HUSKIES STRONG

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Alex Put­ter­man aput­ter­[email protected]

The UConn men beat N.H., and the women over­power Pur­due.

EAST HART­FORD – In a sea­son that seemed to get uglier with each pass­ing week, UConn saved one of its most lop­sided losses for last.

The Huskies fell 57-7 to Tem­ple on Satur­day at Rentschler Field, seal­ing the pro­gram’s first onewin sea­son since 1977. It was UConn’s eighth loss of the sea­son by at least 30 points and its 16th straight de­feat against an FBS op­po­nent.

“2018 is over; 2019 starts to­mor­row,” coach Randy Ed­sall said af­ter the game. “And guys have to have a re­solve to work and want to get big­ger, faster, stronger.”

Un­like in past weeks, when UConn’s de­fense drew the bulk of blame for the team’s strug­gles, Satur­day’s loss was a true al­laround ef­fort. The Huskies’ of­fense turned over the ball four times and failed to score af­ter its open­ing drive. Their spe­cial teams al­lowed a 99-yard kick­off-re­turn touch­down. And yes, their de­fense ap­peared por­ous as ever, ced­ing more than 500 to­tal yards for the 11th time this sea­son.

When Tem­ple’s Will Mob­ley kicked a 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quar­ter, UConn had of­fi­cially al­lowed more points per game over a full sea­son (50.41) than any FBS team since World War I. It was just the lat­est bit of ig­nominy for a de­fense that had al­ready given up more yards than

any FBS team in his­tory.

Af­ter 12 games packed with bru­tal mo­ments, one stretch dur­ing the se­cond quar­ter may have rep­re­sented a new low.

First, quar­ter­back David Pin­dell lofted a pass right into a de­fender’s arms for an in­ter­cep­tion, tee­ing up a Tem­ple touch­down. On UConn’s next of­fen­sive play, the quar­ter­back whiffed on a slightly high snap, and Tem­ple re­cov­ered in­side the Huskies 5-yard line. When UConn got the ball back (fol­low­ing an Owls field goal), run­ning back Kevin Men­sah dropped the ball on first down, Pin­dell dropped the ball on se­cond down and Pin­dell tossed a pick-six on third down.

Over five of­fen­sive plays, UConn had coughed up three fum­bles, thrown two in­ter­cep­tions and turned over the ball three times.

Ed­sall and Pin­dell both viewed that se­quence, par­tic­u­larly Pin­dell’s first in­ter­cep­tion, as a turn­ing point.

“It seemed like we got down af­ter I threw that pick,” Pin­dell said. “It seemed like the whole team got down.”

“Af­ter that, the air just went out of the bal­loon,” Ed­sall said. “We didn’t have a lot of re­solve to come back from that. And that’s just some­thing that wasn’t ac­cept­able.”

Pin­dell, who car­ried UConn’s of­fense for much of the sea­son, was done in Satur­day by both a balky an­kle and a rash of poor de­ci­sion-mak­ing. He com­pleted 12 of 23 passes for 89 yards, one touch­down (a 4-yard pass to Keyion Dixon in the first quar­ter) and three in­ter­cep­tions, while rush­ing for only 24 yards.

In the third quar­ter, UConn turned to fresh­man quar­ter­back Steven Kra­jew­ski, who went 2of-3 for 11 yards, mainly hand­ing the ball to fel­low fresh­man Dante Black.

Men­sah fin­ished with 94 yards rush­ing on 24 car­ries, pass­ing 1,000 for the sea­son. Safety Oneil Robin­son pro­vided a rare de­fen­sive high­light, with a sec­ondquar­ter in­ter­cep­tion.

The play of the game may have be­longed to Tem­ple kick re­turner (and Kingswood Ox­ford grad) Isa­iah Wright, who fielded a first-quar­ter kick­off at the goal line and burst through the UConn cov­er­age for a 99-yard re­turn touch­down. Wright also scored on an 18-yard rush on Tem­ple’s first drive of the game.

Tem­ple (8-4, 7-1 in the AAC) spread around its 516 yards of to­tal of­fense, with four dif­fer­ent ball car­ri­ers rush­ing for at least 40 yards each and nine dif­fer­ent re­ceivers mak­ing at least one catch. Owls quar­ter­back Frank Nu­tile com­pleted 9 of 12 passes for 184 yards.

With UConn’s sea­son now over, Ed­sall will leave town on a re­cruit­ing trip, seek­ing a group of play­ers who might make the 2019 Huskies bet­ter than the 2018 ver­sion. UConn will re­turn al­most its en­tire de­fense next year but will lose sev­eral key of­fen­sive weapons, in­clud­ing Pin­dell, re­ceiver Hergy May­ala, cen­ter Ryan Crozier and tight end Aaron McLean.

UConn play­ers said they’ll re­mem­ber this sea­son’s pain as they pre­pare for next year and be­yond.

“You def­i­nitely have to take it with you,” de­fen­sive tackle Caleb Thomas said. “You’ve got to keep it mov­ing, but you’ve got to keep this in the back of your mind. You don’t want to feel this again.”

MARK MIRKO/HART­FORD COURANT

UConn of­fen­sive line­man Cam DeGe­orge and Tem­ple’s Karamo Dioubate bat­tle as Tem­ple’s Chris­tian Braswell brings down UConn’s Dante Black on a run at­tempt in the fourth quar­ter.

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