What now? That’s the question many UConn football fans are asking after Saturday’s embarrassing 41-3 loss at East Carolina, an East Carolina team that had lost five straight.
The fact the Pirates won shouldn’t be surprising despite their recent struggles. UConn entered the game just 2-12 on the road in the last three years. But it was the dominant way the Pirates won, that has many residents of Husky Nation shaking their head.
The first two series set the tone. Arkeel Newsome took the opening kickoff back 48 yards to the ECU 45. Throw in a five yard penalty and UConn started on the Pirates 40. Three plays produced nine yards and on fourth and one, Bryant Shirreffs was stuffed trying to go up the middle. The Huskies have run the QB sneak up the middle on third or fourth and one seemingly every time and East Carolina was ready. The Pirates offense then marched to the Huskies four yard line. On fourth and two, Philip Nelson found a wide open James Summers for a TD and East Carolina never trailed. That opening 6:22 was an omen of what was to come.
Still, it was a 7-3 game heading to the final minute of the first half when the Pirates ran a reverse that saw Zay Jones pass the ball to Nelson for a two yard touchdown to make it 14-3. It was all downhill for UConn from there.
In all, it was a total breakdown. The offense managed just 14 first downs. On five of their 11 drives of three plays of more, they didn’t manage a first down. On first down, they had a season low 2.8 yards per play. In what may be the most mind boggling stat, on 13 pass plays on first down, they gained a total of 18 yards. ECU had one QB sack in its first seven games, they had four against the Huskies. They also had 10 tackles for loss. Throw in the two interceptions and that is 16 negative plays by the offense. The run game averaged a paltry 2.9 yards per rush.
The defense didn’t far much better. Jones had 19 receptions ,the most ever by a UConn opponent, for 185 yards. He joins a list of receivers this season who have torched the Huskies secondary. The well traveled Nelson threw for 253 yards, as a team East Carolina had 294 passing yards. James Summers had a rare college football triple double. He ran for a score, caught a touchdown pass and threw for a score.
And on special teams, there was a fumble on a kickoff return by Newsome and the usually reliable Bobby Puyol missed a 46 yard field goal (which frankly, isn’t a chip shot)
It’s not a reach to call this the worst loss of the Bob Diaco era and coming off the disappointing defeat by UCF, it gives you cause for concern for the rest of the season. Yes, it’s been a grueling start to the season. Not having a bye until after game ten doesn’t seem fair but the Huskies have known about the schedule for some time. UConn has three games to save its season, starting Friday night at home against Temple. There is no more wiggle room if the Huskies hope to return to a bowl game. The odds seem long.