For the better part of 12 ½ minutes on Thursday night, the UConn Huskies played the 6th ranked football team in the country dead even. The Huskies managed three first downs, held Houston to one and forced a three and an out on the Cougars second possession.
But then reality kicked in. The reality that Greg Ward Jr is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and has a lot of weapons at his disposal. The Cougars scored on their next six possessions and steam rolled the Huskies 42-14 to avenge the only loss of the Tom Herman era.
UConn only saw an injured Ward for five plays a year ago in East Hartford. He was a one man gang on Thursday, throwing for 389 yards and running for 65 more. The 454 yards of total offense was 119 more than UConn has as a team. The 30 yard td run to start the scoring was a thing of beauty. Ward was never flustered in the pocket and used his legs to buy time for his receivers to get open. And they did. For the second straight game, an opposing wide receiver had a career day against the UConn secondary. Linell Bonner caught 12 balls for 159 yards,
On the offensive side, if not for Noel Thomas, UConn might have gotten shutout. In a Ken Sweitzer-esque performance, Thomas was the Huskies leading rusher and receiver. Frankly, he should have had a lot more receiving yards but Bryant Shirreffs missed him on two wide open passes, at least one of which would have resulted in a touchdown. Thomas has been far and away, the Huskies best player in the first five games. Not…even…close.
The running game wasn’t able to generate anything, a mere 2.3 yard per carry but give Houston credit for that. The Cougars haven’t allowed a team to gain over 100 yards in seven straight games. They are that tough. And, they were missing two starting linebackers. Their defense against the rush is that good.
So now, the Huskies face their first real adversity of the season, going below 500 for the first time. The biggest concern is the leaky pass defense. Two straight opponents have gained over 400 yards thru the air against them. Remember, going in, everyone, myself included, thought the secondary would be the strong point of a very good defense. It hasn’t been and needs to improve.
And the offense has to generate more points. UConn is tied for 117th out of 128 FBS teams in scoring offense. That puts incredible pressure on the defense. But is incumbent on the offense to score more. You don’t win football game without scoring points. Pure and simple.
Up next, Saturday at 11:30 AM in East Hartford long time rival Cincinnati.