New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
UConn’s Phommachanh out indefinitely
UConn has lost freshman quarterback Tyler Phommachanh, probably longterm, to a lower leg injury sustained in last week’s loss at Vanderbilt.
“We just got (test) results,” interim coach Lou Spanos said during his weekly media call Tuesday morning. “He is out indefinitely.”
Asked if Phommachanh could return this season, Spanos said, “We’ll see how it progresses throughout the remaining weeks.”
Phommachanh has played in three games and is likely to regain a year of eligibility should he miss significant time and/or the rest of the season. NCAA rules allow a player to appear in up to four games while retaining medical redshirt status.
The Huskies (0-6) play Saturday at UMass (0-5), a matchup of two of the worst teams in college football in recent years. Spanos did not name a starting quarterback, but redshirt sophomore Steven Krajewski, who played well in taking over for Phommachanh at Vanderbilt and scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:07 remaining, appears to be in line to lead the offense.
“It was competition Tuesday and we’ll see who had a good week of practice,” Spanos said. “We’re evaluating ... and we’ll go from there.”
The other option is Jack Zergiotis, former coach Randy Edsall’s starter for losses to Fresno State and Holy Cross. Spanos started Krajewski in Week 3, a 49-0 home loss to Purdue, before calling on Phommachanh in a 52-21 loss at Army.
Phommachanh, an Avon Old Farms graduate from Stratford, found success late in that game, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another with Army starters pulled. He also led a rejuvenated UConn offense the following week in a narrow home loss, 24-22, to heavily-favored Wyoming.
On UConn’s second possession against Vanderbilt, Phommachanh landed awkwardly on his left leg and was later seen on crutches on the sideline.
The Huskies lost 30-28 on field goal with no time remaining after Krajewski (18 of 34, 264 yards, two touchdowns) scored on a 17-yard run to give UConn a onepoint lead.
UConn is at the season’s midway point, and there are winnable games on the schedule. The Huskies have lost 10 in a row, dating to their 56-35 victory at UMass on Oct. 26, 2019. Saturday’s game is the 74th in series history, with UMass leading 36-35-2.
UConn faces Yale of the Football Championship Subdivision on Oct. 16, the 50th meeting between the teams and the first since 1998, and Middle Tennessee Oct. 22. Both games are at home. The Huskies close the season with a daunting three-game stretch — at Clemson (Nov. 13), at Central Florida (Nov. 20) and home against Houston (Nov. 27).
Phommachanh’s older brother, Taisun Phommachanh, also an Avon Old Farms grad, is a redshirt sophomore and backup quarterback for Clemson. UConn is a 3.5-point favorite over the Minutemen. UMass has been outscored 98-10 in its past two games, losing 53-3 at No. 15 Coastal Carolina and 45-7 to Toledo at home.
Phommachanh was 19 for 39 for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Wyoming, and 5 of 7 for 41 yards against Vanderbilt before being injured. Krajewski took over and eventually led UConn on an eight-play, 78-yard drive to take the lead.
“That was huge,” said senior tight end Jay Rose, of Southington. “We talk week in and week out, football is a vicious game. Sadly, things happen. But you’ve got to prep like you’re the starter every week. Steve does that week in and week out. His time was called and he stepped up to the challenge. We expect that at every position, but obviously quarterback is a real important position so for him to do that, I think it really just put more confidence in our offense.”
Phommachanh kick started the first signs of life with his style and leadership. The UConn offense, so reliant on youth, has come to resemble a functional unit. Against Vanderbilt, the Huskies had a player surpass 100 yards rushing (Nate Carter, 123) and a player surpass 100 yards receiving (Keelan Marion, 102). Both are freshmen.
The Huskies have also mixed in several trick plays in recent weeks. Rose, who had a career-high 91 receiving yards, threw two passes, completing one for 26 yards to fellow tight end Brandon Niemenski, a freshman. UConn, which brought in longtime offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone as an analyst after three games, had a seasonhigh 523 yards of offense against Vanderbilt.
“You’ve seen it the past two weeks,” said Rose, who was targeted eight times against Vanderbilt and finished with five catches for 91 yards. “We’re really coming together as a team. Everybody is of the same mindset. Everybody wants to win.”
For the season, Phommachanh is 35 of 72 for 321 yards, one passing touchdown, two interceptions and two rushing touchdowns. Krajewski is 34 of 65 for 374 yards, two passing touchdowns, three interceptions and a rushing touchdown.
“They tasted the last two weeks,” Spanos said of players looking for the season’s first victory. “Now they want to make sure we finish.”