Rapid Reaction: Maryland tramples UConn, 32-21

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

UConn is now 0-2, and Paul Pasqualoni is assuredly gone at the end of the season.

Wave your good-byes.

The Paul Pasqualoni era is officially over.

Tonight, the scoreboard read 32-21 for UConn’s second game of the season, but the most important thing is that the final nail of the coffin holding this era of UConn football has been hammered in.

Michigan is coming next weekend, and the Wolverines are a lot better than the team that just took the Huskies out back in East Hartford.

Now, the final stats of this game, just like almost any contest, will soon be reported and repeated quite a bit. However, almost all of these numbers paint a much prettier picture than the gameday canvas that was most recently on display at The Rent.

So, don’t listen to them.

For instance, Chandler Whitmer “threw” for a career-high 345 yards. But, in the time that Maryland actually cared about giving up yardage, he only actually passed for a hair above 200. The junior also fired a couple of miserable interceptions, one of which was returned for a score.

More of those kind of numbers later, let’s get to the meat of this thing.

What happened

UConn lost 32-21 to Maryland, despite forcing four turnovers and trailing by just 13-10 at halftime. The Huskies raced out to a fast start, and then made critical mistakes on offense, defense and special teams for the rest of the game.

Offensively, the headliners were Whitmer’s two picks and five sacks taken. Newly healthy right tackle Kevin Friend exited once in the second quarter with a high ankle sprain, and then again later for good. His replacement, back-up Xavier Hemingway, was horrible. Lyle McCombs rushed for 53 yards on 19 carries for 2.8 yards a carry. When you exclude his 14-yard scamper in the second quarter, that average drops to about two yards a pop.

That’s not on McCombs. A 2.8 yards per carry average is always largely on the offensive line. Pasqualoni admitted as much in his postgame press conference, showing visible frustration when the subject was brought up. This lack of a rushing attack is also on the playcalling, which relied heavily on first down passes. Thus, whenever there was an incompletion, offensive coordinator T.J. Weist was almost forced to go to a run on the next play. Maryland was ready to stop them, every time.

The long bright spot was out wide where Shakim Phillips enjoyed a career night and made a couple sensational catches. In fact, Phillips still had a 100-yard performance even when you ignore his 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run during junk time. The junior finished with 10 receptions for 178 yards, and his aforementioned score. Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx combined to haul in nine passes on the night for just over 100 yards.

On the other side of the ball, the defense was stout against the run early, but eventually let C.J. Brown run amok. Its outside contain was porous in the second half, which allowed Brown to finish with 122 yards rushing and one touchdown. When Brown dropped back to pass, he accumulated 277 more yards and another score. Starting running back Brandon Ross churned out a 5.3 yards per carry average on 18 attempts, while star receiver Stefon Diggs ran wild in the first thirty minutes.

To be fair, the defense was exactly what any Husky fan could’ve hoped for and/or desired in that first half. It forced turnovers, made two fourth down stops and held strong with its back to the goal line after a busted coverage to force a field goal.

But, it wasn’t enough. The pass rush was once again non-existent, as back-up linebacker Jefferson Ashiru recorded the team’s first sack of the season in its eighth quarter of play. Brown had all day to throw on what was a special night for the signal caller.

Speaking of special, the UConn special teams were anything but. Cole Wagner punted poorly, the punt coverage teams failed to down two separate kicks inside the five yardline and kick coverage had lots of holes. Not to mention, Taylor Mack’s boneheaded return of a missed, 50-yard field goal out of the endzone, which cost the Huskies 29 yards of field position.

What we learned

This team appears to have a very low ceiling in 2013.

There’s little to no explosion on offense. The defense can play very sound, but lacks the talent it had a year ago to dominate opponents for an entire game. The special teams have been anything but to this point in the season.

Yes, there are still ten games to go. But tell me how you can possibly see this team reaching last year’s record of 5-7 or better? It faces a more difficult schedule, possesses less talent to work with and has put forth two very poor performances.

The poise in key moments down the stretch was nonexistent, the coaching gaffes continue and the injures only continue to pile up with Friend and now linebacker Graham Stewart.

What was good

Phillips, Deshon Foxx getting more touches in the offense, the forced turnovers.

What as bad

See everything above “What was good”.

What Now

UConn will now prepare for their game against Michigan on Saturday at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

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