UConn football’s senior class did not receive a fairy tale ending to their collegiate careers on Saturday. Like almost every game this season, and for the majority of their time here, their Senior Day game against Temple ended in a loss. The Huskies’ historically dreadful defense was just that and the offense simply made too many mistakes to avoid anything but the 57-7 drubbing.
Even if it wasn’t the ending they hoped for, it did prove to be an emotional goodbye. In his post-game press conference, Edsall took an impassioned stance of his hopes for UConn football going forward.
“We’ve got to get guys who love the game,” Edsall said emphatically. “And get those guys that we had before that have a little chip on their shoulder, that haven’t been enabled and entitled and that want to work and understand what team is all about.”
Head coach Randy Edsall drops the mic at his last postgame press conference of the year. "This game's too hard to play if you don't love it. If you don't love the grind…This game isn't for the weak of heart. And we'll go find those guys." pic.twitter.com/dbtzhaidzl
— Daily Campus Sports (@dcsportsdept) November 25, 2018
It certainly didn’t look like UConn arrived at Rentschler Field ready to compete for their first win over an FBS-opponent this season.
In a preview for the rest of the game, Temple’s offense started the game on a fast and furious pace. It took just two minutes and six plays for the Owls to find the endzone on a pitch to receiver Isaiah Wright.
The Huskies’ offense responded with a scoring drive of their own, albeit a slower and more methodical one. A couple of huge pickups by Tyler Davis and Hergy Mayala put the Huskies on the right side of the 50-yard line and a roughing the passing call set up the four-yard touchdown reception by Keyion Dixon to tie the game with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
If any of the UConn faithful in attendance thought the Huskies had a chance of pulling out the win, those hopes were quickly dashed after Wright immediately returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for the touchdown. From that point on, the game belonged to Temple.
“I told the guys all week long this was a physical football team and we didn’t match it,” Edsall said. “We don’t have that temperament right now.”
During Temple’s final drive of the first quarter, the Huskies’ defense got a rare opportunity at a three-and-out. The Owls were pushed back deep in their own territory and needed five yards to pick up the first down. UConn gave them 63 yards. Quarterback Frank Nutile hooked up with receiver Randle Jones for the huge pickup and put the Owls knocking on the doorstep of another score.
Temple ended up finishing the drive with a direct snap to backup quarterback Todd Centeio for the rushing score to go up 20-7 at the beginning of the second quarter.
After UConn’s ensuing drive fizzled out, Oneil Robinson made a rare, impactful play for the defense. Nutile tossed an underthrown ball that the freshman defensive back easily intercepted near the endzone. It was a rarely created turnover by the defense. UConn promptly squandered the opportunity in one of the worst offensive sequences imaginable.
First, David Pindell threw a pass that was intercepted by Temple’s Todd Jones. It gave the Owls an excellent field position and resulted in a 24-second drive for another touchdown. On the next drive, center Ryan Crozier sailed the opening snap above Pindell’s head and to the four-yard-line where it was recovered by Temple. Mercifully, the Owls somehow settled for the field goal to go up 30-7 with 3:57 left in the half.
The offensive woes weren’t over though. Pindell and running back Kevin Mensah fumbled on back-to-back plays on the next drive even though the Huskies ended up recovering the ball both times. Finally, the Temple pass rush forced Pindell to backpedal into his own redzone. Instead of just taking the safety, the senior quarterback lofted a pass to Temple’s Christian Braswell who could have walked backwards into the endzone with the lack of blue jerseys around him.
With 2:38 remaining in the first half, and with the Owls in front 37-7, UConn’s five previous offensive plays read like this: Three Fumbles, two interceptions and two Temple Touchdowns.
“It seemed like we got down after I threw that pick,” said Pindell. “You’ve got to be able to flush all the bad stuff that’s happened and we didn’t do that today.”
At the end of the game, UConn’s defense clinched the first 50 points-allowed-per-game average since 1997 and the second since World War I ended. With a defense that porous, it was an inexcusable performance by the offensive unit.
There was no relief in the second half. Jager Garnder had a 26-yard touchdown rush at the 4:40 mark in the third quarter that gave the Owls a 40-point lead. On the next drive, Pindell threw his third interception. It ultimately proved to be the final play of his collegiate career as Edsall inserted freshman Steve Krejewski in at quarterback.
In the fourth quarter, Travon Williams scampered into the endzone with just over eight minutes remaining and another Temple field goal with under five minutes left clinched the 57-7 victory and a 50.41 points allowed per game average by the UConn defense. You can go as far back as the last page of the record books and you still wouldn’t find a worse average than that.
After the game, Edsall entered the interview room fresh from the locker room and implied he wasn’t happy with his collection of players.
“All I know how to do is to go find guys that want to be here and give it everything they got. Cause I ain’t putting up with that sh**.”Edsall said, gesturing behind him and stopping himself just short of a viral moment.
Kevin Mensah promised that things would be different next season.
“If you don’t want to be with us than leave,” Mensah said. “We’re going to be on top of everybody. And if you’re not following, if you’re not listening to coach Edsall, if you’re not doing what he wants you to do, there’s going to be consequences.”
One thing is for sure. It’s hard to go anywhere from here but up.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.