Football: Huskies peeled by Syracuse

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9/10/22 FB vs Syracuse by Erin Knapp, Photo Editor. The UConn Huskies take on the Syracuse Orange at their second home game of the season at Rentschler Field at Pratt and Whitney Stadium on Saturday night. Syracuse beat UConn 48-14 after leading the whole game.

In its third game last season, a home game against the Purdue University Boilermakers, the University of Connecticut football team was steamrolled 49-0. In their third game this season, a home game against the Syracuse University Orange, the Huskies at least put points on the board.  

When they last met in 2018, Syracuse routed UConn 51-21 at the Carrier Dome. On Saturday, the Orange took care of business with a 48-14 victory under the lights at Rentschler Field. The 34-point win is the largest margin of victory in the rivalry’s 12-game history dating back to the team’s days in the Big East. 

“It is hard to stand up here after a game like that and say you are proud of anything,” head coach Jim Mora commented after the game. “I am not proud of myself because I did not do a good enough job of getting these guys [the players] ready.” 

Right from the get-go, Syracuse’s offense fired on all cylinders. Quarterback Garrett Shrader rushed into the endzone on the first drive of the game, capping off a 12 play, 69-yard drive in 04:52. Highlighted by a 47-yard touchdown pass from Strader to Damien Alford, Syracuse scored 17 points in the first quarter while having the ball for over 12 minutes. The Orange had 172 yards of offense while UConn garnered just 35. 

UConn had its most productive drive in the second quarter. After three straight drives ending in a three-and-out, UConn finally picked up a first down after Nathan Carter ran four yards up the middle late in the first. The Huskies picked up four first downs on the drive, not even letting a second down from 17 yards out stop their momentum. Devontae Houston capped off the nine-play, 79-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown run down the left sideline to put the Huskies on the board. 

UConn needed a stop defensively to have a chance of rallying in this game; however, the Orange marched down the field and stood eight yards away from the endzone. The goal line defense limited the Orange to a second field goal instead of another touchdown. 

UConn had a great chance to keep the contest close at the break with four minutes and 56 seconds left in the half, but the Huskies wasted their opportunity by going three-and-out. The Orange responded by going 63 yards down the field and scoring a touchdown as Shrader connected with Courtney Jackson on an 18-yard pass. 

Down 27-7, the Huskies got the ball to start the second half hoping the halftime speeches worked in their favor again. However, a strip sack and fumble recovery by Syracuse’s Marlowe Wax halted all of UConn’s momentum. The Huskies had no need to worry given they turned the ball over in the second half of their game against CCSU. This time, preseason Second-Team All-American Sean Tucker found paydirt for the first time this season as he ran the ball in for a two-yard score. 

UConn answered in a big way to at least have a fighting chance at a rally. On third-and-three at their own 44, it seemed as though the Huskies would punt the ball again despite picking up a first down, but Zion Turner threw a short pass to Aaron Turner, who sprinted past the Orange defense for a 56-yard touchdown. The play may be considered a passing touchdown, but A. Turner collected all the yards and then some. 

On Syracuse’s eighth drive of the game, the Huskies finally forced a punt. However, Houston muffed the fair catch on the return and the Orange recovered the ball in UConn territory. Taking full advantage of the Huskies’ miscue, Shrader connected with D’Marcus Adams for a 39-yard touchdown on the very next play. 

With that touchdown, Syracuse completed a stretch where they scored on eight out of their first nine drives. Their scoring drives resulted in six touchdowns and two field goals with one play (the punt) called on fourth down. 

With the game blatantly over in the fourth quarter, both teams resorted to their backups on offense. For Syracuse, that meant turning to University of Florida transfer Carlos Del Rio-Wilson as their quarterback while UConn turned to Northern Arizona University transfer Cale Millen. 

Both teams went 0-1 on fourth down attempts on their fourth quarter drives. UConn’s turnover on downs led to the Orange running out the clock as they improved to 2-0 on the season while the Huskies fell to 1-2. 

“Our performance tonight was not up to snuff, but we are going to get better,” Mora said after the game. 

Syracuse controlled every aspect of the battle. In addition to bringing their cheer team and their mascot, Otto the Orange, Syracuse put up 465 yards of total offense while the Huskies racked up 202. Syracuse collected 29 first downs while UConn had 10. The Orange went a perfect 6-6 in red zone chances, the Huskies had no opportunities in the redzone despite scoring two touchdowns. 

UConn punted the ball away six times. Each time, it went three-and-out on the drive. On the flip side, the Huskies picked up a first down on drives that resulted in two touchdowns, a fumble loss, a halftime break and a turnover on downs. 

In his second career start, Z. Turner went 14-17 for 92 yards and a touchdown. Although he did not throw an interception, he did get sacked twice. One of those sacks turned into a turnover as he fumbled the ball and the Orange defense recovered. 

9/10/22 FB vs Syracuse by Erin Knapp, Photo Editor. The UConn Huskies take on the Syracuse Orange at their second home game of the season at Rentschler Field at Pratt and Whitney Stadium on Saturday night. Syracuse beat UConn 48-14 after leading the whole game.

“We just have to execute way better on offense,” Z. Turner said after the game. “No matter what the play call is, we have got to go out and put out 100% effort.” 

In the absence of Cam Ross and Keelan Marion, both of whom are out with injuries, A. Turner stepped up in a big way as the top wide receiver. Solidifying the connection with Z. Turner, A. Turner had six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. 

Carter ran for 71 yards on 16 carries, marking the first time this season in which he failed to record 100 yards on the ground. UConn finished with 97 rushing yards, marking the first time since last season it did not accumulate 100 yards on the ground as a team. 

The Huskies continue to suffer injuries to some of their important players. Running back Brian Brewton missed most of the game after breaking his finger in pregame warmups and fracturing his elbow during the game. The injuries are expected to sideline Brewton for the rest of the season. 

“I am not going to make excuses with injuries, they are real,” Mora commented. “We have to find ways to get people open.…We have to help them create separation.” 

Houston stepped up as the backup running back in Brewton’s absence, rushing for 28 yards on three carries with a touchdown. The defense did not have their best day, as they allowed more points against the Orange than they had all season. Jackson Mitchell continued to improve his draft stock as he led the Huskies with 16 tackles, matching his career-high while recording a tackle for a loss and half a sack. 

Syracuse’s Shrader had a very complete game, going 20-23 for 287 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with five total touchdowns as he also ran into the endzone twice. 

Tucker showed why he was a top running back in the country as he rushed for 112 yards with a touchdown on 27 carries. Tucker also flashed his talents on the receiving end as he caught four passes for 17 yards. 

The Huskies face hostile competition in rough waters over the next few weeks. First, they take on the No. 4 University of Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The following Saturday, they visit the No. 16 North Carolina State University Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium before returning home to conclude a home-and-home series against the Fresno State University Bulldogs. 

“We are going to try to win the next down, that has got to be our mindset,” Mora explained. “The world stops after the next snap, and we go on after that. That is how we have to approach it.” 

Focusing on one game at a time, kickoff against No. 4 Michigan is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17, at 12 p.m. on ABC. 

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