Late Score, Pindell Interception In Foul Weather Clinches Eighth Straight Losing Season For Huskies
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.”
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.
MINUTEMEN QB Ross Comis tries to escape the clutches of the Huskies’ Lwal Uguak and AJ Garson, right.