The disappointing 2017 UConn football season ended Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium with one more crushing blow.
Kicker Michael Tarbutt pushed a game-tying extra point wide left after UConn drove 93 yards in 1:22 with the game on the line for a touchdown on an un-timed down. Receiver Hergy Mayala caught a two-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing play, after a defensive pass interference penalty on the final play of regulation. Crucially, Mayala was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting after his catch.
With the potential game-winning 2-point conversion try backed up due to the penalty, UConn coach Randy Edsall elected instead to try the extra point and play for overtime, but Tarbutt missed the try to let Cincinnati escape with a 22-21 win on their Senior Day.
UConn finishes the season 3-9, with a 2-6 record in American Athletic Conference play. Cincinnati finishes 4-8.
Quarterback David Pindell, replacing the injured Bryant Shirreffs in the final game of his extended audition for next season, led the offense all the way down the field to give UConn a chance in the closing moments. He made an impressive play to hit Mayala in the end zone, rolling out of the pocket and firing his throw on the run.
Pindell completed 27-of-51 passes for 273 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while running 22 times for 95 yards and a score.
Vontae Diggs, Junior Joseph and Foley Fatukasi were among the seniors playing their final UConn games that contributed to a surprisingly stout defensive effort Saturday. Diggs recorded eight tackles, while Joseph and Fatukasi each picked up a sack.
However, the defense was shredded in the game’s final minutes as they let Cincinnati go down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Quarterback Hayden Moore put the Bearcats ahead for good with a four-yard rushing score.
Before missing the game-tying extra point, Tarbutt was having a strong game. He was 3-for-4 on field goals, including a career-long 53-yard kick.
Saturday wasn’t his only heartbreaking moment of the year. The sophomore kicker missed what would have been a game-tying 33-yard field goal to seal a 41-38 home loss to East Carolina in Saturday.
With the loss, the Huskies finished their first season of Edsall’s second UConn tenure at 3-9, with wins over Holy Cross, Temple and Tulsa. The program also finished 3-9 last season.