EAST HARTFORD – Two consecutive wins separated two of the most embarrassing defeats in UConn football history, as the Huskies lost to the Missouri Tigers 52-12 in excruciating fashion Saturday night at Rentschler Field.
“We didn’t do anything well tonight,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. “Offensively, defensively, special teams, coaching. Put it all in there. We’ll move forward and look ahead. We’re not gonna dwell on this.”
It was a dream start on Halloweekend for the Huskies (3-5, 2-2 the American). The defense immediately forced a three-and-out, and the snap on the ensuing punt sailed over Tigers punter Corey Fatoney’s head and out of the endzone for a safety.
UConn was in the lead. Over an SEC team, no less.
That dream turned into a scary nightmare pretty quickly. After failing to score on the next possession, UConn gave way to a Tigers team clearly looking to make a statement.
Missouri (3-5, 0-4 SEC), led by junior quarterback Drew Lock, went on to score 21 consecutive points in the first quarter, effectively ending the game there. Lock was responsible for all three touchdowns, completing 14 of his 15 passes for 160 yards in the first quarter alone.
“I thought that (we) started fine, but then we had opportunities in the first and second drives and we don’t take advantage of them,” Edsall said. “I knew coming in the game we’re gonna have to score points. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities and then you get in a hole and it just didn’t work out the way we thought it would or we wanted it to.”
The Huskies’ Halloween weekend nightmare would only get worse and worse.
Lock’s efficiency from the pocket was evident all night. He spread the ball around to each of his receivers – nine different receivers caught a pass from Lock, five caught at least three – and found the open man on almost every play. It was a display of pinpoint precision and the UConn secondary was but a collection of vegetables ready to be sliced on Lock’s cutting board.
Lock’s day was done, mercifully, in the third quarter after his fifth and final touchdown pass of the day. He finished with 377 yards through the air and just six incompletions in 37 attempts. Bad tackling on the defensive end helped Lock out quite a bit, with plenty of yards after contact coming from Mizzou receivers.
“We gotta do a better job of fundamentals and really just trust what we’re doing,” UConn defensive lineman Luke Carrezola said. “I think a lot of it is just trusting each other. That comes with time, and I think that comes with practice and this week I think we’re going to focus a lot on tackling for sure.”
While the defense struggled to stop the bleeding against Lock and his army of receivers, the normally respectable UConn offense looked like it had seen a ghost all night. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs was incredibly inefficient, completing under 19 of his 39 pass attempts for just over 200 yards. A bad case of the drops didn’t help.
“We just needed to execute better offensively,” Shirreffs said. “There were a couple drops, there were just as many bad throws. Combined, we need to come together and fix that.”
The running back committee, sans senior Arkeel Newsome, out with a sternoclavicular joint injury, had a mediocre evening, at best. The Huskies managed just 121 yards on 41 attempts on the ground.
It was a truly inexplicable exhibit of incompetence on both sides of the ball. One would say this game was a sense of déjà vu back to the 70-31 loss to the Memphis Tigers three weeks ago, but, on that day, UConn managed to move the ball on offense. There was no such display from the offense this time around, even if allowing 52 points is a little less demeaning.
“We were moving the ball, we just didn’t finish…,” Shirreffs said. “We weren’t as crisp as we needed to be if we wanted to win. I mean, we knew coming in that to win we were going to have to have one of our best games offensively, and it obviously wasn’t one of our best games.”
Freshman running back Kevin Mensah ran the ball in from the 1-yard line late in the third quarter to make it 45-12 Missouri, but that was nothing more than a consolation score. The game was done and dusted two hours prior.
Edsall gave Shirreffs the remainder of the night off with about 16 minutes remaining and put backup quarterback David Pindell in his place to get some reps. Pindell couldn’t move the ball down the field that much better, anyway.
By the time the clock hit triple zeroes at the end of the game, the whistle of the referee felt like an act of pity.
“We’re not even going to show this (game) film to these guys,” Edsall said. “We’re gonna move forward and just make sure we got the right guys out there, the guys that gotta be able to make plays. There were plays there in all phases that were able to be made and we just didn’t make them. That’s the tough thing about coaching.”
Next up, UConn will stay at home for the third consecutive game in a matchup with the No. 17 USF Bulls, a team coming off its first loss of the year, who will surely be looking to bounce back in a big way. The Huskies couldn’t possibly be worse than they were today against Mizzou, but they’ve proved us wrong before.