SAME OLD STORY – It was the opening drive of the game and the UConn Huskies were looking to make something happen. A personal foul call against Louisville had just given UConn a first down at the Cardinals 19. Martin Hyppolite burst through the U of L line and into the secondary, inside the 15 … inside the 10 … being hit at the nine-yard line by Marcus Smith.
Hyppolite fumbled the football. Louisville recovered.
It was the story of the night for the winless Huskies, who fell to 0-8 – matching their worst start ever (1977) to begin a season – with a 31-10 loss to the No. 20 ranked Cardinals. There was another fumble, three interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown and a blocked punt that was also returned for a score. In all, it was just another nightmare in a season that’s been full of them.
“There’s a reason we lost, because we made mistakes,” interim head coach T.J. Weist said after the game. “It was more about us than it was about them. We came out and we made some mistakes. They starting stopping our run game and we gave them points.”
Fourteen to be exact. Charles Gaines blocked a punt in the first quarter and took it into the end zone for a touchdown and in the third quarter, Terell Floyd picked off a Tim Boyle pass and scored to put the game away.
It was that kind of night.
“The momentum never changed,” Weist said. “Our defense played a heck of a game. We held them. We stopped them. We kept them from scoring. But when we go three-and-out on offense, when we keep turning the ball over and putting our defense in bad positions, bad field position. No defense can stand up to that. I’m proud of the defense. I’m proud of their effort. The only chance we had was to not beat ourselves.”
Louisville came into the game averaging 39.4 points and 495.3 yards of total offense. The Huskies defense held the Cardinals to 369 total yards and (taking away the two turnover touchdowns) 17 points. Impressive numbers. However, the offense continues to be mired in a season-long slump of epic proportions. UConn managed just 237 yards of total offense and scored just one touchdown – and that came with 35 seconds to play when the game had long been decided.
“Our offense has not been efficient all season,” Weist said. “We have to make plays and be more productive all across the board.”
With the Pick 6 and the punt return for a TD, the Huskies have allowed five touchdowns directly off turnovers.
A interception return for a touchdown by Maryland.
A interception return for a touchdown by Buffalo.
A fumble return for a touchdown by South Florida.
A blocked punt return for a TD by Louisville.
A interception return for a touchdown by Louisville.
“I don’t know if it’s unbelievable, it’s football, it’s happens,” Weist said. “You can break it all down but it comes down to individuals making plays. Obviously, it comes down to me calling plays, me leading the offense, me leading this team, taking responsibility for everything. We just got to go out and throw the football and catch it. We have to protect better. You say, ‘How do you score more points?’ Well, that’s not the easiest answer.”
WHAT’S THE ANSWER? – Good question. Yes, freshman Tim Boyle is the future of the program. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got a rocket of an arm (maybe too much of a rocket) but right now, thrown headfirst into the college football fire, he looks overwhelmed. And on Friday night, there was a shot of him sitting on the UConn bench, looking totally demoralized. Maybe it’s time to give the job back to Chandler Whitmer, who has the experience needed to survive over these final four games and then commit to Boyle throughout the spring, summer and fall off-season.
“Again, I’ll go back and look at personnel,” Weist said. “We’ll go back as a staff and look at personnel and make the best decisions for this team. We’ve got a young quarterback that we’ve committed to in the last four weeks and he’s leading this offense but he’s got to do a better job of not turning the football over and making better, sound decisions.”
The three interceptions by Boyle against Louisville give him eight for the season, an average of two a game. That’s not good. He’s also fumbled the ball twice and been sacked 18 times. His numbers – 58 of 132 (43.9) for 619 yards – average out to 14½ completions and 154.7 yards passing a game. That’s not good, either.
“Any player that you put in that position, that makes mistakes and has to learn on the field, that’s costs us when he learns those mistakes,” Weist said. “We always talk about that, you’ve got to learn in practice as much as you can or learn from other player’s mistakes so it doesn’t cost us. ’Oh yeah, I shouldn’t have done that in the game or I shouldn’t have done that on the play.’ Well, it just cost us an interception, it just cost us a touchdown.
“So, we as coaches try to put them in the best positions in practice and put them in position to see the looks, see the reads, see the blitzes in those situations so they don’t make the wrong decisions. If they make the wrong decisions in practice, they learn from that mistake in practice so it doesn’t cost us a game. He’s learning form his mistakes but those turnovers are costing us.
“It’s my responsibility as the head coach to find ways to put us in a position to make better plays on offense. Whether it’s personnel, whether its play-calling, whatever it is, we’re not getting it done.”
SILVER LINING? – In the wake of an eighth straight loss, Weist managed to find at least one positive. His team played hard.
“You always judge the effort and I was proud of their effort,” Weist said. “You got to bring something positive out of this game because when it comes down do it, we were in this game probably … until whatever time in the third quarter and we just have to make plays. It wasn’t our effort, it wasn’t our mentality. It was the simple fact of us making plays on offense.
“That’s where it starts, on offense. We come out and start fast and we take it down the field and turn it over, right away, first series. We take it all the way down the field and we turn the ball over and give it to them. Then we come back and we give them seven points on special teams. We give them another interception and that’s something we just can’t do. That killed us. Turnovers killed us in the second half. We just have to do better. We’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to do whatever it takes to make it better.”