Towson Takes It To UConn
Lyle McCombs gained 80 yards on the night, 22 on this astounding run that ended at the Tigers one-yard line late in the second quarter. A penalty forced UConn to settle for a field goal.
EAST HARTFORD: Coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons, the University of Connecticut football team needed something to get fans around the state excited about the season, the program and the future.
They failed on all counts Thursday night.
Outplayed and outhustled, the Huskies started their season with a dud, losing 33-18 to FCS foe Towson in the season opener for both teams at Rentschler Field.
The win was Towson’s first over an FBS opponent and maybe we should have seen it coming. The Tigers finished last season on a four-game win streak, including three wins over nationally ranked foes.
Towson gave LSU, that’s right big-time LSU a fight in Baton Rouge last season and let’s face it, UConn has been underwhelming at best in its first two seasons under Coach Paul Pasqualoni.
You got a sense almost right away that this was not going to be UConn’s night. One of the stories going around on social media on game day was that there were at least 9,000 unsold tickets and there were far more empty seats than that.
There was no atmosphere, the crowd was flat, the team played flat and Towson was ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Tigers came in ranked 11th in the FCS and there would have been no shame in UConn winning a close one. You see close games every year between FCS teams and the big boys. But you can’t lose, especially not badly while giving your home crowd no chance to get into the game and send them home already counting down the days to basketball season (about 70!).
UConn couldn’t do what FBS teams are supposed to do to their little FCS brothers, dominante the line of scrimmage. Actually, it was Towson that asserted itself throughout the game.
Terrence West ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries; as a team the Tigers ran for 201 yards and four TD’s.
On defense, the Tigers limited the Huskies to 287 total yards while racking up five sacks and an interception.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose, who served as offensive coordinator at UConn under former coach Randy Edsall, didn’t want to make too big a deal about his team's win, but did acknowledge that there are some historic ramifications for his program.
“I’m sure in the eyes of some this win will be considered very, very big,” Ambrose said. “We’ve played big competition before, we’ve played well, but we couldn’t get the win. In the history of this I suppose one day people will look back at this as a very large thing. But we have goals and it really didn’t matter who we played tonight, for us to reach our goals we had to win.”
Now the Tigers can turn their attention to other goals, like a return to the FCS playoffs and a run at a national title. Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board for the Huskies and the tasks ahead don’t get any easier.
Edsall and Maryland visit the Rent on September 14th and will motivated after losing to the Huskies a year ago. Then nationally ranked Michigan comes to East Hartford and could very likely hand UConn it’s third loss in three games.
That’s not the start the Huskies were hoping for in their quest to return to a bowl game for the first time in three seasons.
It is one game and UConn could bounce back, its’ just that the prospects don’t look promising. If one of the least productive offenses in 2012 can’t show improvement against a FCS team what hope is there of attacking Michigan, South Florida, Cincinnati (10 wins last year) or Louisville (Sugar Bowl win over Florida)?
Probably not much but you can’t throw in the towel in week one and Pasqualoni didn’t Thursday night.
“I think the kids are pretty resilient. I think they know its one game and we didn’t play well as a team in any area. I Think their attitude is good,” Pasqualoni said. “I think there is some leadership in the locker room and from that regard I think we’ll be fine. We’ll come back with focus and will to get better.
They had better, from coaches to players, everyone involved in the UConn program must be committed to getting better, or they’ll continue to get flattened just like they did on Thursday night.