Connecticut head coach Bob Diaco instructs from the sideline in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in East Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill
September 20, 2016

STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn coach Bob Diaco says his Huskies are built to play close games.

Since the start of last season, 10 of UConn's 16 contests have been decided by a single score (eight points or fewer), including all three this season. The latest was a 13-10 win over Virginia (0-3) last Saturday that wasn't secured until Virginia's walk-on kicker, Alex Furbank, missed a 20-yard field goal as time expired.

But the quality of the opponent doesn't seem to be much of a factor for UConn (2-1).

The Huskies are 6-4 in those one-score contests, with wins over Villanova (20-15), Army (22-17), Tulane (7-3), then-No. 13 Houston (20-17), Maine (24-21) and Virginia. The losses came to then No. 22 Missiouri (9-6), South Florida (28-20), Marshall (16-10 in the St. Petersburg Bowl and Navy (28-24).

Diaco said the tight margins are more a function of UConn's style - a stingy defense combined with a ball-control style of offense.

''The analogy I would draw is like a hockey game or a soccer game,'' he said. ''They're all decided by one goal or two goals when the points are down. We're kind of built that way.''

Under Diaco, UConn doesn't give up a lot of big plays, using a bend-don't-break style defense that eschews a lot of blitzing and forces opponents to move methodically down the field.

The Huskies are holding the competition to 19.7 points and an average of 352 yards a game this year after giving up just 19.5 points and 355 yards per game a year ago.

''We take pride in always being in the game and always having a chance to win the game,'' said defensive tackle Mikal Myers.

But Diaco acknowledges UConn would win more and win by more points if it had a more efficient offense.

The Huskies are averaging just 20.3 points and 331 yards per game this season, which ranks 111th out of 128 FBS teams. Last season they averaged just 17.2 points, and just over 310 yards a game, 123rd in the nation.

''I can't hide from it,'' Diaco said. ''Everyone watching the games knows it.''

Ball control will be a key for UConn this week against Syracuse (1-2). The Orange run an fast-paced offense that snapped the ball a school-record 105 times in a 45-20 loss to South Florida. They average one play about every 20 seconds while on offense.

''Field position is a huge piece for this model,'' Diaco said. ''Time of possession is a huge piece to this model. That, when you play in a game like this, becomes even more critical.''


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