Sports sun post
By Chris Elsberry
EAST HARTFORD – T.J. Weist’s coaching debut was a lot like so many other UConn head football coaches debuts. A losing one.
Since Sumner Dole led the Huskies to a win over Trinity back in 1923, only Paul Pasqualoni in 2011 could boast of an opening-game victory. J.O. Christian, Arthur Valpey, Bob Ingalls, Rick Forzano, John Toner, Bob Casciola, Larry Naviaux, Walt Nadzak, Tom Jackson, Skip Holtz and Randy Edsall all lost their UConn debuts. Now, add Weist to the list.
South Florida snapped a fourth-quarter tie with a 44-yard field goal by Marvin Kloss with 4:03 to play as the Bulls kept the Huskies 0-for-the-season, falling to 0-5 with a 13-10 loss before 37,861 Saturday at Rentschler Field.
After opening the season with four straight losses, Paul Pasqualoni was fired and athletic director Warde Manuel turned to Weist, the offensive coordinator, to inject some energy into the team. One of Weist’s first moves was to re-instate tight ends coach Mike Foley as offensive line coach and early on against the Bulls, the O line responded. Tailback Lyle McCombs rushed for a career-high 164 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, as the Huskies totaled 207 yards on the ground.
But the passing game was completely out-of-snych as true freshman quarterback Tim Boyle – making his first career start — completed just 15 of 43 for 159 yards.
Tied at 10-10, The Bulls moved 65 yards in 13 plays, ripping off 7:27 of clock to take the lead with just over four minutes to play. Kloss, the American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after he kicked four field goals in a win against Cincinnati, booted two of 47 and 44 yards, to beat the Huskies.
Making his first start, Boyle was obviously amped up. Maybe too amped. After completing his first college pass, a 10-yard rollout to Geremy Davis, Boyle threw seven straight incompletions with several passes sailing over the receivers head. His velocity was also an issue as tight end Graham Parker dropped a sure 15-yard touchdown pass at the goal line, so did Deshon Foxx, who was wide open but couldn’t hang on to a 40-yard bullet from Boyle.
The Huskies used a 32-yard field goal from Chad Christen to take a 3-0 lead with 8:43 left in the first quarter, a score set up thanks to a interception by cornerback Byron Jones at the USF 29.
On the next possession, Christen was short and wide right on a 49-yard field goal attempt (it appeared that he slipped on the grass) that would have given UConn a 6-0 lead.
There were several signs in the opening half that the UConn offense was starting to find its running game. Boyle had a 19-yard keeper, along with 10-yard scamper and Lyle McCombs, who had struggled all season, posted gains of 11, 21 and 28 yards in the opening quarter.
South Florida used a Boyle turnover to take a 7-3 lead as Boyle was hit by Bulls’ Ryne Giddins as he looked to pass – almost the exact kind of play that happened to Chandler Whitmer on the third play of the game against Buffalo – and USF’s defensive end Aaron Lynch picked up the football and motored 44 yards to score. Kloss added the extra point.
But on the first play of the second quarter, McCombs put together his best run of the season, dancing through the Bulls defense for a 52-yard touchdown run to put the Huskies ahead 10-7. It gave McCombs 135 yards in 10 carries, his first 100-yard game since registering 133 in that triple OT win at Louisville last season.
South Florida answered with 47-yard field goal from Kloss to tie the game at 10-10 with 11:50 to play in the first half, highlighted by a 27-yard run from Willie Davis and a 20-yard pass from Bobby Eveld to Mike MacFarlane.