Sans Shirreffs, UConn drops regular season finale to Temple
PHILADELPHIA – If Bryant Shirreffs’ value to the UConn football team wasn’t fully appreciated, it certainly will be now.
After leaving early with a concussion in last week’s win over Houston, UConn’s quarterback – rightfully so – was held out of the Huskies’ battle with Temple Saturday night.
UConn’s attempt to replace him proved futile, as it juggled three players behind center with neither able to move the offense with any consistency. Their lack of production led to an ugly 27-3 loss to the No. 25 Owls at Lincoln Financial Field in the regular season finale.
The win over Houston clinched a bowl berth for the Huskies, who hope Shirreffs will be available for. On Saturday, he warmed up prior to the game and was in uniform. Considering little was on the line for UConn, the conservative approach was the right direction to take.
“He is still day-to-day, but he looks way better,” UConn coach Bob Diaco said of Shirreffs, who has thrown for 1,992 yards and nine touchdowns, and rushed for three scores this season. “He’s cleared for activity, and conditioning, and movement, and practice to some extent.”
The Huskies' performance against Temple, though, was a direct result of the decision to sit Sheriffs.
Tim Boyle started at quarterback for UConn (6-6), and had a rough go of it. He over-threw a wide open Tyraiq Beals for what would've been a first down, inexplicably committed a false start, and threw for only 121 yards on 12 completions. For good measure, he threw an interception deep in Temple territory as the Huskies were still attempting to score their first points of the night in the fourth quarter.
Garrett Anderson (one completion for eight yards, six rushing yards) also took snaps for the Huskies. Wide-out Noel Thomas was used out of the wildcat formation, ala Deshon Foxx for UConn a year ago, but that idea didn’t gain any steam, either.
On the ground, Arkeel Newsome had a terrible night, gaining only 1 yard on 13 carries, plus he lost a fumble on a fourth-and-one attempt at the Temple 41.
On third-and-10 in the third, with UConn down 13-0, Josh Marriner got stuffed on a draw play.
It was that kind of night for the Huskies, who finished with a mere 138 yards of total offense. They just couldn’t move the ball, and made mistakes at the worst possible moments.
“It came down to execution, and that’s really the storyline, that we couldn’t execute today,” Boyle said. “We can’t keep waiting for the defense to bail us out. I take full responsibility.”
UConn’s defense hung tough for awhile against a Temple offense which entered the night averaging 28 points a contest. However, the wear and tear of being on the field for so long (Temple had the ball for 36:29), plus the pressure of keeping a stumbling offense in the game, was too much to overcome.
“It was a poor performance on offense, and too much exposure on defense,” Diaco said. “The defense played well for the (majority) of the game, but they were overexposed, and we just can’t play football like that. You have no chance to win.
"It was pitiful."
Jahad Thomas put on a show for the Owls (10-2) on their first touchdown drive, which included a spectacular one-handed catch, a first down created by a nifty spin move, and, finally, a hard fought nine-yard run for a touchdown. He added an explosive 60-yard scoring run in the fourth, and netted a total of 119 yards on 20 carries.
Tyler Matakevich, of Stratford, was a force for Temple, compiling 11 tackles, four for losses, and recovered an onside kick.
Temple, the East Division champions, will face Houston next week in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. The Huskies, meanwhile, now turn their attention to their bowl game, with the opponent and location to be announced soon.
On this holiday weekend, Diaco is thankful this stinker wasn't the Huskies' last game of the season.
“It’s so great that we have another opportunity to get better and not have that be the end, and not have that represent the investment we’ve made in our football family,” Diaco said.
With Shirreffs on the field, UConn will have a much better chance than it did Saturday. His value to the team was never more evident than it was on this night.