Sunday, November 04, 2012

Mistake-prone Huskies fall into Big East cellar

Somehow it seemed apropos that the game between the only two Big East teams without a conference win in 2012 would come down to which team made the plays to lose the game rather the one which made the plays to secure the victory.

The last three times UConn had possession of the game, the Huskies turned the ball over. The first two were turned into field goals which enabled the Bulls to take a 7-6 lead and extend it to a 13-6 cushion. The final one, which is one of the most bizarre, pinball type of interception, allowed the Bulls to go into the victory formation and move out of last place in the Big East standings.

“We just didn’t come up with the plays that they did to win the game,” said Jory Johnson, a senior linebacker who had five tackles including the 200th of his career. “I think as a defense we did get our swagger back from last time when we played Syracuse but as a team we didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”

UConn (3-6, 0-4 in the Big East) seemed to be position to steal away a victory.

On the Huskies’ first play of the fourth quarter Chandler Whitmer connected with Geremy Davis for a 21-yard gain. On the second, he rumbled for nine more yards. No longer in the shadow of their own goal line, the Huskies seemed ready to march down the field and take lead. However, sophomore tailback Lyle McCombs wasn’t able to cleanly handle the ball after Whitmer gave it to him. McCombs’ fumble was recovered by Tashon Whitehurst.

Nine plays later Maikon Bonani booted a 27-yard field goal to extend the Bulls’ lead to 10-6. UConn was still within one score but disaster struck again when Whitmer, who threw for 284 yards, was hit as he threw the ball. Jon Lejiste came up with USF’s first interception of the season. Once again the UConn miscue turned into a South Florida field goal to make it 13-6.

“We couldn’t catch a break and it is tough when fluke things happen where it is just not in your favor,” Whitmer said. “It is frustrating because we fight for everything we get. We have been doing it all game and basically all year. Every game, except for Syracuse (was competitive) and it is tough to come down on the bad side of these games.”

The errors weren’t done just yet. Whitmer was sacked twice in the next drive and UConn’s final offensive play ended when Whitmer’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of Elkino Watson with 50 seconds to play.

“I thought if we hadn’t stopped ourselves in the fourth quarter,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “You just have that many bad things happen in a close game and try to be successful. Too many bad things, great things you can’t turn it over like that and expect to win.”

Trevardo Williams became UConn’s all-time leader in sacks when he pulled down B.J Daniels during the first drive of the second quarter. Williams’ 27½ career sack breaks the mark of 27 set by Mark Michaels from 1982-85. It was Williams’ 8½ sacks this season.UConn senior linebacker Sio Moore did not play in the first quarter as a result of a sideline argument he had late in the Syracuse game.

“A program policy deal where he missed the first quarter” is how Pasqualoni defined Moore’s punishment.”

Byron Jones led the UConn defense with nine tackles but he also failed to come up with an interception which would have put the Huskies deep in USF territory. Dwayne Gratz had an interception in the end zone which allowed UConn to go into halftime only down by four points.

B.J. Daniels passed for 199 yards and ran for another 23. His 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was a program record 25th rushing touchdown for the senior quarterback. It may have been his final one as early reports are that he suffered a serious ankle injury which could end his brilliant career.

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