Football: Huskies crushed by Virginia

Virginia linebacker Malcolm Cook (17) tackles Connecticut quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (4) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. (Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress via AP)


The UConn football team (1-1, 0-0 The American) was crushed 38-18 by Virginia (2-1) Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Huskies turned the ball over in the red zone twice in the first half as they fell behind 24-0, and could not gain any ground despite making some offensive plays in the second half.

UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs went 18-for-26 for 227 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while also rushing for 90 yards on 14 carries.

Virginia’s Kurt Benkert, a fifth-year senior, torched the Huskies through the air, completing 30-of-40 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns. Three different Cavaliers recorded 100-yard receiving days in the victory.

After UConn was forced to punt on the first drive of the game, Benkert led an 18-play, 88-yard scoring drive that took 9:46 off the clock. Daniel Hamm capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to put Virginia up 7-0.

Jordan Swann returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards, setting up the Huskies on the Cavaliers’ 25-yard line for a potential response. However, Shirreffs was intercepted three plays later to keep UConn off the scoreboard.

On the Huskies’ next drive, a 39-yard Shirreffs run helped put the offense inside the red zone again, but this time Shirreffs fumbled the ball after a rush to the goal line. Star Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser recovered the fumble at the 3-yard line, spawning another lengthy scoring drive for the Cavaliers to put them up 10-0 halfway through the second quarter.

The Huskies advanced into Virginia territory again on their next drive, but were stuffed on a 4th-and-3 to turn the ball over on downs. Two plays later, Benkert fired a 42-yard touchdown pass to Doni Dowling to go up 17-0.

UConn was denied on a fourth down yet again on the following drive, leading to another Virginia touchdown drive to put the Huskies down four scores entering the halfway break.

Coming out of the locker room, Randy Edsall’s team showed signs of life, as Tyler Coyle picked off Benkert in the end zone for his first career interception. Shirreffs followed by leading a 13-play deep into the Virginia territory, but again the Huskies failed to convert on fourth down.

Another Benkert touchdown toss gave the Cavaliers a 31-0 edge, their biggest of the day. However, UConn responded with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Hergy Mayala on a trick play. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 31-6.

Mayala grabbed a 17-yard touchdown later in the game, while UConn running back ran 30 yards for his first career touchdown. The Cavaliers had one big offensive play left up their sleeves, as Benkert uncorked a 73-yard touchdown pass to Andre Levrone.

The Huskies allowed 626 offensive yards while allowing 434 of their own. UConn scored once in four red zone chances, and went 1-for-4 on fourth down.

UConn is back in action next Sunday as they host American Athletic Conference rival East Carolina in a matchup originally scheduled for Nov. 4.

Tyler Keating is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.