UConn football flounders in home opener

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It’s very possible that the home opener for the Huskies could not have gone worse than it did. After the embarrassing loss in the opening game of the season to Fresno State, hopes were cautiously optimistic heading into Saturday’s game against the much worse ranked Holy Cross.

These hopes were immediately and brutally dashed. Despite being a division higher than Holy Cross, despite the hometown crowds and despite the fact that Holy Cross is playing a very inexperienced quarterback who runs more than he throws, the struggles from the Fresno State game were still glaringly obvious.

Quarterback Jack Zergiotis managed to play the entire game — an improvement over the Fresno State game when he was subbed out in the fourth quarter. However,  many fans were left wishing he hadn’t. Zergiotis threw three interceptions and his only positive play was a 50-yard pass to freshman Keelan Marion.

Zergiotis was 17 for 41 on completions with 174 yards, and while he did manage three touchdowns, any excitement over that was dampened by the equal amount of interceptions he gave up. The offense was boosted by Kevin Mensah, who became the running back with the fourth-most yards in UConn history this game. However, even he was frequently unable to get past the struggling offensive line and averaged just over three yards per rush, with his longest at ten. 

The UConn football team plays against Holy Cross on Saturday @ 12 at The Rentschler. The Huskies lost 38-28 after a strong start winning at the end of the first quarter. Photo by Julie Spillane/The Daily Campus

Highlights on the defensive side were overshadowed by the humiliating clip of Lou Spanos, the team’s defensive coordinator, abjectly failing to rally the team who just looked done. 

One of the few highlights of the game was Devonte Jones, who forced a fumble in the first half and had a few tackles, and Omar Fortt, who recovered the forced fumble from Jones and had 12 tackles in the game, six of them solo.  

The special teams unit, particularly punter Joe McFadden, was successful despite several moments where it looked like Holy Cross might get a punt blocked. McFadden punted five times out of the team’s total seven and averaged over 40 yards per punt with three punts pinned inside 20. That’s a pretty decent special teams performance and something that could’ve made the game a lot worse for the Huskies had it failed. 

And yet, those bright spots feel like they mean nothing when compared to the dark ones. For example, the 76-yard rushing play by Holy Cross’s quarterback Matthew Sluka. The game can be summed up easily on that play, where Sluka looked far more like college-era Cam Newton than is entirely reasonable. He completed nine of 16 passes for two touchdowns and 123 yards, and added 129 yards and another touchdown on 14 rushing attempts, a performance that named him the Offensive Player of the Week for the Patriots League

UConn head coach Randy Edsall remarked after the game that he was disappointed because he “thought we would be able to do a little bit more than what we’re doing,” just a day before his announcement that this will be his final season and two days before he retired effective immediately.

The university announced on Monday that, “Randy Edsall and director of athletics David Benedict have come to the mutual decision that it is in the best interest of the UConn football program for Edsall to step aside immediately as head football coach.” Lou Spanos, currently best known for the clip of his failed rallying earlier this week, is now the interim coach tasked with somehow fixing the Huskies’ season. 

The only real winner on Saturday in that stadium was COVID-19; despite masks being highly recommended outdoors and required indoors, effectively no one was wearing them indoors or out. At this point, simply getting the football team through the season without a massive COVID-19 outbreak would be reasonably considered a win. It might be the only victory they get this season. 

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