UConn suffers devastating loss to Army at Yankee Stadium
NEW YORK – The scene felt like it was in slow motion and the longer it went, you just knew, based off the eye test over the last four seasons, it wouldn’t end well for the UConn football team.
Down seven in the final minute to Army and just six yards from pulling off an improbable comeback, the Huskies scrambled to the line with the play clock already down to seven seconds.
Their lack of organization carried over into the play as quarterback Chandler Whitmer escaped the pocket and forced a desperation pass to Thomas Lucas at the end zone.
Having a timeout and two additional downs to work with, there was no need for Whitmer to force the issue.
It cost the Huskies. Big time. And ultimately, it wiped away their slim hopes of qualifying for a bowl game.
Chris Carnegie not only intercepted the pass, but returned it 99 yards for a touchdown as well, propelling Army to a 35-21 victory before 27,453 at Yankee Stadium.
The Army portion of the crowd, led by its cadets that filled the left field bleachers, went crazy celebrating the Black Knights’ first win since Oct. 4. UConn’s following on hand quietly left the Bronx with the all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment and a 2-7 record.
The contest was one that will leave the Huskies’ coaching staff bewildered when they review the game film. Before doing so, UConn coach Bob Diaco tried to lift the blame off Whitmer’s shoulder for that fateful pass.
“That wasn’t the game,” Diaco said. “It didn’t win or lose the game. Whitmer played hard and got us down there. He’s crushed. I wish he wasn’t. I feel terrible for him. It wasn’t his fault.”
Whitmer’s throw will certainly be remembered as the play which cost the Huskies, but there was more that caused this loss against a now 3-6 Army team - a team with losses to Yale, Wake Forest and Kent State on its resume.
Notably, UConn’s defense struggled immensely against the triple-option offense that Army runs. The Huskies’ defensive line, in particular, was not able to get to the outside edges, allowing the Black Knights to dominate the clock to the tune of 34:15, including four scoring drives of over five minutes each.
Army’s quarterback Angel Santiago was the catalyst on the ground, finishing with 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns. In total, its old-fashioned offense compiled 325 rushing yards on 59 carries, and only two completions in three tries for 38 yards.
It appeared the Black Knights wrapped up the game on Santiago’s one-yard scoring run with 4:22 left in the fourth, stretching their lead to 28-14.
But UConn quickly recovered, scoring on a two-minute drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown pass from Whitmer to Noel Thomas. The Huskies, with only one timeout remaining, were forced to attempt an onside kick and, miraculously, Bobby Puyol’s attempt was one of the best ones you will ever see.
The kick bounced right over Army’s frontline and was recovered Jamar Summers. Whitmer then led a frantic drive in attempt for the tie, rushing three times for 43 yards down to the Army 6.
Then disaster struck.
"I made a stupid decision." Whitmer said. "It's one I'd like to have back. You can't make those mistakes."
“This will be an incredible lesson for our team, playing in this special venue and in this incredible game against one of the most prestigious programs to ever play football,” added Diaco. “It was a lot for our infant program to take in. Clearly. It was probably too big for some.”
This loss can certainly be used as a learning tool for UConn’s younger players. However, for seniors such as Whitmer, Deshon Foxx and Geremy Davis (missed this game due to injury), Saturday’s defeat sealed the fact this class will not play in a bowl game in their career.
The sight of Carnegie racing 99 yards will long serve as a symbol why.