UConn lost a bad one to Florida International, 24-17, at Rentschler Field on Saturday. The loss puts Jim Mora’s squad at 0-3 with a lot for him and his staff to clean up, particularly after an ugly first-half performance.
FIU got on the board first, quickly, with a touchdown drive that started with a 12-yard quarterback keeper by Keyone Jenkins, and then plays of 23, 21, and 14 yards before the visitors’ first second down, which ended in a Jenkins touchdown scamper.
UConn responded with a nice-looking drive where the run game was moving. It stalled and ended with a field goal but at least looked like the Huskies had something going on the day. However, their next five drives ended with punts — three three-and-outs and two four-and-outs — as FIU began pouring on the points.
The second quarter was an absolute disaster. Penalties, missed tackles, and other mistakes leading to big plays allowed the visitors to score 17 unanswered points that would ultimately make the difference in the game. UConn had a chance to go into the half with minimal damage but allowed a 64-yard touchdown reception with 47 seconds left to make it an embarrassing 24-3 at halftime.
The Huskies fought back in the second half to make it a game. They got their first touchdown of the day on their first drive in the 3rd quarter, going 82 yards, mostly through the air. Ta’Quan Roberson hit Brett Buckman for 40 yards to get UConn into enemy territory and then Justin Joly for another 17 yards to set up a rushing touchdown from defensive lineman Jelani Stafford, who was in at fullback in the jumbo package.
The Husky defense held strong, pitching a shutout in the second half and allowing UConn to get back into the game. In the fourth quarter, Roberson found Devontae Houston for a screen that went 37 yards to make it a one-score game. Houston finished with 126 rushing yards on the day.
But FIU would hold on in crunch time. Despite punting five times, to the credit of the Husky D, and managing one field goal miss on its second-half drives, the Panthers kept the Huskies out of the end zone as they attempted to tie the game.
With 3:08 left, from the UConn 45, the Husky coaching staff called a questionable punt on 4th & 3. It was downed at the FIU 7-yard line and they did force the punt. On a 4th & 4 play, Roberson scrambled around and hit Joly for what looked like the game-tying touchdown, but a holding penalty brought the play back. On 4th & 14, Roberson hit Cam Ross behind the marker to end the threat.
Next week, UConn hosts Duke, a ranked team that has made some noise this season after beating Clemson in Week 1. Kick-off is at 3:30 p.m. at the Rent and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.