When Bob Diaco took over the UConn Huskies football team, he talked about wanting to eliminate the things that cause losing. His message hasn’t changed from Day 1.

In their loss to the Memphis Tigers on Saturday, UConn committed eight penalties for 115 yards. Most of these weren’t of the five-yard variety. They were mostly 10-15 yarders. Basically, they weren’t the pre-snap penalties that he’s wanted to eliminate and has for the most part.

The first one came when Omaine Stephens didn’t give the Memphis kick returner enough room to make the fair catch and was called for a 15-yard kick interference penalty. That gave the ball to the Tigers at the UConn 48. They would end up driving down and getting a field goal to make it 3-0.

Next up was a holding penalty on tight TE Tommy Myers after Ron Johnson had busted a big run that got the ball onto the Memphis side of the field. Instead of being on the other side of the 50, UConn found themselves back on their own 19.

“Tommy is blocking that guy and really giving him the business and finishes him into the ground,” Diaco said on his Sunday conference call. “And it was that finish that they flagged the hold on. That was a game-changing play.”

Then in the second quarter as they were trailing 6-0, the offense was driving the ball down a short field when FB Jazzmar Clax was called for a personal foul when he ripped the helmet off of a Memphis player while finishing the play.

“We’re mashing them down and we’re mashing the ball down,” said Diaco. “We get the ball inside the 10-yard line and we get a personal foul.”

“They were all basically aggressive penalties. It’s young players trying to finish.”

Plus it doesn’t help that Bobby Puyol missed the 31 yard field goal attempt on that same drive which just made it all worse and like the penalties, changed the course of the game.

Pass interference and defensive holding penalties by Jhavon Williams and John Green would hurt them later on.

“More of it was mental,” Diaco said. “Not mental errors, we tell them you don’t need to grab, you’re on body. You’re good. Just execute your fundamentals. You don’t need to get handsy. That’s something young guys do.”

UConn is a young team this season and we’ve seen the growing pains. But we’ve seen the improvements as well.

You can bet your last dollar that Diaco and the staff will be using these penalties as teaching moments. And as everyone gets more experience, these penalties will slowly disappear.

And when they do, the Huskies will be a better team.