Despite new blood, UConn falls to 0-5
EAST HARTFORD - It was an intriguing day of firsts at Rentschler Field on Saturday.
UConn freshman quarterback Tim Boyle made his first start, interim coach T.J. Weist patrolled the sidelines for the first time as head man and the school played in its first American Athletic Conference game.
The result, however, didn’t result in the most important first for the Huskies: a win. And it was ugly.
In a game where the teams combined for 701 punting yards, South Florida outlasted UConn, 13-10, before a crowd of 37,861. The only points of the second half came on a 44-yard field goal by USF's Marvin Kloss.
The Huskies are now 0-5 for the first time in 35 years with four of the losses coming at home. Among their lowlights included a field goal blocked, a field goal missed, two dropped passes in the end zone and a fumble that led to the Bulls’ only touchdown.
On UConn’s final drive, South Florida unbelievably dropped three potential interceptions to give the Huskies life. With one timeout remaining, Boyle completed a 16-yard pass to Dhammer Bradley to midfield at the 16-second mark. Confusion then ensued on the sideline and UConn didn’t call timeout until seven seconds remained.
Instead of trying one more pass to set up a potential game-tying field goal attempt, Boyle was forced to try a Hail Mary. His throw was tipped away as time expired.
Weist, bluntly, took the blame for the botched timeout and the defeat.
“I told the team this loss was on me,” Weist said. “I am disappointed in my execution. We had a chance to tie with a field goal, but I hesitated to make the call and didn’t get it in on time. I thought the clock was going to stop and I was focused on making the next play call. I can’t make a mistake like that.”
Boyle, on a positive note, did show signs of promise despite completing only 15 of 43 passes for 149 yards. He twice took the Huskies down the field in the first half, only to have drives stalled by dropped passes that would’ve resulted in touchdowns. He also showed poise in the pocket, particularly in the first half, by not panicking when the original play call broke down.
“I didn’t do too well compared to what I am capable of,” said Boyle, who just 10 months ago led Xavier to a state championship at Rentschler Field. “I felt calm, though, and was not rattled too much. I just took a deep breath (on the first drive) and tried to not feel like a true freshman.”
“You can tell by the look in his eyes that he’s a quarterback,” noted Weist. “He made decisions that were pretty good for a true freshman and made some throws early that could’ve made a difference if they were caught. He showed why we’re going forward with him and he will get better.”
Behind the return of massive offensive tackle Kevin Friend (6-foot-6, 317 pounds), Lyle McCombs rushed for a career-high 164 yards, including a spectacular 52-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The Bulls (2-4, 2-0 in the AAC), meanwhile, continue to defy logic, winning for the second straight week without scoring an offensive touchdown. Their lone trip to the end zone came on a 44-yard fumble recovery by Aaron Lynch. Bobby Eveld, forced into action due to an injury to starter Steven Bench, finished only 8-of-28 for 106 yards and an interception that was picked off by St. Paul alum Byron Jones.
For UConn, its next hope for a first win comes Saturday at Cincinnati.
“We’re going right back to practice tomorrow,” Weist said. “Sitting around for two days thinking about what went wrong is not an option. We have to move forward.”