HUSKIES FAL­TER

Late Score, Pin­dell In­ter­cep­tion In Foul Weather Clinches Eighth Straight Los­ing Sea­son For Huskies

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - By ALEX PUTTERMAN aput­ter­man@courant.com

UConn foot­ball falls to UMass for eighth straight los­ing sea­son.

EAST HART­FORD — UConn’s de­fense had held steady all day.

The Huskies, who en­tered Satur­day al­low­ing more than 50 points a game, had lim­ited UMass to 15 un­til deep in the fourth quar­ter. A few more stops and UConn would walk away with its sec­ond win of the sea­son

Then came an 11-play, 81-yard UMass drive that ended with run­ning back Mar­quis Young bul­ly­ing his way into the end zone through a mound of UConn de­fend­ers. Young’s touch­down sen­tenced the Huskies to a 22-17 loss and clinched an eighth­straight los­ing sea­son for the UConn pro­gram.

“We had op­por­tu­ni­ties to­day that we didn’t take ad­van­tage of, of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively and on spe­cial teams,” coach Randy Ed­sall said. “We just didn’t fin­ish the game out at the end.”

Though UConn was listed as a 5-point un­der­dog Satur­day, the game felt winnable from the start, as the Huskies took a 7-3 lead into half­time and a 14-9 ad­van­tage into the fourth quar­ter. With an as­sist from Mother Na­ture — who sent wind, rain and cold — the Huskies’ D cor­ralled a dan­ger­ous UMass

of­fense for most of the af­ter­noon, while the of­fense scored just enough to keep the team ahead.

But time af­ter time, the Huskies lapsed in key mo­ments. Twice in the sec­ond quar­ter, quar­ter­back David Pin­dell failed to pick up first downs on fourth-and­short at­tempts. In the third, UConn ceded a 38yard touch­down pass on fourth-and-6. Trough­out UMass’s fate­ful go-ahead drive, the Huskies missed a se­ries of tack­les, let­ting the Min­ute­men march for­ward with lim­ited re­sis­tance.

On the fi­nal UMass t o u c h d own , mu l t i p l e Huskies de­fend­ers ap­peared to halt Young short of the goal line, but the ball-car­rier pushed for­ward through a gi­ant mass of bod­ies.

“It’s frus­trat­ing,” UConn line­backer San­tana Ster­ling said. “Any­time you’re on D and they’re out there in heavy per­son­nel they’re go­ing to run up the gut, and when they con­vert that sets off a lit­tle fire in you. Be­cause as a de­fense, we shouldn’t let that hap­pen.”

An ugly in­ter­cep­tion from Pin­dell on the next play from scrim­mage all but ended UConn’s hopes of a last-minute come­back.

Play­ing with­out in­jured quar­ter­back An­drew Ford, UMass out­gained UConn 444-265 and con­verted eight of its 18 third- and fourth-down at­tempts, com­pared to three of 13 for the Huskies. Ed­sall said play­ers didn’t play as fast or as sharp Satur­day as they did last week in a 38-30 loss to South Florida.

“I didn’t see guys trig­ger­ing as fast,” the coach said. “What I saw was some guys who were un­sure of them­selves, in terms of cut­ting loose and try­ing to makes cuts and run­ning the ball.”

The Huskies at­tempted only six passes on the day, choos­ing to run the ball across the soggy field. Ed- sall said Pin­dell has small hands and there­fore can’t throw ef­fec­tively in the rain, but Pin­dell didn’t see that as an is­sue.

“I wouldn’t say I have a prob­lem grip­ping the ball in any type of weather,” Pin­dell said. “The balls are just like — when they’re muddy and they’re rainy you just can’t get the grip that you want on there. But I’ve never had a prob­lem throw­ing in the rain or any­thing. If they ask me to throw, I’ll throw.”

As for the late-game in­ter­cep­tion, on a pass in­tended for Zavier Scott, Pin­dell said the UMass de­fense caught him by sur­prise.

“We took a shot, and we thought they were go­ing with a cer­tain de­fense where the cor­ner slips off, but they didn’t,” he said. “I tried to give [Scott] a shot, and they made a good play.”

When UConn did find suc­cess of­fen­sively, Pin­dell was the cat­a­lyst. The se­nior gained 120 yards and a touch­down on the ground, rac­ing past Pete Petrillo’s 51-year-old UConn record for rush­ing yards by a quar­ter­back in a sin­gle sea­son.

Run­ning back Kevin Men­sah added 82 yards on 21 car­ries for UConn, while kicker Michael Tar­butt drilled a 41-yard field goal.

Af­ter the first two drives of the game, Satur­day’s con­test looked like a shootout in the mak­ing. UConn re­ceived the ball first and em­barked on a seven-play drive that fea­tured seven rushes and ended with seven points. Scott had a 38-yard run, which helped set up a Men­sah touch­down.

UMass fol­lowed with a field goal, then stalled of­fen­sively through the rest of a sloppy first half. Hin­dered by the el­e­ments, the teams traded punts and turnovers on downs. The Min­ute­men muffed a punt (re­cov­ered by UConn’s Omar Fortt) and came up far short on a 42-yard field goal at­tempt just be­fore the half.

Af­ter the break, the two of­fenses be­gan to move the ball again. On UConn’s first drive, Pin­dell rushed for 53 yards on three car­ries, in­clud­ing a 25-yard run that gave UConn a two-score lead. UMass re­sponded with a touch­down of its own, via a 38-yard pass from QB Ross Comis to re­ceiver Andy Is­abella.

On the Min­ute­men’s next drive, 288-pound UConn de­fen­sive tackle Kevin Mur­phy picked off a Comis pass, set­ting up Tar­butt’s kick. With 12 min­utes to play, the Huskies ap­peared to be in con­trol.

But from there, UConn’s de­fense crum­bled. UMass cut the deficit to 2 points with a 67-yard re­cep­tion from re­ceiver Zak Si­mon on the first play of the next drive, then fol­lowed a UConn three-and- out with its de­ci­sive 11-play drive.

Af­ter al­low­ing only 145 yards in the first half, the Huskies gave up nearly 300 in the sec­ond half.

“We’ve just got to ex­e­cute,” Mur­phy said. “We’ve been putting some good quar­ters to­gether here and mak­ing some stops, but it just comes down to ev­ery­body buy­ing in and mak­ing sure we get a full game here to­gether and play four re­ally good quar­ters of foot­ball. And that’s com­ing. We’ve just got work re­ally hard as a team and keep­ing each other ac­count­able and that will come.”

BRAD HORRIGAN | BHORRIGAN@COURANT.COM

THE UMASS BENCH erupts in re­ac­tion to a game-clinch­ing in­ter­cep­tion by Lee Moses, left, as in­tended re­ceiver Zavier Scott of UConn falls to the turf. At top, UConn coach Randy Ed­sall can only watch as the Huskies clinched an eighth straight los­ing sea­son, fall­ing to the Min­ute­men on Satur­day.

BRAD HORRIGAN | BHORRIGAN@COURANT.COM

MIN­UTE­MEN QB Ross Comis tries to es­cape the clutches of the Huskies’ Lwal Uguak and AJ Gar­son, right.

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