The UConn Huskies inability to capitalize on turnovers coupled with the fact they committed five first half turnovers almost cost themselves the “Pasqualoni Bowl” on Saturday afternoon against the Syracuse Orange at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT.
Fortunately, they did capitalize on a late Syracuse turnover in the fourth quarter when Scott McCummings scored his second touchdown of the game to help the Huskies to a 28-21 win in front of 38,769 fans.
With the win, the Huskies improve to 4-5 (2-2 Big East). With the loss, the Orange (5-4, 1-3) fail to become bowl-eligible for the second straight week.
UConn got out of the gates quickly as Nick Williams opened up the game with a 61 yard kickoff return. Three plays later, the Huskies found themselves in the end zone when now embattled quarterback Johnny McEntee hit tight end John Delahunt for a 10 yard touchdown pass. For Delahunt, it was the first touchdown pass of his career.
The Huskies defense forced a turnover on Syracuse’s second play of the game when Jory Johnson recovered a fumble at the Orange 27. However, they were unable to take advantage of the field position as McEntee threw an interception.
Lyle McCombs had another great day for the Huskies as he rushed for a career high 152 yards, including a big 63 yard in the 1st quarter. Unfortunately this time, the good field position was wasted when McCummings fumbled the snap. The defense picked up McCummings though as they picked up an interception of Orange QB Ryan Nassib by Jerome Junior who returned to the Orange 41.
Once again, UConn failed to take advantage of an opportunity and was forced to punt.
It was an ugly second quarter for the Huskies as they had three turnovers. The first came on a McCombs fumble. The second on a McEntee fumble and the final one late in the second quarter on a McEntee interception.
The second half was a much different story though for both teams. The third quarter saw the two teams each get the ball twice with the Orange scoring twice and the Huskies once. UConn did have the ball and was driving down the field as the third quarter ended.
Two plays into the fourth quarter, McCummings scored the first of his two touchdowns to tie the game up at 21. The Orange were going down the field on the ensuing possession only to see Nassib get picked off again, this time by linebacker Sio Moore.
After not taking advantage of all those early turnovers that might have made this game a blowout, UConn finally did what it needed to after this one although it almost wasn’t to be.
On a 1st and 10 at the Syracuse 25, McCummings dropped back to pass. With nobody open, he held onto the ball and was absolutely smoked by Dan Vaughn causing him to fumble the ball. Luckily for McCummings and the Huskies, offensive lineman Steve Greene came out of the pile with the ball to keep the drive alive.
McCombs got the Huskies closer to the end zone on a 14 yard run and with a facemask penalty, the Huskies had the ball at the Orange 10. Two plays later, McCummings got the ball in the end zone and the defense held on late to give UConn a much needed win.
This game really should have been over earlier. The inexperience at quarterback hurt them alot with the early turnovers. You really don’t expect a team with five first half turnovers to even be in the game. But with Syracuse not being able to convert either, UConn was given a chance to win.
I really think it’s time for the Huskies to go with McCummings full time at quarterback. That probably won’t happen because of his inexperience with passing the ball. But at the very least, McCummings needs to be the quarterback when the Huskies are in the red zone. He brings a different dynamic to the game there and UConn did take full advantage of it when they could.
Hopefully having the bye week again will allow Blidi Wreh-Wilson to get healthy. The secondary could really use him after allowing another 275 yards passing this week.
But for now, time to celebrate the win, a much needed one.
CON – 13:38 – John Delahunt 10 Yd Pass From Johnny McEntee (Dave Teggart Kick)
SYR – 01:48 – Alec Lemon 20 Yd Pass From Joe Nassib (Ross Krautman Kick)
SYR – 10:31 – Nick Provo 6 Yd Pass From Joe Nassib (Ross Krautman Kick)
CON – 05:52 – Lyle McCombs 3 Yd Run (Dave Teggart Kick)
SYR – 02:42 – Dorian Graham 7 Yd Run (Ross Krautman Kick)
CON – 14:17 – Scott McCummings 10 Yd Run (Dave Teggart Kick)
CON – 04:51 – Scott McCummings 7 Yd Run (Dave Teggart Kick)
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Offensive Players of the Game:
Lyle McCombs and Scott McCummings. McCombs had 24 rushes for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown. McCummings had 13 rushes for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive Players of the Game:
Linebacker Sio Moore came up with the big interception when it was needed. He also had five tackles
Turning Point(s) of the Game:
- The interception by Sio Moore when the Orange were driving down in the fourth quarter after UConn had tied the game.
- The fumble recovery by Steve Greene after Scott McCummings was tagged by Dan Vaughn of Syracuse in the fourth quarter. On a 1st and 10 at the Syracuse 25, McCummings dropped back to pass. With nobody open, he held onto the ball and was absolutely smoked by Vaughn causing him to fumble the ball. Luckily for McCummings and the Huskies, Greene came out of the pile with the ball to keep the drive alive.
Johnny McEntee was 8-of-14 for 113 yards and a touchdown pass. He also threw two interceptions and lost one fumble. Lyle McCombs had 24 rushes for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown. He also lost a fumble. McCummings had 13 rushes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. He too had two fumbles, one lost and one recovered by Steve Greene. John Delahunt caught one ball for ten yards and his first career touchdown. Isiah Moore had four catches for 72 yards.
Yawin Smallwood led the Huskies with 12 tackles (five solo, seven assisted) and a ½ sack. Dwayne Gratz had eight tackles (five solo, three assisted). Jerome Junior had seven tackles and an interception while Kendall Reyes had seven tackles and a ½ sack. Trevardo Williams had five tackles and a sack while Sio Moore had five tackles and an interception. Jory Johnson had four tackles and a fumble recovery. Teddy Jennings had the other sack for the Huskies.
Special Teams Notes:
Nick Williams was huge today on special teams. He had three kickoff returns for 123 yards including 61 yarder to start the game. He only had one punt return for five yards. He did have a big punt return nullified after a block in the back penalty. Dave Teggart was perfect on all four extra points. He didn’t attempt a field goal in the game. Cole Wagner had three punts for 105 yards with two of them being downed inside of the 20. Chad Christen had five kickoffs with only one going for a touchback.
Linebacker Sio Moore was shaken up in the fourth quarter but returned to the game.
Referee: Tom Tomaczyk; Umpire: Mark Pellis; Linesman: Kavin McGrath; Line judge: Jim Casey; Back judge: Paul Vargo; Field judge: Daniel Gallagher; Side judge: Howard Curry;
Here are postgame quotes from UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni as well as some of his players.
Here are the starters for the Huskies:
WR 6 Moore, Kashif
TE 89 Delahunt, John
LT 71 Ryan, Mike
LG 69 Greene, Steve
C 57 Petrus, Moe
RG 63 Masters, Adam
RT 77 Friend, Kevin
QB 18 McEntee, Johnny
TB 43 McCombs, Lyle
TE 94 Griffin, Ryan
WR 83 Moore, Isiah
DE 48 WILLIAMS, Trev.
DT 4 MARTIN, Tywon
DT 99 Reyes, Kendall
DE 91 Joseph, Jesse
SLB 3 Moore, Sio
MLB 33 SMALLWOOD, Yaw.
WLB 28 Johnson, Jory
CB 7 Gratz, Dwayne
S 15 Junior, Jerome
S 40 Brown, Ty-Meer
CB 16 Jones, Byron
Big East Games and Results:
Saturday, November 5, 2011
24 West Virginia 35
Rutgers, 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Things to Work On:
- Make a decision on quarterback. To me, the Huskies seem to move the ball better with Scott McCummings in. If Pasqualoni is going to keep Johnny McEntee in there, they need to work with him on when to throw the ball away.
- Set up your red zone offense with McCummings. They looked great in the red zone with McCummings as they got into the end zone three times when he was there.
- Get Lyle McCombs and McEntee some stick’em. McCombs has been the workhorse all season and taken pretty good care of the ball. A better team than Syracuse will take advantage of the fumbles.
- Get healthy. Having Blidi Wreh-Wilson back in the secondary would be a huge gain for the Huskies.
The Huskies are off next Saturday and return to action on Saturday, November 19th when they’ll host the Louisville Cardinals at Rentschler Field. The time of the game has not been announced yet.
Photo credit: Stephen Dunn – Hartford Courant (No. 2,3 in gallery)