UConn football’s exciting season ended with a letdown on Saturday night, a 34-17 loss on the road to Army. The Huskies’ woes were exacerbated by numerous penalties, two interceptions, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
While the loss does nothing to tarnish the shine of the Huskies’ six-win season, it does offer a wake-up call. There are a few things we can learn from the Huskies’ final game of the season and what it means going forward.
UConn’s poor performance at Army might have been surprising after seeing the Huskies take down five out of six opponents in the back half of the season, but turnovers and penalties, which the Huskies had kept in check, with some turnover luck, got out of control in this one.
UConn’s 11 penalties were the second-highest on the season (12 penalties against Ball State led to another tough loss), and sloppy special teams play directly resulted in Army’s first touchdown of the day. After winning the turnover margin +9 in the previous six games, UConn had two interceptions on Saturday, one leading to the Army touchdown that put the game out of reach and the second iced the game for the Black Knights.
The Huskies simply didn’t play enough disciplined football, and against a team like Army that can really make you pay for mistakes, that is a recipe for failure.
Red zone struggles
Even in wins, UConn football struggled to punch the football in on red zone trips. On Saturday, it really hurt. On their first two drives, the Huskies were inside the opponents’ 10-yard line and only came out with three points.
Conversely, Army reached the end zone on each of its three red zone drives, against a UConn defense that has been stingy in the red zone in the back half of the season.
Army’s triple-option offense is never easy to prepare for, especially after facing an entire season’s worth of conventional offenses and having a head coach/defensive coordinator who’s never faced a triple-option offense before in his career.
Army executed its typical gameplan against the Huskies, rushing for 320 yards and 5.5 yards per carry, for UConn’s worst performance against the run of the season. Though the front seven did a decent enough job bottling up the option dive and off-tackle runs, Army broke a few long runs including a 75-yard touchdown and a 34-yard run to flip the field, both on designed outside runs, a play that UConn struggled against all day.
Option teams can trip up even the most elite defenses, and Army’s version of it proved just too much for the UConn defense on Saturday.
All indications are that UConn is likely to get a bowl bid and this loss is not going to do much to change that. While the Huskies may have been slightly more desirable with seven wins, many of the same factors that make them an attractive bowl team, like the school’s big brand, active fanbase, and first time reaching bowl eligibility since 2015, still hold.
Here’s where the media guessers project UConn’s bowl fate:
Action Network (Brett McMurphy) - Gasparilla Bowl vs. Syracuse (ACC) — Dec. 23, Tampa, FL
The Athletic (Stewart Mandel) - Cure Bowl vs UNLV (MWC) — Dec. 16, Orlando, FL
CBS Sports (Jerry Palm) - Lending Tree Bowl vs. Southern Miss (Sun Belt) — Dec. 17, Mobile, AL
College Football News - Cure Bowl vs Appalachian State (Sun Belt) — Dec. 16, Orlando, FL
ESPN (Mark Schlabach) - New Mexico Bowl vs San Diego State (MWC) — Dec. 17, Albuquerque, NM
ESPN (Kyle Bonagura) - Lending Tree Bowl vs Southern Miss (Sun Belt) - Dec. 17, Mobile, AL
Sports Illustrated (Richard Johnson) - Myrtle Beach Bowl vs. Toledo (MAC) — Dec. 19, Conway, SC
Sporting News (Bill Bender) - Independence Bowl vs Marshall (Sun Belt) — Dec. 23, Shreveport, LA
Athlon Sports — Myrtle Beach Bowl vs. Middle Tennessee State (C-USA), Dec. 19, Conway SC
Bleacher Report releases theirs on Tuesday, November 22.