UConn’s 2016 season has taken a definitive turn for the worse after losing to East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficken Stadium, 41-3. The Huskies needed this one pretty badly and now would have to win out in order to become bowl-eligible.
The first quarter saw both sides of the ball struggle, but particularly the offense. Like last week, the offensive line was not the issue, but it just seemed like the ECU defense knew exactly what UConn was trying to do. The most likely reason for that is UConn’s complete inability to mix things up with its offensive playcalling.
The game opened with a nice return by Arkeel Newsome followed by an ECU penalty to start UConn on the plus-40. Unfortunately, that first Husky drive ended in extremely disappointing fashion with a four-play turnover on downs. On 4th and 1, UConn went with its go-to play, the QB sneak, for possibly the 100th time in a row in a short-yardage situation and Shirreffs was stuffed.
ECU answered with a 13-play, 68-yard touchdown drive which included two third-down conversions and allowed the score on a fourth-down attempt when quarterback Philip Nelson hit James Summers with a screen pass to make it 7-0.
The Husky defense started making some stops after that, but the offensive ineptitude continued. They didn’t make a first down until early in the second quarter and were sitting at 1.0 YARD PER PLAY after 10 plays. Yes, in 10 plays over the first three drives the offense gained 10 yards. Fire (or hire) someone!
That second quarter started with a nice Husky drive but ended with a missed field goal by Bobby Puyol from 46 yards away. The next UConn drive moved downfield quite well but was stopped short of the end zone, with Puyol hitting the mark this time to get the Huskies on the board, 7-3. In those two drives, the offense gained 122 yards only to come away with three points. Sad!
Even sadder, those two drives would be the most life we saw out of the offense all day, and that field goal the only Husky points scored.
ECU would end the half with an impressive 75-yard drive, so much for the “bend but don’t break” this season, to go ahead 14-3. The Pirates spread the ball out, stressing the Husky defense horizontally, and were able to get the ball to star receiver Zay Jones repeatedly. Jones finished with 19 receptions for 185 yards, a receiving touchdown and one through the air as well on a trick play for the Pirates’ second TD.
The wheels would fall off quickly in the second half, as ECU knocked in a field goal after receiving the kick-off to open the third quarter. After another UConn three-and-out, one of four on the day (plus the four-and-out to start the game), the Pirates put another long touchdown drive together to make it 24-3 and the rout was on.
The details of the rest of the game really don’t bear repeating. It continued to get worse and a team that came into this week 2-5 destroyed Bob Diaco’s Huskies in what was by far the worst loss of Diaco’s tenure in Storrs.
The offensive strategy was non-existent, the defense, a desperately needed strength which has kept UConn competitive in most games the past few years, failed to make key stops and we are now left very seriously re-considering whether the program is moving in the right direction after coming into a season with so much hope.
UConn will be in action next on Friday against Temple at Rentschler Field with kick-off at 7 p.m.