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UConn football: Huskies lose heartbreaker to East Carolina on Senior Day

UConn was in it until the end, but ultimately fell short of forcing overtime in their last home game of 2019.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn football came oh-so close to their first American Athletic Conference win in two years against East Carolina on Saturday, but it took four turnovers and a missed field goal to sink their hopes, falling 31-24.

The Huskies’ offense got off to an unbelievable start: Jack Zergiotis finally connected on a deep shot to a wide-open Cam Ross on his first pass attempt of the game, the type he had been overthrowing all season. In one play, the Huskies were up 7-0.

UConn’s defense started off hot, forcing ECU into two-straight three-and-outs, receiving a stroke of luck to help keep the game close in the first quarter. A would-be touchdown pass from ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers was dropped by a wide-open Tyler Sneed, and the Huskies bent but didn’t break, with a stand on first and goal that held ECU to a three points.

Saturday’s game was a microcosm of UConn’s quarterback shenanigans that we’ve grown accustomed to all season. Zergiotis looked the sharpest he has all season, completing 6-7 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, but it was still littered by mistakes that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the young quarterback. Running into the back of guard Nino Leone and fumbling in ECU territory was his first one, and Krajewski would replace him directly after.

Krajewski had just two pass attempts for 15 yards, including a bizarre turn of events: ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers had an impressive armpunt mid-second quarter, but UConn was unable to capitalize. After a pretty 15-yard completion to Jayce Medlock bringing the Huskies to the ECU 24, Krajewski had a QB rush for no gain, two incomplete passes and a sack that pushed UConn back out of field goal range. That would prove costly.

The Pirates would take the lead on their next drive, as two third down conversions of 10-plus yards took them into the red zone, where they were able to score easily. ECU scored again in a similar fashion in the second quarter to make it 17-7, and by the end of the half, the Huskies had given up five out of 10 possible third downs.

UConn was still threatening at the end of the first half, however, when Zergiotis returned to the game and had his second crippling, an interception at the ECU three-yard line.

Zergiotis and the Huskies would come storming back renewed at the start of the second half, however, with a touchdown drive that ended with a 47-yard dime to Matt Drayton followed by a trick play pass to tight end Jay Rose for the score, making it 17-14.

ECU responded by marching right down the field on a long touchdown drive to keep it a two-score game. But Zergiotis would head another gutsy drive immediately after to keep pace with a Clayton Harris field goal that made it 24-17.

UConn’s defense picked up the slack again in the second half with two-straight stops, and boy, did the Huskies’ offense repay them. At the very end of the thir quarter, Zergiotis threw a neat pitch-and-catch to Cam Ross, who took the ball 94 yards to the house, tying the game.

On ECU’s ensuing drive, Keyshawn Paul started to give some actual life to UConn’s upset bid, picking off Ahlers near midfield. UConn would drive to the ECU 32, but Edsall would decide to take a 50-yard field goal. Clayton Harris missed, and ECU would take full advantage, scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive.

With 3:31 remaining, and their backs against the wall, Jack Zergiotis engineered a last-ditch drive to force overtime. It started out with a 31-yard completion from Zergiotis to Drayton on 3rd and long from their own 25, then he extended the improbable drive with a first down rush on fourth and four. They would get as close as the four-yard line, but the bid to tie the game would end in a desperation heave from Zergiotis right into the waiting arms of an ECU defender.

UConn (2-9, 0-7 the American) will finish up their season, and their time in the AAC, next Saturday against Temple.