UConn football: Losing Faith?

BY JOHN F. SILVER

John F. Silver

TAMPA, Fla. – That sinking and hopeless feeling is starting to creep into the University of Connecticut football team.

Connecticut running back Lyle McCombs (43) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against South Florida Saturday.

There is nothing the Huskies can point to on the field to give them hope. The offense isn’t doing the job, the losses are piling up it similar fashion every game, and every time the Huskies go to the statistics they see nothing they like.

UConn is 117th in scoring offense (16.56), 116th in rushing offense (82.0), 110th in total offense (317.89), 112th in turnover margin (-1.22) , 100th in sacks allowed and 94th in passing efficiency.

In the end, the Huskies are an inefficient passing team that can’t run the ball and doesn’t score enough points. That’s not a formula for success.

It’s reflected in the record after another frustrating 13-6 loss, this time to South Florida on Saturday night. The numbers don’t lie and at 3-6 and 0-4 in the Big East, there isn’t a lot the Huskies can look forward to. UConn has a game Friday night against Pittsburgh. That’s the most positive thing going for the Huskies.

Senior linebacker Sio Moore is a proud player who is in his third year as a starter. He doesn’t have any answers for what ails the Huskies and their offense. All he can do is have faith.

When faith is lost, my coach in high school always told me this – when you lose faith you don’t quit,” Moore said. “You find a way to regain it and restore it. It’s 10 times stronger after. That’s what I believe in my heart.”

Faith isn’t tangible, it isn’t statistical or even reality based. Faith is a belief is something that is not provable. Is there any evidence that the Huskies can turn around a season that is spiraling down at 13-6? No. The stats say the Huskies are where they should be averaging only 8.1 points per game over four Big East games and scoring only three points total in the second half of those four games.

The Huskies have to take a leap of faith that this season can be turned around because there is little evidence on the field that it can.

UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni wasn’t talking Xs and Os after Saturday’s loss, which once again showed a Top 10 defense (UConn is ranked 9th) teamed up with a bottom 5 offense.

“It’s very frustrating, somewhere along the line you get knocked down, the wind taken out of your sail, you get the wind knocked out of you and the things don’t go your way, what do you do?,” Pasqualoni asked on Saturday. “You come back and fight? At some point there is value – educational value — in getting off the ground and continuing with a tremendous attitude. There are points in life things don’t go your way.”

Nothing is going UConn’s way. The once vaunted offensive line and running game is now among one of the worst in the FBS. Lyle McCombs, a Big East all-second team running back last season, managed 47 yards on 18 carries for a paltry 2.6 average. Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer was sacked four times and pressured on numerous occasions.

The result? UConn , trailing only 7-6 after a heroic performance by the defense, committed turnovers on its final three possessions. Lyle McCombs bobbled a handoff at the UConn 38 and fumble it leading to a field goal.

10-6.

On the next possession, inside USF territory, Whitmer was hit while he was taking a shot on a deep post and the ball was intercepted down the field. After a couple of penalties on the return pushed the ball to near midfield, USF ended up settling for a 50-yard field goal.

13-6.

UConn still had another chance. Whitmer, under siege but weathering the storm, had the Huskies at the USF 22-yard line with a minute left. The Huskies could have marched for a rousing touchdown, but instead a short slant to Geremy Davis was batted at the defensive line. The ball then hit off center Tyler Bullock’s helmet and ultimately was intercepted by Elkino Watson. A defensive line interception ended UConn’s game and the last three possessions all resulted in turnovers. 

Game over.

“It’s things like that, you keep shooting yourselves in the foot and things like that are real frustrating,” Whitmer said. “It’s crazy to put up numbers like that and put up six points and no touchdowns and lose the game. That’s why it’s hard to look at stats. The biggest stat that matters we didn’t get. It’s tough.”

Uconn has Pittsburgh on Friday night. The Huskies have no reason to believe they can turn this around, but that won’t stop them from fighting the good fight.

“Nobody wants to be 3-6,” Moore said. “Especially how we play with a lot of games being close. Except for the Syracuse game, we are that close and we are falling that short. We have three games left and we have to let it out.”

What other choice do the Huskies have?