The UConn Huskies traveled down to Charlottesville for what appeared to be a winnable game against a Virginia team they had beaten last year. Instead, early turnovers and a weak secondary performance led to a 38-18 loss that was not even that close.
UVA notched its longest drive in program history, clocking in at 9:46, to get on the board first. After 18 plays and 86 yards, running back Daniel Hamm covered the final two with a rushing touchdown to make it 7-0 in the 1st quarter.
The Huskies actually moved the ball decently, especially early on, but squandered two consecutive red zone opportunities with turnovers. After a long Jordan Swann kick-off return and a UVA penalty set them up on the 25, Bryant Shirreffs threw an interception at the goal line. Judging by offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s reaction, it seems intended receiver Hergy Mayala broke the wrong way.
UConn’s next drive saw Shirreffs lead the team downfield with some big runs, only to have him cough up the ball near the goal line after scrambling. UVA responded with an 87-yard field goal drive to make it 10-0.
At some point in the second quarter, the Cavaliers discovered the best way to move the ball against UConn was with the deep pass. That strategy worked out well.
The Huskies’ next drive after the UVA field goal moved promisingly down the field but ended with a failed 4th-down conversion attempt. Their next drive ended in the same way. Virginia took advantage with a touchdown after each turnover on downs to take a commanding 24-0 lead into the halftime break and the rout was on.
The rest of the game was basically a well-attended practice, with the Huskies finally getting on the board late in the 3rd quarter on a trick play. Donovan Williams lined up as a wildcat QB and Bryant Shirreffs, lined up out wide, took a reverse hand-off and threw it downfield to a wide-open Hergy Mayala for a 60-yard touchdown. Mayala scored again late in the game, finishing with 77 yards and two touchdowns.
WE DID A TOUCHDOWN! POINTS! pic.twitter.com/0bx0BDod3w— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) September 16, 2017
This game quickly reminded Husky fans why they are mostly lukewarm about the idea of Bryant Shirreffs under center. The scary part is he may actually be the best option on the roster, but today we were reintroduced to his limitations. It doesn’t help that the offensive line doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of protection, but still, this group needs to be better. As the Huskies tried to cut into the growing lead, UVA was able to ratchet up the pass rush and make things very tough.
Against the UConn defense, the Cavaliers broke the dam by going over the top of the Husky secondary as just about every member of the group gave up a long completion. It could be a long year watching these guys develop. The talent is there, but they’re simply too young and inexperienced to be counted on at this point, though seniors Jamar Summers and Tre Bell gave up some big plays as well.
Randy Edsall and his staff go back to the drawing board with a home Sunday contest against East Carolina up next. Given how poorly the Pirates started the season, UConn needs to show out much better for any hope of a recovery to the season. This one was demoralizing.