Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Connecticut 16, USF 10

OK, first things first. Let's not go calling for heads on a plate here, like we were sort of doing right after the game when emotions were still running high. This is the same offense that rang up something like 2200 yards in the previous four games. They are still a lot better and more effective than last year. This is not an untreatable problem. (At least I hope it isn't.)

But what the hell was Todd Fitch thinking???

Connecticut gave up 929 yards passing in its last two games. Their best cornerback was injured. They do a pretty good job against the run. And you didn't even TRY to throw the ball down the field? Two weeks ago Western Michigan ran for 11 yards against the Huskies and won. The Broncos didn't even bother with a run game because it was so easy to throw the ball. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think USF has more talent at the skill positions than Western Michigan does. Instead, Fitch was running the ball on first and second down well into the fourth quarter, and never seriously challenged the beleaguered UConn secondary. Even when they did throw the ball, it was a steady diet of quick hitches and bubble screens. The actual number of passes down the field was much lower than the 27 passes B.J. Daniels ended up throwing. Fitch called plays like he was scared to death of doing something aggressive. Even The UConn Blog guys were thanking USF on Twitter for not throwing the ball down the field. It was a game plan our old friend Randy Schottenedsall would have been proud of.

And when is he going to let Daniels throw a pass inside the 10 that isn't a fade? USF ran five plays inside the UConn 10-yard line yesterday. They were all runs. In a related story, they ended up with one field goal, and Daniels missed on an option pitch and UConn recovered. How little do you trust your quarterback that you continue to refuse to let him throw the ball by the goal line? This is a huge reason why USF is struggling to score in the red zone -- because Fitch's play calling makes it easy to guess what the Bulls might try and do. If you really think Daniels has made progress, then you need to trust him to fit passes into tighter spots. If you don't, then either you need to get someone ready who can, or you and Peter Vaas need to share the blame for not building up that capability in Daniels.

The worst part of all this? The one time the Bulls came out throwing the ball, to start the second half, it worked perfectly. They buzzed right down the field for a touchdown, their only one of the game. Daniels ran it in on a scintillating 22-yard run and USF had a 10-6 lead. Then when they got the ball back, it was right back to running on first and second down, and then Darrell Scott fumbled and UConn ran it back for the winning touchdown. Fitch completely ignored the easiest offensive series of the game. We should admit that the running game became more effective when Demetris Murray replaced Scott after the fumble. But if that's all you're calling, then eventually adjustments will be made, and then it all goes back to the main problems of not throwing downfield and not trusting Daniels to make plays in tight spots.

This isn't to totally excuse Daniels, who made a few dumb decisions, like when he audibled out of a play after a timeout and then threw an interception off his back foot. Or Skip Holtz, who is an offensive-minded coach and theoretically has veto power over Fitch when he wants to use it. And he ultimately has control over undisciplined penalties, plus he made the bad decision to let Maikon Bonani try a 45-yard field goal in the same direction that he had missed a 46-yarder earlier because the wind knocked the ball down well short of the crossbar. But none of them were calling a veer option run on 3rd and 6 with three minutes left in the game and the Bulls trying to drive for a game-winning touchdown. (They ran the same play on a 3rd and 3 earlier in the fourth quarter, and only made it because the UConn defender tackled Victor Marc across the first-down line.) The play never had a chance, and then Daniels was pressured on 4th and 7 and threw a bad pass short of the sticks.

All that after having 16 days to prepare. That was unacceptable out there. And what it does to the program for the rest of the season... well, we'll deal with that later.

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