BEATEN TO A PULP
Huskies fall to Orange in third straight loss
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 21, 2012 23:10
SYRACUSE - It was do-or-die. The biggest game of the season. Time for the Huskies to decide what kind of team they wanted to be and keep post-season hope alive.
Four quarters later, UConn put forth their worst 60 minutes of football yet, against Big East rival Syracuse. The Huskies, in their worst loss since 2007, had gone belly up.
Shut out by the Orange (3-4, 2-1) 20-0 in the second half, UConn (3-5, 0-3) fell 40-10 at the Carrier Dome last Friday night in front of a crowd of 36,715. The Husky defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense, including 251 rushing. Jerome Smith tallied 137 yards on the ground at seven yards per carry, the first 100-yard rusher for Syracuse this season. Quarterback Ryan Nassib was 14-20 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
The UConn offense wasn’t much more impressive, failing to score a point after halftime for the third straight game. The rushing attack accumulated negative yardage on eighteen carries, due to backward scrambles from quarterbacks Chandler Whitmer and Scott McCummings. Running back Lyle McCombs picked up a measly 16 yards on a dozen rushes.
Through the air, Whitmer finished 23-41 for 291 yards, a touchdown and one interception. He withstood numerous hits from Orange defenders and also stood up well to critical media post-game.
“We just didn’t do a lot of things well,” Whitmer said. “They got out front early, and it was tough to fight back. We didn’t do what we expected to do.”
The redshirt sophomore signal caller faced pressure from the Syracuse defense all night as the Orange deviated from their normal tendencies and blitzed constantly. One of the aggressive play calls paid off rather early as the defense forced a fumble out of Whitmer’s hands in the second quarter. The turnover set up the first Syracuse touchdown drive of the contest, which pushed the score to 13-3.
UConn responded offensively with a three-and-out, but on their next possession scored their only touchdown of the game.
Following completions to Shakim Phillps and Michael Smith on short slant routes, the Huskies moved further upfield via a short run by McCombs and 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty. Set up with a first-and-10 from the Orange 32 yardline, Whitmer connected with a wide-open Ryan Griffin who jogged into the end zone for his fourth score on the season.
Griffin finished as the leading Husky receiver with six catches for 72 yards. However, Syracuse answered with a touchdown on their ensuing possession and doubled up the Huskies at halftime, 20-10. Wide receiver Alec Lemon reeled in a 41-yard completion as intermission neared, allowing Nassib to find tight end Beckett Wales in the end zone two plays later.
After taking the kickoff to open the second half, the Orange followed a familiar script to push their lead to 17.
Three consecutive runs combined with a 10-yard holding penalty put Syracuse up against a third-and-seven from their own 28 yardline. With plenty of time in the pocket, Nassib located Lemon again and he raced 68 yards thanks to a busted UConn coverage. Back-up defensive back Andrew Adams caught Lemon from behind, only to watch running back Prince-Tyson Gulley punch the ball in for a touchdown on the next play.
Conversions by the Orange on third-and-long plays were a problem for UConn all night, as the home team finished 8-15 overall on third downs.
Head coach Paul Pasqualoni did not have any clue this kind of result was coming in his return to the university where he was a head coach for 13 years.
“I felt like we had a good week of practice,” Pasqualoni said. “I thought we had a good week of preparation; thought we were ready to play. We just did not play nearly well enough on either side of the ball.”
Syracuse continued to run the ball at will against the Huskies by outflanking their defensive ends that consisted mostly of back-ups and converted defensive tackles. This was evidenced no better on the final Orange drive of the night, when third string running back Ashton Broyld recorded seven consecutive runs of five yards or more. By then, Syracuse had already climbed to a 40-10 lead and later sealed the deal on a Shamarko Thomas interception as the game clock ticked under a minute remaining.
The Huskies return to the gridiron in two weeks when they travel to Tampa, Florida to take on another bottom dweller of the Big East, South Florida (2-5, 0-3). UConn will be without starting right guard Adam Masters, who sustained a left ankle injury in the first quarter Friday and will be out for the season. The Bulls lost to undefeated No. 16 Louisville on the road last Saturday after a last-minute touchdown pass, 27-25.