In the strange, unnatural light of the Carrier Dome, Syracuse football’s home arena, which is oddly named after an air conditioning company yet has no air conditioning itself, UConn football played in an equally strange game, losing to the Orange 51 to 21.
The Huskies’ first drive of their game this Saturday at Syracuse started out well, at least. David Pindell was whipping the ball down the field, with a 29-yard strike to receiver Tyraiq Beals, then another pass to tight end Tyler Davis on the cross, putting the Huskies on the Orange 32-yard line.
There, Pindell dropped back to pass on the last play of the drive. His hand went forward but the ball was left behind, a fumble recovered by Orange defensive lineman Josh Black.
This continued the offensive theme from previous weeks: the Huskies can drive down the field with the best of them, but key mistakes prevent them from making as big of an impact as they could.
“Offensively we made some mistakes, missed a couple blocks where we would have had guys open if guys just executed so again,” head coach Randy Edsall said. “We left a bunch on the field there again down in the red zone.”
Syracuse runs a hurry-up offense, so the Orange were in the end zone again before you could blink, as quarterback Eric Dungey ran it in from two yards out. It was a 10 point swing at least, not three minutes into the game.
Eric Dungey had a great game offensively; he’s usually one to get it done on the ground, but this game he did it through the air with 286 yards passing and a 78 completion percentage.
The Huskies went three and out on their second drive, and all of that momentum from the first was gone. Syracuse found themselves in the end zone once again a few minutes later.
Syracuse scored twice more on similar situations: UConn three and outs, then Orange bodies rushing in for a touchdown.
Offensive coordinator John Dunn finally started using Syracuse’s aggressiveness against them on the Huskies’ fourth drive of a game, and Pindell ran in a nifty quarterback draw for 75 yards and a touchdown.
On the next drive, Syracuse marched the ball down the field with ease once again. This time, however, the Orange had to settle for a field goal making it, set back behind the chains by a dropped screen pass.
Syracuse’s skilled players totally outmatched the Huskies physically, breaking tackles and eluding UConn would-be tacklers for drives at a time.
“You saw when we bounced off people, we missed tackles and we gotta get stronger and some of that’s just youth,” Edsall said. “It’s gonna take time, but like I said, and people don’t want to hear it.”
UConn would score again on their next drive to open up the second quarter, trying to make a game out of things. Pindell rolled out and tossed an easy pitch and catch to Zavier Scott, putting the Huskies within two scores.
That would be as close as the Huskies would get, however, as Syracuse scored again on the next drive, putting the game out of reach.
On the next Syracuse drive of the game, defensive back Ian Swenson made the hustle play of the season so far. Syracuse running back Jayveon Howard rushed untouched up the middle for 52 yards, but Swenson chased his man all the way and forced a fumble at the one-yard line.
“Don’t question the effort or the want-to and all that for these guys,” Edsall said. “Ian Swenson the play he made, knocking the ball out, that’s what you want.”
UConn’s offensive line struggled mightily all night, often needing one or two extra blockers just to keep Pindell clean in the pocket. When they didn’t, he went down a total of six times on the night; the Huskies had allowed just one in the previous three games.
In the late second quarter and early third, the Huskies ramped up their defense, forcing four straight of some of the fastest three-and-outs I’ve ever seen, their highest total of the year.
A few of them were certainly assisted by unforced errors by the Syracuse offense itself. They had 11 penalties for 100 yards on the day, helping keep the game closer than it could have been.
As soon as UConn’s defense ramped up, their offense began to sputter. Pindell and company could not get anything going past the 11:41 mark in the first quarter, with six consecutive drives without a score.
Then, to start the fourth quarter, Pindell had to take a rest on the bench with knee tightness and was be held out the rest of the game. This allowed backup quarterback Marvin Washington to throw the first touchdown of his UConn career, a rainbow throwback pass to tight end Tyler Davis.
The Huskies had a very strange special teams performance. Punter Luke Magliozzi had an electric day in the favorable conditions presented by the dome, averaging 45 yards per punt on the day, but often ended up outkicking the Husky coverage. Sean Riley was on kick and punt return for the Orange and had 285 total return yards in seven opportunities.
“Give Syracuse credit, they’re 4-0, they got some good athletes out there,” Edsall said. “Luke punts the ball outstanding today, we just can’t get down the field and make the play.”
The Huskies will look to rebound next Saturday when they travel to Memphis to take on the Tigers in conference play.
“All we gotta do is continue to practice and continue to get better and the kids want to get better and that’s what we gotta do,” Edsall said.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.