The ingredients were all there. A new coach. A new quarterback. Renewed team energy. Homecoming. The American Athletic Conference opener for UConn. The season’s first day game and a crowd excited to see the re-branded Huskies. The only thing missing was a full moon. As it turned out it wasn't the full moon that was missing but the simple basics of catching a pass that played a significant role in keeping the Huskies from their first win of 2013 as visiting University of South Florida dealt UConn its fifth straight loss. A 44 yard Marvin Kloss field goal midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as South Florida spoiled the debut of Interim Heach Coach T. J. Weist with the Bullls outlasting the Huskies in an ugly 13-10 win at 'The Rent' in East Hartford Saturday afternoon.
“We lose as a team,” said Weist, “But this loss is on me and my staff to prepare. It’s my responsibility to do whatever is necessary to win this game. We had every opportunity. Our defense played a great game.”
Weist elected to bench four game starter Chandler Whitmer in favor of homegrown talent freshman quarterback Tim Boyle of Middlefield. Boyle (15 for 43, 149 yds), along with the reemergence of UConn's long lost running game behind Lyle McCombs (Career high 164 yards), gave the faithful hope that maybe the dark days of the 2013 season were coming to an end. It didn't take long for reality to trump the short term euphoria. After a Chad Christen 32 yard field goal gave the Huskies the early 3-0 lead midway through the first the Bulls brought UConn back to earth after defensive end Aaron Lynch scooped up a Boyle fumble on a pass play scampering 44 yards giving South Florida the 7-3 lead with 1:33 left in the first.
“Tim Boyle played an exceptional game for a true freshman”, said Weist, “He made some throws early that could have made the difference in the game. If our guys make some of those (Catches) it’s a different game.”
McCombs, who was running all over the Bulls defense in the first, opened the second quarter with a nifty 52 yard run that put UConn back up by three. UConn's defense couldn't protect the lead letting the Bulls march 55 yards before settling for a Kloss 47 yarder that knotted the score at ten with just under twelve to play in the half. Following the field goal both offenses sputtered through the second quarter and some questionable play calling by the Bulls may have cost them a chance at an halftime lead. After getting pinned on their own two following a Cole Wagner punt with just under four to play in the half the Bulls marched all the way into Huskies territory. Facing a second and two on the UConn 29 with two timeouts, South Florida opted to throw rather than run with Bobby Evald (8 for 28, 106 yds, 1INT) throwing an incomplete pass. On the next play the Bulls opted to throw yet again. It proved to be a terrible decision as a holding call pushed the ball out to the 39 and pushed the Bulls out of field goal range. UConn took a knee following the punt and the teams to the locker room tied at ten apiece.
UConn (0-5, 0-1 AAC) had two golden opportunities in the first half to put some big points on the board but Spencer Parker had a touchdown pass sail through his hands leading to UConn’s first field goal. On UConn’s next possession Deshon Foxx had a potential 40 yard touchdown go through his fingers as he dove into the end zone. UConn came out of the drive empty-handed as Christen couldn't convert a 49 yard field goal attempt.
Said Weist, “We have to make those plays to win this football game”
The third quarter was a textbook display of offensive futility as both teams combined for six punts. The only excitement of the quarter came when Bulls Mike McFarland blocked a Christen 47 yard field goal attempt.
After a UConn drive stalled on the South Florida (2-4, 2-0 AAC) 45 early in the fourth, a Cole Wagner punt pinned the Bulls on their own nine. A solid fourteen play drive stalled on the UConn 26 giving the Bulls a chance to put up the first points of the second half and the lead. Kloss drilled the 44 yarder off the left hash with just over seven minutes to go. Both teams went three and out on their next possessions before the Huskies took over on their own five with just under two to go. Questionable clock management and nine plays later the Huskies had one last gasp for a Hail Mary at the Bulls 49, but the Boyle attempt was batted down in the end zone and South Florida hung on to win.
Next up for UConn is a trip to Cincinnati for a noon time game next Saturday.