It is really very miraculous how UConn was able to keep this game close for as long as it did-- this game was tied at the end of the third quarter! Unfortunately, a flurry of mistakes hampered the Huskies in a disastrous fourth quarter which saw BYU score 20 points en route to a 30-13 win.
Very little was working for the Huskies offensively tonight. For instance, Bryant Shirreffs didn't complete his first pass until 27 minutes into the 1st half, and UConn's wide receivers only made five receptions in the entire game. BYU's defense did a very good job in pass coverage and generating pressure on Shirreffs, who was celebrating his 21st birthday Friday.
Shirreffs finished with 168 passing yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions while going 14-for-27. He was sacked four times and pressured countless others. His first interception of the game came at a very inopportune time when he tried to make a play and threw the ball as a defender was bringing him down. The Huskies started that fourth-quarter possession with a chance to take the lead.
Instead, he lofted a floater right into the hands of a BYU defender and the Cougars would score a touchdown on the very next play to go up 20-10 with 12 minutes remaining. With the way Shirreffs was running for his life in the backfield, something bad was bound to happen.
But that wouldn't be the last time UConn shot itself in the foot Friday night.
Bobby Puyol knocked in a field goal to get the Huskies within a score, and though a surprise onside kick attempt failed, it appeared UConn had forced a three-and-out. Unfortunately, after Tanner Magnum's third-down attempt sailed high, Andrew Adams kicked the dead ball from the ground into the stands, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.
Though Adams almost intercepted Magnum on the next play, BYU would eventually score a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
On the bright side, Arkeel Newsome had his most productive day as a Husky, running for 68 yards on 13 attempts and catching four passes for 63 yards. He also scored UConn's only touchdown on a 30-yard pass from Bryant Shirreffs. Newsome finished as UConn's leading rusher and receiver.
BYU's offense started strong, but couldn't get its point total to match its production early on. At the end of the third quarter, the Cougars gained over 430 yards but only had 10 points to show for it. There was a stretch from the second quarter and into the third where UConn's defense made a string of stops, aided by two interceptions and forcing two missed field goals. Unfortunately, UConn's offense couldn't take enough advantage of those opportunities.
Ultimately, UConn's defense spent too much time on the field because its offense couldn't hold onto possession. BYU ran 95 plays, won the possession battle by ten minutes, and made 31 first downs. That the Cougars scored on all five of their final possessions highlights how the defense eventually wore down.
All three of UConn's losses have come against really good teams, and two of those losses were on the road, so 2-3 is a fine start to the season for the Huskies considering the schedule and circumstances. This is still a young team that we can expect to improve over the course of this season. Though this loss is disappointing, we can be confident the Huskies will be competitive across the remainder of the schedule and are still in contention for a bowl game.
The Civil ConFLiCT is next on the schedule, with Bob Diaco getting extra time to prepare for a game he and his staff have circled on the calendar since the summer.