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October 19, 2013

UConn Drops 6th Straight

The game was essentially over by halftime.

For the UConn Huskies (0-6, 0-2), their hopes for a comeback came crashing down on a demoralizing drive by the Cincinnati Bearcats (5-2, 2-1) with 44 seconds remaining from the Bearcats' own 45-yard line.

Already down 21-3, the Huskies' defense got shredded on three straight passes from Cinci quarterbacl Brendon Kay, the last of which went to a wide open Max Morrison for a 32-yard dagger of a score, making the deficit 27-3 after a missed PAT right before halftime. Cincinnati would go on to win, 41-16.

The proud UConn defense got torn up by Kay, who was 17-of-24 through the air for 300 yards and tied a career-high with four touchdowns despite battling a sprained right wrist that he sustained on the team's second play of the second quarter when he hit the back of a teammate's helmet on his follow-through. He also ran for a fifth score a week after he was named the American Athletic Conference's Offensive Player of the Week.

"We've opened it up, and Brendon's done a good job," Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville said in a postgame interview on ESPN U. "He's a gamer. He plays tough."

The Cincinnati spread offense hammered UConn's secondary, as Kay distributed the ball to eight different receivers, six of which had multiple receptions. Mekale McKay led the charge with two receptions for 93 yards, including a 56-yard haul on the first offensive play of the game.

From that moment on, the Huskies struggled to slow down the Bearcats' passing attack. Although Cincinnati only totaled 137 yards on the ground, most of which came in the fourth quarter courtesy of wildcat quarterback Jordan Luallen (12 carries, 51 yards), they really did not need to run the ball much. Their passing attack was so effective that there was no need for balance.

"We had to change things up," Tuberville said. "This is good, what we've been doing."

UConn's defense entered the game ranked No. 28 in the FBS, but their lack of depth in the secondary proved to be their undoing. They simply could not match up against the spread offense of the Bearcats, which Kay took advantage of by finding mismatches and exploiting them.

The Huskies' offense did not fair much better. Tim Boyle was 22-of-39 for 310 yards and showed poise in the pocket at times, but threw three interceptions that killed momentum or gave Cincinnati great field position. He was pressured throughout much of the contest, as the No 6 ranked Bearcats' defense racked up eight sacks, led by Silverberry Mouhon (3 sacks), Terrell Hartsfield (2 sacks) and Jordan Stepp (2 sacks).

"It's not just about effort," interim head coach T.J. Weist said in a postgame interview. "It's about the ability to make a play, whether it's get a block, to make throws, to make catches, to keep drives alive. It's a tough thing to learn."

On Boyle's first pick, UConn was at its own 40-yard line when Boyle's 2nd-and-1 pass was tipped and intercepted by cornerback Deven Drane. It was an athletic play, but Boyle's ball was thrown slightly inside for Geremy Davis on an out route, which allowed Drane to break on the ball and secure the inside position. Drane returned the ball 47 yards to the UConn 2-yard line, which led to a quick score.

Boyle's second interception came in the third quarter with UConn threatening in Cincinnati territory at the 25-yard line. Boyle was hurried, and he chucked an ill-advised pass into double-coverage to Sean McQuillan, which was intercepted by Mike Tyson.

What ensued was perhaps the most entertaining play of the game. Tyson weaved and sprinted 89 yards and was only a few yards away from a pick six when UConn wide receiver Deshon Foxx made an outstanding individual effort to catch him from behind. Foxx never gave up on the play, and tomahawked the ball right out of Tyson's hands. As the ball squirted into the end zone, Drane whiffed on an attempt to recover it, and it dribbled harmlessly out the back for a touchback as UConn regained possession. Foxx's hustle was one of the few highlights in the tough loss.

Another bright spot for the Huskies was the running of back-ups Max DeLorenzo and Martin Hyppolite. DeLorenzo carried the ball six times for 46 yards, for an average of 7.7 per carry. Hyppolite rushed for 60 yards on six carries for an average of 6.7 per attempt. If the Huskies were not forced to play from behind for the majority of the game, they both could have played larger roles.

Both DeLorenzo and Hyppolite are much-larger backs than starter Lyle McCombs, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 175 lbs. DeLorenzo is 6-foot, 207 lbs. and Hyppolite weighs in at 6-foot, 217 lbs. They both run hard, and bowled over tacklers on the few looks that they did get. DeLorenzo accounted for three first downs on UConn's first scoring drive (a Chad Christen 26-yard field goal), and later scored the team's only offensive touchdown on a 12-yard scamper in the third quarter.

Bright spots do not equal wins, however, and a win is something that still eludes the Huskies during a frustrating 2013 campaign.

"The character we have on our team, the energy, the effort, the playmaking ability all across the board - this is not an 0-6 team," Weist said. "But this game demands that you put it together on the football field as a team, and we haven't done that yet."

Weist falls to 0-2 after taking over for Paul Pasqualoni, and will take his team to go at it again on the road at 12 p.m. on October 26 at UCF (5-1, 2-0), who shocked No. 8 Louisville yesterday, 38-35 on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining.

The Huskies have to simply keep plugging away and stick to their "All In" mantra. They will be huge underdogs against the Knights, and can only hope to play the role of spoiler to obtain the team's first win.

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