Tim Boyle earned the surprise start for the Connecticut Huskies tonight. He started against the Cincinnati Bearcats last year and threw for 310 yards and three interceptions. In his career, entering the game he completed 45.9 percent of his passes and had been sacked once every eight pass attempt. Boyle threw 10 interceptions to zero touchdowns going into tonight. I am excited for the future and Boyle is the future, I like the call by Diaco to let him get some experience.
I thought the first drive for the Bearcats was going to set the pace for the game as Cincinnati had scored a touchdown on six of their nine opening drives and Connecticut had allowed a touchdown on seven of their nine opening drives. As expected Cincinnati drove down the field, but on first and 10 from UConn’s 14-yard line Andrew Adams intercepted his fourth pass in the last two home games on a pass that was behind the receiver who had room. This would be the high point for Huskies all game.
On the second possession, Deshon Foxx came in at quarterback, but Boyle took over on second down. The sophomore quarterback threw a beautiful strike that should have been good for a first down but tight end Sean McQuillan dropped it.
The game of musical quarterbacks continued as Chandler Whitmer came in with 1:22 left in the first quarter to start the next drive as UConn trailed 7-0. Whitmer is fourth all-time on UConn’s completion list and fifth in passing yards. Things get ugly when you're playing for the future, and that's what happened tonight.
Boyle is that future and Coach Bob Diaco needs to stick with him through thick and thin the rest of the season. After two drives, the Huskies were being outgained 145 to 13 yards and by the end of the first quarter were losing the first down battle 8 to 1. Then, things became extremely unraveled in the second quarter.
With 8:05 left in the half, Connecticut had the ball down 14-0 at their own 37-yard line, Cincinnati's Jeff Luc –former Florida State and Treasure Coast High School – ran over would be pass blocker (and running back) Ron Johnson and stripped the ball from Boyle, picked it up and ran back to UConn’s four yard line. The next play the Bearcats scored, but a holding call wiped out the touchdown. The Huskies’ stout defense was able to hold the Bearcats to a field goal.
All game, the offense continued to show no sign of life, which kept the defense from getting any rest. Down 20-0 with 3:30 left in the half, Whitmer came back into the game and threw for a first down completion. Things were looking up! Because they couldn’t get any worse, right? WRONG! The next play was an option that Whitmer lost two yards. Then, on second down, Whitmer threw an interception. That turnover led to a Jake Golic – ESPN’s Mike Golic’s son – touchdown reception and 27-0 Bearcat lead.
At the half, Connecticut was being outgained 248 to 9. UConn had the ball for 12 minutes, three first downs, two turnovers and averaged 0.3 yards per play. Cincy had one 15 first downs, one turnover and averaged 5.1 yards per play.
The start of the second half continued right where the Huskies left off. After forcing a three and out on Cincinnati’s first drive, DeShon Foxx fumbled the punt and the Bearcats recovered at UConn’s 20-yard line. On 3rd-and-8, Gunner Kiel threw another touchdown pass, giving Cincinnati four touchdowns and a 34-0 lead.
Connecticut went for fourth down near midfield with 10:09 left in the third period and missed the first down by a chain link. Of course, this led to a Bearcat touchdown and 41-0 lead.
The first play in Bearcats’ territory for the Huskies occurred with six minutes left in the third quarter. Down 41-0 with 1:30 left in the third, Cincinnati had to settle for a 42-yard field goal on their next drive. The kick was barely missed wide left. Coach Diaco was ecstatic about this miss and was pumping his fist in celebration. This is why he is great for the young team, he always shows them to keep their head up, be upbeat and optimistic. Even with how awful the team has looked, Husky Nation has to be excited to have Diaco.
Connecticut’s defense looked as good as a defense could look while giving up 41 points. The Bearcats offense was on the field for the majority of the game – having possession for more than half of the game – and mostly starting in UConn territory.
On Connecticut’s first drive of the fourth quarter, the Huskies went to a two-back offense and had a 61-yard drive. To put this drive in perspective, UConn had 66 total yards in the first three quarters. As the game was going, it wasn’t surprising that this drive led to a Bobby Puyol missed 38-yard field goal. And that is how the game would end 41-0.
The last time the Connecticut Huskies were shutout was on September 23, 1978 against Navy – losing 30-0. Connecticut was out gained 425 to 129 yards and 24 to 10 in first downs in the game. Still keeping my head high, there is hope. Not much this year - although we should go 1-1 in the final two games - but the worst football is certainly behind us now that we have Diaco in charge.