CLAWED BY THE BEARCATS
UConn’s bowl hopes dashed by Cincinnati
UConn running back Lyle McCombs avoids a Cincinnati tackle in the Huskies’ 34-17 loss at Rentschler Field. JESS CONDON/The Daily Campus
The season was in the balance for the UConn football team and in a microcosm of this entire season, the Huskies were an hour late and a dollar short. The Cincinnati Bearcats beat the Huskies 34-17.
In front of a crowd of supposedly 33, 112-many said it was in all reality nowhere close to that-UConn saw its season come to an end.
The Huskies started the game with the ball and after going three and out, had to punt to the Bearcats.
2:03 after that, UConn was already in a tight position.
Cincinnati torched UConn through the air to start the game. On the Bearcats' first drive, quarterback Brendon Kay threw passes of 27, 26 and 25 yards to three different receivers. Before the Huskies' pass defense had seen what hit it, UConn was down 7-0.
On Cincinnati's next drive, the Bearcats were moving the ball once again with ease. It took only three minutes for Cincinnati to drive 40 yards down the field.
But in a rare moment of good fortune for UConn, the Huskies caught a break. Jory Johnson stripped wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins of the football and recovered it.
After taking possession of the ball and getting three first downs on the possession, UConn hit a wall. On third down and 13 from the Cincinnati 33 yard-line, Chandler Whitmer's pass was incomplete to Nick Williams The Huskies took their chances on fourth down, but another incomplete pass to Williams ended the drive.
When the Bearcats, took over for the first time in the second quarter with 11:31 remaining, the long play once again haunted the Huskies. Kay found tight end Travis Kelce wide open and 39 yards and just 11 seconds later, it was 14-0 in favor of the Bearcats.
"This was a game of big plays," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said after the game.
UConn was able to narrow the lead just a bit when freshman kicker Bobby Puyol, in for the injured Chad Christen, kicked one through the uprights from 40 yards out.
Puyol, the North Palm Beach Florida, native said it was by far the coldest temperature in which he has kicked.
"It was so cold, you have no idea," Puyol said of Saturday night after the game.
Prior to Saturday night's game, the coldest weather he had ever seen kicking field goals was in Tampa, Florida where the temperature once plummeted to 46 degrees.
Just over two minutes later, the big plays which had killed the Huskies all season went in UConn's favor. On a first down from its own 26, Whitmer found tight end Ryan Griffin open and Griffin did the rest, taking the ball into the endzone for a 74-yard touchdown pass. UConn was only down by four points and despite being outplayed by the Bearcats, looked like they were in this game.
Everything went downhill from there.
No other points were scored in the second half, but during the 30 minutes of second half, play the Bearcats outscored the Huskies 20-7.
It didn't take long in the second half for the Bearcats to score. Just 3:36 after the opening kickoff, the score was 21-10 in favor of the Bearcats after Kay found Kelce again for a 21 yard touchdown pass.
In the Bearcats' first three touchdown drives, it took them only a combined 5:50 to score.
All night, Whitmer was either rushed or sacked and with about seven minutes left in the third quarter, it finally caught up to him.
After taking a big hit from Cincinnati's Dan Giordano, Whitmer remained in the game. But not long after that, the Huskies bafflingly left Whitmer exposed on a reverse trick play and he got crushed once again. He left the game and did not return.
Afterward, Pasqualoni said that he had no reason to take Whitmer out after the first hit despite the concussion-Whitmer himself was the only one to call it that-symptoms he had been feeling earlier this week after a big hit against Louisville last week.
Pasqualoni said that if the doctors weren't concerned, then he shouldn't be.
On that drive, the backup Johnny McEntee marched the Huskies down the field for a touchdown, it was UConn's first touchdown of the season to come in the second half against a Big East opponent.
Going into the fourth quarter, the score was 21-17. Some how, the Huskies were still within four points of the Bearcats.
To start the fourth quarter, the Bearcats made a field goal, making it 24-17 and then McEntee threw an interception, which resulted in a quick touchdown for the Bearcats.
In just 3:42, the Bearcats scored ten points, making it 31-17.
The Bearcats added one last field goal with 6:03 left making it 34-17.
The Huskies ended the season 5-7 and Pasqualoni is now 10-14 in his tenure at UConn.
Over the course of the second half, as UConn saw its chances at a win slipping away, fans-in typical Rentschler Field fashion-began leaving. When the final whistle blew ended the game, Rentschler Field was a ghost town.
Even the student section which had been somewhat full, was all but empty.
This 5-7 season ended in front of an almost empty stadium. Such is the state of UConn football; not enough points and not enough fans.
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