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East Hartford - New-look UConn struggled mightily in its season opener.
Not totally unexpected considering the quality of the opponent on Friday night.
Entering the non-conference game as a significant underdog, the Huskies stumbled to a 35-10 loss to Brigham Young before 35,150 fans at Rentschler Field.
Still, Diaco saw plenty of encouraging signs in his coaching debut. He liked the toughness and grit that his team displayed.
"Things are changing," Diaco said. "I hope you saw it. Everybody is upset that we didn't win. Everybody wanted to win and everybody tried hard. But we're going to. This football team is getting better. It gets better every day and we got better today."
"… I'm pleased with where this team is at."
Diaco thanked the fans for their support and credited BYU, which "played football the way it should be played."
The Huskies never led and never established any offensive rhythm in Diaco's two-quarterback system. They also failed to contain or pressure dangerous quarterback Taysom Hill, who accounted for all five touchdowns - two on the ground and three in the air. He comfortably completed 28 of 36 passes for 308 yards and rushed for 97 yards.
A charged up Diaco led the Huskies on the field during pre-game. But it will take much more than Diaco's enthusiasm and energy to turn around a program that's stumbled through three straight losing seasons.
The Huskies gave up a long touchdown drive on the game's first possession. Hill capped off a 15-play, 75-yard drive with a seven-yard scoring run, the first of his four touchdowns in the opening half.
Twenty-one seconds later, BYU scored again. Junior Max DeLorenzo, who took over the starting tailback spot, fumbled on UConn's opening play of the 2014 football season. The Cougars recovered at the UConn 26. On the first play, Hill connected with Mitch Matthews for a touchdown pass for a 14-0 lead with 9:35 left in the first quarter.
The Huskies committed their second straight turnover on their second drive. With UConn driving into BYU territory, Casey Cochran overthrew Deshon Fox inside the 10-yard line. Safety Craig Bills made the easy interception.
At times, Cochran had accuracy issues, missing open receivers. He finished 17 for 31 for 171 yards.
Meanwhile, the Cougars carved up the defense and quickly marched down the field. They needed only one minute, 21 seconds to go 46 yards and score for a 21-0 lead. Hill hit a wide open Adam Hine for a 7-yard TD strike. He also combined with Terenn Houk for a 35-yard TD pass.
UConn trailed 28-7 at intermission.
"You can't start a football game like that if you're going to win," Diaco said.
Chandler Whitmer led the Huskies on their only two scoring drives. Linebacker Junior Joseph forced a fumble and recovered it to set up a second quarter touchdown. Redshirt freshman Josh Marriner completed the 52-yard drive with a one-yard run.
In the fourth quarter, Whitmer engineered a drive that set up Bobby Puyol's 35-yard field goal. He was 8-for-17 for 113 yards.
Diaco continued to rotate quarterbacks right to the end. Cochran, who went 3-1 as a starter last season, marched the Huskies to the 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter but threw an incomplete pass on fourth and three.
Star receiver Geremy Davis was one of the bright spots for the Huskies. He made a team-best seven receptions for 96 yards.
He has caught a pass in 27 straight games, the ninth longest streak in the country.
Numerous penalties bogged down the action in the first half. BYU committed 11 penalties for 95 yards yet still racked up 329 yards of total offense before the break and 513 yards overall.
BYU ran a potent attack despite missing leading rusher Jamaal Williams, who was suspended for the opener. The Cougars also played without two starters in the secondary.
Friday was the first of three straight home games for the Huskies, who host Stony Brook next Saturday.
"The foundation is built and it's strong," Diaco said. "And we put a coat of paint on. The only way we're going to put another coat of paint on is to play in the games."
News and notes
The Huskies fell to 9-4 in season openers since joining Division I-A in 2002. … UConn forced two turnovers - both fumbles. … The date of UConn's game at BYU next season has been moved to Oct. 2. … UConn rushed for just 71 yards on 31 carries. DeLorenzo was the team's leading rushing with 38 yards.