John F. Silver
There are a lot of question marks where the program is going, and a lot of frustration about what could have been.
For the second consecutive year UConn’s bid to qualify for a bowl game ended against Cincinnati.
This time, on a chilly day at Rentschler Field, backup quarterback Johnny McEntee threw a fourth quarter interception that led to a game-breaking fourth quarter 4-yard touchdown run from George Winn as Cincinnati clinched a 4-way tie for the Big East title with a 34-17 win.
The Huskies were trailing at 24-17 in the fourth quarter with McEntee in the game for Chandler Whitmer, who left in the third quarter after suffering his second concussion in two weeks. McEntee, last year’s starter, misread the coverage on the right sideline and threw an interception that was returned by Deven Drane to the UConn 4-yard line.
One play later, Winn barreled in from four yards out for a touchdown and a 31-14 lead. That all but did in the Huskies, who were playing with a backup quarterback, little running game and a ton of injuries.
It was another frustrating day for the Huskies. Whitmer played valiantly throwing for 264 yards and a touchdown and at 21-10 in the third quarter had the Huskies driving. Whitmer was on the brutal end of a botched trick play. Wildcat quarterback Scott McCummings handed the ball off to Lyle McCombs and then Whitmer got the ball from McCOmbs and was looking to throw. All the targets were covered and Whitmer was hit by Cincinnati linebacker Greg Blair and his head hit the turf. It was the second concussion in a week for Whitmer and he said he “blacked out” on the sideline as Cincinnati coaches waived UConn to come over.
In came McEntee, actually salvaged the drive with a key third down throw and promptly bailed out the Huskies. The drive ended with McCombs barreling in from a yard out to cut the lead to 21-17 going into the fourth quarter.
After a Cincinnati field goal to start the fourth, McEntee took control of the offense and was confused by his reads. Just like that, the season ended when he thought it was man coverage and threw right into the zone defense.
Cincinnati got an impressive game out of tight end Travis Kelce, who caught two touchdowns and also threw another on a trick play to quarterback Brendon Kay. Kay was solid passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns and was only sacked once. The Huskies did a good job bottling up running back Winn, who had only 70 yards rushing on the day.
For the Huskies, they out-gained Cincinnati 373-356, but turned the ball over three times as it continued to lose the turnover battle.
Cincinnati led 14-0 in the first half of a Kelce 25-yard catch and Kelce’s throw, but the Huskies rallied on a 40-yard kick from freshman Bobby Puyol. UConn tight end Ryan Griffin ended his career in style with an impressive 74 yard touchdown catch and had 85 yards receiving. Shakim Phillips led the Huskies with seven catches for 93 yards.
Cincinnati led 14-10 at the half and took a 21-10 lead on the second Kelce touchdown to begin the second half.
The Huskies ended the season for the second consecutive year at 5-7, one game short of bowl eligibility.