First, the bad news …
UConn (0-9, 0-4 American Athletic) lost again, falling to SMU 38-21 in Dallas on Saturday.
The losing streak now stands at nine to start the season – becoming the worst start to a season in the history of UConn football, which dates back to 1896.
The previous worst was a 0-8 beginning to the 1977 campaign. Add to that a loss to Cincinnati on the final week of the 2012 season, it puts the current losing streak at 10, which ties all all-time program record for consecutive losses (the last two games in 1976 and the first eight in 1977).
Redshirt freshman quarterback Casey Cochran – making his first collegiate start — threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, the sixth offensive turnover this season that was directly returned for a score, and the 13th turnover overall this season that was converted into either a touchdown or field goal by the opposition.
SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert completed 33 of 52 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns and over the last four games, opposing quarterbacks have combined to complete 91 of 137 passes (a 66.4 completion rate), for 1,227 yards (an average of 306.7 yards per game) and 13 – count ‘em, 13 – touchdowns against the Huskies secondary.
“That’s the hard part,” interim head coach T.J. Weist said on his Sunday post-game conference call. “We’ve had so many injuries back there (in the secondary), we’re playing some young guys and we’re facing some good passing teams, like the one we just faced. We said going in we had to tackle in space … and we didn’t do that down the stretch, they had those two hitch routes that went for something like, 68 yards (actually 74, one went for 54 yards and the other 20) and a touchdown.
“We had to make those plays. We had to step up and … we knew they were going to get their catches but we had to stop them and we didn’t and it cost us late in the game. We just have to make better plays back there. We just have to have more consistency in our secondary all across the board.”
Now the good news …
To his credit, Cochran, the former Masuk High star, played well. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. His two interceptions both came in the fourth quarter. He was only sacked once.
As comparison, Tim Boyle was 15 of 43 for 149 yards (no TDs) and three sacks against South Florida in his first start and Chandler Whitmer was 15 of 25 for 219 yards (and no touchdowns) in his first start against UMass in 2012.
“I think Casey showed some good leadership,” Weist said. “He played very average. There were times he played good and times he played bad. Put those two together, he played average. He could have made some better decisions. He probably had a better second half if you take away the interceptions. He needed to make some better throws to keep some drives alive in the first half. But in the second half, he played with more energy, he made some more plays.”
Tailback Lyle McCombs rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries and Max DeLorenzo added 62 yards on 15 carries. Overall, the Huskies rushed for 158 yards on 34 attempts, a solid 4.6 yards a carry. It was the second 100-plus yard game on the season for McCombs, who totaled a career-high 164 yards against South Florida on October 12.
“Yes, there were some positives,” Weist said. “We ran the ball better, had some good runs. Lyle played tough. Max played tough … they played their normal games. It was one of our better days, offensive line-wise. We only had one sack. We’ve just got to score more points. That’s what it comes down to. We have to get in the red zone, we’ve got to drive the ball better and score more points.”
On the injury front, linebacker Marquise Vann twisted his knee, as did cornerback David Stephenson and their status for Saturday’s game at Temple is unknown at this time. OT Kevin Friend did not play after suffering concussion-like symptoms after being hit in practice on Wednesday. Both Vann and Stephenson were scheduled to have MRI’s on Sunday to determine the extent of their injuries, according to Weist.
“We have to wait and see how bad the damage might be … both twisted their knees,” Weist said. “We do expect to get Kevin back. He had a stinger or concussion, so we kept him out.”