The Post-Game Spread: USF prevails
The Huskies had the win in their sights, but let it slip away.
Welcome to The Post-Game Spread, our take on the game recap.
UConn failed to hold on to an 11-point lead with 12:45 left in the fourth quarter at home against South Florida, leading to another brutal loss.
Facing the former Big East and AAC foe to which they had lost eight straight meetings going into Saturday, the Huskies made it nine in a row by allowing two late touchdowns and fumbling away their final opportunity.
Before that stretch, UConn’s defense had held the Bulls to 10 points and they’d gained just 60 yards in the third quarter after a first half where they managed only 4.8 yards per play. Their lone touchdown through the first three quarters came after a Victor Rosa fumble that gave the ball back on UConn’s four-yard line.
“In the first half, [QB] Byrum [Brown] was never comfortable,” USF head coach Alex Golesh said. “He rushed some things.”
Golesh added that he felt his team was “really lackluster for 3/4 of the game,” before Brown and his offense clicked.
“We had done a really good job of containing them,” head coach Jim Mora said. “We didn’t perform…coaches and players…you can only hope to hold an offensive team like that for so long.”
USF gained 182 of its 466 total yards in the fourth quarter. Brown completed 29-of-37 (69 percent) of his passes on the day for 201 yards and an interception, adding 61 yards on the ground, with a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Two second-quarter touchdowns allowed Mora’s squad to take a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime. Their first score came on a QB option keeper which Ta’Quan Roberson took to the house from 24 yards out, shaking off a defensive lineman’s would-be tackle, to cap off an 84-yard drive.
Running back Cam Edwards emerged in a big way with the best game of his young college career. He had two long runs, of 24 and 21 yards, to help set up Roberson’s score. The Norwalk native then gave UConn its first lead by going up to catch a touchdown pass after a 39-yard run to get the Huskies into the red zone.
Edwards finished with 149 yards on 22 carries and two total touchdowns. He got in the end zone again on an outside hand-off from 33 yards out in the fourth quarter to give UConn the largest lead of the game.
But they couldn’t hold on. Down three with the ball and time running out, Roberson was scrambling to convert a 3rd & 6. While he fell forward and seemed to have gotten the yardage needed, he coughed up the ball. Game over.
The outlook ahead
With the Huskies’ record now at 1-6, the possibility of a bowl bid is all but gone. They’ll need to treat next week’s visit to Boston College like it’s their bowl game.
Despite the sub-optimal record, UConn has proven itself to be a reasonably competitive team in performances against Utah State, Rice, and USF. The Huskies will have a chance in outer Boston against the Eagles.
They won’t have as much of a chance in the following two weeks when their road trip continues at nationally-ranked Tennessee and then James Madison, which is 7-0 after a gutsy win over Marshall.
After those two games, the Huskies host Sacred Heart, a struggling FCS squad that they should handle comfortably, before the UMass game. The mental health of every dedicated UConn football fan is on the line in that finale.
Stats & Facts
Roberson’s completion percentage for the season has dipped just below 60 percent after this performance. He finished the USF game 19-of-34 for 175 yards with one touchdown and one pick. The interception was an end-of-half play where he was trying to go deep and score, but the throw was a little off.
Since the FIU game, Roberson’s first start, he’s completed 59 percent of his passes while UConn threw on around 43 percent of the 330 plays run in five games. Scrambles and sacks count as rushes even though they’re called passing plays in the huddle, but this gives us some idea of what the run/pass mix has been like in Nick Charlton’s offense.
In those five games, UConn is averaging 66 plays, 5.17 yards per play, and 18.4 first downs per game. While the Huskies are no offensive juggernaut, this is a notable improvement from last year and the first two games of the season. Those averages would rank UConn 80th, 99th, and 101st, nationally, respectively. This is progress.
Rosa left the game after his early fumble, re-entered, and then left again, finishing with just three carries. It appears to be an ankle injury, on top of the other ailments Rosa has been dealing with this season.
In his fourth-ever game, Edwards was asked to carry the load at RB with Rosa down and he delivered. Although USF has a very weak run defense, Edwards’ 149 yards on 22 carries along with the effort made to grab his receiving touchdown offer great promise for the future.
Brett Buckman led Husky pass-catchers against USF, hauling in all seven of his targets for 52 yards, while Cam Ross had five catches for 87 yards but also did have one key drop.
After a 28-yard day, Justin Joly holds on to his team lead in receiving yards despite being held in check, with 319 though Ross (317) and Buckman (313) are not too far behind. Last year, the Huskies had just one player over 300 receiving yards and he’s no longer on the roster (Aaron Turner).
Eight different players are tied for the UConn team lead in receiving touchdowns, with one.
Jelani Stafford leads UConn in two categories: Touchdowns scored (5) and tackles for loss (8.0). Amazing.
The Husky defense showed that it’s capable of better things in this game. For their sake this is hopefully something they can build on with Boston College and then two very good teams up next on the schedule.