EAST HARTFORD – The UConn football team, playing in their last true home game of the season at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field Saturday, had the chance to come home with a potentially season-saving statement win over a significantly better football team in USF.
The Huskies sure as hell didn’t take that chance though, losing to the clearly superior Bulls by a score of 37-20 after some critical mishaps in key moments of the game.
Drops, missed tackles haunt Huskies
UConn has had issues with drops and missed tackles all season, and it appeared that those issues haunted them yet again Saturday night in the loss to the Bulls.
“Kind of like some of the same things I’ve been sayin’ the last few weeks. I think Yogi Berra said it déjà vu all over again,” UConn football coach Randy Edsall said.
Sure, the Huskies (3-6, 2-3 the American) had some promising drives on offense, but the most promising drive at the end of the first half culminated in a dropped pass that landed right in the arms of the USF defensive back for an interception, just a few yards from the end zone.
“We did some good things, but again it gets back to those things that have hurt us: big plays against our defense…and not finishing drives off,” Edsall said.
Defensively, missed tackles were the norm for the floundering Huskies. There were plenty to name, but no missed tackle was as crushing as UConn defensive back Jordan Swann’s mishap late in the third quarter.
USF wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught a short pass on the first play of a drive starting on his own 5-yard line. Swann tried to bring him down, but was instantly thrown aside by the 6-foot- 5 Scantling, who ran nearly the entire distance of the field for the score.
“I want guys to be aggressive (when tackling),” Edsall said. “Jordan Swann, he’s not aggressive. He’s probably in a pretty bad funk right now. But tackling is just a want to, a desire to want to get there. And then when you get there, you wanna punish a guy.”
Flowers blooms, puts on a show at the Rent
USF senior quarterback Quinton Flowers has put on a show in pretty much every stadium he plays in.
Saturday night at the Rent was no different. Flowers was absolutely electric all night, posting some of his best numbers ever in a Bulls uniform.
"You know, when you got a great player like (Flowers), you gotta just minimize everything and try to put pressure on everybody,” UConn linebacker Junior Joseph said. “It’s just hard to tackle that guy in space when he’s movin’ all around like that.”
Flowers, a dual-threat quarterback capable of beating teams either through the air or on the ground, picked the Huskies apart all night. Flowers finished with over 500 total yards by himself, with 385 yards and three touchdowns on 24-37 passing, as well as 131 rushing yards on just 16 attempts. It was a spectacular sight to see all night long.
“One of the hardest things you can do is gameplan against (Flowers),” Joseph said. “I feel like he’s the best player in the conference, offensively, and when you got a guy like that, it’s just hard to defend him. You just gotta shoot your shot.”
Flowers truly had the capability of making a big play out of nothing at any given moment, and he did so in style, often making the Huskies’ defense look foolish in the process.
“He’s just fast, he’s just fast and he’s shifty,” Joseph said. “When you think you have him, he just cuts and he makes you miss so it’s very hard with him. He’s a great player.”
Senior Day Standouts
Twenty-four Huskies played in their last true home game Saturday night, and were honored in a small ceremony prior to kick-off. Many of them played during a tumultuous period in UConn football consisting of a lot of coaching turnover, but they can say they’ve laid the foundation for a better future for the program.
“I’m really proud of the seniors...,” Edsall said. “I feel bad for them a little bit from the standpoint that, coming in here new and putting our program in place, that those guys probably aren’t gonna reap the benefits that the other guys that are in this program will reap as we continue to move forward. But they gotta take pride in the fact that they’re laying the foundation as to what we’re building.”
Here are some of the Senior Day standouts from this week’s game against the Bulls.
Tommy Myers: Myers, a redshirt senior, hadn’t scored a touchdown since Sept. 26, 2015. That is, he hadn’t, until his last home game at Rentschler Field Saturday afternoon. The tight end from Coventry, Connecticut scored his third career touchdown – and just the second for a UConn tight end this season – on a well-executed two-yard pass from Bryant Shirreffs, midway through the second quarter.
Tre Bell: Getting the start over Jamar Summers, suspended for the first three quarters of the game, Bell made one of UConn’s few nice defensive plays on the day. The redshirt senior cornerback managed to pick off Flowers in the first half on a terrible throw from the USF quarterback – his only bad play of the game, really. It was Bell’s first career interception.
Junior Joseph: Joseph, the Huskies’ leading tackler this season, was again at the forefront making plays for the defense. He led the team in tackles with nine (seven unassisted) and climbed up to 15th all-time in the UConn career tackles list with 292 in his time in Storrs. His presence as a leader and as a performer has been vital to the Huskies’ defense all season long.
Next up, UConn football will travel south to take on their “rivals,” the undefeated UCF Knights, in a Civil ConFLiCT showdown.