Yes, UConn football lost to ECU 31-24 on Saturday, and yes it was a very winnable game. But there are plenty of positives to take away from the loss, specifically from freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis and freshmen wide receivers Cam Ross and Matt Drayton.
The three of them combined for a large chunk of UConn’s offense, and with all three of them being freshmen, the future of the Huskies’ offense has a lot of potential.
“We showed flashes and everything,” Zergiotis said. “I think moving forward we could definitely be dangerous.”
Zergiotis ended the day 21-37 passing for 418 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, the most yards in a single game in his career. Not only was it a personal record, but since it ranks No. 3 on the all-time single-game leaderboards for UConn, behind Dan Orlovsky’s 445 in 2004 and Casey Cochran’s 461 yards in 2013.
He was the only freshman to etch his name into the record books, in fact, he wasn’t the only one from his dorm room. Cam Ross, Zergiotis’ roommate, was on the receiving end of 169 of those yards, which put him at No. 12 all-time on the single-game receiving list. He also caught two touchdowns, making him the only UConn receiver to do so this season.
Both touchdowns came on chunk plays, the first of which was on UConn’s first offensive play of the game, connecting with Zergiotis for a 40-yard score. However, it was the second one that put the pair in the history books once again, as Ross used his legs to turn a quick-strike into a 94-yard touchdown reception – a play that was the second-longest in UConn history.
“The play was originally an option play that we run a lot,” Ross said. “And then we said if it was gonna be zero-coverage, then just go right past them, go straight up the middle of the field.”
Drayton also had a big day, and while he didn’t catch a touchdown, he did have three receptions for 99 yards, his season-high by far.
“I’m so happy seeing him turn up,” Ross said. “And I wasn’t surprised, I know he got it in him, that’s the type of player he is.”
The receivers provide good contrasts to one another, with Ross being a quick and speedy guy who works really well out of the slot and Drayton – who has four inches on Ross – being someone who has the ability to go up over defenders to make plays.
Zergiotis did throw two goalline interceptions: One in the last 20 seconds of the second quarter after the Huskies drove 57 yards in about a minute and a half, and one with eight seconds left in the game down seven points to seal their fate. Both Edsall and Zergiotis said they were planning on going for two if they scored to try to win the game, but they never got the chance.
However, these two throws should by no means take away from the overall great day that Zergiotis had. For the first time this season, he showed an ability to consistently make throws. There was never a question of if he had enough arm to hit the deep man, the question was if he could give the receiver a catchable ball. Saturday against ECU, he did so more often than not.
It’s imperative to remember that Zergiotis is still a true freshman. There’s a lot of pressure on him to be the guy to turn a program around that has fallen a long way from when they beat Notre Dame in Indiana 10 years ago this past week. He will miss throws. He will try to do too much leading to turnovers that could have been avoided by just throwing the ball away or taking the sack. He will make mistakes.
“There’s some things that Jack’ll do that’ll drive you nuts, but he’s got that mentality that he’s got a lot of confidence in his arm, and it’s just a guy we’ve got to continue to work with.”
Earlier in the season, Edsall said Zergiotis had what he called an “it factor.” Saturday, redshirt-senior, team-leader and future NFL offensive lineman Matt Peart echoed Edsall’s sentiment.
“I truly believe Jack played phenomenal,” Peart said. “Yea he made some mistakes, but that kid’s got a true talent.”
With Peart moving onto “bigger and better things” as Zergiotis put it, this offense is going to need a new leader. It’s likely going to be Kevin Mensah’s team next year as a senior, but this young core isn’t far behind. Yes, the results haven’t been there nearly as much as most hope, but there’s some talent on this UConn football offense, and despite the loss, we saw a glimpse of it on Saturday.