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November 4, 2012A sober reality seems to be setting in for the UConn Huskies: things aren't going well and they aren't going to get much better.
Coming off a bye week, and playing South Florida- a team winless in Big East play (0-4) and losers of six straight--UConn mustered just two field goals in a 13-6 loss at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
The Huskies are now 0-4 in Big East play and each loss has been worse than the one before it. UConn hung tough in the first half against Rutgers, before turnovers ultimately did them in. In the Big East home opener, junior kicker Chad Christen missed four field goals and Temple won with 17 unanswered points.
A 40-10 loss in an ESPN Friday primetime game against Syracuse two weeks ago felt like rock bottom, before UConn took over sole possession of last place in the Big East standings Saturday night, falling to a team that had lost 11 of its last 12 Big East games.
USF, a team prone to self-destruction, gave UConn plenty of chances to win the game, but the Huskies gave them right back. In UConn's three fourth quarter drives, sophomore running back Lyle McCombs lost a fumble and sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw two interceptions--the first two interceptions for the USF defense all season.
"It's frustrating because you know we fight for everything we get, and we've been doing it... really almost all year," Whitmer said. Whitmer has thrown 13 interceptions this season and the Huskies have turned the ball over 21 times.
Against the 85th-ranked rushing defense in the FBS, UConn rushed 31 times for 43 yards, averaging 1.4 yards per carry, just under the 1.48 yards per carry the Huskies are averaging in Big East play. The Huskies never ventured inside the red zone, advancing once to the USF 20-yard line in the third quarter, before being forced to settle for a field goal.
Right guard Gus Cruz, who replaced the injured senior Adam Masters, committed a couple of penalties and struggled in blocking. In the second quarter, center Tyler Bullock hiked a snap over Whitmer's head, resulting in a 19-yard loss that knocked UConn out of field goal range. He also allowed a sack on a blown protection in the second half. Left tackle Jimmy Bennett and right tackle Kevin Friend each committed penalties on Whitmer's first interception, tacking on 25 yards at the end of the play and resulting in a field goal and a 13-6 lead for the Bulls.
The Huskies totalled zero yards on special teams. On all four USF kickoffs, UConn took a touchback, while, on six Bulls' punts, senior Nick Williams fair caught four, let one bounce to the 10-yard line, and another was kicked out out of bounds.
UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni talks often of complementary football, but the only group that can be complimented is the defense. The Huskies allowed 291 yards of total offense, but only 76 yards in the second half. All six points (two field goals) the defense allowed in the second half, were the result of turnovers.
Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams recorded a sack, bringing his season-total to 8.5 sacks, and making him the all-time school leader with 27.5 sacks. Senior cornerback Dwayne Gratz intercepted a B.J. Daniels pass in the end zone late in the first half.
Unfortunately, on USF's final possession of the game, Daniels was carried off the field after running for a first down. USF coach Skip Holtz has told local media that Daniels broke his ankle and is likely out for the rest of the season and thus, his collegiate career is over.
Meanwhile, UConn is one loss away from assuring they will be bowl ineligible for the second consecutive season, and Pittsburgh comes to town after taking BCS No. 3 Notre Dame into triple overtime before falling, 29-26. The following week, UConn heads to Louisville to face the undefeated Cardinals, before closing out the season at the Rent against Cincinnati.
The Huskies are staring a 3-9 season in the face, or 4-8, if they steal a game at home, not two years removed from a berth to the BCS Fiesta Bowl. That 2010 UConn got hot in the right season and at the right time, and really wasn't a BCS bowl caliber team, so initial expectations may have a bit high for Pasqualoni. However, Randy Edsall certainly didn't leave the cupboard entirely bare and few expected the Huskies would sink to the bottom of the Big East standings.
Th reality has become quite clear, though, and now all that's left to do is wait for it to bottom out.