Special teams miscues cost Huskies
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — For the second consecutive game, UConn head coach Randy Edsall maintained that the damage done against his team was self-inflicted.
It was much more true this time.
Kicker Tony Ciaravino missed three field goals, including a 43-yarder that bounced off the right upright with 1:09 remaining, and Rutgers held on for a 12-10 win over UConn on Saturday at Rutgers Stadium.
The Huskies (5-2, 1-1 Big East) had plenty of problems two weeks ago at North Carolina, where a trio of blocked punts had them facing a large deficit that ultimately resulted in a 38-12 loss. But any of the three missed field goals Saturday would have been enough for the win against Rutgers (2-5, 1-2), especially for a team that has learned time and time again the excitement and pitfalls of the fourth quarter.
"I give our guys credit for fighting and hanging in there and giving ourselves the opportunity to win the ballgame," Edsall said. "That shows character, that shows heart and all those things, but the bottom line is we didn't get the win, and the reason I think didn't get the win is because we ended up beating ourselves more than anything else."
The missed field goals were just an exclamation point on a bigger issue the Huskies encountered: battling poor field position. UConn started three of its first four second-half drives inside the five-yard line, one of which resulted in a safety and two others that came incredibly close.
Cornerback Jasper Howard, who was able to return just one of Rutgers punter Teddy Dellaganna's seven punts, said the wind affected his ability to judge the returns correctly. Two of Dellaganna's four punts inside the 20 were downed by Rutgers; Howard later returned a sure touchback from the 2-yard line eight yards to the UConn 10 on the drive that set up the potential game-winning field goal.
"The best decision for me was just to leave it alone," Howard said. "That's how I was thinking, but [Edsall] wasn't on the field. He was looking from the sideline. But we're both on different pages."
It wasn't until that final quarter when UConn finally came up with a respectable passing game. Quarterback Zach Frazer, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown in his second career start, found his receivers on eight of 12 attempts in the fourth quarter, picking up 174 yards on the Huskies' three drives.
Frazer found Kashif Moore for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 8:33 remaining to bring UConn within two, followed by a 65-yard drive that may have led to additional points had tight end Martin Bedard not been flagged for offensive pass interference with 2:28 remaining.
Bedard, making his second start of the season in place of the injured Steve Brouse, negated a five-yard pass to Moore that would have had the Huskies facing fourth-and-2 from the Rutgers 15-yard line. Instead, the call sent UConn back 15 yards, resulting in a 10-yard completion to Bedard that set Ciaravino up for the 42-yard attempt.
Edsall was at a loss for why the penalty was called – as was Bedard.
"We ran this play about four or five times in the game and the same exact thing happened," Bedard said. "I don't know why this one time the ref called it."
Running back Donald Brown, who had a history of big games against Rutgers, rushed for 107 yards but was kept out of the end zone for the first time this season. Linebacker Greg Lloyd led the team with 10 tackles, including a stop on Rutgers running back Kordell Young from the 1-yard line with 1:15 left in the first quarter that prevented a touchdown.