Football: Huskies fall short, lose to No. 20 Missouri 9-6

Connecticut quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, center, is gang tackled by Missouri's Rickey Hatley, right, Josh Augusta, left, Michael Scherer (30) and Kentrell Brothers (10) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Columbia, Missouri. (L.G. Patterson/AP)

Nobody expected UConn to be in a position to win Saturday’s game against No. 22 Missouri with under a minute left. The Tigers were 21-point favorites to beat the Huskies.

But after UConn and Missouri played to a defensive stalemate and because of numerous miscues on special teams, the Huskies had a good chance to pull off an upset in Columbia.

After getting the ball back after the UConn defense forced a turnover on downs, the Huskies started to move the ball down the field. Bryant Shirreffs completed three straight passes for eight, 17 and 11 yards to get the Huskies down to the Missouri 31-yard line.

The Huskies couldn’t get another first down and all of the sudden UConn had a decision to make on fourth down with four yards to go. They could either kick the field goal and try to tie the game or keep the offense on the field and try and pick up the first down. Diaco called a timeout to think about the decision.

It was what UConn did next that surprised a lot of people.

Diaco called a fake field goal – a nearly identical play to their fake field goal try in the first half –and Anthony Sherrils intercepted backup quarterback Tim Boyle’s pass to clinch the game for the Tigers.

Missouri narrowly held on to beat UConn 9-6 in front of 70,097 fans at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. It was the third largest crowd UConn has ever played in front of.

The Tigers (3-0) have won its first three games of the season for the third consecutive year.

UConn (2-1) is now 2-24 vs. teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

Missouri jumped ahead of UConn 2-0 with 7:44 left when Clarence Green blocked Justin Wain’s punt in the end zone. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety.

UConn would take the lead on their next offensive possession, however, when Ron Johnson ran into the end zone from six yards out. Missouri would block UConn’s extra point attempt and the Huskies led 6-3 after the first quarter.

UConn has now had an extra point blocked in each of their first three games.

Wain was UConn’s leading rusher at halftime thanks to a 13-yard fake-punt run that gave the Huskies a first down. They failed to score after the fake punt.

The Huskies would punt again on their next drive and due to the football hitting a Missouri player in the foot, Brice McAllister recovered for UConn on the Tigers’ 25-yard line. A few plays later on fourth and eight, UConn tried to get tricky on a field goal. Boyle took the snap and threw to Alec Bloom but his pass was broken up.

UConn led 6-2 at half time as the teams combined for 209 yards of offense.

Whatever Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said to his team at half time, it worked.

In Missouri’s first drive of the second half, quarterback Maty Mauk led the Tigers down the field to score their first touchdown of the game to take a 9-6 lead. Mauk ran into the end zone from two yards out on fourth down to give the Tigers the lead.

The defensive battle continued, with both teams not allowing the other to score. UConn had a chance to steal the game in the late going, but Diaco didn’t have confidence in the special teams to kick the game-tying field goal.

Each team had two turnovers on the afternoon.

Shirreffs finished the game 17 of 26 with 156 yards. Mauk was 14 of 22 with 145 yards. Missouri’s Ish Witter had 54 yards rushing. 

Missouri now leads the all-time matchup with UConn 1-0.


Matt Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus, and also covers UConn Football. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @Matt_Zamp.