John F. Silver
UConn, which jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, played itself into a close game and when it had a chance to win the game let it pass by.
A 14-0 lead, a dominating defensive performance, and perhaps a season stabilizing win went up in smoke on Saturday afternoon.
Temple scored 17 unanswered points, including the tying touchdown on a 14-yard pass from Chris Coyer to Jalen Fitzpatrick with 19 seconds left and then a 29-yard field goal from Brandon McManus in overtime to lift Temple to a 17-14 win over UConn.
The Huskies were left stunned after a game where it led from early on to the final seconds as it fell to 3-4 on the season, and 0-2 in the Big East.
“It was one of those games it was a hard fought game,” UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “I thought the effort that the guys put into it, we put effort into it. There were some good plays made, not everything in a football game is going to go your way obviously. Some of those things did not go our way. But, you have to be able to overcome those things and win the game.”
UConn played itself into a loss with kicker Chad Christen missing three field goals and having one blocked including a 29-yarder in the first overtime. The defense, which likes to think of itself as top 10 nationally, allowed Temple to tie the game with 19 seconds left going 12 plays and 77 yards in 2:33 to tie the game at 14-14.
In the overtime, Christen missed a 29-yard field goal wide right setting up Temple’s final possession.
Temple (3-2, 2-0) took advantage with Montel Harris taking the ball down to the UConn 10 with 15 yards on three carries. That set up McManus’ game-winner that left the Huskies stunned.
“It was ugly,” Temple head coach and Connecticut native Steve Addazio said. “It was downright not good in the first half. But the foundation of our program, of what I want our program to be is gutsy, hard-nosed, tough-assed program that will fight you. That’s what I want.”
The loss came as a shock after UConn dominated for much of the first quarter. UConn held a 192-11 yardage edge at the end of the first quarter and led 14-0 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Whitmer to Mike Smith, and a 42-yard touchdown pass from Whitmer to Ryan Griffin
At 14-0 and dominating, the Huskies appeared to be headed to a blowout. It was anything but a blowout.
Harris put the Owls on the board with a 24-yard touchdown in the second quarter to cut UConn’s lead to 14-7.
That score would hold up for much of the second half as Uconn’s offense stalled with miss block, missed plays and missed opportunities. Whitmer was sacked six times and the time he had while throwing for 159 yards in the first quarter didn’t materialize in the second half.
Whitmer, the offensive line and the running game couldn’t get much going after the first quarter as UConn sat on the lead needing likely only a field goal to put the daylight the defense needed.
“The line did a good job in the first half and gave me time to make reads, coach was calling up some good plays,” Whitmer said. ” We were unable to find a rhythm in the second half. We tried to establish the run game and get that going, we didn’t do what we wanted to do.”
Even with the offensive struggles in the second half, UConn could have put the game away with one more field goal. On two successive drives the UConn defense stopped Temple on fourth and short and the Huskies appeared headed to victory driving deep into Temple territory the final minute. With 3:02 left and fourth down at the 45-yard line, head coach Paul Pasqualoni elected to have Christen, who had missed two field goals, come on to seal the game. Christen’s kick was blocked by Temple’s Deon Miller setting up the final drive in regulation.
Temple converted two fourth down plays on the fateful drive with Harris converting a fourth and 1 rushing and Coyer finding Harris underneath on a fourth and seven.
Coyer was sacked on the next play by tackle Ryan Wirth, but a holding penalty gave Temple a first down. Coyer was sacked again, this time by Trevardo Williams and with time running out rushed to the line. Coyer found Miller down the left sideline for a 33-yard jump ball beating corner Dwayne Gratz inside the UConn 15. On the next play, UConn lost Fitzpatrick in coverage in the right corner to tie the game at 14-14.
The game went to overtime, the football equivalent of a coin toss, and the Huskies came up on the wrong end. It should have never gotten that far after a 14-0 lead where everything looked so easy.
Harris rushed for 142 yards and freshman sensation Tyler Matakevich had 19 tackles for Temple.
Whitmer led UConn with 293 yards passing and two touchdowns and was sacked six times. Max Delorenzo, subbing for the injured Lyle McCombs, had 90 yards rushing in his first start.