Mental lapses, sloppy execution doom Huskies in loss to USF
EAST HARTFORD – Those bowl game hopes for the UConn football team? For now, they need to be put on the backburner and the Huskies need to start back at square one.
They have no one to blame but themselves.
If UConn is indeed sitting home come bowl season, Saturday’s 28-21 loss to South Florida at Pratt & Whitney Stadium will be Reason No. 1 why.
The Huskies dominated this game statistically, but shot themselves in the foot from every angle possible. A somber Bob Diaco opened his press conference by saying everyone should throw away the stat sheet when analyzing this contest. “It’s not relevant. It’s a bizarre read,” he said. But before doing so, let’s look at some of the numbers, figures that will baffle the mind when trying to figure out how South Florida escaped with a win.
UConn’s offense outgained the Bulls 528 yards to 461, won the battle of turnovers 2-1, ran 48 plays in opposing territory compared to South Florida’s 20, and had nearly a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
Bryant Shirreffs threw for 365 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 100 yards, including a 36-yard scoring run. He became the first UConn quarterback to finish with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game. For the second straight week, Arkeel Newsome had over 200 total yards, this time finishing with 221.
Yet, it wasn’t enough. Why? The Huskies could not get out of their own way.
On their first drive of the game, they got stuffed on fourth-and-one deep in South Florida territory. Then, trailing 7-3 with time running down in the first half, Newsome caught a pass and failed to get out of bounds, allowing the clock to run out before UConn could attempt a field goal.
That sequence led to loud boos from many of the 31,719 on hand.
“I should’ve recognized we were short on time and got out of bounds instead of making a move,” Newsome said.
In the third quarter, the defense allowed running back D’Ernest Johnson to complete a 29-yard touchdown to Rodney Adams on a halfback pass, and, later in the period, Jazzmar Clax committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that negated much of a strong kickoff return by Newsome.
Despite his strong numbers, Shirreffs took a lot of hits, including a sack on fourth-and-two at the South Florida 36 with 5:24 left, all but sealing the loss.
No matter what the result, Diaco is usually upbeat when meeting the media, focusing on the positives. On this day, he lamented this lost opportunity, one that could severely dampen potential bowl game hopes.
“I take full responsibility and accountability for what is a sad, hard loss,” said Diaco, whose team now stands at 3-4. “I need to be sure that I have these guys ready to play better than we did today.”
When asked if this was the toughest loss in his two-year tenure at UConn, Diaco simply responded, “Yes. I’m very disappointed.”
That disappointment will need to be put on the shelf quickly with a trip to Cincinnati on the horizon next week. The Bearcats, like UConn, have three wins and are fighting to meet the requisite six victories to meet bowl eligibility.
The Huskies will need to win at least three of their final five games, with only two contests left on the home slate.
Diaco said “sorry” during his press conference to the packed student section on hand Saturday. He and his team will be sorry if this loss costs them a shot at postseason action.