UConn gets run over by Vir­ginia

Vir­ginia fin­ishes with over 620 yards of of­fense in blowout win over UConn

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Fuller jfuller@nhreg­is­ter.com @NHRJimFuller on Twit­ter

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE, VA. » This time all the fiery half­time speeches in the world were not go­ing to save the UConn foot­ball team.

Much like they did in a sea­sonopen­ing win, the Huskies stum­bled and bum­bled their way to a size­able half­time deficit. Vir­ginia, how­ever, wasn’t about to let UConn stage an­other scin­til­lat­ing sec­ond-half rally as the Cava­liers rolled to a 38-18 vic­tory be­fore a crowd of 33,056 at Scott Sta­dium.

When the fi­nal num­bers were crunched, UConn’s de­fense gave up the most yards of to­tal of­fense in eight years and by the time the of­fense showed signs of life, it was far too late.

“We are not a good enough foot­ball team to do those things and not take ad­van­tage of all the op­por­tu­ni­ties that we had,” UConn coach Randy Ed­sall said.

The first sign of trou­ble came when Vir­ginia mounted a touch­down-scor­ing drive of 88 yards on its first of­fen­sive pos­ses­sion. The 9 minute, 46 sec­ond drive was the long­est in Vir­ginia’s pro­gram his­tory.

The Cava­liers didn’t have a dou­ble-digit yardage play on the

drive which was capped by Daniel Hamm’s 3-yard touch­down run. That, how­ever, would change. Vir­ginia would com­plete eight pass plays of at least 20 yards, in­clud­ing Kurt Benkert’s touch­down passes of 42 yards to Doni Dowl­ing, 30 yards to Olamide Zac­cheaus and 73 yards to An­dre Levrone.

“Es­sen­tially, it was man on man, that is how I see it,” said UConn se­nior line­backer Von­tae Diggs, who tied for the team lead with 10 tack­les. “Either you are go­ing to beat me or I am go­ing to beat you. To­day, they got us, they beat us in­di­vid­u­ally. We had a lot of men­tal lapses and I have to take full re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause I didn’t do my part to­day.”

In the sea­son opener against Holy Cross, the Huskies were good enough in the sec­ond half to steal a win. UConn once again played bet­ter after half­time but not well enough to rally from a 24-point half­time deficit.

The lack of a pass rush and is­sues cov­er­ing Vir­ginia’s re­ceivers led to Vir­ginia fin­ish­ing with 626 yards of to­tal of­fense, the most sur­ren­dered by the Huskies since Cincin­nati’s 711 yards in a 2009 road loss.

If not for Vir­ginia be­ing pe­nal­ized nine times for 109 yards and UConn fresh­man safety Tyler Coyle in­ter­cept­ing a rare poor throw by Benkert in the end zone, the mar­gin could have been much larger.

Benkert fin­ished with a

pro­gram-record 455 pass­ing yards as he com­pleted 30 of 40 passes. Zac­cheaus, Dowl­ing and Levrone each had more than 100 re­ceiv­ing yards as the Cava­liers led 24- 0 at half­time and 31-0 in the third quar­ter.

“I was play­ing ag­gres­sively and I think my team needs that,” Benkert said. “They need me to be the guy that they can look to, that when it’s time to get the third down (con­ver­sion), I am go­ing to get the first down.”

UConn (1-1) needed a trick play to fi­nally get on the score­board. Dono­van Wil­liams, who started the last three games of the 2016 sea­son at quar­ter­back for the Huskies, came into the game with the Huskies down 31-0. On the sec­ond play, he took the snap and handed off the ball to true fresh­man Kevin Men­sah on a sweep. Men­sah turned and threw the ball back to start­ing quar­ter­back Bryant Shirreffs, who had lined

up as a re­ceiver. Shirreffs then con­nected with Hergy May­ala for the 60yard touch­down. Shirreffs and May­ala would con­nect on a 17-yard scor­ing strike and Men­sah had a 30-yard scor­ing run to make the fi­nal score ap­pear like it was a closer game than it ac­tu­ally was.

Shirreffs and May­ala had a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­sult­ing in a red zone in­ter­cep­tion by Vir­ginia’s Bren­ton Nel­son and later fum­bled as he was scram­bling to­wards the end zone. Those mis­cues and three failed at­tempts to con­vert on fourth down proved to be too much for the Huskies to over­come.

“I had two turnovers at crit­i­cal points in the game, it was a mo­men­tum swing that we couldn’t re­cover from,” Shirreffs said. “We have to get bet­ter, I have to get bet­ter.”

Shirreffs com­pleted 18 of 26 passes for 227 yards and added a team-best 90 yards rush­ing as he moved into fifth in UConn his­tory in ca­reer com­ple­tions.

Se­nior line­backer Ju­nior Joseph be­came the sev­enth UConn de­fen­sive player to start 30 con­sec­u­tive games since the Huskies made the move to play­ing at the Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion level. Ar­keel New­some moved into fourth place in pro­gram his­tory in allpur­pose yards. How­ever, no in­di­vid­ual mile­stones will be re­mem­bered from the game.

Ed­sall cred­ited true fresh­men Men­sah (49 rush­ing yards on six car­ries) and of­fen­sive tackle Ryan Van De­mark to con­tribut­ing in their first time tak­ing of­fen­sive snaps at the col­le­giate level. Also true fresh­man Ian Swen­son played most of the fi­nal three quar­ters after start­ing safety Tony Watkins was knocked out of the game with a con­cus­sion.

For Vir­ginia (2-1), Micah Kiser had 15 tack­les and two sacks as the Cava­liers over­came the loss of stand­out de­fen­sive end An­drew Brown who was ejected after be­ing whis­tled for a tar­get­ing penalty.


UConn’s Bryant Shirreffs loses a fum­ble dur­ing Satur­day’s game against Vir­ginia.


Vir­ginia’s Jor­dan El­lis rushes for a touch­down against UConn on Satur­day.

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