CINCINNATI, THE AFTERMATH: One of the relatively new phrases in the sporting lexicon is “the eye test”. The truest barometer to how a player is playing, how a team is performing. Well, the eye test on Saturday for the UConn football team didn’t go well, to put it mildly. Connecticut was outplayed in every phase of the game in a disheartening 41-16 loss to Cincinnati at a soggy, dismal Nippert Stadium.
From the first play of the game, when Brendan Kay threw 56 yards to Mekale McKay to set up the first touchdown of the game, until the last play of the afternoon some 3 hours, 10 minutes later, this game was a nightmare for UConn. The defense, so outstanding in the South Florida game , was gashed for 525 yards, the most allowed this season. First down was especially painful, where Cincy had 9 plays of 10 yards or more, including 3 plays of 30 yards or more. Kay threw for 300 yards and four scores, though one of them was a pitch on an inside reverse that Anthony McClung ran if for a 28 yard score. Kay was never sacked in his 24 attempts, in fact, I can’t remember his being seriously hurried. Anytime a quarterback can stand in the pocket and not feel pressured, he has a much higher chance for success. The Cincinnati running game was mediocre at best, that wasn’t a major issue on this date.
Offensively, Tim Boyle threw for 300 yards but threw three interceptions, one of which was brought back to the two and one that should have been a pick six except for an incredible hustle play by Deshon Foxx. Boyle was sacked EIGHT times, six in the second half when Cincinnati knew he would have to pass and brought the pressure. I would expect that kind of defensive strategy against UConn to be the norm, rather than the exception over the next six games.
I still think Boyle is going to be an outstanding quarterback, in fact, I am more convinced of that after watching his first two games. He will make mistakes, but those will be growing pains. Now, the mission for the coaches is to surround him with playmakers.
Geremy Davis had another outstanding game with 8 receptions for a career high 140 yards, including a spectacular highlight reel one hand grab.No one plays harder than Davis. Foxx bounced back from his disappointing game against South Florida to grab 5 passes and make that incredible hustle play. Shakim Phillips returned after three weeks out to grab three passes, all of them in the fourth quarter. He was only targeted one other time, and then drew a defensive penalty. Once Shak gets his sea legs back, it gives Boyle another weapon.
The rushing stats are skewed because the sacks are counted as negative rushing yards, which has never made sense to me. Lyle McCombs struggled after his career game against USF. But Max DeLorenzo was outstanding, averaging almost 8 yards per carry and scoring the first rushing touchdown of his career. I would think we will see more and more of the former Berlin High star.
Special teams weren’t so special with Chad Christen missing one of his two field goal attempts. He hasn’t made a kick over 37 yards this season. The coverage of kickoffs and punts has been consistent with freshman WR Noel Thomas has started to become an impact player in that department.
The biggest frustration concerning this team has to be the inconsistency within games. Drives get off to a good start but a sack or penalty or turnover short circuits them. The defense will have a few good series in a row and then the opposition will stage a drive. It has happened for six games now.
The players are working hard in practice, the coaches are spending long hours trying to find ways for success. But thus far, it hasn’t clicked and that’s why UConn finds itself this morning as one of only seven teams in the country still looking for it’s first win of the season. Upcoming games at Central Florida, home against Louisville and at Southern Methodist won’t be easy. Nobody said it would be.
Join us on the radio or in person at Wood-N-Tap in Vernon for the UConn Football Coaches Show with T.J.Weist on Monday from 6-7. Former Huskies great Darius Butler will be our guest from Indiapolis.