Jack Zergiotis and his UConn offense had the ball on ECU’s 5-yard line with two chances at the endzone in a 31-24 ballgame.
The clock read 0:16 on third and goal when Zergiotis took the snap. He dropped back and fired one to the left side of the endzone to Ardell Brown. With a defender draped all over him, Brown was just able to get a fingertip on the ball before it fell incomplete. No flags.
“There are somethings that I’d really like to say, but I don’t feel like paying a fine,” head coach Randy Edsall said when asked about the play. “I didn’t agree with that.”
On fourth down with 0:08 on the clock, the Huskies put the ball back into Zergiotis’ hands. He just spent the last three minutes and 20 seconds marching UConn’s offense down the field, and had looked the best he had all season.
Zergiots took the snap and stood firm in the pocket. He saw his man flash a hand in the middle of the field, and tried firing a bullet through traffic on the goal line. The pass was intercepted with one second left on the clock, and the game was suddenly over.
“It hurts. When you get that close, you want to win and you want those kids to be able to feel that,” Edsall said. “We still battled and found a way to come back and had an opportunity there at the end.”
Despite the interception to end the game, Zergiotis played the best football of his freshman campaign. He threw 21-of-37 for 418 yards (third most in a single game in UConn history), three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“He competed. He made some plays there weren’t so good, didn’t get down on himself and just kept competing,” Edsall said. “There are some things that Jack will do that drive you nuts, but he has the mentality where he has a lot of confidence in his arm and he’s a guy we have to continue to work with.”
Zergiotis also ran the ball six times for 17 yards.
“Our team showed fight. We stayed close and gave ourselves a chance to win, but ultimately the mistakes in the first half cost us in the end,” Zergiotis said.
Zergiotis threw an interception and fumbled on a sneak in the first half.
“Jack played great. He made a couple of mistakes here and there, but I think he did a great job,” wide receiver Cam Ross said.
Zergiotis’ favorite target was none other than his roommate Ross, who caught eight balls for 169 yards and two touchdowns, including an impressive 94-yard catch-and-run.
“The play was originally an option play that we run a lot. Then we said if they show zero coverage, just go right past them straight up the middle of the field,” Ross said. “When I was in the backfield, Jack said ‘it’s zero,’ checked it and that’s what happened.”
The 94-yard touchdown was the longest in UConn history since a 95-yard score in 1996.
Jay Rose and Matt Drayton also made major contributions in the passing game. Rose caught a touchdown on his three reception, 42-yard afternoon. Drayton made two crucial third-down conversions with three catches for 99 yards.
UConn also kept the Pirates honest with their ground game, rushing 30 times for 94 yards. UConn’s leading rusher, Kevin Mensah, had 20 carries for 75 yards. Mensah also caught three passes for 36 yards, including an impressive over-the-shoulder catch on a wheel route to pick up 20.
Keeping Holton Ahlers from throwing the ball all over his defense was Edsall’s primary focus all week. He stressed that Ahlers was coming off of a two-game period in which he had over 1,000 yards passing and tossed 10 touchdowns. Who would’ve thought that Zergiotis would outplay Ahlers and the Huskies would still lose?
Ahlers was held to 374 passing yards and a touchdown, and was picked off twice. Diamond Harrell and Keyshawn Paul recorded those interceptions for the Huskies.
Zergiotis and Ahlers weren’t the only quarterbacks to take the field Saturday. Steven Krajewski, who had just been cleared earlier that week to practice after nursing a broken collarbone back to health, found a little bit of time on the field in the second quarter.
“The plan going into the game was I told Steven he was going to play in the first half. I told Jack that, too,” Edsall said. “Steven hasn’t practiced until this week, so I wanted to give him some chances.”
Krajewski threw two passes, completing one for 15 yards. He also took a sack and handed the ball off a few times.
ECU’s best offensive performer Saturday was probably running back Darius Pinnix. He ran 27 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Whenever the Pirates needed a short gain, Pinnix was there for them.
UConn’s next football game will be the final one of the season, and ultimately will be their last game in the American Athletic Conference. They will play Temple in Philadelphia, Penn. this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.