Where do the Huskies go from here?
Where does UConn go from here?
EAST HARTFORD – The question now is where does UConn go from here.
Michigan rolled into Rentschler Field Saturday night and brought all that Michigan brings with it – a bevy of beefy linemen that put the slabs that Rocky pounded away at before meeting Apollo Creed to shame, all of its gaudy history that includes 11 national titles and 42 Big Ten titles and an undefeated 3-0 mark (now 4-0). And a blue and maize equipment trailer about the size of Texas.
UConn brought all that it brings to the table these days. An 0-2 record, no running game and a beleaguered coach who has plenty of the faithful calling for his head.
The two teams did it all under the bright national TV audience lights in front of a rocking and rolling sellout crowd that at least for one night became a UConn fan base that impressed the country. Ray Allen was in the house, Derek Jeter was on hand, men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie was part of the funs as was Geno and his national champion hoopsters.
If you like big and even if you don’t this was the biggest of the big. And only a few of the very faithful figured anything but a Michigan blowout. You lose to Towson State and Maryland, the idea of beating No. 15, even if the Wolverines barely hung to beat Akron the week before, doesn’t get a lot of traction.
But, nobody has questioned the UConn effort so far this season and Paul Pasqualoni had his team ready to rumble. UConn surprised us and Michigan and nearly the country. How good was it? Well, the fans were still there in the fourth quarter. They hung on to the end. That is also very big if you know the fourth quarter empty seat look.
Linebacker Yawin Smallwood was superb with 13 tackles. The defense which at times can be top notch helped cause four turnovers and again stopped Michigan on a crucial fourth down situation.
The offense was good enough, at least through three quarters. Taking advantage of two of the turnovers, QB Chandler Whitmer got the ball in the end zone and midway through the third quarter it was 21-7.
The rumblings being heard around college football had nothing to do with the approaching storm to East Hartford.
It wasn’t a mirage, it was all real. However, there wasn’t enough staying power to keep it going. UConn just isn’t at that point. UConn still doesn’t have a running game. For as hard as Lyle McCombs runs (8-38) the holes close up quickly.
Whitmer was forced to throw the ball 32 times. One-dimensional much of the time, the Huskies were just 1-of-11 on third downs. It just wasn’t enough.
The Huskies’ most effective offensive weapon this season kicker Chad Christen pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide left that would have made the lead 10 points in the third quarter.
It all finally caught up to Widmer when he tossed an interception that the Wolverines’ returned to the UConn 12-yard line and led to the game-tying touchdown. And finally a game-winning 21-yard field goal with 4:36 left.
UConn kept knocking. The Huskies were at the Michigan 48-yard line with a first down and 2:12 left. Two penalties left them with a fourth-and-29 and the night ended after a 26-yard fourth down gain came up short.
Deep in the disappointment of the ending, Pasqualoni pointed out how he was proud of his team’s effort and how they stepped up and played. But he also talked about “no moral victories.
So, how do you go from here to Buffalo? How do you go from a quality effort with an unsatisfying ending under the bright lights of a national glare to next week? How do you move on?
Buffalo is 1-2 having lost to Ohio State and Baylor while slipping by Stony Brook, 26-23. Winnable and on the road.
Pasqualoni said the Huskies would prepare for Buffalo the say way it prepared for Michigan. He expected the team to arrive at 2 p.m. Sunday with the right body language and be ready to go back to working on the running game and third down conversions.
Michigan could have been a season-changer and coach-saver. Who shows up against Buffalo? The team that gave the Wolverines all it could handle or the team that is 0-3 and struggling to find a winning formula after such an impressive effort.
Did the good-but-not-good enough performance against Michigan drain the Huskies’ air tank? Or does it all act as a lift off point for a season rapidly slipping away. Buffalo is not Michigan. The effort was almost expected in the `big time’ atmosphere.’
What did Saturday night mean. Where do the Huskies go from here after three straight home losses. ? What now? Was it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?