Saturday, September 20, 2014

Near record offensive struggles dooms UConn

Before the game when I was on the air with WTIC's Bob Joyce I said that there may not be a series in the country that has as many bizarre happenings as the annual UConn/South Florida tilts.

Well, the game certainly lived up to that statement but not a heck of a lot else.

UConn went almost two entire quarters of play between pass attempts and the Huskies did not complete its first pass until its final drive of the third quarter. Yet, if the Huskies had come up with an onsides kick late in the fourth quarter the Huskies might have walked out of Raymond James Stadium with one of the most unlikely of victories in recent memory. Even after the game UConn coach Bob Diaco almost seemed amazed that the Huskies were in striking range late.

"We have a chance to win the game at the end after all that, we didn't convert a third down (in the game) and we had nine penalties, a turnover sets up a score right at the beginning and we have a chance at the very end to win the game at the very end so there are a lot of encouraging issues so right out of the chute it was 14-0."

I'll have more on this subject in my follow-up story that will be running in Sunday's paper but Diaco said he wanted to limit the negative plays and with UConn constantly backed up within the shadow of its goal line (UConn started five drives within its own 15), he was willing to run conservative dive plays rather than risk a sack or turnover. As a result UConn had eight passing yards in the first three quarters.

ESPN reported that backup quarterback Tim Boyle was unavailable to play but Diaco said that was not the case.

"He could have played," Diaco said. "He is cleared to play. He is hobbled with a lower-leg, I am not going to call it a lower-leg injury but a lower-leg pain but he was cleared for participation but it wouldn't have been prudent to (play him) under those circumstances."

There weren't too many positive but after recording 15 tackles for loss in the first three games, the Huskies had 10 against USF. Marquise Vann, who had a team-high 14 tackles, had 2 1/2 of them and Junior Joseph (who left the game for a bit after a violent collision before coming back) added two stops behind the line. Wilbert Lee had four tackles on punt returns and another on a kickoff return which was as impressive a special-teams effort I have seen in a while for a cover guy. Arkeel Newsome flashed some of his tremendous potential with 22 yards on three carries in the third quarter. He finished with 30 yards on four carries and his 7.5 yard per carry is the most for a Connecticut running back with more than one carry since Lyle McCombs ran 20 times for 164 yards in last year's USF game.

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