When a loss looks like a win. UConn offense improves in 31-21 loss to ECU.
Storrs: After going down 14 points to the 18th ranked team in the country in the opening quarter, it looked like it was going to be another long night for the University of Connecticut football team.
After all, the spread coming in was 28-points and with a high powered offense running on all cylinders, nobody was expecting the Huskies to be in this one for long.
A funny thing happened on the way to the rout though: the Huskies found some offense. An offense that had scored but 13 points in their last two games, came alive because of something head coach Bob Diaco had been searching for all year.
The much maligned offensive line started to give quarterback Chandler Whitmer time to throw and the fifth year senior did just that.
Whitmer completed 18 of 30 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns while punching in his team’s first points from a yard out after the Pirates had gone up those two scores.
While the home team dominated in the number of plays ran (100-58) the UConn defense, which has clearly been their strength this season, held East Carolina scoreless the remainder of the half.
Making a top 25 team work as hard as they had to in order to come away with the win has to have done wonders for the Huskies (1-6) mindset as they return home to play UCF on Saturday at noon.
Its Homecoming weekend at UConn and what the fans of the Huskies have been waiting the longest for is a positive showing from an offense that is close to the bottom in nearly every statistical category out there.
After the Pirates missed a 33-yard field goal attempt late in the second quarter, UConn got the ball to start the second half and tied the game up when Whitmer found Noel Thomas for a 32-yard touchdown pass that shocked the home fans of a team looking to make a statement to the playoff committee on national television.
While we can’t be sure what the playoff folks thought, be sure they could not have been incredibly impressed to see a highly ranked team struggle against a team that understands the word struggle in a big way.
Whitmer was not sacked once on Thursday night, the only sack the offensive line gave up was when Tim Boyle came in for a series in the first quarter.
His ability to get away from pressure or the game plan that saw him roll out on occasion was the perfect remedy for the pressure the Pirates brought.
The Huskies got the ball first to start the second half and drove 75-yards in six plays to knot things up at 14. East Carolina would answer right back with a 10-play, 91-yard drive to take the lead at 21-14 and considering their offensive weakness this year, it was hard to imagine the Huskies could match the scoring prowess of the home team but to their credit and with help from their defense, they did.
Late in the third quarter, Whitmer found Deshon Foxx down the left sideline and the speedster was off to the races on an 88-yard touchdown play.
The fact that the game was in doubt late in the fourth quarter is a true testament to the fact that while on their second bye in October, UConn did what Diaco said they would; they worked on themselves without much regard for preparing for the Pirates.
ECU would connect on a 31-yard field goal with 6:15 to play and the Huskies did not have one more scoring drive in them.
A late rushing touchdown gave the Pirates the double digit win but it was not one that came anywhere near as easy as they thought it would.
Diaco said after the game that his team had come to win and that there are no moral victories and that’s certainly what you expect from a head coach that doesn’t take and joy in losing but on Thursday night against a ranked opponent who has at least Bowl aspirations, a win of sort was brought back to Storrs.
The Huskies offense came to life and with their top 30 defense, maybe they can make some noise over their last five games, starting Saturday at The Rent.