UConn football’s road woes continued Saturday afternoon as the Huskies suffered one of the worst losses under head coach Bob Diaco to American Athletic Conference foe East Carolina.
Diaco and UConn (3-6, 1-5 the American) had no answers for the Pirates’ offense, surrendering 430 total yards in a 41-3 loss that was the worst defeat for the Huskies since a 41-0 loss to Cincinnati in 2014.
East Carolina scored in every way imaginable against the Huskies through passing plays, runs and trick plays. Star wide receiver Zay Jones led the way for the Pirates, hauling in 19 catches for 185 yards and a receiving touchdown. The 19 catches by Jones were the most surrendered by the Huskies in program history. Jones also threw for a score, finding quarterback Phillip Nelson in the end zone on a goal line trick play to put ECU up 14-3 on the Huskies heading into halftime. Nelson would finish the day with 253 yards on 29-41 passing and two touchdowns through the air.
Pirates running back James Summers did his part in East Carolina’s offensive outburst, catching a touchdown near the goal line to open up scoring for the day on 4th and 2. Summers would add a rushing touchdown in the third quarter and finished the day with 84 yards on 19 attempts. Summers was also one of three Pirates players to throw for a touchdown against the Huskies, connecting with Jimmy Williams on a 31-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Even for a UConn offense that has struggled for better parts of the season, the loss to Pirates was a low point as it marked the first time since last season’s 28-3 loss to Temple that UConn failed to score a touchdown. The Huskies’ only points on the day came on a 34-yard field goal from Bobby Puyol with 3:14 left in the first half.
Despite the offensive ineptitude, wide receiver Noel Thomas continued his outstanding senior season with seven receptions for 135 yards, accounting for nearly half of the Huskies’ 295 yards of total offense. The 135-yard performance marked the seventh game this season that Thomas has eclipsed 100 yards, and is now five catches shy of breaking Mark Didio’s single-season record of 88 catches with 83. Thomas also now has 1,088 yards on the season, becoming just the 10th UConn player in program history reach the 1,000-yard mark in a season and passing Geremy Davis for the most single-season receiving yards by a Husky in the FBS era.
Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs struggled against the Pirates’ defense, throwing for 180 yards on 16-30 passing and adding two interceptions along with a team-high 46 rushing yards. Shirreffs was also sacked four times by an ECU defense that entered the game with just one all season.
The blowout loss to East Carolina leaves the Huskies needing wins in their final three games in order to make a bowl appearance for the second-straight season. UConn will hope to snap their two-game losing streak Friday Nov. 4 at home against Temple, a team the Huskies haven’t beat since 2013. Following the Owls are matchups against New England rival Boston College and Tulane. UConn has won three-straight games in both 2013 and 2015, with both three-game winning streaks coming in the final quarter of the season.