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Football: Reports: Diaco new UConn head coach

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, December 12, 2013

Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has accepted the head coaching position at Connecticut, according to reports Wednesday night.

CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported that Diaco’s deal is for five years and starts at $1.5 million per year.
Diaco was in his fourth season at Notre Dame after previous defensive coordinator stints with Irish coach Brian Kelly at Cincinnati in 2009 and Central Michigan in 2005. He also coached linebackers and special teams at Virginia from 2006 through 2008.

In 2012, Diaco helped construct a defense that allowed 10.3 points per game during Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season. Diaco won the Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach last season.

On Dec. 3, former Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin accepted the head coaching position at Miami (Ohio). Kelly said receivers coach Mike Denbrock would serve as offensive coordinator for Notre Dame (8-4) against Rutgers (6-6) in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28.

On Sunday, Kelly said he was not sure if the rest of his staff would stay intact but said he endorsed his assistants for leadership positions.

“If there’s a head job out there that makes sense for one of the assistant coaches, I’d look at them,” Kelly said. “I have really good football coaches. You never know. But, as I said, my guys aren’t out sending résumés looking for jobs. If the right situation comes along, all these guys, especially the ones that have been with me a long time, they know what it looks like. They’d be great at running programs.”

This year was the first time at Notre Dame that Kelly had his entire staff return after a 12-1 season in 2012.

Pinstripe Bowl awaits

Notre Dame’s opponent will be wearing red and white. Other than that, nearly everything about Notre Dame’s bowl experience this season will be different than it was a year ago.

It will be playing in a new baseball stadium instead of one that used to be one. It could be playing in the snow instead of in the 70s. It will be playing for the George M. Steinbrenner Trophy instead of the national championship. Kyle Flood is the opposing coach instead of Nick Saban.

Instead of playing one-loss Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, the Irish will play in the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium against sputtering AAC member Rutgers, who needed a win in its final game of the season to qualify for a bowl game.

After the final game of the season, Flood fired three of his assistants, including the Scarlet Knights’ defensive coordinator.

The Scarlet Knights gathered their sixth win of the season when they routed two-win South Florida 31-6 on Saturday. Despite the season-ending victory, Rutgers has dropped five of its last seven games and three of the last four.

Against teams that finished the season .500 or better, Rutgers was 0-5. The average margin of defeat against those teams was 21.8 points and Houston and Cincinnati both beat Rutgers by 35 points.

The Irish went 5-4 against teams .500 or better, highlighted by a September win over Big Ten champion Michigan State.

Rutgers’ six wins came over teams who combined for 11 wins over FBS opponents. Twelve FBS teams had at least 11 wins by themselves this season, including three teams who beat the Scarlet Knights.

Despite Rutgers’ apparent shortcomings, Irish coach Brian Kelly was quick to hype up the Big Ten-bound Scarlet Knights.

“They beat Arkansas this year. They played Louisville, Fresno [State]. They’re going in the Big Ten. This team is going to be in the Big Ten this year,” Kelly said Sunday. “If we don’t play well, they’ll beat us. We have everything to lose. We want to win the football game.”

Sophomore running back Paul James leads the Scarlet Knights on the ground, with 833 yards and nine touchdowns despite only playing in eight games.

Senior quarterback Chas Dodd started the last two games of the season and will likely be the signal caller against the Irish, after replacing junior Gary Nova. Dodd threw for a combined 465 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against Connecticut and South Florida.

The Scarlet Knights have been dangerous in the return game this season, scoring three touchdowns on kick or punt returns. Freshman receiver Janarion Grant has two of those touchdowns and averages 21.7 yards per kick return and nearly 10 yards per punt return.

On defense, Rutgers has been stout in the run game, allowing just 97.15 yards per game on the ground, which ranks sixth in the country. In its wins, Rutgers has allowed just 66.8 rushing yards per game; in its losses, it allowed 122.3 yards. In their final game against South Florida, the Scarlet Knights yielded just 10 rushing yards to the Bulls.

That number may be deceiving, though, because teams have opted to throw the ball against the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers has allowed 311.4 passing yards per game, which ranks 120th out of 123 teams in the nation. Opponents have thrown the ball 39.5 times per game against the Scarlet Knights and two teams eclipsed the 70-attempt mark this season.

The Irish have thrown the ball more than 40 times in a game once this season, when Notre Dame attempted 53 passes in a 41-30 loss to Michigan.

Notre Dame will play Rutgers on Dec. 28 at noon in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu