The UConn Huskies traveled down to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and though they put up a solid fight fell to the USF Bulls, 42-27.
The strategy Diaco and his staff needed to use to pull off the upset played out fairly well in the early going, as the Huskies opened the game with a 66-yard drive. It ended in a field goal but offered some hope for a solid offensive performance on the day. Unfortunately, those would be the only UConn points of the half.
We discussed it here before the game, but UConn had a chance to win this one if it could run the ball well, keep possessions down, and frustrate the high-powered USF offense with its strong run defense. The UConn offense failed to hold up its end of the bargain, though, managing just 55 yards the rest of the first half.
USF responded after the UConn field goal with a lightning-quick touchdown drive on two plays ending with a 56-yard run by quarterback Quinton Flowers to paydirt. Despite a very strong defensive effort from Bob Diaco’s defense the rest of the way, the Bulls put up another touchdown before the end of the first half to make it 14-3 going into the break.
Luckily, the start of the second half could not have possibly gone better for the Huskies. Though USF started with the ball, an Obi Melifonwu interception set up a 70-yard passing touchdown from Bryant Shirreffs to Arkeel Newsome on the very next play. USF then lost a fumble on the next possession which set up another Newsome touchdown, this one on the ground, and just like that UConn took the lead, 17-14.
The offense went dormant again after that, however, as USF put up two touchdowns in relatively short order to take a 28-17 lead. UConn responded with a nice 79-yard drive but had to settle for a field goal to get within one score, technically speaking.
But the offense continued to sputter and ultimately it was the Huskies’ undoing. The Bulls added another touchdown to put this one away for good and another one late in the game to reach their total.
Bryant Shirreffs showed a lot of heart in this one, hanging in the pocket and taking a number of hard hits on his way to 306 passing yards, completing 22 of 39 attempts. Newsome had a nice day, with 162 yards from scrimmage and wide receiver Noel Thomas finished with 12 receptions for 127 yards, but a lot of that came late in the game. Once again, the tight ends were nowhere to be found, save for a touchdown to Alec Bloom in garbage time.
For USF, the double-headed run game monster of Flowers and Marlon Mack each racked up over 100 yards on the ground, combining for 267 yards and four touchdowns. The defense did a nice job holding them back early on for the most part but tired late in the game when the Husky offense couldn’t keep up.
UConn will be taking on UCF as part of the Homecoming festivities next weekend, with kickoff at noon. The final score may not make it seem this way, but the Huskies put up a good fight tonight and will be in contention for all five games left on the schedule. Bob and the boys need to win three more to get to a bowl game, and four to surpass last year’s win total.