Saturday, September 29, 2012

UConn wins an ugly one

When Lyle McCombs crossed the goal line and Chad Christen added the extra point with 5:03 left in the third quarter everything was going according to plan for the UConn football team.

Visiting Buffalo figured to have trouble staying with the Huskies especially with tailback Branden Oliver (who came into the game ranked fifth in FBS with 142 rushing yards per game) and receiver Fred Lee missing the game with leg and hand injuries respectively.

However, the Bulls did not go away quietly with a touchdown courtesy of a hook and ladder play and then a 44-yard field goal pulling Buffalo within seven points.

UConn, which ran 24 offensive plays in Buffalo territory in the second half but only had seven points to show for it, was left to hang on. Buffalo did get one more possession but after reaching its own 39, the Bulls turned the ball over with incompletions on second and third down and then Buffalo QB Alex Zordich was tackled two yards shy of the first-down marker by Yawin Smallwood.

UConn will take the win but with a chance to lower the boom and head into Big East play with a dominating win, the Huskies seemed to play not to lose in the second half.

The good news is the Huskies won to go to 3-2 and it didn't seem as if there were any injuries suffered in the game. The pass protection by the UConn offensive line was solid. Whitmer was sacked three times but two of those were a case of holding onto the ball too long. Whitmer looked as comfortable in the pocket as any other time I have seen him play. He was setting his feet on his throws and being patient on his progressions. He also spread the wealth by hitting eight different receivers. Other highlights included safety Ty-Meer Brown getting an interception and playing a solid game even though he was limited in practice this week with a shoulder injury and Martin Hyppolite ripping off a 50-yard TD run on his first carry of the game. Angelo Pruitt, starting his second game at DE, played a pretty good all-around game. I liked UConn getting Nick Williams more involved in the passing game and senior linebackers Sio Moore and Jory Johnson played much of the game like they had something to prove which they did after last week's slow start at Western Michigan.

The bad news is that Buffalo outgained the Huskies 361-360 and 39 rushes by McCombs accounted for 97 yards which is simply not good enough. I also wonder if giving a running back listed at 166 pounds 39 carries is a smart move heading into the Big East portion of the season. UConn had issues staying with Buffalo receiver Alex Neutz and it is something that could have been exploited more by Buffalo than it was.

Now the Huskies head into the Big East opener on Saturday when they play at Rutgers. It will be interesting to see how UConn handles the challenge of Big East play.

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