UConn knows how to lose with panache

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - JEFF JA­COBS

EAST HART­FORD — They know how to lose with great panache. They sure don’t know how to win.

When Michael Tar­butt, who had been in the place­kick­ing dog­house, emerged to hit a 41-yard field goal with 12:27 left in the Nor’Easter Bowl on Satur­day, UConn had its 17-9 lead.

A good team knows how to fin­ish off a 2-6 UMass team at home.

A bad team with a se­nior quar­ter­back knows how to fin­ish a 2-6 UMass team with­out its start­ing quar­ter­back in windy, rainy con­di­tions.

Only this isn’t a good team. This isn’t a bad team. This is a ter­ri­ble foot­ball team.

The 2018 UConn Huskies know how to lose. They have no idea how to win against one of the 130 FBS teams in the United States.

In ex­plain­ing why quar­ter­back David Pin­dell threw only four passes in the first 45 min­utes, coach Randy Ed­sall said, “The first three quar­ters, the rain, it was hard to throw. And David doesn’t have big hands. When you don’t have big hands and he doesn’t grip the ball with the laces, so that’s one of things that he was hav­ing trou­ble grip­ping the ball.”

Big feet that have led Pin­dell to a record 784 rush­ing yards in a sea­son.

Small hands.

Small ex­pec­ta­tions. Tiny ex­pec­ta­tions. That’s the only way for those who love UConn foot­ball, who are cheer­ing for its res­ur­rec­tion can main­tain their san­ity through this sea­son of foot­ball hell. If the ex­pec­ta­tions are the Huskies will go 1-11 this year, 4-8 next year and Ed­sall will be able to re­build the Huskies to be­come bowl el­i­gi­ble in 2020 or 2021, your ex­pec­ta­tions may be on tar­get.

If your ex­pec­ta­tions are that none of these 2018 scores mat­ter and the young Huskies will grow un­der Ed­sall, yes, you can be sat­is­fied with this 22-17 loss to UMass at Rentschler Field.

Yet it your ex­pec­ta­tions were that a UConn team, 113th in RPI rank­ings, could hold a late eight­point lead at home against an op­po­nent 107th in the rank­ings, you are out of luck. If your ex­pec­ta­tions were that with Min­ute­men quar­ter­back An­drew Ford lost with a knee in­jury and with a de­fense that also had al­lowed alarm­ing num­bers this year, UConn had enough to fin­ish off a UMass team with vic­to­ries over Duquesne and Char­lotte … you are out of luck.

When the Huskies fi­nally stopped giv­ing up 50 points a game, they now are demon­strat­ing they can’t close out games against much lesser op­po­nents.

They even­tu­ally gave way in a 38-30 loss against No. 21 USF last week in Tampa, but not be­fore they put up a de­ter­mined fight.

Yet any mo­men­tum they gained dropped through a trap door in the sec­ond half. The Huskies had leads of 14-3 in the third quar­ter and 17-9 in the fourth and couldn’t fin­ish UMass off.

“If it did, we’ve got an is­sue, I don’t think it did,” Ed­sall said when asked if there was any sense that af­ter a good show­ing at USF there could a sense this one could be much eas­ier. “We told them it has to be con­sis­tent week to week.

“We were play­ing them hard, hold­ing them to three points. It’s al­most where we lost a lit­tle some­thing. We were get­ting af­ter it pretty good and all of sud­den …”

Ed­sall snapped his fin­gers.

“It went like that.” They can’t fin­ish any­body off, save FCS Rhode Is­land. The can run the ta­ble with L’s now. Ed­sall, the play­ers, they seemed to ac­cept this L. There was no anger on dis­play. They look to be on a freefall ride to 1-11 and, I know, I know. What do you ex­pect, Ja­cobs?

At least they gave up a sea­son-low 22 points.

At least they gave up a sea­son-low 444 yards.

And, hey, there was an an­nounced at­ten­dance of 24,150.

When your ex­pec­ta­tions are noth­ing, how can you be dis­ap­pointed? When there are maybe 2,000 peo­ple in the stands and there as many play­ers on the side­lines as there are bod­ies in the stu­dent sec­tion, hey, if no­body sees it did this sea­son re­ally hap­pen? The 2018 Huskies are a phi­los­o­phy ques­tion now.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Tar­butt’s field goal, UConn

blew coverage and Zak Si­mon caught a 67-yard touch­down pass from Ross Comis. The two-point con­ver­sion was snuffed. The next time they got the ball, the Min­ute­men went on an 11-play, 81-yard drive that cul­mi­nated in a rugby-style touch­down rum­ble of three yards by Mar­quis Young.

He es­sen­tially got hit at the line of scrim­mage and in slow mo­tion over five sec­onds the en­tire scrum kept its for­ward progress over the goal line.

“When some­body is stood up like that and all those guys come and push, you’ve got to take their legs out,” Ed­sall said. “Be lower. So you can drive guys back. There are things we have to work on and with some of those young guys you can’t do as much as you want un­til af­ter the sea­son.”

Pin­dell said the team prac­ticed out­side all week in prepa­ra­tion for the Nor’Easter.

“We knew it was go­ing to be ter­ri­ble weather,” he said. “We prac­ticed in the cold, did the wa­ter drill, wet all the balls. It was pretty sim­i­lar to what we had to­day.

“I wouldn’t say I have a prob­lem grip­ping the ball in any type of weather. The balls when they are muddy and rain­ing you can’t re­ally get the grip you want on it. I never re­ally had a prob­lem throw­ing in the rain. If he asks me to throw, I’ll throw the ball.”

Pin­dell is not a young guy. He is a se­nior, who with 120 yards on the ground Satur­day al­ready has bro­ken the UConn sin­gle-sea­son rush­ing record with 784. He also had 15 yards — 15! — on four-of-six pass­ing and a back­break­ing in­ter­cep­tion. UMass found a way to get 197 yards pass­ing. UConn went one di­men­sional un­til late and it worked well enough un­til the team fell apart in the fi­nal 15 min­utes.

First scrim­mage play af­ter the UMass go-ahead TD, Pin­dell rolled right. Zavier Scott was run­ning into dou­ble-coverage on the side­line.

“We thought they were go­ing to a cer­tain de­fense when the cor­ner slips off, but he didn’t,” Pin­dell said. “He kind of walked Zavier out.”

“David un­der­threw it,” Ed­sall said. “He tried to float it in there a lit­tle bit. Zavier was on top of his guy. If you over­throw it, that’s fine. The worst thing you can do is un­der­throw it.”

Bad force. Ter­ri­ble un­der­throw.

Still, UConn had a last gasp to get the ball back. On fourth and one, 20 sec­onds ran off the clock be­fore Ed­sall called time­out with 1:52 left to pre­vent a penalty for too many men on the field.

“I didn’t want to call one,” Ed­sall said. “I wanted to wait. We had a sub­sti­tu­tion si­t­u­a­tion.”

And then? San­tana Ster­ling shot the gap, got to Comis. But he handed the ball off to Young just in time for the first down to end this mess.

“You’ve got to keep pos­i­tive,” Pin­dell said.

And keep low­er­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.