EAST HARTFORD – On Senior Day at the Rent, UConn football didn’t truly challenge heavily-favored USF, but they put up a fight.
The best player on the field, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, simply dominated. Flowers threw for 385 yards and ran for 131 more as the Bulls defeated UConn (3-6, 2-4 The American) 37-20 in the Huskies’ final Rentschler Field home game of the season.
“I thought we competed for 60 minutes. Give South Florida credit, they’re a really good football team,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said after the game. “We just didn’t match up against them in some of the things athletically. What we’ve got to do is take a look at the film, continue to work like we have been to get better on those things we didn’t do well, and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”
With all eyes on USF and Flowers, the Bulls faltered on their opening drive, which started at the UConn 41-yard line after a shanked punt. On their second drive, however, they quickly broke through, going 69 yards in six plays for a score. The crucial play was a third down pass interference call on cornerback Tre Bell, starting in place of Jamar Summers, who sat out the first three quarters for breaking team rules.
UConn struggled to get things going offensively, crossing midfield once in the first quarter as Shirreffs was sacked three times. Bell did make a big play, picking off an errant Flowers pass on third down to end one of the Bulls’ drives.
USF zipped down the field as soon as the second quarter started, going 84 yards in seven plays, capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Flowers to tight end Mitch Wilcox.
Trailing by multiple scores, the Huskies’ offense jolted to life, powered by a 42-yard kick return from Quayvon Skanes. UConn inched down the field, converting twice on third down before a fourth down touchdown pass to senior Tommy Myers. The 2-yard score was Myers’ first of the season and cut USF’s lead to 14-7.
“Tommy’s another guy that works for UConn and believes in UConn through and through,” Edsall said. “For his last game [at the Rent], I was happy for him to score that.”
The Bulls responded with a 38-yard field goal, but UConn moved right down the field again on their next possession after another strong return from Skanes. Their momentum was halted with 45 seconds left in the half when a Shirreffs pass bounced off Aaron McLean’s hands and into those of a USF defender for an interception. The Bulls led 17-7 at the half.
“[McLean]’s just got to catch the ball in that situation. Don’t worry about any more yards,” Edsall said, referring to the interception.
USF came out of the halftime break with a nice drive, powered by an 8-yard scramble by Flowers on 3rd-and-8 for a first down on his side of the field. The Huskies eventually held up on the goal line, leading to a 25-yard field goal.
“[Flowers] does a lot. He throws a deep ball. When you play a quarterback like that, you have to do a good job containing him,” linebacker Luke Carrezola said. “We didn’t get it done.”
UConn’s next drive featured from nifty running from Shirreffs but ended as Kevin Mensah was stuffed on 4th-and-1 at the USF 24-yard line. The Bulls took advantage of the turnover on downs and rolled down the field in 10 plays for a touchdown, going up 27-7 with 2:58 left in the third quarter.
After the Huskies punted and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed up Flowers and company to their own 5-yard line, USF delivered the knockout punch. Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught a short pass, broke a tackle and outraced a couple of UConn defenders to the end zone for a 95-yard score to go up 27 points at the end of the third quarter.
“As I told the team afterwards, tackling is a ‘want to,’” Edsall said. “I want guys to be aggressive.”
The Huskies weren’t done scoring on Senior Day. Shirreffs left the game after taking a hard hit that drew a targeting penalty, but the offense continued moving on a drive he started, leading to a 20-yard touchdown run from Mensah. Edsall said after the game that Shirreffs suffered a concussion on the play.
David Pindell, leading the offense in Shirreffs’ place, put together a nice 10-play, 69-yard drive that he capped himself with a 10-yard touchdown run.
Although UConn’s defense finally got to Flowers in the fourth quarter for a sack (Cam Stapleton), the speedy quarterback continued to absolutely light up the stat sheet. He finished with 516 yards of total offense in the win, breaking his own single game USF record, and led his offense to a 9-of-14 conversion mark on third down.
USF walked away with a 37-20 win in UConn’s last 2017 game at Rentschler Field. The Huskies are looking at another formidable Florida opponent next week in UCF.
“You just get back up on the horse and ride. That’s all you do. That’s all you do. You come in, and show them what they did right, tell them what they did wrong, you go back out to work. That’s all you can do,” Edsall said.