.
Thanks for following our coverage this season, readers. Hopefully, the next one is better. Either way, this ride forward sure will be interesting.