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The Post-Game Spread: UConn searching for answers after a blowout loss
Nothing was going right for the Huskies Saturday night.
Welcome to the Post-Game Spread, our take on the game recap.
This week, we also have an exclusive video of Jim Mora’s post-game press conference. That’s because the Husky Football Forum was the only local media outlet in Atlanta for the game — tell your friends!
That was bad.
UConn’s offense never got into gear as a mistake-filled night at Georgia State ended with very few bright spots and a final score of 35-14 that few would have predicted. The hosts were favored going into this game but the spread moved down to three points by kick-off.
An opportunity for Jim Mora’s squad to make a statement on the road slipped away during the middle 30 minutes, with the Huskies trailing 21-0 at halftime and 28-0 after three quarters. On top of that, an injury to starting quarterback Joe Fagnano leaves the future of the position up in the air.
Darren Grainger’s 65-yard touchdown run on a QB keeper in the first quarter looked like it may have been a one-time thing, instead of a sign of things to come. Before that play, GSU went three-and-out on its first drive. After that play, the Husky defense forced a fumble and two punts on the next three drives, allowing a total of 44 yards.
On that second punt, however, UConn return man Brett Buckman’s eyes (and body) went upfield before securing the ball and Georgia State recovered, putting the defense back out there and erasing the three-and-out that it had just forced. The Panthers capitalized on that second chance, with a short field, to make it 14-0.
Roberson entered the game on the next UConn drive. The Huskies went three-and-out after a holding penalty created a 2nd & 17 situation. They then ran the ball for a short gain before Roberson attempted a third-down pass to Houston about five yards downfield that fell incomplete, giving the hosts the ball back with good field position.
On the Panthers’ ensuing drive, UConn had two chances to make the stop, forcing a 3rd & 9 on the fourth play near midfield and 3rd & 17 in Husky territory. Both times, Grainger ran some form of option keeper for over 20 yards each to keep the drive alive and make it 21-0 at halftime.
The second half was more of the same until two fourth-quarter touchdown passes by Roberson that occurred in the non-competitive portion of the game. Though the offense didn’t fare much better under him in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, Roberson could start the next game, either due to Fagnano’s shoulder injury or a coach’s decision.
It’s one of many questions facing the Huskies as they head into next week’s matchup, hosting an FIU team that also may be tougher than expected.
Photo Credit: Twitter - @GeorgiaStateFB
Stats & Facts
While the Husky running backs struggled to get anything going, Devontae Houston and Victor Rosa were the only ones to register a carry, perhaps indicating a new rotation there. Unfortunately, they had a combined 17 rushes for 26 yards.
Fagnano finished 4-of-9 passing for 60 yards. Mora said after the game that he saw some open receivers that Joe didn’t. Some of his throws were clearly off the mark as well.
Roberson finished with a nicer-looking stat line: 216 yards while completing 19 of 30 attempts with two TDs and a pick. But 180 of those yards and both of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter with the game well out of hand.
Buckman muffed a second punt that luckily bounced out of bounds.
Eight UConn players registered a reception though only four registered multiple, led by Buckman’s nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Cam Ross had five receptions for 62 yards and one early drop that could have kept a drive alive.
GSU QB Darren Grainger’s 145 rushing yards came on 12 carries. He also threw for 145 yards and an additional touchdown. Panthers running back Marcus Carroll finished with 107 rushing yards and three TDs averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Tight end Alex Honig, a transfer from TCU by way of Germany, injured his kneecap. It was dislocated and then set back by the training staff. Mora said early indications are he does not need surgery.
No timetable on Fagnano’s injury or any word on who the starting QB will be next week.
Pros & Cons
The defense held fairly strong in the first quarter and early second, to its credit. I think this group can be more effective overall if the offense is giving it enough time to rest and not giving the ball back immediately after the D forces a punt.
Roberson’s effort under center offered some promise. He completed 4-of-5 passes through the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, he and other members of the team kept competing in order to salvage some pride.
Justin Joly is a very impressive athlete who can do great things at UConn.
Punter George Karatan had a good day, averaging 46 yards across his five punts.
Most of the Stats & Facts in the section above are cons, as is the case in a game like this.
The Husky offense only had 132 yards of total offense through the first three quarters as GSU built a 28-0 lead.
UConn didn’t run a play in the red zone until nine minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Grainger went virtually untouched on his long touchdown run.
Georgia State finished with 394 yards on offense, 250 coming on the ground.
UConn committed right penalties for 65 yards.