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Final Score: UConn football flops at Fresno State, 45-0

It was a sub-optimal outing for the Huskies, to say the least.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After a competitive first quarter, horrific pass coverage, uninspiring quarterback play, and a porous offensive line all reared their ugly heads once again for UConn football. The Huskies lost their first game of the season against Fresno State, 45-0.

The UConn defense stood solid for at least the first quarter, holding the Bulldogs to 32 total yards on offense. The defensive backs were form tackling well and the defensive line was constantly in the backfield.

But the offense couldn’t do much with the little their defense gave them. Starting quarterback Jack Zergiotis showed his rust and inexperience, underthrowing to the sideline and overthrowing wide-open receivers multiple times. His offensive line had breakdowns, too, turning in an inconsistent performance. A missed block led to the first score of the game: a strip-sack of Zergiotis picked up by Fresno’s Arron Mosby who ran it home for a touchdown.

Compounding UConn’s offensive woes, their defense fell apart in the second quarter. Bulldogs’ quarterback Jake Haener got some serious help from the UConn secondary. A missed tackle on a simple swing pass out of the backfield set Fresno State up on the UConn 32, and they scored again after receiver Ty Jones sent junior corner Tre Wortham to the floor with a double move, walking in for the touchdown to make it 14-0.

A familiar series of bad angles, missed tackles, and blown coverages from the UConn defense followed, all resulting in big plays that sent the game towards blowout territory in two minutes of game time. A 61-yard wheel route from Haener to running back Ronnie Rivers and an 86-yard catch and throw from Haener to Jalen Cropper put the Bulldogs up 28-0.

They took a 31-0 lead into the break. The Vegas spread for the entire game was 28 points.

By halftime, Fresno State had 359 total yards on offense to UConn’s 39, 7.5 yards per rushing attempt to UConn’s 0.7, and 12 first downs to UConn’s five.

A series of head-scratchers by the coaching staff followed. First, after Fresno State’s second touchdown in as many plays, with 1:46 left on the clock, UConn decided to come out throwing, giving the Bulldogs 1:12 left on the clock to drive down the field for a field goal making it 31-0 at the half. In the second half, after a tipped interception by Jeremy Lucien threatened to give UConn a chance to do something, it was immediately snuffed out by running three times up the middle from their own two-yard line.

By the fourth quarter, the second-stringers were on the field, and the injury tent was chock full of players suffering from cramps in the 110+ degree temperatures on the field. According to the CBS Sports Network broadcast, one of the athletic trainers half-joked about running to the local hospital for extra IV bags for cramping players, the temperature on the field was so hot the referees’ microphones were malfunctioning, and Fresno State was keeping extra cleats in a remote location in case the players’ started melting and falling apart.

Fresno State’s backups added two more touchdowns in the second half to make it 45-0, while UConn’s offense continued to struggle, ending the day with just 107 total yards. Zergiotis remained in the game until midway through the fourth quarter, ending the day 12-for-24 passing with 61 yards in the air. The offensive line had a hard time protecting him all game; the sophomore was sacked four times. Steven Krajewski got some mop-up duty under center in the fourth quarter but wasn’t able to get much done either.

All in all, UConn was unprepared for its first game against external opposition in over 600 days. The game served as an expectation-resetter of sorts after two off-seasons worth of hype. Despite the two years of separation from 2019’s two-win team, the 2021 squad has a long way to go if it’s going to be a proven improvement over the first seasons of Randy Edsall’s second tenure.

Next week, the Huskies will host Holy Cross in their home opener at Rentschler Field. The game will take place at 12 p.m. ET and be televised on CBS Sports.