He may be saying all the right things but UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni’s body language seems to be saying something else. Following the 32-21 drubbing at the hands of the visiting Maryland Terrapins his Huskies have questions and even fewer answers. Unlike like the Towson debacle over two weeks ago, there were some fleeting glimmers of hope, but to the naked eye they were few and far between.
UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer (29-46-1TD-2INT) threw for a single game best 349 yards, but a critical third quarter pick six combined with an unproductive running game, inconsistent special teams play and a porous Huskies defense ultimately led to their undoing. With 10th ranked (AP) Michigan coming to town on Saturday UConn (0-2) could be facing its first 0-3 start since the 2001 season.
After the close of the first quarter it looked like UConn may have put the embarrassing Towson loss behind them as they scored on their second drive of the game and the defense resembled its stout 2012 former self.
But the tide began to turn in the second. A nine play UConn drive stalled in Maryland territory with the ensuing punt giving theTerps the ball on their own 20.
“To take a nice drive and not be able to finish”, said Whitmer, “That's something we harped on last year. We have to finish drives and we didn't get it done and it's frustrating.”
Four plays, 80 yards and a 1:20 later the score was tied at seven. A three and out followed by a terrible punt gave Maryland (3-0) the ball at the UConn 40. Five plays later the Terrapins wrested the lead as placekicker Brad Craddock sent a 29 yarder through the uprights.
“(Saturday) We just weren’t able to run the ball”, said Pasqualoni, “We didn’t create enough space for the (running) backs to find a crease and so it was frustrating. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
The Huskies answered right back after Chad Christen capped a nine play drive with a 33 yarder knotting the score at ten. But UConn’s defense, which had kept Maryland stymied for the opening fifteen minutes, couldn’t contain the Terrapin offense allowing the Terps to march 86 yards down the field before Craddock gave the Terps the lead for good as time expired in the half with a 21 yarder.
The game was ultimately decided in the third. Terrapin quarterback C.J. Brown (15-28-1TD-1INT, 122 rush yds) hooked up on a 12 yard strike to Stefon Diggs (5-110-1TD) giving Maryland a ten point lead with just over nine minutes left in the quarter. UConn was still not done as Christen connected on a 34 yarder keeping the Huskies within a touchdown. But four minutes later came the dagger came as cornerback Dexter McDougle took a Whitmer pass back 49 yards for pick six giving the Terps the 27-13 lead heading into the fourth.
Any hopes of an UConn comeback and a chance to spoil former UConn coach Randy Edsall’s return to Connecticut went by the wayside in the fourth. A Whitmer intentional grounding on third down in the end zone resulted in a safety followed by a Craddock 40 yarder after Maryland got the ball back following the safety free kick.
By then much of 38,000 plus had headed for the exits. A 75 yard touchdown pass from Whitmer to Shakim Phillips (10-178-1TD) and a two point conversion accounted for the final points. But the touchdown didn’t come without a price as Phillips suffered an apparent hamstring injury just before crossing the goal line.
Said Whitmer, “I can't point the fingers we just didn't get it done as a team.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Huskies as the Michigan Wolverines come to The Rent Saturday evening for an 8 p.m. kickoff. The Huskies will be facing an undoubtedly focused Wolverine squad coming off a near upset loss to Akron on Saturday.
UConn rushed for 34 net yards on 33 carries…UConn’s rushing attack has totaled 115 yards on 60 carries over the first two games averaging 1.9 yards per carry…Two seasons and two games into his career as a UConn head coach (1999-2010) Randy Edsall was 7-17. Pasqualoni is 10-14 over that same stretch…Chandler Whitmer’s previous single game passing high was 333 yards last September versus Western Michigan…Lyle McCombs averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2012 and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry in UConn’s first two games this season…Whitmer has been sacked 10 times this season, while the UConn defense has not recorded a sack through the first two games.