TROUNCED BY TOWSON
Huskies fall to Tigers in home opener
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 30, 2013 01:08
EAST HARTFORD – Chandler Whitmer was nearly picked off on the first play of the game and very little went right from there as UConn lost to FCS opponent Towson, 33-18.
“It’s disappointing in the sense that we were really looking forward to getting the season started,” Coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
The redshirt junior quarterback did find Shakim Phillips in the endzone during the first quarter, but the 31-yard throw that capped a nine-play, 92-yard drive was one of his lone bright spots.
It did not help that UConn’s offensive line, which struggled and allowed 33 sacks a season ago, had moments of improvement, but still had difficulty protecting Whitmer. He was dropped for five sacks that set the Huskies back 23 yards.
The line was also unable to get running back Lyle McCombs going, as he picked up just 76 yards on 17 carries.
The defensive line, which anchored the No. 7 rush defense in the nation in 2012, fared no better.
“We probably gave up a couple hundred yards rushing,” Pasqualoni said. “Last year we gave up like 2.2 [yards] a whack. So I’ve got to go back and evaluate it, but obviously we didn’t play well tonight.”
In fact, Towson ran for 201 yards and Terrance West victimized the Huskies throughout the night, cutting up the defense to the tune of 156 yards on 36 carries – the 12th time that the junior has broken the 100-yard mark in his career.
But despite West’s success on the ground, it was his teammates that picked up the bulk of the points.
Backup running back Sterlin Phifer was the man that put the Tigers ahead midway through the second quarter on a five-yard run that made it a 13-7 game.
A Chad Christen field goal pulled the Huskies back within three points before the half, but left a sour taste in their mouths considering the drive stalled after a first-and-goal.
“Defensively, we were a call behind because they were in situations where on third-and-5 early in the game, they’re running the ball,” Pasqualoni said. “We can get up on them a little bit and then maybe they can’t do that.”
Towson quickly took advantage of that capability and stretched the advantage after the break with a 13-play march down the field capped by a Peter Athens quarterback sneak on the goal line.
West added a six-yard touchdown run with 5:14 left and a five-yard carry with 16 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach.
UConn showed signs of life late in the fourth quarter when Whitmer found Phillips for a second score.
A two-point conversion pass to Spencer Parker brought the game within reach at 26-18, but freshman punt returner Brian Lemelle fumbled and cost the Huskies the chance at a game-tying drive with three minutes to play.
“I put him in there, I’m the one that made him the punt returner,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s a really, really tough job for a freshman. So that’s not on Brian Lemelle, that’s on me.”
Before UConn’s late push, the Tigers defense racked up three of their sacks and held the Huskies to just 30 yards over the first 30 minutes of the second half.
Whitmer, after a nine-of-15 start to the game, finished the night 15-of-27 with 199 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The loss was the Huskies first to an FCS opponent since making the switch to then-Division I-A football in 2002.
UConn will have to sit on the disappointing defeat for an extra week before getting back on the field, as their next game does not come until a Sept. 14 date with Maryland.
“It’s tough, we want to get back on the field,” Whitmer said. “But we’ve got to take advantage of what we have with our schedule – more opportunity to mentally prepare and be ready, let our bodies get healed up again and be ready to go.”