Winning Close Games Key To Connecticut Huskies In 2013

By douggriffiths
Paul Pasqualoni Connecticut Huskies
David Butler-USA TODAY Sports

It was a 2012 season filled with what-ifs for the Connecticut Huskies’ football team.

UConn was one win short of playing in a bowl game this season thanks to losing four games by seven points or less.

As a result, Paul Pasqualoni‘s club settled for a 5-7 record, missing the postseason for the second straight year.

“A little thing here, a turnover here, a field position there, a missed kick here … it is always hard on tough games to accept them,” Pasqualoni said. “I always feel like we should have won that game. There are games where we certainly coulda, shoulda, would but we are capable. There is no question about that.”

You can play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game all day with Pasqualoni’s bunch. The fact is the Huskies didn’t enough of the time and it cost them. It’s worth noting that UConn didn’t lose all their close game. Four of their five wins were decided by a touchdown or less. If it can improve its record in those close contests in 2013, Connecticut should be expected to contend for the Big East title.

No doubt this is an important upcoming year for Pasqualoni, who hasn’t exactly thrilled the UConn faithful with his back-to-back 5-7 seasons since taking over for Randy Edsall.

Working in the Huskies’ favor is a schedule that includes playing seven of 12 games at home.

To take advantage of that favorable slate, the Huskies must get better production offensively. Coordinator George DeLeone was disappointed with the way his offense performed and paid for that sub-par performance, as he’s no longer the offensive coordinator. DeLeone will continue his offensive line duties and be UConn’s associate head coach, but former Cincinnati wide receivers coach T.J. Weist assumes the Huskies’ offensive coordinator duties.

UConn’s offense has struggled the last two seasons. It allowed 33 sacks last season, while ranking tied for 110th out of 120 FBS teams averaging 318.33 yards per game and managing just 17.75 points per contest (118th). Weist will seek improvement and has a good nucleus, with running back Lyle McCombs and quarterback Chandler Whitmer returning.

McCombs is one of the school’s all-time leading rushers and is a pro prospect, as he’s already gained more than 2,000 yards in his two-year collegiate career. Whitmer must make better decisions in 2013 after throwing 16 picks last fall. In his defense, he was was under constant pressure and he paid for it, leaving many games banged up. In fact, Whitmer departed the final two games with a head injury. Although neither appeared to be serious, that could be cause for concern going forward.

The defense was a different story. It was good – real good, ranking ninth in America allowing just under 310 yards a game and less than 20 points a game (19th in FBS). Continuing to play at a high level will be tough though after losing lineman Trevardo Williams, who leaves as the school’s all-time sack leader.

The good news is linebacker Yawim Smallwood and his 120 tackles in 2012 will be back to lead a linebacking corps that was dominating.

That said, This is an unsettling time for UConn. Another losing football season will put Pasqualoni on the proverbial hot seat if he’s not there already and UConn’s future as a BIG EAST member is filled with uncertainty.

The Huskies were believed to be one of the favorites to join the ACC in the fall, only to learn that Louisville was the choice due to its revenue sports, especially the Cardinals’ football program. Whether UConn remains in what’s left of the Big East or goes elsewhere is certainly up for debate.

What isn’t debatable is that the time to return the program back to its winning ways it enjoyed from 2007-10 is now.

This is a UConn program that showed what it is capable of when it went on the road and upset Louisville in triple overtime on Thanksgiving weekend, but the Huskies need to be more consistent.

As receiver Shakim Phillips put it when looking back on the 2012 season, “We have to win more games. It boils down to just having to win more games in the end.”

How true.

Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.

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