Despite some cautious optimism before the game, UConn football put up a disappointing performance in a 48-22 loss to the USF Bulls.
UConn’s defense looked reminiscent of last year’s at times, allowing chunk plays and struggling to make tackles. It allowed USF to have its highest scoring game of the season, tallying 503 total yards at 7.9 yards per play.
The offense also left a lot to be desired. Outside of a handful of series, UConn’s play-calling and decision-making remained overly conservative. The Huskies got the ball to the USF 43, 40 and 37-yard lines on different series but punted on 4th down each time. They also passed up on a fourth and two opportunity near midfield facing a 20-point deficit in the third quarter.
Three of USF’s four touchdown drives in the first half involved at least two 15+ yard plays and the one that didn’t started with a 67-yard kickoff return.
UConn finally started to move the ball in the second quarter once it began using screens and getting more creative with its play-calling. UConn went into the bag of tricks and ran a deceptive play that involved flexing left tackle Ryan Van Demark out wide and throwing a screen pass to Elijah Jeffreys. The true freshman reeled in his first career catch and scampered into the end zone for the score.
On the next offensive series, quarterback Mike Beaudry hit Thompkins on a screen that went for 33 yards to the USF 18. The next play, Kevin Mensah took a handoff and rumbled for the touchdown.
Despite getting the deficit back within one-possession, UConn’s window of opportunity quickly closed. The Bulls needed just 58 seconds to go 75 yards and take a 27-14 lead and it was all downhill from there.
Disaster nearly struck at the end of the first half for the Huskies. Beaudry fumbled and USF recovered on UConn’s 23-yard line with 52 seconds left. However, Abiola Olaniyan picked off Bulls’ quarterback Jordan McCloud on the very next play, keeping the deficit at 13 points going into the half.
It didn’t take long for USF to put the game away in the second half. UConn sacked McCloud on third down near midfield which would’ve forced the Bulls to punt. However, the Huskies were called for offsides, giving USF another shot at a first down. The visitors converted on their second chance and found the back of the end zone two plays later to extend their lead to 20 points.
In his first action since the season opener, Beaudry played as expected. He hit the short passes that were available to him but didn’t make any big plays with his arm down the field, missing some throws quite badly. Beaudry also limited the turnovers to the one fumble.
To extend its lead, USF called a fake field goal that went for a touchdown and also called a play-action pass with 31 seconds left to get to 48 points on the day.
If there is a bright spot for UConn, it would be true freshman wide receiver Cam Ross. He led the team with 7 catches for 68 yards and consistently got separation from defenders. Ross made a particularly nice play on a third-down screen pass where he fought for all nine yards to make a first down.
UConn will travel to New Orleans next week for one more showdown with the Tulane. The Green Wave are having a great season, with wins over FIU, Houston, and Army so far. The game will be at 3:35 p.m.