The UConn Huskies fell in disappointing fashion to the UCF Knights at Pratt and Whitney Stadium Saturday afternoon, 24-16. After showing a lot of promise in recent weeks, the Huskies laid an egg despite taking an early lead.
For the first time all season, UConn scored multiple times in the first quarter. Both were field goals but hey, it’s progress. The Huskies received the opening kick and promptly drove 68 yards downfield but stalled at the UCF five to set up the first field goal of the game for Bobby Puyol.
UConn stopped the Knights’ 4th-down attempt on their ensuing drive to set up another field goal to take a 6-0 lead after the opening quarter. The Huskies added to their lead with a Newsome touchdown run to make it 13-0 in the second quarter. That score was sparked by an incredible catch by a diving Noel Thomas for 33 yards on the first play of the drive.
The line did a really good job helping UConn set the tone overall, with Newsome ending the first half with 5.2 yards per carry on 16 attempts. He would finish with 101 yards on 21 attempts and a very respectable 4.8 yards per carry.
Unfortunately, the defense let up a bit in the end of the second quarter and the Knights got back into this one by the end of the half after scoring two touchdowns. An 8-play, 93-yard drive saw UCF flip the field with 51 yards gained in two plays and ended when McKenzie Milton hit Dedrick Snelson for a 22-yard touchdown.
UConn answered back with a 45-yard field goal drive as Puyol’s attempt sailed through with 1:24 left in the half. A soft prevent defense and a questionable roughing the passer penalty got UCF within shouting distance and then the Knights hit paydirt with one second left on a 19-yard corner fade to Jordan Akins. The first half ended 16-14 in favor of the Huskies but was a disappointing result given that they had outplayed their opponent in the first 30 minutes.
The Knights jumped out to take the lead early in the third quarter after taking the kick-off after intermission. Milton did a good job evading a solid Husky pass rush, as he had all day, on his way to capping off a 75-yard touchdown drive with a 39-yard strike to Adrian Killins.
Both teams traded punts for a bit until UConn moved the ball into the red zone late in the third quarter. Once again, the drive stalled, but this time Puyol’s field goal hit the upright and bounced back onto the field into the hands of a UCF defender. The Knights responded by hitting a 50-yard field goal a few plays later to take a 24-16 lead which would hold for the final score.
Every previous loss this season had positive takeaways, aside from the one to then-No. 6 Houston, but there are few to be found today. The defense, the unit which Diaco and the Huskies’ entire team strategy count on to be successful, sucked. The offense seemed less effective as the game wore on, which is a real shame given how well the offensive line, the shining light of an otherwise dreary game on a dreary day, played. The coaches need to answer for the way their team responded after ceding a 13-0 lead. That shouldn’t be happening with this team.
Diaco’s Huskies are now 3-5 with a road matchup against East Carolina coming up next week. The game will be played at noon, televised on ESPNews.