UConn football lets one get away against UCF, 24-16. Fall to 3-5.
EAST HARTFORD: Get used to the name McKenzie Milton from the University of Central Florida or if you play against him, get ready for the recurring nightmares.
The kids is just a freshman and already the University of Connecticut Huskies are tired of seeing him after the first year player from Hawaii shred them for 317-yards on 29-45 passing and three scores in a 24-16 Knights win.
Milton threw touchdown passes on three consecutive drives between the second and third quarters as the visitors turned a 16-7 UConn lead around in a hurry.
Still, this was a game the Huskies let get away by failing to capitalize on numerous trips in the red zone that resulted in less than desirable results.
In six trips, UConn came away with just 16 points.
Head coach Bob Diaco was as upset as we perhaps have ever seen him after the game for the team’s lack of execution in the critical area’s inside the 20-yard line.
“It’s execution and more dynamic play calling and selecting.” Diaco said. “And it’s on the whole collective unit. Poor, ridiculous. I mean if you count the 21 (yard line) that’s seven trips in the red zone.”
The Huskies took the game’s opening kickoff and drove downfield to the Knights five yard line but had to settle for a Bobby Puyol 22-yard field goal.
Against an offense like the one UCF brings with them, taking three points versus seven is going to bite you ever time and it did on a rainy windy Saturday that ends with the Huskies sitting at 3-5, something that the head coach is certainly not happy with.
“Three and five is not a representation of the work, the investment, the improvement that we have made as a program.” Diaco said, “That’s the worst part. Winning these games is the main thing, I got that. We’ve got to win the games but these guys have come so far, they’ve worked so hard.”
The Huskies took their biggest lead of the season after those two field goals by Puyol that featured a magnificent full extension catch by Thomas that went for 33 yards on the Huskies first play from scrimmage after a stop by the defense that turned UCF over on downs twice early in the game.
Newsome who go off right tackle from three yards out for the score and a 13-0 lead and it seemed the Huskies had their Florida visitors figured out.
Somebody though, forgot to tell the first year signal caller.
The Knights got hot as Milton got rolling, on the teams last two drives of the first half that ended with two touchdown passes by the freshman who completed six of seven on one drive and five of nine on the next.
Dredrick Snelson caught the first score on a 22 yard pass from Milton while Jordan Akins was on the receiving end of a 19-yard strike from Milton over the middle with just one second left on the first half clock.
“The one piece is,” Diaco said. “Is that you can’t give up points in the final two minutes of a half. That’s a big deal that was a big moment. We let the proverbial rope slip out of our hands.
While UConn did score on back to back drives in the first quarter, both could have resulted in touchdowns but stalled, leaving Puyol to connect from 22 and 33 yards respectively.
The Knights had their best scoring chance in the first quarter after a long completion from Milton to Taylor Oldham on a ball that Huskie safety Obi Melifonwu seemed to have a beat on but the ball went through his hands, setting UCF up at the UConn 11.
From there, the Knights got to the UConn four yard line and faced a third and three but committed back to back penalties, including a delay of game against Milton.
Knight’s kicker Matthew Wright then missed wide right on a 31-yard attempt.
The UConn defense turned UCF over on down twice in the first half, the first on a fourth and one play off a fake punt that was foiled by Mikal Myers.
Seems this was the week of poorly executed fake punt attempts.
This time though, the Huskies turned it in the 33-yard field goal for the 6-0 lead.
You wondered if both the drives that ended with just the field goals would come to haunt the home team but Thomas made sure drive number four would continue with his incredible catch that resulted in the Newsome score.
Milton drove his team 75-yards on eight plays during the opening drive of the second half and connected with Adrian Killins over the middle from 39-yards out to put the visitors in the lead, something they would not give up.
With just four games left in the UConn season, a second consecutive appearance in a Bowl Game is slipping farther and farther into the rear view mirror at this point.
Like today’s game, letting opportunities to win ball games earlier in the season (Navy, Syracuse) may come back to haunt the team from Storrs as we approach Halloween.
NOTES: Noel Thomas certainly can’t be faulted for trying to do everything for the Huskies with another outstanding game that saw him catch nine passes good for 165 yards.
Arkeel Newsome had his second 100-yard game of the season after finishing with 101 on 21 carries but was held to just 18-yards in the second half.
Announced attendance was 28,008.
UConn outgained UCF by a 413 to 400 margin on offense and ran five more plays (80-75) but it was not enough.
Puyol missed a 31-yard field goal late in the third quarter as the kick bounced off the right goal post.